Friday Five: Indy 500 drivers and veterans, on Veterans Day

Published On November 10, 2016 » 8205 Views» By John Schwarb » Blogs, IMS History, Indy 500

Please thank a veteran today for the freedoms we enjoy in America.

In the long, storied history of the Indy 500, a few veterans have driven. Some drove after their service, some before. And some won the race. Here’s five to remember on Veterans Day.


Billy Arnold: The leader of a record 198 laps en route to victory in 1930 (perhaps the race’s most untouchable record), Arnold served with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as Chief of Maintenance for the U.S. 8th Air Force. He left the service in 1945 as a lieutenant colonel.


Ray Crawford: A U.S. Army Air Corps fighter pilot, Crawford flew the P-38 Lightning in combat over North Africa in 1943 and had six enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed en route to earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. More than a decade later he raced at Indy with little success, finishing 23rd twice and 29th in three starts from 1955-59.


Art Cross: The World War II veteran received the Purple Heart, though contrary to popular belief it wasn’t for serving in the Battle of the Bulge – he told IMS Historian Donald Davidson that was in England recovering from injuries when that famous battle took place. In 1952, he went into the Indy 500 record books as the first Rookie of the Year winner, by virtue of his fifth-place run. He was runner-up the next year.


Peter DePaolo: The 1925 champion was a lieutenant colonel. And, speaking of the record books, he’s the only driver to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the race, in 1971.


Eddie Rickenbacker: After his four starts in the Indy 500 from 1912-16 and before he owned IMS from 1927-45, Rickenbacher was America’s finest pilot in World War I. The Medal of Honor recipient had 26 confirmed aerial victories and was believed to have spent more time in the sky than any other U.S. pilot, with 300 combat hours.


About The Author

John Schwarb

I joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway communications team in July 2014 and love sharing stories from the World Capital of Racing, particularly its rich history. Most of my professional career has been in racing or golf, so if I'm not in the IMS media center, the office at 16th and Georgetown or milling around Gasoline Alley, maybe I'll be standing over a birdie putt at Brickyard Crossing. Follow us at @IMS or drop me a line at @JohnSchwarb and come back to the blog often for more stories.