1937 Indianapolis 500

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25th Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning bodyAAA
DateMay 31, 1937
WinnerWilbur Shaw
Winning EntrantShaw-Gilmore
Average speed113.580 mph
Pole positionBill Cummings
Pole speed123.343 mph
Most laps ledWilbur Shaw (131)
Pre-race
Pace carLaSalle Series 50
Pace car driverRalph DePalma
StarterSeth Klein[1]
Honorary refereeWilliam S. Knudsen[1]
Estimated attendance170,000[2]
Chronology
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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 (33 °C), it is one of the hottest days on record for the Indy 500.

Speedway legend Wilbur Shaw won the first of his three "500" victories. In the waning laps, Shaw's car was leaking oil, and was suffering from critically low oil pressure. He had to nurse his car to the finish line. Second place Ralph Hepburn, aware of Shaw's troubles, began closing dramatically. Shaw held off Hepburn at the checkered flag by 2.16 seconds, the closest finish in Indy history to that point. It was a record that would stand 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.[3] 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.[4] Rohde succumbed to his injuries on June 1, 1937.[5][6]

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.[4]

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

Starting grid[edit]

Row Inside Middle Outside
1 16 United States Bill Cummings  W  6 United States Wilbur Shaw 54 United States Herb Ardinger
2 10 United States Billy Winn 2 United States Louis Meyer  W  8 United States Ralph Hepburn
3 38 United States Tony Gulotta 1 United States Mauri Rose 31 United States Chet Gardner
4 23 United States Ronney Householder  R  35 United States Deacon Litz 17 United States George Connor
5 7 United States Chet Miller 28 United States Billy Devore  R  24 United States Frank Brisko
6 45 United States Cliff Bergere 62 United States Floyd Roberts 53 United States Louis Tomei
7 5 United States Jimmy Snyder 25 United States Kelly Petillo  W  33 United States Bob Swanson  R 
8 47 United States Harry McQuinn 14 United States Rex Mays 32 United States Floyd Davis  R 
9 34 United States Shorty Cantlon 42 United States Al Miller 26 United States Tony Willman  R 
10 43 United States George Bailey 41 United States Ken Fowler  R  12 United States Russ Snowberger
11 15 United States Babe Stapp 3 United States Ted Horn 44 United States Frank Wearne  R 
R Indianapolis 500 rookie
W Indianapolis 500 winner

Alternates[edit]

  • First alternate: Emil Andres (withdrew)[7]
  • Second alternate: Joel Thorne  R  — Thorne purchased the entry of the first alternate, and planned to buy the qualified car of Cliff Bergere. He then planned to withdraw both of those cars 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]

Failed to Qualify[edit]

Race details[edit]

For 1937, riding mechanics were required.[10] 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.[11]

Late Race Summary[edit]

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 rising and dropping, and Shaw was calculating 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 to within a few seconds, and by the last turn he was directly behind Shaw and looking to pass him for the win.

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.

Results[edit]

Finish Start No Name Entrant Chassis Engine Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 2 6 United States Wilbur Shaw W. Wilbur Shaw Shaw Offenhauser 122.791 4 200 131 Running
2 6 8 United States Ralph Hepburn Louis Meyer Stevens Offenhauser 118.809 15 200 9 Running
3 32 3 United States Ted Horn Harry Hartz Wetteroth Miller 118.608 17 200 0 Running
4 5 2 United States Louis Meyer  W  H. C. Henning Miller Miller 119.619 12 200 0 Running
5 16 45 United States Cliff Bergere George C. Lyons Stevens Offenhauser 117.546 24 200 0 Running
6 1 16 United States Bill Cummings  W  H. C. Henning Miller Offenhauser 123.343 3 200 0 Running
7 14 28 United States Billy Devore  R  H. E. Winn Stevens Miller 120.192 9 200 0 Running
8 7 38 United States Tony Gulotta Joe Lencki Rigling Offenhauser 118.788 16 200 0 Running
9 12 17 United States George Connor Joe Marks Adams Miller 120.240 8 200 0 Running
10 18 53 United States Louis Tomei S.S. Engineering Company Rigling Studebaker 116.437 32 200 0 Running
11 9 31 United States Chet Gardner Chester Gardner Duesenberg Offenhauser 117.342 28 199 0 Flagged
12 10 23 United States Ronney Householder  R  Henry J. Topping, Jr. Viglioni Miller 116.464 31 194 0 Flagged
13 17 62 United States Floyd Roberts Joel Thorne, Inc. Miller Miller 116.996 30 194 0 Flagged
14 11 35 United States Deacon Litz A. B. Litz Miller Miller 116.372 33 191 0 Out of oil
15 24 32 United States Floyd Davis  R  Joel Thorne, Inc. Snowberger Miller 118.942 14 190 0 Crash T3
16 25 34 United States Shorty Cantlon Bill White Race Cars, Inc. Weil Miller 118.555 18 182 0 Flagged
17 26 42 United States Al Miller Joel Thorne, Inc. Snowberger Miller 118.518 20 170 0 Carburetor
18 8 1 United States Mauri Rose Lou Moore Miller Offenhauser 118.540 19 127 0 Oil line
19 29 41 United States Ken Fowler  R  E. M. "Lucky" Teeter Wetteroth McDowell 117.421 26 116 0 Pushed
20 20 25 United States Kelly Petillo  W  Kelly Petillo Wetteroth Offenhauser 124.129 2 109 0 Out of oil
21 28 43 United States George Bailey Sims & Duray Stevens Miller 117.497 25 107 0 Clutch
22 3 54 United States Herb Ardinger Lewis W. Welch Welch Offenhauser 121.983 5 106 2 Rod
23 15 24 United States Frank Brisko Frank Brisko Stevens Brisko 118.213 23 105 0 No oil pressure
24 33 44 United States Frank Wearne  R  Leon Duray Stevens Miller 118.220 22 99 0 Carburetor
25 27 26 United States Tony Willman  R  Pete DePaolo Miller Miller 118.241 21 95 0 Rod
26 4 10 United States Billy Winn James M. Winn Miller Miller 119.922 11 85 0 Oil line
27 30 12 United States Russ Snowberger Russ Snowberger Snowberger Packard 117.354 27 66 0 Clutch
28 21 33 United States Bob Swanson  R  Paul Weirick Adams Sparks 121.920 6 52 34 Carburetor
29 22 47 United States Harry McQuinn Thomas O'Brien Stevens Miller 121.822 7 47 0 Piston
30 13 7 United States Chet Miller H. C. Henning Summers Miller 119.213 13 36 0 Ignition
31 31 15 United States Babe Stapp Henry J. Topping, Jr. Maserati Maserati 117.226 29 36 0 Clutch
32 19 5 United States Jimmy Snyder Joel Thorne, Inc. Adams Sparks 125.287 1 27 24 Transmission
33 23 14 United States Rex Mays Bill White Race Cars, Inc. Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 119.968 10 24 0 Overheating
[12][13]

Race statistics[edit]

Notes[edit]

Works cited[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fox, Jack C. (1994). The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 1911-1994 (4th ed.). Carl Hungness Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-915088-05-3.
  2. ^ Campbell, Russell E. (June 1, 1937). "170,000 Collars "Wilt" as Sun Sneers At Weatherman, Beams on Speedway". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved June 3, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  3. ^ "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 ...
  4. ^ a b "Crackups kill 2 men in speedway tuneup". Sarasota Herald. Associated Press. May 29, 1937.
  5. ^ "Engineer dies from injuries". Spokane Weekly Chronicle. Associated Press. June 3, 1937.
  6. ^ http://interactive.ancestry.com/60716/45232_356198-02546?pid=2379568&backurl=//search.ancestry.com//cgi-bin/sse.dll?_phsrc%3DFnF4449%26_phstart%3DsuccessSource%26usePUBJs%3Dtrue%26gss%3Dangs-g%26new%3D1%26rank%3D1%26msT%3D1%26gsfn%3Dotto%26gsfn_x%3D0%26gsln%3Drohde%26gsln_x%3D0%26msddy%3D1937%26msdpn__ftp%3DIndianapolis,%2520Marion,%2520Indiana,%2520USA%26msdpn%3D40138%26msdpn_PInfo%3D8-%257C0%257C1652393%257C0%257C2%257C0%257C17%257C0%257C1893%257C40138%257C0%257C0%257C%26cp%3D0%26catbucket%3Drt%26MSAV%3D1%26uidh%3Dpd1%26pcat%3DROOT_CATEGORY%26h%3D2379568%26db%3DIndianaVitalsDeaths%26indiv%3D1%26ml_rpos%3D1&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=FnF4449&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - 1070-AM WIBC, May 14, 2004
  8. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - WFNI, May 19, 2013
  9. ^ "1937 International 500 Mile Sweepstakes". ChampCarStats.com. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  10. ^ Blazier, John E.; Rollings, Tom (1994). Forgotten Heroes of the Speedways: The Riding Mechanics. Stephen Rettig. ASIN B0006QASDW.
  11. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - 1070-AM WIBC, May 10, 2003
  12. ^ "Indianapolis 500 1937". Ultimate Racing History. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  13. ^ Popely, Rick; Riggs, L. Spencer (1998). The Indianapolis 500 Chronicle. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Publications International, Ltd. ISBN 0-7853-2798-3.


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