Aerodynamics have been a part of the Indianapolis 500 since Ray Harroun designed the first rear view mirror on a race car in 1911. The “wedge shaped” contraption that would eventually be used on almost every automobile built was shaped like that to eliminate the drag of a flat piece sticking up from the car.
Even before that the shape of the Marmon Wasp, built in 1910, had a sleek shape compared to other race cars of the day. The 1937 winner of Wilbur Shaw was an aerodynamic piece itself. In 1955 2 cars entered (and almost a 3rd car for Bill Vukovich, winner of the past two 500’s) that were called, back in the day, “Streamliner”. The yellow Belond Miracle Power Special designed by Quinn Epperly and the blue and white Sumar Special designed by Frank Kurtis and Chapman Root started out as “fendered” cars.
The Sumar had full fenders and the both cars had enclosed cockpits. Jimmy Daywalt, driver of the Sumar car did not like the fact that he could not see the front tires and complained of being claustrophobic with the “bubble” installed. After the 1st day of practice, the team took the “fenders” and the cockpit bubble off of the car. Jimmy Qualified the car 17th and finished 9th. In 1956, Marshall Teague failed to qualify the car. In 1959, the body was put back on the car and taken to Daytona to attempt a “Land Speed Record” run with Teague. After taking the car up to over 171 mph early in the trials, Teague crashed the car attempting to break the 180mph mark and was killed. The car was not raced again. It is still in the Root family.
The #33 Belond car driven by Jim Rathmann used fairings rather than a complete body. It also started out as a covered canopy on the cockpit but that was taken off early in the month. Rathmann qualified the car 20th and finished 14th. It did not qualify in 1956.
The Keck “Streamliner” was designed and being built by Norman Timbs, Quinn Epperly, Jim Travers and Frank Coon and was to have first a Novi motor. When Lew Welch would not sell the motor to Keck, he wanted to have Leo Goosen build a new V8 Supercharged Offenhauser for the radical new car. When it looked like the car would not be completed in time for the ’55 race, Keck released Vukovich to drive for owner Lindsey Hopkins. The rest is history.
The Keck Streamliner never arrived or raced in Indy although according to Jim Travers, the car was scheduled to be driven at Indianapolis in 1956 by Jack McGrath. McGrath was killed in a racing accident in Phoenix in November of 1955. The Keck Streamliner was not completed until 1985 and it never raced.
I think the most magical time to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is during sunrise. It’s a time for reflection. A time for peace. The light allows you to view this stadium in a totally different way. This experience transcends racing and reveals a place of historical importance with victorious and heartbreaking stories to tell. It’s what I value most in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You never know what you’ll see.
A moment caught on race day in May
This morning was definitely planned. But it’s hard to plan for something like this. Around 7 A.M.this morning, IMS and IndyCar staff rolled out 33 winning Indianapolis 500 race cars.
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!
Q: I would like to know what was the official Pace Car for the 1930 Indianapolis 500 – if there was any Pace Car.
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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