Norman Batten

Full Name:
Norman Kirkpatrick Batten
30th April 1893
East Orange, New Jersey
12th November 1928 (Aged 35)
Atlantic Ocean, lost at sea when the SS Vestris sank
Most recent race (in database):

1920s board track racer Norman Batten packed a Hollywood movie script into his short life. Famed for an act of heroism, he was an unrecognised winner of the Indy 500 and victim of the tragedy that was the SS Vestris.

AAA National Championship

Batten started his first Indycar race (Syracuse 1924) from pole position but it was as a relief driver that he first tasted success. That was in the 1925 Indianapolis 500 when team owner Fred Duesenberg ordered race leader Pete de Paolo to hand over to Batten after 106 laps. De Paolo was not happy and Batten dropped to fifth during his 22 laps in the Duesenberg before an agitated de Paolo retook the wheel and climbed back through the field to win at over 100mph – the first time that mark had been bettered.

Batten drove a Miller during 1926 and was second at Altoona before winning a 60-mile championship race at Atlantic City. With the contribution of relief drivers largely overlooked, that was his only official victory in the AAA National Championship.

The Indianapolis fire

The 1927 Indianapolis 500 was anything but dull for Batten. His Fengler-Miller caught fire on the front stretch after 24 laps and Batten steered it safely past the pits while standing in the cockpit. He only jumped clear after the danger to others was over. His bravery was recognised with the Carnegie Medal for Heroism and brought Batten nationwide fame far greater than his part in victory two years earlier.

Tragedy at sea

Fire also played its part in 1928. He was hospitalised with burns suffered at Rockingham and walked clear of a blaze at Fulwood in July. But his luck would not last. Batten and Earl Devore travelled to Argentina at the end of 1928 aboard the SS Vestris to race their Millers. A day after leaving New York, the British steamer started shipping water through a coal port that had been mistakenly left open. Both Batten and Devore were among the 127 to perish.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1928 AAA National Championship
Norman K Batten
7 0 1 0
0% win rate
7th 145
1927 AAA National Championship
Norman K Batten
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
22nd 15
1926 AAA National Championship
Norman K Batten
15 0 3 1
7% win rate
8th 620
1925 AAA National Championship
Duesenberg Bros
4 0 1 1
25% win rate
11th 250
1924 AAA National Championship
Duesenberg Bros
1 1 0 0
0% win rate