1912 Indianapolis 500

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Dawson after winning
Joe Dawson winning the race
The 1912 winning car, now located at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum
Ralph DePalma and Rupert Jeffkins, pushing the Mercedes down the main straightaway at the conclusion of the 1912 500-Mile Race.
Gil Andersen's crashed Stutz at T3.
Bob Burman's crashed Cutting

The 1912 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, or International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race, the second such race in history, was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 30, 1912.

No race is won until the tape is crossed and I realized that all the time. It's hard luck, but it's all in the game.
I did my best, and since I've lost out, I'm for the man who picked the prize.

Ralph DePalmapost-race interview

Results[edit]

In the aftermath of victory by Ray Harroun in the single-seat Marmon "Wasp" in the first 500-Mile Race the year before, new rules make the presence of riding mechanics mandatory; maximum engine size remains 600 cubic inches (9.83 liters) displacement. At $50,000, the race purse is nearly double that of 1911.

Out of 29 original entries, 24 qualify for the race by sustaining a speed faster than a minimum of 75 mph (120.7 km/h) for a full lap, an increase from the quarter-mile qualifying distance of the inaugural year. David L. Bruce-Brown runs fastest at 88.45 mph (142.35 km/h), but starting positions are again determined by entry date. Lining up five cars to the first four rows and four to a fifth, a change from the previous year's starting method is movement of the pace car, a Stutz[disambiguation needed], from the inside of the first row to out in front of the field.

Upon wave of the then-red starting flag, Teddy Tetzlaff takes the lead in a Fiat from the third starting position in the center of the first row, and leads for the first two laps before being overtaken by the grey # 4 Mercedes of Italian-born Ralph DePalma.

DePalma's domination of most of the event is total, as he builds an eventual five-and-a-half lap, eleven minute advantage over second, and leads uncontested for the next 194 laps...before suffering one of the most confounding mechanical failures in motorsport history at the beginning of lap 197, as his Mercedes begins misfiring, and slowing on the mainstretch at the conclusion of the lap. Nursed on the 198th lap by DePalma at reduced speed, the car finally loses all power at the end of the backstretch on lap 199, as a broken connecting rod rips a hole in the crankcase.

With the car's momentum carrying it around to the fourth turn, DePalma and riding mechanic Rupert Jeffkins then enter themselves into motor racing lore, as well as inspire the cheers of the more than 80,000 in attendance, as they climb from the vehicle and begin pushing it down the five-eighths of a mile mainstretch toward the start-finish line.

Indianapolis driver Joe Dawson and riding mechanic Harry Martin, running in the second position for most of the race in their blue and white National Motor Vehicle Company entry, finally passes DePalma midway down the mainstretch to assume the lead for the concluding two laps, a record that would be held for the fewest led laps in history until 2011, following DePalma's 196 laps in the lead being the most ever in a race by a non-winner. Finishing more than ten minutes ahead of newly-second place Tetzlaff, Dawson completes another two laps for good measure upon fear of a scoring miscue. Sometime thereafter, DePalma and Jeffkins finally bring their car across the line, but in twofold futile endeavour: Speedway rules, requiring that all entries move under their own power, mark DePalma's final number of circuits at 198, and the push across the line, even if to be counted, bringing them only to the beginning of the final lap.

Dawson's run in the American-manufactured, four-cylinder National, with a winning time of 6:21:06 and averaging 78.719 mph (126.686 km/h), is twenty-one minutes two seconds faster than the previous 1911 record; The National team garners $20,000 and additional contingency awards.

Throughout the remainder of the field, only the top ten finishers earn prize money, rules stipulating all entries complete the 500 miles (800 km) to collect. Ralph Mulford, involved in the controversial finish the year before, and being forced to stop numerous times due to clutch problems in his Knox, finds irritation with the requirement and proceeds to drive on, long after all others are presented the chequered flag...and even after Speedway president Carl Fisher and starter Fred Wagner leave the grounds (the latter after getting into an argument over whether to flag Mulford off before he had completed the distance, Wagner in favor and Fisher against).

Through numerous accounts of the run, including his reportedly changing shock absorbers for a gentler ride, as well as stopping for a dinner-on-the-go of fried chicken and ice-cream with his riding mechanic, Mulford's finish finally arrives, amid deserted grandstands and a setting sun over the mainstraightaway, 8 hours and 53 minutes after the start, and with an average speed of 56.285 mph (90.582 km/h), which remains a record: the slowest finishing speed to date in 500 history.

Official results[edit]

Qualification results[edit]

Entries required to complete one lap in excess of 75 mph (120.7 km/h) to qualify, but starting grid determined by order of entry date.
Driver Far Inside Inside Center Center Outside Center Far Outside
Time Speed
(mph) (km/h)
Row 1 Norway Gil Andersen United States Len Zengel (R) United States Teddy Tetzlaff ItalyRalph DePalma United States Eddie Hearne
0:01:51.21 80.93 130.24 0:01:54.14 78.85 126.90 0:01:46.84 84.24 135.57 0:01:44.63 86.02 138.44 0:01:49.96 81.85 131.72
Row 2 United States Spencer Wishart United States Joe Dawson United States Howdy Wilcox United States Harry Knight United States Bert Dingley (R)
0:01:47.21 83.95 135.10 0:01:44.49 86.13 138.61 0:01:43.21 87.20 140.33 0:01:58.55 75.92 122.18 0:01:51.43 80.77 129.99
Row 3 United States Johnny Jenkins (R)
 
United States Bob Burman
 
United States Eddie Rickenbacker (R)
Qualified by Lee Frayer
United States Billy Liesaw (R)
 
United States Bill Endicott
 
0:01:51.36 80.82 130.07 0:01:47.00 84.11 135.36 0:01:56.43 77.30 124.40 0:01:56.11 77.51 124.74 0:01:51.70 80.57 129.66
Row 4 United States Ralph Mulford United States Hughie Hughes United States Joe Horan (R) United States Mel Marquette United States Len Ormsby (R)
0:01:42.41 87.88 141.43 0:01:50.01 81.81 131.66 0:01:51.83 80.48 129.52 0:01:55.27 78.08 125.66 0:01:47.03 84.09 135.33
Row 5 United States Joe Matson (R) United States Charlie Merz United States David L. Bruce-Brown United States Louis Disbrow  
0:01:52.64 79.90 128.59 0:01:54.10 78.88 126.95 0:01:41.75 88.45 142.35 0:01:57.59 76.54 123.18

Race results[edit]

Race finishing times recorded down to second intervals.
All entries still running at conclusion scored ahead of non-finishing entries, regardless of race completion percentage.
Position colors reflect the American formula motorsports wikistandard for finishing positions.
Pos No Driver Car Entrant Chassis Engine Cyl Displ
(in³)
(L)
Color Qual
Speed
(mph)
(km/h)
Rank Start
Pos
Laps
Led
Laps
Run
Time Speed
(mph)
(km/h)
Status Prize
Money
($)
1 8 United States Joe Dawson*[1] National National Motor Vehicle Company National National 4 491
8.05
blue / white 86.13
138.61
4 7 2 200 6:21:06 78.719
126.686
finished 20,000
2 3 United States Teddy Tetzlaff Fiat E. E. Hewlett Fiat Fiat 4 589
9.65
red 84.24
135.57
6 3 2 200 6:31:29
+0:10:23
76.632
123.327
finished 10,000
3 21 United States Hughie Hughes Mercer Mercer Motors Company Mercer Mercer 4 301
4.93
yellow 81.81
131.66
11 17 0 200 6:33:09
+0:12:03
76.307
122.804
finished 5,000
4 28 United States Charlie Merz Stutz Ideal Motor Car Company Stutz Wisconsin 4 390
6.39
gray 78.88
126.95
18 22 0 200 6:34:40
+0:13:34
76.014
122.333
finished 3,000
5 18 United States Bill Endicott Schacht Schacht Motor Car Company Schacht Wisconsin 4 390
6.39
red 80.57
129.66
15 15 0 200 6:46:28
+0:25:22
73.807
118.781
finished 2,500
6 2 United States Len Zengel (R) Stutz Ideal Motor Car Company Stutz Wisconsin 4 390
6.39
gray 78.85
126.90
19 2 0 200 6:50:28
+0:29:22
73.088
117.624
finished 2,000
7 14 United States Johnny Jenkins (R) White White Motor Company White White 6 490
8.03
white 80.82
130.07
13 11 0 200 6:52:38
+0:31:32
72.704
117.006
finished 1,500
8 22 United States Joe Horan (R) Lozier Dr. W. H. Chambers Lozier Lozier 4 545
8.39
white / red 80.48
129.52
16 18 0 200 6:59:38
+0:38:32
71.491
115.054
finished 1,400
9 9 United States Howdy Wilcox National National Motor Vehicle Company National National 4 590
9.67
blue / white 87.20
140.33
3 8 0 200 7:11:30
+0:50:24
69.525
111.890
finished 1,300
10 19 United States Ralph Mulford Knox Ralph Mulford Knox Knox 6 597
9.78
white / red 87.88
141.43
2 16 0 200 8:53:00
+2:31:54
56.285
90.582
finished 1,200
11 4 ItalyRalph DePalma Mercedes E. J. Schroeder Mercedes Mercedes 4 583
9.55
gray 86.02
138.44
5 4 196 198 did not finish connecting rod 0
12 15 United States Bob Burman Cutting Clark-Carter Auto Company Cutting Cutting 4 598
9.80
white / red 84.11
135.36
7 12 0 157 did not finish accident,
turn two
0
13 12 United States Bert Dingley (R) Simplex Bert Dingley Simplex Simplex 4 597
9.67
red / white 80.77
129.99
14 10 0 116 did not finish connecting rod 0
14 25 United States Joe Matson (R) Lozier O. Applegate Lozier Lozier 4 545
8.93
white / red 79.90
128.59
17 21 0 110 did not finish crackshaft 0
15 7 United States Spencer Wishart Mercedes Spencer Wishart Mercedes Mercedes 4 583
9.55
gray / black / red 83.95
135.10
9 6 0 82 did not finish water connection 0
16 1 Norway Gil Andersen Stutz Ideal Motor Car Company Stutz Wisconsin 4 390
6.39
gray / white 80.93
130.24
12 1 0 80 did not finish accident,
turn three
0
17 17 United States Billy Liesaw (R) Marquette-Buick Will Thomson Marquette Buick 4 594
9.73
tan / red 77.51
124.74
21 14 0 72 did not finish caught fire 0
18 46 United States Louis Disbrow Case J. I. Case T. M. Company Case Case 6 450
7.37
white / red 76.54
123.18
23 24 0 67 did not finish differential pin 0
19 23 United States Mel Marquette McFarlan Speed Motors Company McFarlan McFarlan 6 425
6.96
gray 78.08
125.66
20 19 0 63 did not finish broken wheels 0
20 6 United States Eddie Hearne Case J. I. Case T. M. Company Case Case 6 450
7.37
white / red 81.85
131.72
10 5 0 55 did not finish burned bearing 0
21 16 United States Eddie Rickenbacker (R) Firestone-Columbus Columbus Buggy Company Fiat Firestone-Columbus 4 345
5.65
crimson / black 77.30
124.40
22 13 0 43 did not finish intake valve 0
22 29 United States David L. Bruce-Brown National National Motor Vehicle Company National National 4 590
9.67
blue / white 88.45
142.35
1 23 0 25 did not finish valve trouble 0
23 10 United States Harry Knight Lexington Lexington Motor Car Company Lexington Lexington 6 422
6.92
brown / white 75.92
122.18
24 9 0 6 did not finish engine trouble 0
24 26 United States Len Ormsby (R) Opel I. C. Stern & B. C. Noble Opel Opel 4 450
7.37
gray / red 84.09
135.33
8 20 0 5 did not finish connecting rod 0
*Joe Dawson was relieved by Don Herr for laps 108-144.
De Palma is usually shown as American, but his application for a US passport (available at [1]) reveals that he did not become a US citizen until 1920

Notes[edit]

Race field average engine displacement:

  • 491.46 in³ / 8.05 L

Race field average qualifying speed:

  • 81.762 mph / 131.583 km/h

Finishing entries average time and finishing speed:

  • 6:57:25 (-8:02 from previous year and previous record)
  • 72.457 mph / 116.609 km/h (+1.717 mph / +2.763 km/h, from previous year and previous record)

Race details[edit]

Works cited[edit]

  • Indianapolis 500 Chronicle, 1999, Rick Pope
  • 2006 Indianapolis 500 Official Program

References[edit]

  1. ^ Associated Press (June 19, 1946). "Joseph Dawson, 56, Auto Racing Figure". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-17. Joseph Dawson, winner of the 500 mile national sweepstakes auto race at ... 
  2. ^ Blazier, John E. and Rollings, Tom (1994). Forgotten Heroes of the Speedways: The Riding Mechanics. 


1911 Indianapolis 500
Ray Harroun
1912 Indianapolis 500
Joe Dawson
1913 Indianapolis 500
Jules Goux
Preceded by
74.602 mph
(1911 Indianapolis 500)
Record for the fastest average speed
78.719
mph
Succeeded by
82.474 mph
(1914 Indianapolis 500)