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!
A: Indeed there was a Pace Car in 1930, just as there has been for every “500″ since the inaugural in 1911. In fact, while the concept may have been employed previously at minor motorized events – a holdover from bicycle racing – it is believed that the 1911 “500″ was the first major event anywhere in the world at which a passenger car was used to lead the field around to the flagman for a mass rolling start. The 1930 Pace Car was a beautiful L-29 Cord, driven by Wade Morton, a former driver (he shared Phil Shafer’s third-placed Duesenberg in the 1925 “500″) who had an association with Cord.
Q: What was the last year that Ray Harroun came to the race?
—David J. Blythe
A: We believe the iconic 1911 winner was coming virtually until the end of his life, although his last few visits were mostly without fanfare. Passing away on Jan. 19, 1968, exactly one week after his 89th birthday, he lived his final years in a trailer court on the south side of Anderson, Ind. On the morning of the 1961 race, at the age of 82, he marked the 50th anniversary of his legendary win by driving a ceremonial lap of honor in the very Marmon “Wasp” which had carried him to victory. Typically, his wife would drive him down from Anderson, usually on the first day of qualifications, and they would park in the infield as close to the fence as they could get. He remained an engineer and innovator to the end. We wonder how many of the neighboring revelers realized the identity of the elderly, professor-like gentleman who was sitting in the passenger seat of his car, marveling as Parnelli Jones qualified the turbine.
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