Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson has been the expert on the history of the Racing Capital of the World since he arrived in Central Indiana in the mid-1960s. Now 2010 Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Davidson is answering your questions periodically in this blog!
Question: I heard that all the cars in the IMS Hall of Fame Museum, including all the winning Indy 500 cars in there, are kept in running order. Is that true, and if so, what insight can you provide about how all those vehicles are maintained. It sounds like a mammoth task maintaining them all! — John Ward
Donald’s Answer: Not all of the cars in the Museum are “runners,” not even all of the winners. However, with a small full-time restoration staff on the grounds, the majority of the non-runners could, no doubt, be restored to running order, although the work on some might turn out to be quite expensive. Even those cars which do run require a certain amount of “freshening up” before they can be driven.
Q: What is Danny Sullivan doing now? I miss seeing him! Please let me know! Thank you! — Jeanette Esenwein, Wakarusa, Ind.
A: Danny was in attendance at this year’s Auto Racing Hall of Fame banquet, held three nights before the “500,” at which the 1985 starting field was honored, this being the 25th anniversary of Danny’s famous “spin and win.” I did talk with him briefly there, but I did not ask him what he’s up to these days. I will try to find out.
Q: I have been trying to find someone who could tell the value of the second-place award given to William Cantlon at the Indy 500 in 1930. I own this piece. Thanks in advance for your help. — Tim
A: Sounds intriguing, but could you give us a more detailed description of precisely what you have?
Q: I heard a story that when Jules Goux won the 1913 Indy 500, he drank three bottles of wine during the race. Do you know if there is any truth to this? If so, how would he be able to operate a race car under the influence, and win the race? Also, how would he be able to pour the wine in his mouth while driving over all those bumpy bricks? — Aaron
A: That story keeps getting better and better! While there are some wildly outlandish versions of what occurred, there is some truth to the basic premise, that at least some champagne was consumed. Bear in mind that Goux was from quite a well-to-do family of French engineers, and that the occasional glass of champagne was not an abnormality. But rest assured that any consumption took place during pit stops and not out on the track. Based on a variety of learned opinions gathered during my early years at the track (mostly from a delightful gentleman named Charles Lytle, who used to visit Goux in France), the thinking is that on four of their six stops, Goux and his riding mechanic, Emile Begin, were handed a chilled “half-bottle,” containing about four-fifths of one pint. While they may have consumed some of the content the first time, the later bottles probably served as little more than an expensive form of mouthwash, with the pair following up a small sip by swilling some around in the their mouths and then spitting it out. But there is absolutely no question that in each of the accounts in the Indianapolis newspapers the following day, Goux is quoted as proclaiming, “Sans le bon vin, Je ne serais pas été en état de faire la victoire,” which roughly translated to “Without the good wine, I could not have won.”
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