1942 Indianapolis 500

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The 1942 Indianapolis 500 was scheduled for Saturday May 30, 1942 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was to be the 30th annual running of the famous automobile race. The race was cancelled due to the United States involvement in World War II. In total, the Indianapolis 500 was not held from 1942 to 1945.

This was the second instance in which the Indianapolis Motor Speedway suspended the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. During World War I the Speedway management voluntarily suspended competition in 1917–1918. However, for WWII, the cancellation of events was part of a four-year nationwide ban on automobile racing.


Ticket order forms were available for the race in November 1941. Less than a month later, the attack on Pearl Harbor launched the United States into World War II. On December 28, 1941, Speedway president Eddie Rickenbacker announced that the 1942 Indy 500 was cancelled,[1] and the race would remain suspended throughout the duration of the war.[1] Unlike during WWI, all automobile racing under the auspices of the AAA Contest Board was suspended, and furthermore on July 15, 1942, the federal government moved to ban automobile racing,[2] primarily due to rationing.[1][3] The Speedway gates were locked, and the facility was abandoned. The race would not be held from 1942 to 1945. The golf course on the premises, however, did operate for at least some time during the war.

During the period in which the track was closed, it fell into a terrible state of disrepair. Grass and weeds overwhelmed the brick racing surface,[2] and the old wooden grandstands became frail and unsuitable and inhospitable.

Many former and future Indianapolis 500 drivers were servicemen in the war effort during WWII. Sam Hanks is believed to be the only driver who was in the war, and drove in the race both before and after. Several WWII veterans returned to become Indy drivers, including winners Lee Wallard, Bob Sweikert, and Rodger Ward.[4]


Towards the end of the war, Firestone received permission from the U.S. government to conduct a tire test at the Speedway.[2] On or approximately November 25, 1944, Firestone tested several passenger cars at the track. On November 29, 1944, Wilbur Shaw tested a race car, driving a full 500 miles, averaging about 100 mph.[5] A second similar test was reported in the spring of 1945. Driver Sam Hanks took a tour of the facility with mechanic Harry C. "Cotton" Henning, and reported that the track was overgrown with weeds, the bleachers were about to collapse, and both conjectured that the race was finished.[6]

On May 30, 1945, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope came to the Speedway to hold a war bonds rally,[7] putting on a 45-minute show with Jerry Colonna and other entertainers.[8] They then took part in a charity golf tournament at the Speedway Golf Course with Ed Dudley.[9]

After WWII was over in the summer of 1945, Eddie Rickenbacker was mostly uninterested in reviving the Speedway, due to other commitments, including his involvement with Eastern Air Lines. He was looking to sell the property, perhaps to developers.[2] Wilbur Shaw helped consummate a deal for Tony Hulman to purchase the track in November 1945, and it reopened in 1946. Hulman worked diligently over the next few months to revive and clean up the dilapidated facility, and make it suitable for world-class racing once again.

The 30th Indianapolis 500 was held May 30, 1946.


  1. ^ a b c "500 Mile Race Is Off for Duration of War". The Milwaukee Journal. 1941-12-29. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d Oreovicz, John (2011-05-15). "Indy at 100: WWII puts racing on hold". Commentary (ESPN.com). Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  3. ^ Rickenbacker 1967, p. 159.
  4. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 21, 2009. WFNI. 
  5. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley – WFNI, July 22, 2009
  6. ^ The Legends of the Brickyard – 1985, ESPN
  7. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 23, 2014. WFNI. 
  8. ^ "The Most Famous Man in the World, 1940–1945". Bing Magazine. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Speedway Links for Bing and Bob". The Spokane Daily Chronicle. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 

1941 Indianapolis 500
Mauri Rose
Floyd Davis
1942 Indianapolis 500
1946 Indianapolis 500
George Robson