1930: (Winner: Billy Arnold)
The Indy 500 had become a two-horse race between Miller and Duesenberg and the production car makers started to abandon the race. As part of a “return-to-stock” engine effort, President Rickenbacker also reinstated the ridealong mechanic requirement and lifted the maximum 33-starter rule.
Clearly President Rickenbacker is a bit of an innovator and prepared to take risks (well, he was a fighter pilot!). The changes work! The 1930 Indianapolis 500 field included entries from Auburn, Buick, Chrysler, Ford, Maserati, Mercedes, Oakland, Studebaker, Stutz, and Whippet. Billy Arnold won the race from pole in a first for a front-wheel drive car. The race was marred by the death of Paul Marshall who was a ridealong mechanic for his brother Cy.
1931: (WInner: Louis Schneider)
Clessie Cummins obtains a diesel waiver and fields a Duesenberg chassis with a 361-cubic-inch, 12-valve four-cylinder diesel motor for Dave Evans. Its 86.1-mph (137.76KPH) race pace was ordinary, but it ran 500 miles (800km) without re-fuelling – delivering 13th spot. From an economy perspective – it was a first and probably something that will never be achieved again.
Defending champion Billy Arnold had built up a five-lap lead when his rear axle broke and he spun in turn four on lap 163. He was hit by another car and went over the outside wall. One of his wheels bounced across Georgetown Road. It struck and killed an 11 year-old boy, Wilbur C. Brink.
1932: (Winner: Fred Frame)
Obviously an innovator of his time (reminding me a bit of my grandfather, Sir Jack Brabham), Harry Miller entered a pair of four-wheel-drive cars for the 1932 race.
Just 14 of the 40 starters finish with Fred Frame winning from 27th spot on the grid. The month was marred with ridealong mechanic Harry Cox and driver M. C. Jones dying in practice accidents.
1933: (Winner: Louis Meyer)
Seeking to emphasize endurance rather than speed, Indy adopted a 10-lap qualifying system for 1933. Bill Cummings took the pole with an average speed of 118.521mph (190.741kph) and the race was won by Louis Meyer for the second time from Wilbur Shaw.
1934: (Winner: Bill Cummings)
In 1934, Indy imposes a 45-gallon fuel limit for the 500, then tightens it to 42.5 in 1935 and 37.5 for 1936. Local Indianapolis driver Bill Cummings handled the new rules best and led the last 26 laps to win by 27.25 seconds from Mauri Rose in the closest finish at that point. Just 12 of the 33 starters were running at the end.
1935: (Winner: Kelly Petillo)
In 1935, Asphalt is laid over Indy’s bricks at all four turns, and the concrete outer wall is angled inward. Petillo led most of the back half of the race and easily set a new average speed record of 106.240mph (169.984kph), despite being slowed by rain late in the race. He won $33,000.
1936: (Winner: Louis Meyer)
Louis Meyer won his third Indy 500 and, to the delight of the National Dairy Council, established the tradition of drinking milk in the winner’s circle – something every IndyCar driver (especially this one!) dreams of doing!
The traditions of the Indy 500 are something that bring the hairs on the back of my neck up every time I think of being part of the 100th race with PIRTEK Team Murray.
1936 seems like a year of traditions being born – the Borg-Warner Trophy debuted this year and pace car driver, Tommy Milton suggested that the race winner should be awarded the Official Pace Car as part of his complement of prizes. Louis Meyer was given the keys to the Packard after the race, and it has been a tradition ever since (with only a handful of exceptions).
1937: (Winner: Wilbur Shaw)
Fuel-consumption limits were eliminated, although pump gas was still required. Wilbur Shaw won the race, on one of the hottest days in race history.
His comfortable lead was reduced in the closing stages because of an oil leak and worn tires, but he managed to win by just 2.16 seconds from Ralph Hepburn which remained the closest finish until 1982.
1938: (Winner: Floyd Roberts)
In 1938, Supercharging returned as Indy adopted the new European formula: 4.5 liters (275 cubic inches) naturally aspirated, 3.0 liters (183 cubic inches) supercharged.
This was the last year for 10-lap qualifying and the race returned to a four-lap system the following year – could you imagine the pressure of a 10-lap qualifying process today?! Ridealong mechanics also became “optional” and nobody used one in the race. Floyd Roberts won the 1938 race from pole.
1939: (Winner; Wilbur Shaw)
Wilbur Shaw won his second Indy 500, but the race was marred by a crash on lap 109 when defending champion Floyd Roberts was killed after going through the wooden outer wall on the backstretch at 100mph (160kph). This was the final race for Louis Meyer who also had a major crash on the backstretch, but walked away.