1958 Indianapolis 500
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Sanctioning body||USAC / World Championship|
|Date||May 30, 1958|
|Winning Entrant||George Salih|
|Average speed||133.791 mph (215.316 km/h)|
|Pole position||Dick Rathmann|
|Pole speed||145.974 mph (234.922 km/h)|
|Most laps led||Jimmy Bryan (139)|
|Pace car||Pontiac Bonneville|
|Pace car driver||Sam Hanks|
The 42nd International 500-Mile Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, May 30, 1958. The event was part of the 1958 USAC National Championship Trail, and was included in the 1958 World Drivers Championship.
The race is best known for a massive first-lap, 15-car pileup that resulted in the death of fan-favorite driver Pat O'Connor.
Juan Manuel Fangio arrived at Indy under much fanfare as he attempted to qualify for the 500 and score points towards the World Championship. He practiced early in the month, but withdrew when he could not get up to speed.
Time trials were scheduled for four days.
- Saturday May 17 – Pole Day time trials
- Ed Elisian set a new one-lap track record of 146.508 mph to sit tentatively on the pole position. His four-lap average stood at 145.926 mph. Later in the day, Dick Rathmann qualified at 146.974 mph to win the pole position. Rathmann was not able to beat Elisian's single-lap record, but his four-lap record eclipsed Elisian overall by a mere 0.08 seconds.
- Sunday May 18 – Second day time trials
- Saturday May 24 – Third day time trials
- Sunday May 25 – Fourth day time trials
Opening lap crash
For the second year in a row, the starting grid was assembled single-file in the pit lane. The cars were instructed to pull away and assemble into the official eleven rows of three after they entered the racing surface. Confusion occurred on the pace lap, however, as the three drivers of the front row (Dick Rathmann, Ed Elisian, and Jimmy Reece) pulled away, and inadvertently escaped the pace car. The three cars were alone, and rather than wait for the grid to catch up, they rushed around to catch up to the back of the field. Sam Hanks pulled the pace car off the track and into the pits, but chief starter Bill Vanderwater displayed the yellow flag to wave off the start. An extra pace lap was allowed, and the front row re-took their position at the front of the pack. By the time Hanks was ready to pull the pace car back out on the track, the field had re-formed, and Vanderwater gave them the green flag.
At the start, Dick Rathmann took the lead in turn 1, Ed Elisian was second, and Jimmy Reece third. As the cars went down the backstretch, they battled into turn three. Elisian spun, and triggered a huge 15-car pileup. Several cars spun to the wall and into the infield . Jerry Unser touched wheels with Paul Goldsmith, and flipped over the outside wall. Unser suffered a dislocated shoulder.
According to A. J. Foyt, Pat O'Connor's car hit Reece's car, sailed fifty feet in the air, landed upside down, and burst into flames. Although O'Connor was incinerated in the accident, medical officials said that he was probably killed instantly from a fractured skull.
Widely blamed for the accident, Elisian was suspended by USAC for the accident (reinstated a few days later), and was shunned by many in the racing community.
Following the accident, race officials announced that they would change the starting procedure, abandoning the single-file trip down pit lane that was used in 1957 and 1958. Also, for the 1959 Indy 500, metal roll bars welded to the frame behind the driver's head were mandated, and helmets were required to pass safety certification by Speedway medical officials.
Jimmy Bryan escaped the opening lap crash, and came around to lead the first lap. Eddie Sachs and Tony Bettenhausen also escaped unscathed, running second and third. Due to the crash, the yellow light stayed on for the first 25 minutes (18 laps).
When the green flag conditions came out, Bryan, Sachs, Bettenhausen, and George Amick all traded time in the lead. There were 14 lead changes in the first half.
The second yellow came out on lap 38 when Chuck Weyant crashed in turn 4.
Eddie Sachs, a contender in the first quarter of the race, dropped out on lap 68 with transmission trouble.
The second half of the race settled down to a battle between Jimmy Bryan and Johnny Boyd, with George Amick also in contention. However, Boyd lost the lead during a pit stop on lap 126. Bryan's team had fast pit stops (three stops for 1 minute and 31 seconds), which allowed him to hold the lead.
Rookie A. J. Foyt spun out on lap 149.
Bryan led the final 75 laps (139 total) en route to victory. Bryan was victorious in the same car in which Sam Hanks won the 500 a year earlier. Amick, a rookie, stayed within striking distance of Bryan for the last part of the race, but Amick's crew chief, George Salih, decided to accept a safe second-place rather than risk pushing his rookie driver into a mistake.
During the race as news of Pat O'Connor's death spread around the track, the mood amongst the spectators became somber and glum. Reportedly, some in attendance left upon hearing the news of the fatality, some never to return.
|2||25||99||George Amick (R)||Epperly-Offenhauser||142.71||8||200||18||+ 27.63||6|
|3||8||9||Johnny Boyd||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||144.02||24||200||18||+ 1:09.67||4|
|4||9||33||Tony Bettenhausen||Epperly-Offenhauser||143.91||9||200||24||+ 1:34.81||4|
|5||20||2||Jim Rathmann||Epperly-Offenhauser||143.14||10||200||0||+ 1:35.62||2|
|6||3||16||Jimmy Reece||Watson-Offenhauser||145.51||14||200||0||+ 2:16.95|
|7||13||26||Don Freeland||Phillips-Offenhauser||143.03||3||200||0||+ 2:21.06|
|8||19||44||Jud Larson (R)||Watson-Offenhauser||143.51||16||200||0||+ 5:34.02|
|9||26||61||Eddie Johnson||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.67||11||200||0||+ 6:15.76|
|10||33||54||Bill Cheesbourg||Kurtis Kraft-Novi||142.54||25||200||0||+ 8:03.59|
|11||21||52||Al Keller||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.93||29||200||0||+ 9:14.20|
|12||6||45||Johnnie Parsons (W)||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||144.68||18||200||0||+ 9:40.85|
|13||30||19||Johnnie Tolan||Kuzma-Offenhauser||142.3||6||200||0||+ 9:52.24|
|14||17||65||Bob Christie||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.25||30||189||0||Spun off|
|15||32||59||Dempsey Wilson (R)||Kuzma-Offenhauser||134.27||32||151||0||Fire|
|16||12||29||A. J. Foyt (R)||Kuzma-Offenhauser||143.13||33||148||0||Spun off|
|17||31||77||Mike Magill||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.27||15||136||0||Disqualified|
|18||14||15||Paul Russo||Kurtis Kraft-Novi||142.95||31||122||0||Throttle|
|19||23||83||Shorty Templeman||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.81||17||116||0||Brakes|
|21||15||43||Billy Garrett||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.77||13||80||0||Magneto|
|23||22||7||Johnny Thomson||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.9||7||52||0||Steering|
|25||10||25||Jack Turner||Lesovsky-Offenhauser||143.43||28||21||0||Fuel pump|
|26||4||14||Bob Veith||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||144.88||12||1||0||Accident|
|29||5||4||Pat O'Connor ✝||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||144.82||5||0||0||Died in crash|
|30||16||31||Paul Goldsmith (R)||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.74||23||0||0||Accident|
|31||24||92||Jerry Unser (R)||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.75||22||0||0||Accident|
|32||27||68||Len Sutton (R)||Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser||142.65||26||0||0||Accident|
|33||28||57||Art Bisch (R)||Kuzma-Offenhauser||142.63||27||0||0||Accident|
The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Sid Collins served as chief announcer. The broadcast featured the debut of Lou Palmer, who reported from the normally quiet and remote third turn. However, on the opening lap, Palmer was quickly thrust into duty, as his first words on the network were to describe the massive 15-car pileup and fatal accident of Pat O'Connor.
|“||And we've got an accident here! Car #5! Car #5, the Zink Special, is the first to wreck! Another over the wall! And we've got...one, two, three, four, five...six cars, piled up here, on the northeast turn! The 54 Novi into the infield...car #19 in the infield, 68 now down into the infield...and it's almost impossible to identify the others. Out of car #5, now, is Ed Elisian...and, er, car #91 against the wall...that is all that we can see at the moment. Further down the track, there are still others. ...One car has left this track, Sid, and did go over the retaining wall. That's all of the information we can give you at the moment...we will check each car for you, and report on all of them as soon as we can. Right now, better send it to you Sid, in the tower...||”|
Among the guests that visited the booth was Pete DePaolo.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network|
|Booth Announcers||Turn Reporters||Pit/garage reporters|
Turn 1: Bill Frosh
|Jack Shapiro (north)
Luke Walton (center)
Greg Smith (south)
Bob Hoover (garages)
- Fastest Lead Lap: Tony Bettenhausen – 1:02.370 (144.300 mph)
- Pat O'Connor had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the week leading up to the race. His subsequent death is considered an early example of the perceived "Sports Illustrated cover jinx."
Championship standings after the race
- Notes: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Also, points scored in the 500 did not count towards the F1 constructors championship.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1958 Indianapolis 500.|
- Indianapolis 500 History: Race & All-Time Stats – Official Site
- 1958 Indianapolis 500 Radio Broadcast, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
1958 Dutch Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1958 Belgian Grand Prix
1957 Indianapolis 500
|1958 Indianapolis 500
1959 Indianapolis 500