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How many drivers have completed the full 500 miles without making a single pit stop? – T. Sullivan, Beech Grove, Indiana
There have been four of those, starting with Dave Evans and the Cummins Diesel Special in 1931.
It was not until 1965 that any pit stops were required at all, with two being mandated for that first year, and four being required shortly thereafter for the next several years. With a substantial modification to specifications for 1930 in an attempt to encourage the return of the automobile manufacturers to racing, Cummins Engine Company of Columbus, Indiana, decided to prepare an entry for 1931. A huge diesel truck engine was placed in a specially-built, beefed-up Duesenberg chassis, and because Clessie Cummins was concerned that the car might not be able to qualify fast enough to make the field (40 cars that year instead of 33) a special concession was made whereby the diesel would be included in the field regardless of its speed providing it could turn a four-lap qualifying run in excess of 80 mph. Driver Dave Evans made it with plenty to spare at 96.871 mph. He was out there for about five and three-quarter grueling hours, averaging just over 86 mph, consuming 31 gallons of crude oil and taking the checkered flag in 13th position about 38 minutes after Louis Schneider had won the race.
The next non-stop runner came a decade later in 1941. Cliff Bergere was one of three drivers on the Lou Moore team that year, master strategist Moore having long since chosen to use less exotic fuels and give up horsepower in return for better fuel mileage with the result that Floyd Roberts had been able to win for him in 1938 with only one stop. For 1941, Moore and Bergere decided to take it one stage further and use an extra-large tank in an attempt at going the distance without stopping at all. They succeeded, but not with the result they had envisioned. When two-time defending winner Wilbur Shaw spun and hit the Turn 1 wall on lap 152, Bergere did assume the lead but he was already slowing down, deeply affected by the inhalation of fumes swirling around in the cockpit. He never did give up, but by the time he mercifully completed the distance, he had fallen to fifth position and was barely hanging on.
The final two non-stoppers were Jimmy Jackson and Johnny Mantz in 1949, finishing sixth and seventh respectively, while Duke Dinsmore came close to joining them, forced out by a broken radius rod after a non-stop run of 174 laps.
As late as 1951, winner Lee Wallard was able to get by with only one pit stop but as the speeds increased and tire wear became more of an issue, second and third stops soon became necessary. A three-stop race was typical by 1963 when Scotland’s Jim Clark pulled a surprise with a stock-block Ford-powered rear-engined Lotus, finishing second with only one. And Rookie of the Year Johnny White came home fourth in 1964 with only one stop for replenishments in this the final year before major overhaul to the regulations put an end to non-stop runs.