Louis Meyer

Born:
21st July 1904
Yonkers, New York State
Died:
7th October 1995 (Aged 91)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The first three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Louis Meyer started one of the great racing traditions by drinking buttermilk (rather than milk) in Victory Lane after his final win in 1936. In addition, Meyer received the new Borg Warner Trophy that day.

Upbringing and early Indycar career

The son of French émigrés, the family settled in California shortly after Meyer was born. His father raced bicycles but Lou wanted a quicker pace. He raced his brother Eddie’s car at Ascot in 1924 and was Frank Elliott’s riding mechanic two years later.

He was obviously a persuasive fellow for Meyer made his Indycar debut at Charlotte by the end of the season. Entered in the 1927 Indianapolis 500, his car was sold before the race so Meyer drove as relief for its new incumbent Wilbur Shaw.

Successful 1928 season

They finished fourth that day and Meyer had his own drive in 1928 with Aiden Sampson II’s Miller. Ironically, Shaw was originally slated to drive the car but Sampson bought it before raceday and installed Meyer for the 500. Careful at first, Meyer was running third when the race was stopped for rain with 40 laps to go. His rivals crumbled at the restart and Meyer came home triumphant. Victory at Altoona confirmed the 24 year old’s first AAA National Championship and he remained Indycar’s youngest title winner until Jacques Villeneuve in 1995.

He would have won at Indy again the following May but for a botched final pitstop so Meyer finished second behind Ray Keech. He won twice more at Altoona in 1929 to retain the title. Fourth in the Indianapolis 500s of 1930 (having qualified second) and 1931 (as a relief driver), Meyer left Sampson a year later.

The 1933 Indianapolis 500 nearly did not happen after the diabetic Howdy Wilcox II fainted a couple of days before hand. With his fellow drivers in uproar after the track doctor declared him unfit to compete, Meyer acted as peacemaker and the race went ahead.

The first three-time winner of the Indy 500

Good that it did for his self-run Tydol Miller finished almost seven minutes ahead of Shaw’s second placed car. Meyer became the first driver to win the Indy 500 twice without the aid of a relief driver that day.

Meyer won for a third time in 1936 at a new record pace and asked for a drink of buttermilk (his preferred drink since childhood) at the end of the race. Eager fellows from America’s milk marketing board seized on that chance photo opportunity and a bottle of milk has been part of the winning celebrations ever since.

Retirement and life after racing

Fourth in the 1937 Indy 500, he had the 1939 race within his grasp when his Bowes Seal Fast Special punctured a tyre. With two laps to go and chasing Shaw for the win, the recovering Meyer crashed in Turn 2. As his Stevens-Winfield headed towards the fence, Meyer decided to quit racing. "I’m probably the only driver who retired in mid-air" he later said.

Meyer later became a successful engine manufacturer after forming Meyer-Drake Engineering and acquiring the Offenhauser engine concern. They powered the winner at Indy every year from 1947 until he sold the company to his partner Dale Drake in 1964. Meyer then distributed Ford V8 racing engines. He retired to Las Vegas eight years later and continued to be a welcome and regular visitor to Indianapolis until his death.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1939 AAA National Championship
Bowes Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
19th 75
1938 AAA National Championship
Bowes Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1937 AAA National Championship
HC Henning
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
5th 550
1936 AAA National Championship
Louis Meyer
2 0 1 1
50% win rate
2nd 600
1935 AAA National Championship
Louis Meyer
4 0 1 1
25% win rate
8th 200
1934 AAA National Championship
Ralph Hepburn
Louis Meyer
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1933 AAA National Championship
Louis Meyer
2 0 1 1
50% win rate
1st 610
1932 AAA National Championship
Aiden Sampson II
FWD
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1931 AAA National Championship
Louis Meyer
Aiden Sampson II
2 0 1 1
50% win rate
15th 120
1930 AAA National Championship
Aiden Sampson II
Harry Hartz
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
7th 384.9
1929 AAA National Championship
Aiden Sampson II
5 0 4 2
40% win rate
1st 1330
1928 AAA National Championship
Stutz Motor Car Co
Aiden Sampson II
6 0 3 2
34% win rate
1st 1596
1927 AAA National Championship
Fred Clemons
Perfect Circle
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
17th 38
1926 AAA National Championship 1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0