1937 Indianapolis 500

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25th Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body AAA
Date May 31, 1937
Winner Wilbur Shaw
Winning Entrant Shaw-Gilmore
Average speed 113.580 mph (182.789 km/h)
Pole position Bill Cummings
Pole speed 123.343 mph (198.501 km/h)
Most laps led Shaw (131)
Pre-race
Pace car LaSalle Series 50
Pace car driver Ralph DePalma
Chronology
Previous Next
1936 1938

The 25th International 500-Mile Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday, May 31, 1937. With temperatures topping out at 92°F, it is one of the hottest days on record for the Indy 500.

Late in the race, Wilbur Shaw held a comfortable lead, and had lapped second place Ralph Hepburn. With about 20 laps to go, however, Shaw's car had been leaking oil, and had nearly lost nearly all of the oil out of the crankcase. In addition, the right rear tire was heavily worn. Shaw slowed down considerably in an effort to nurse his car to the finish line. Shaw and his riding mechanic John "Jigger" Johnson were both suffering from burns due to the leaking oil. Second place Hepburn realized Shaw's problems, and began a charge to catch him. He unlapped himself, and went on a tear in hopes of victory.

As the laps dwindled down, Ralph Hepburn was closing dramatically. Shaw was largely defenseless, as he was carefully nursing the car around. As the car went in and out of the turns, the oil pressure was raising and dropping, and Shaw was able to calculate how much time he could give up per lap and still maintain the lead. Hepburn closed to a straightaway deficit, then was nearly in reach. On the final lap, Hepburn pulled within a few seconds. Some observers claim that Hepburn took the lead momentarily down the backstretch.

With nothing to lose, Shaw floored the accelerator and pulled away down the final straight. He held off Hepburn for the win by 2.16 seconds, the closest finish in Indy 500 history to that point. The margin would stand as the closest finish ever at Indy until 1982.

Time trials[edit]

Ten-lap (25 mile) qualifying runs were utilized. During the time trials held on May 28, the car of Overton Phillips burst into flames when his crankshaft broke and punctured the gas tank. He then crashed into the pit area, killing spectator George Warford of Indianapolis.[1] Injured were Phillips and his riding mechanic, Walter King, Anthony Caccia, the brother of Joe Caccia, who died in practice for the 1931 race, and Otto Rohde of Toledo, Ohio, a crew member for Champion Spark Plug.[2] Rohde succumbed to his injuries five days later on June 2, 1937.[3]

On the same day, having completed four of ten scheduled qualifying laps, Frank McGurk's car plunged through an inner rail, overturned and ejected both McGurk, who was hospitalized in serious condition but survived, and his riding mechanic, Albert Opalko, who was killed. The crash was caused by a broken connecting rod.[2]

Qualifying Results
Date Driver Lap 1
(mph)
Lap 2
(mph)
Lap 3
(mph)
Lap 4
(mph)
Lap 5
(mph)
Lap 6
(mph)
Lap 7
(mph)
Lap 8
(mph)
Lap 9
(mph)
Lap 10
(mph)
Average Speed
(mph)
Sat 5/15/1937 Bill Cummings 123.677 123.779 120.016 122.951 123.626 123.830 123.848 123.305 123.389 125.139* 123.455

* Bill Cummins' tenth lap of 125.139 mph was a one-lap Speedway track record at the time.

Race details[edit]

For 1937, riding mechanics were required.[4] Jigger Johnson served as Wilbur Shaw's riding mechanic. Johnson, who also rode with 1931 winner Louis Schneider, became the second two-time Indianapolis 500 winning riding mechanic. Johnson would be the final winning riding mechanic in Indy history. Starting in the 1938 Indianapolis 500, riding mechanics were made optional, and would no longer be utilized in the race by any entrants.

After being banned for several years, superchargers were once again permitted.

Jimmy Snyder[edit]

One of the more notable performances of the 1937 race belonged to Jimmy Snyder. During time trials on May 22, Snyder took to the track for his 10-lap attempt late in the day, nearing sundown. He ran his first lap at a track record of 130.492 mph. His second lap (129.422 mph) and third lap (127.334 mph) dropped off, and then officials waved off the run due to darkness. Snyder's run was officially incomplete, but the single-lap track record stood.

The following day, Snyder returned to the track, and while he did not match his speed from the day before, he finished his run at 125.287 mph, the fastest qualifier in the field. He would line up 19th on race day.

At the start, Snyder blew by most of the field, and was running as high as 6th at the conclusion of the first lap. By the fourth lap he was in the lead, and proceeded to lead 24 laps. On lap 27, however, he dropped out with mechanical trouble.[5]

Results[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 2 6 United States Wilbur Shaw 122.791 4 200 131 Running
2 6 8 United States Ralph Hepburn 118.809 15 200 9 Running
3 32 3 United States Ted Horn 118.608 17 200 0 Running
4 5 2 United States Louis Meyer (W) 119.619 12 200 0 Running
5 16 45 United States Cliff Bergere 117.546 24 200 0 Running
6 1 16 United States Bill Cummings (W) 123.343 3 200 0 Running
7 14 28 United States Billy Devore (R) 120.192 9 200 0 Running
8 7 38 United States Tony Gulotta 118.788 16 200 0 Running
9 12 17 United States George Connor 120.240 8 200 0 Running
10 18 53 United States Louis Tomei 116.437 32 200 0 Running
11 9 31 United States Chet Gardner 117.342 28 199 0 Flagged
12 10 23 United States Ronney Householder (R) 116.464 31 194 0 Flagged
13 17 62 United States Floyd Roberts 116.996 30 194 0 Flagged
14 11 35 United States Deacon Litz 116.372 33 191 0 Out of oil
15 24 32 United States Floyd Davis (R) 118.942 14 190 0 Crash T3
16 25 34 United States Shorty Cantlon 118.555 18 182 0 Flagged
17 26 42 United States Al Miller 118.518 20 170 0 Carburetor
18 8 1 United States Mauri Rose 118.540 19 127 0 Oil line
19 29 41 United States Ken Fowler (R) 117.421 26 116 0 Pushed
20 20 25 United States Kelly Petillo (W) 124.129 2 109 0 Out of oil
21 28 43 United States George Bailey 117.497 25 107 0 Clutch
22 3 54 United States Herb Ardinger 121.983 5 106 2 Rod
23 15 24 United States Frank Brisko 118.213 23 105 0 No oil pressure
24 33 44 United States Frank Wearne (R) 118.220 22 99 0 Carburetor
25 27 26 United States Tony Willman (R) 118.241 21 95 0 Rod
26 4 10 United States Billy Winn 119.922 11 85 0 Oil line
27 30 12 United States Russ Snowberger 117.354 27 66 0 Clutch
28 21 33 United States Bob Swanson (R) 121.920 6 52 34 Carburetor
29 22 47 United States Harry McQuinn 121.822 7 47 0 Piston
30 13 7 United States Chet Miller 119.213 13 36 0 Ignition
31 31 15 United States Babe Stapp 117.226 29 36 0 Clutch
32 19 5 United States Jimmy Snyder 125.287 1 27 24 Transmission
33 23 14 United States Rex Mays 119.968 10 24 0 Overheating
[6]

Alternates[edit]

  • First alternate: Emil Andres (withdrew)[7]
  • Second alternate: Joel Thorne — Thorne purchased the entry of the first alternate, and planned to buy the qualified car of Cliff Bergere, and planned to withdraw both in order to elevate his own car (the second alternate) into the starting field. After the officials heard word of the solicitations, they forced him to stop the effort of effectively "buying his way in" to the field, and threatened suspension.[8]

Notes[edit]

Works cited[edit]

  • Floyd Clymer's 1909–1941 Indianapolis 500 Race History
  • Indianapolis 500 Chronicle

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Racer Crashes, Kills Watcher. Others Hurt When Flaming Car Piles Into Crowd on Indianapolis Track". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. May 28, 1937. Retrieved 2012-10-09. "Speedway officials attributed the accident to the breaking of a crank shaft and the puncturing of the gas tank on a racer piloted by Overton Phillips of Los Angeles ..." 
  2. ^ a b "INDIANAPOLIS TRACK AUTO ACCIDENTS ARE FATAL TO 2 PERSONS". The Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. May 29, 1937. 
  3. ^ "ENGINEER DIES FROM INJURIES". Spokane Weekly Chronicle. Associated Press. June 3, 1937. 
  4. ^ Blazier, John E. and Rollings, Tom (1994). Forgotten Heroes of the Speedways: The Riding Mechanics. 
  5. ^ "The Talk of Gasoline Alley", WIBC, May 10, 2003
  6. ^ "Indianapolis 500 1937". Ultimate Racing History. Archived from the original on 16 January 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  7. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - 1070-AM WIBC, May 14, 2004
  8. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - WFNI, May 19, 2013


1936 Indianapolis 500
Louis Meyer
1937 Indianapolis 500
Wilbur Shaw
1938 Indianapolis 500
Floyd Roberts
Preceded by
109.069 mph
(1936 Indianapolis 500)
Record for the fastest average speed
113.580
mph
Succeeded by
117.200 mph
(1938 Indianapolis 500)