Floyd Roberts

Full Name:
Floyd Marion Roberts
Born:
12th February 1900
Jamestown, North Dakota
Died:
30th May 1939 (Aged 39)
Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis 500
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

A devoted Christian and Sunday school teacher, Floyd Roberts was working on Lockheed’s aircraft assembly line in California when his racing career started to take off. A native of North Dakota, he moved to the West Coast where he raced without much initial success.

National Championship debut

Runner-up in the Pacific Coast championship behind Rex Mays, Roberts’ profile in the sport was enhanced on a foggy 1934 day when he drove as relief in Ralph Hepburn’s third-placed Miller in the AAA National Championship race (now IndyCar) race at Mines Field.

He made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1935 having qualified an Abels & Fink Miller on the front row after the 10-lap qualifying runs. Roberts completed a promising performance by finishing fourth. Third in the last two races of the year (his only other starts) helped Roberts to an impressive fourth in the National Championship.

Indianapolis 500 winner

His next two starts at the Brickyard were less successful but he returned in 1938 to qualify Lou Moore’s Burd Piston Ring Wetteroth-Miller on pole position at 125.681mph. He ran behind Mays and Jimmy Snyder in the early stages and took control on lap 75 to beat Wilbur Shaw by nearly four minutes.

His wife had stayed in California to earn overtime by working the Memorial Day public holiday at the phone company. Having heard the result on the radio Mrs Roberts went home to celebrate – richer by the $32,075 that her husband had won and the time and a half she had just earned. There was only one other championship race that year and despite not qualifying Roberts had done enough to earn the 1938 title as well.

Tragic return to Indy

He returned to Indy in 1939 with the Burd Ring Special but there could not have been a greater contrast in his fortunes. Bob Swanson crashed in Turn 2 and was thrown into the middle of the track as Roberts entered the 107th lap. He took evasive action and crashed into the outside wall; sustaining a fracture to the base of his skull and thus becoming the first defending Indianapolis 500 winner to be killed at the Brickyard.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1939 AAA National Championship
Lou Moore
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1938 AAA National Championship
Lou Moore
1 1 1 1
100% win rate
1st 1000
1937 AAA National Championship
Thorne Engineering
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1936 AAA National Championship
Joe Lencki
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
22nd 70
1935 AAA National Championship
Foreman Axle
Joe Marks
Earl Haskell
3 1 2 0
0% win rate
4th 510
1934 AAA National Championship
Ralph Hepburn
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
19th 76.2