Category Archives: Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” will kick off in the facility’s new multi-purpose meeting room tomorrow, February 16th @ 4:15 – 6:15 pm.

Dennis E. Horvath with 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster
Dennis E. Horvath with 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster

As many of you know, I am the kick-off speaker for the “Speakers Series” in conjunction with their exhibition, Indiana Automobiles: Precision Over Production. This exhibition has more than 35 historic, Indiana-built passenger cars, and several iconic race cars honoring Indiana’s automotive history.

My popular presentation “Mileposts in Indiana Automotive History” and other presentations will inform members and guests. Mileposts in Indiana Automotive History shares some of the legends, facts and figures that reflect Indiana’s role in America’s automotive heritage, when marques such as Duesenberg, Stutz and Studebaker propelled the state into a position where the number of Indiana auto manufacturers rivaled Detroit.

Check out my Monday blog posts at Cruise-IN.com documenting some the cars in the exhibit.

See you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” tomorrow, February 16th.

For more information and reserve your spot follow this link.

Wall Smacker by Peter De Paolo

On January 21st, I attended the Indiana Racing Memorial Association’s Collectible Show and found Wall Smacker a book written by Peter De Paolo in 1935.

Pete De Paolo in his 1925 Duesenberg
Pete De Paolo in his 1925 Duesenberg

After perusing the many tables of racing collectibles, I picked De Paolo’s book to learn about auto racing in the early days. In this well-written book, De Paolo describes his life as a riding mechanic and as championship driver from 1920 to 1935.

His introduction started watching his Uncle Ralph De Palma’s racing exploits at the Brighton Beach Course in 1914, where he won all five of the program’s races. His uncle went on to win the 1915 Indianapolis 500 driving a Mercedes Benz. Shortly thereafter, his uncle convinced De Paolo to get some mechanical experience working on cars in New York City.

In the fall of 1919, his uncle hired him as a riding mechanic on a Ballot racer that they campaigned across the country in 1920. Of his first racing experience at the Beverly Hills, California, board speedway, De Paolo stated, “I’ll never forget the thrills that were packed into those opening laps of my first speed experience.” He shares a lot of details of his first experience at the Indianapolis 500 where they finished fifth. Later that summer, they raced Ballot racers in France and Italy.

After the spring 1922 Beverly Hills race, De Paolo parted working with his Uncle Ralph. De Paolo started his first race driving one of Louis Chevrolet’s Frontenacs. In his first Indianapolis 500 driving the Frontenac, at 255 miles he had a lap and a half lead before having to stop for fuel and tires. After returning to the race, while attempting to pass three Duesenbergs, he slid into the northeast infield and smacked the inside wall and damaged the transmission. As the relief driver for Joe Thomas’ Duesenberg, De Paolo finished in tenth place.

In 1924 at Indianapolis, De Paolo finished in sixth place driving a Duesenberg Special. He drove the rest of the season for Duesenberg. In spring 1925, De Paolo finished second at Culver City, California, and first at Fresno, California. De Paolo’s confidence was growing as they reached Indianapolis for the 500. He qualified in second place to start the race. By the 25th lap as he came down the home stretch, no other car was less than a mile behind him. On his 250-mile pit stop, he was relieved from his car for bleeding hands. When he took over again, his car was in fifth place and quickly moved up to second place. He soon drove the Duesenberg Special to first place. In winning the Thirteenth Annual Indianapolis Classic he set a record of 101.13 miles an hour average, which stood for seven years, and answered a question many times asked of him – “What was your greatest thrill?” His total winnings were approximately $40,000. Later that summer, he won at Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Laurel, Maryland.

He continued to win in 1926, at Fulford-By-the-Sea, near Miami, Florida, and finished fifth at Indianapolis. He finished third place in the national standings. He continued to race in 1927, winning again at Altoona, and finishing second at Salem, New Hampshire and won the AAA National Championship. He retired from racing in 1929. In 1935, he was the mentor for Kelly Petillo in winning the Indianapolis 500.

Pete De Paolo had a colorful career in auto racing. His book Wall Smacker does a great job telling his story. I invite you obtain a copy and enjoy the story.

You should attend the Indiana Racing Memorial Association’s Collectible Show in late January and the Indy Bench Racing Weekend in late March to find some racing collectibles.

Dennis E. Horvath is speaking at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Dennis E. Horvath will kick off the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” in the facility’s new multi-purpose meeting room on February 16th @ 4:15 – 6:15 pm.

Dennis E. Horvath with 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster
Dennis E. Horvath with 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster

As many of you know, I have written several books and made numerous presentations about Indiana’s automotive history and culture. I am honored to kick-off the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” with my popular presentation “Mileposts in Indiana Automotive History” and a discussion at the museum for members and guests.

Mileposts in Indiana Automotive History shares some of the legends, facts and figures that reflect Indiana’s role in America’s automotive heritage, when marques such as Duesenberg, Stutz and Studebaker propelled the state into a position where the number of Indiana auto manufacturers rivaled Detroit.

This presentation is a perfect companion to the museum’s current special exhibition, Indiana Automobiles: Precision Over Production, which currently has more than 35 historic, Indiana-built passenger cars, and several iconic race cars on display. Check out my Monday blog posts at Cruise-IN.com documenting some the cars in the exhibit.

See you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s “Speakers Series” on February 16th.

For more information and reserve your spot follow this link.

Congratulations to Indiana Racing Memorial Association for recognizing the Chevrolet brothers

I must say congratulations to the Indiana Racing Memorial Association for renovating the Chevrolet brothers grave site in Indianapolis.

Chevrolet brothers memorial

I have known about the Chevrolet grave sites in southern Indianapolis for many years, but was concerned about the poor up-keep and failure to recognized their accomplishments in our automotive industry.

The Indiana Racing Memorial Association, with sponsorship from Chevrolet Motorsports, and the Central Indiana Chevrolet Dealers Association have corrected this oversight. They have created a renovated grave site in the Holy Cross and St. Joseph Cemetery at 2446 S. Meridian Street. They have constructed an exquisite granite monument for
the Chevrolet brothers: Louis, Arthur, and Gaston.

chevrolet-brothers-marker

In addition to the monument, they dedicated a historical marker celebrating their automotive accomplishments. All three raced multiple times in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Louis winning the first 10-mile race at the Speedway in August 1909 and Gaston taking the 1920 Indianapolis 500.

In 1911, Louis was named president of the Chevrolet Division of General Motors and developed the Chevrolet Classic Six five-passenger touring car. Upon leaving General Motors in 1915, he began developing race cars that competed at the Speedway and across the country. In 1922, Louis and Arthur created the Chevrolet Brothers Company, in Indianapolis, to develop Frontenac cylinder heads to extract greater horsepower from the Ford Model T engine. They produced over 10,000 units that dominated dirt track racing across America.

The easiest way to get to the site is to turn west on Pleasant Run Parkway off South Meridian Street and go about a quarter-mile. Then turn north into the cemetery and proceed to the flagpole. The monument and marker are right there north of the flagpole.

I believe IRMA’s efforts with the monument and historical marker beautifully recognizes the Chevrolet brothers automotive accomplishments. Thanks to IRMA for commemorating our automotive heritage.

For other Louis Chevrolet articles click here. For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Put the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational on your bucket list for 2017

From a historical perspective the Inaugural Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational has to be one of the best motorsports events in the country. Where else can you get an up-close view of over 600 vintage race cars from the early 1910s to the present in addition to watching the racing and exhibition events?

Two of the earliest entries were the 1911 Nationals built here in Indianapolis. Imagine the sound of these 450 cubic-inch behemoths. It was like being transported back to that era 105 years ago.

1911 Nationals
1911 Nationals

For Indy 500 roadster aficionados, there were numerous examples from pre-war offerings up to a 1964 Sheraton Thompson Special tribute car of the last winning front-engine roadster. Probably my favorite roadster was the 1960 Dowgard – Watson roadster.

#2 Dowgard roadster
#2 Dowgard roadster

The cars were on display on the infield and open to all fans, providing up-close access to the race cars. The owners and crews were very welcoming in sharing the stories of their particular cars. I was able to relive many stories from my Indy 500 memories.

Speedway infield shop
Speedway infield shop

For all you vintage racing enthusiasts, you have to put the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational on your bucket list for 2017.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.