Ask Donald Davidson: Why some 500s have co-winners and others don’t

Published On August 27, 2015 » 2304 Views» By Donald Davidson » Ask Donald Davidson, Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

Do you have a question for Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson? Ask via Twitter with the hashtag #AskDonald or on Facebook. For previous editions of “Ask Donald Davidson,” click here.

Before we tackle a couple of questions this time, we have to correct a misstatement we made a couple of weeks ago when we suggested that a qualifying lap of 167.910 mph by Jim Hurtubise with the Mallard in 1971 was the fastest ever officially turned by a “roadster” at Indianapolis. We mistakenly thought that he had “gone to the line” in 1977 and had merely taken the then-three allowable warmup laps and returned to the pits without taking the green flag. We were somewhat surprised and embarrassed upon checking after the posting to learn that, in fact, he DID take the green, reeling off a lap of 176.887 mph before being flagged in by his crew. We waited for the diehards to call us on it, but nobody ever did! Running considerably faster than he had in 1971 because “bolt-on” rear wings were now permissible, Herk’s greatly increased speed was still nevertheless just below the latest “bubble” speed, thus prompting the “wave off” by the crew. So, strike that 167.910 mph lap we gave you a couple of weeks ago and replace it with the 176.887 mph Herk posted on May 22, 1977.

Why is no credit given to Ray Harroun’s co-driver in 1911, even though in other years both drivers are listed as winners? – @INDYCARZ, via Twitter

There are actually six years in which a second driver was involved with the winning drive, although there are only two examples of co-winners being declared. These were when Joe Boyer took over for Lora Corum after 109 laps in 1924, and again in 1941 when Floyd Davis was replaced after 72 laps by Mauri Rose, the thinking behind the co-winner designation being that one driver had started the race while another had finished. The four other “second” drivers (Cyrus Patschke for Harroun in 1911, Don Herr for Joe Dawson in 1912, Howdy Wilcox for Tommy Milton in 1923 and Norman Batten for Peter DePaolo in 1925) had each handed the car back to the original driver before the end of the race. Your point is well taken, but while it is generally true that “no credit” is given to Harroun’s co-driver (as well as the others), we respectfully point out that for the last 17 years or so, the list of race winners in the back of our Hall of Fame Museum’s history booklet has credited the second driver.

Lora Corum started, Joe Boyer finished in a victorious 1924. Hence, co-winners.

Lora Corum started, Joe Boyer finished in a victorious 1924. Hence, co-winners.

Although Patschke’s stint at the wheel of the Marmon “Wasp” only lasted for about 35 laps, it represented, in terms of time, approximately one full hour of pounding over the all-brick surface while Harroun took a rest, both Walter and Howard Marmon expressing much praise and appreciation for his contribution. One area where Patschke does rather receive the short end of the stick is that Herr, Wilcox and Batten all had at least one start in the “500,” whereas Patschke never did. With that in mind, we used to get a real kick during the late 1960s and early 1970s when a crowded Volkswagen bus would show up on qualifying days and race days with banners hung on either side proclaiming that the occupants were representatives of the Cyrus Patschke Fan Club!

Cyrus Patschke, Harroun's helper.

Cyrus Patschke, Harroun’s helper.

A couple of other side notes: Several years ago, the family of 1919 winner Howdy Wilcox wondered why he wasn’t considered a two-time winner since he had shared Tommy Milton’s winning car in 1923, and, in fact, had led the race in both his own car as well as Milton’s. They were subsequently satisfied with the explanation that Milton had returned for the finish. In the winter of 2007, when that season’s “Dancing with the Stars” winners Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough visited the track on a promotional tour, Helio pointed out to his partner his bas-relief likenesses on the Borg Warner trophy and when looking at the co-winner years of either 1924 or 1941, assured her, “Now, this is not a driver with two heads!”

And finally, when Don Herr drove his relief laps for Joe Dawson in 1912, he had actually been the entered driver on the winning car, and as a full-time employee of the National Motor Vehicle Company in Indianapolis, had spent much of the winter and spring preparing it, along with those for teammates Howdy Wilcox and Charlie Merz. It was not until about halfway through May that an arrangement was made whereby Marmon (now out of racing) would loan Dawson to National for the race, Herr learning, obviously with much disappointment that he was being moved into the role of relief driver. The considerate Dawson, who at only 22 years of age was just a year or so younger than Herr, quickly sensed the awkward situation and assured Herr he would be first choice for any relief work. And when Harroun and Dawson helped mark the 25th Running of the “500” in 1937 by taking a lap of honor with their winning cars on race morning, occupying the riding mechanic’s seat of Dawson’s National was none other than Don Herr.

Next year is the 100th Running for the “500.” Which five years was there no “500” and why? — @TrentEWhite, via Twitter

There were actually six years in which the race was not held, in 1917 and 1918, and 1942-45 due to America’s involvement in the two World Wars.

IUPUI’s ‘500’ HISTORY CLASS UPCOMING AT SHS

The fall version of IUPUI’s very popular twice-a-year Indianapolis 500 history course with instructor Donald Davidson will be held in the Speedway High School’s cafeteria over four Tuesday nights in October. The dates for the four two-hour sessions (7-9 p.m.) are Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27. The fee is $99. Interested parties may register at http://www.iupui.edu/~solctr/  For further information please call 317-278-9701 or e-mail sbeeson@iupui.edu.

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Donald Davidson

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson, based at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, developed a passionate interest in the Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in England. Arriving at IMS in 1964, he delighted the racing community with his ability to recite year-by-year accounts of participants’ careers. Returning permanently in 1965, he was invited by Sid Collins to join the worldwide IMS Radio Network and was hired by Henry Banks as USAC statistician, remaining at USAC for almost 32 years. He was named Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian in 1998. Along with numerous television and radio assignments, raconteur Davidson has played host to the popular call-in radio show “The Talk of Gasoline Alley” on 1070 AM in Indianapolis during the month of May continuously since 1971. His writing credits include countless historical articles and columns, a pair of “500” annuals in 1974 and ‘75 and co-authorship with Rick Shaffer of the acclaimed “Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500,” published in 2006.
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