|1959 Indianapolis 500
The following are some excerpts from the May 29, 1959 Indianapolis Times newspaper.
Pole Cars Picked In Varying Ways
When the Speedway opened in 1911, the
first car sending in an entry was awarded
the pole position.
From 1912 through 1914, the drivers
drew lots for the coveted position.
Another method was used from 1915 to
1918 with the inside first row spot going
to whoever qualified the fastest, regardless
of which day. In 1918 the present system
of awarding the pole position to the fastest
qualifier of the first day was inaugurated.
Batten 'Stretch' Ride One of the
Norm Batten took one of the warmest
rides in Speedway history during the 1927
race when he drove his car standing up
the full length of the straight-away while it
was engulfed in flames.
He jumped from the car only after he had
stayed with it for the full stretch, steering
it away from the pits and the crowd.
Braking for Broke
It costs $600 for the braking system on an
Indianapolis-type race car.
Seven spectators have been killed
while watching 500-Mile Races.
4 Of '54 Drivers Gone
Four of the first 10 finishers in the 1954
"500" have been claimed by death. Killed
in accidents since that time are: Winner
Bill Vukovich, Jack McGrath, 2nd; Mike
Nazaruk, 5th, and Larry Crockett, 9th.
Race Is Year-Round Job for Some
The 500-Mile Race is much more than a
one day job for 25 people out at the track.
Track Superintendent Clarence Cagle and
his crew of 24 men put in approximately
40,000 working hours on the track's 433
acres, 98 buildings, track and grandstand
throughout the year.
Just before race day the working crew is
increased to 100 not including the 1500-
man force that handles tickets, policing
and ushering chores.
Seven for Eleven Seven sets of tires were
used by Duke Nalon in driving the powerful
Novi Spl. to 11th place in the 1953 500
'500' Festival 3 Years old
By Nancy Lowe [abridged]
Four years ago you just went to the race.
Oh, maybe you or you friends had a
couple of pre-500-Mile Race parties.
And then three years ago, the "500"
Festival was started. The Festival this
year stretched from the selection of a
queen on April 25, to the race eve
Forty blonde beauties were responsible,
you might say for bringing the whole
idea to Indianapolis.
It was 1956 and the 40 palominos of the
Murat Shrine Horse Patrol had been
invited to Louisville to participate in the
first parade to be held in connection with
the Kentucky Derby.
A car full of Indianapolis people drove
down to see the parade - Karl Fredericks,
Edwin K. Steers, Cecil Byrne and Miller
Keller of the Shrine and Irving Leibowitz
of the Indianapolis Times.
"Its too bad there isn't a parade like this
in Indianapolis for Shrine units to march
in, maybe around race time," said
somebody in the car.
"But it shouldn't just be the Shrine," said
someone else , "The whole city should
be involved - make a big thing about the
Recalls Cecil Byrne, "We yakked about
the idea all the way back to Indianapolis
"We had a perfect excuse for having a
parade," said Byrne. "But it was not
created in our opinion just to sell the
"500" The "500" doesn't need selling. It
was to make Indianapolis a more
"We didn't want it to be all Speedway -
or all Shrine."
The Shrine's part in the parade has been
purposely decreased through the three
years, said Byrne, because no one
organization should dominate.
Festival activities that first year included
the parade, a pre-parade memorial
service, a post-parade square dance
and invitational ball.
Last year to all this was added a Mayor's
breakfast for visiting dignitaries, a
Governor's reception before the
invitational ball for the general public.
This year the two balls were combined
into one again, but selection of an official
queen was added to the Festival activities.
Radio-TV Coverage Extensive
By Jan Colcord [abridged]
Radio and TV coverage of the 500-Mile Race is more
complete this year than ever before.
The race will be broadcast in its entirety by all the local AM
radio stations with the exception of WXLW, starting at 10
a.m. for the preliminaries, and continuing until the finish in
All stations carry the broadcast by hooking up to WIBC
which originated the coast-to-coast broadcast 13 years ago
with Sid Collins as chief commentator, under the direction
of Gil Berry, Dill Dean and Bob Minton. Freddie
Agabashian is the technical advisor on race day this year.
Tom Carnegie is on the Speedway publick address system.
The broadcast is sent to every English speaking country in
the world, to Latin America through the Voice of America,
and to all the Armed Forces through the Armed Forces Radio
Network, besides 370 other station in the U.S.A.
...Another "First" was televising of the first annual "old Timer's
Bar-B-Que" on Thurdsday at 6 p.m.
Chunky Don Branson is another newcomer who won't be
taking a back seat to anyone. A veteran campaigner, he
passed his driver's test this year with the remarkable
average of 40 perfect laps.
The rookie takes 10 laps at 115mph, 10 at 120, then 125
and 130. He's allowed a margin of one-mile under and three
miles over in order to register a good lap
Hanks '500' All-Time $$$ Champion
By Jimmie Angelopolous [abridged]
Smiling Sam Hanks, "Mr. Moneybags," retired from racing
as the 500-Mile Race all-time money winner in 1957.
Hanks collected $103,000 for first place after winning the
1957 Speedway Classic and piled up a record total earnings
of an estimated $200,000.
Today Jimmy Bryan, the 1958 Speedway winner, looks like
the best bet to overtake Hanks as the Speedway's all-time
record holder for total purses.
No. 2 choice may be Jim Rathmann. No. 3 might be Tony
Bettenhausen and No. 4 could be Pat Flaherty.
When Bryan earned a total of $105,000 for first place last
year, he jacked his career earnings to an estimated
$180,000 more or less. Of this total his earnings from the
Speedway prize alone include $114,000.
If total earnings for first place this year amount to an
estimated $110,000. Bryan could shove his total earnings
at the "500" to nearly $290,000 maybe more. Second place
could be worth around $40,000. It brought the late George
Amick $38,000 last year
Total earnings of course do not include money made away
from the 500-Mile Speedway after each race. One guess
might be that Bryan could have added as much as another
$100,000 in earnings after winning the 1958 classic. But his
favorite uncle, named Sam, probably would have gobbled
most of it.
Speedway Is Big Picnic Grounds
By Gerry LaFollette
Contrary to popular belief, people don't go to the "500" to
watch the race. They go to eat and drink.
Hot dogs are in first place on the demand list, closely
followed by ham and cheese on white.
Coffee and soft drinks depend on the weatherman for their
The people at Sportservice, Inc., headed by Mrs. Virginia
Taylor badger the weatherman at Weir Cook constantly.
For many years the concessions at the Speedway were
handled individually. Each stand was operated by a
different person. Sportservice took over in 1949. It
operates 87 booths in all parts of the track. Their season
starts about April 15 and lasts for two months. The four
days of qualification and race day are their busiest times.
Last year 116,869 hot dogs were sold.
This year the ice cream sandwich makes its first
appearance and Mrs Taylor hopes that it will prove more
successful than one of her recent ventures. That was the
box lunch. People just didn't like the package plan.
But she says, "We learn every year."
And she seems to have done very well. Mrs Taylor started
with Sportservice in 1950, selling the popular hot dog.
Seven years later she was put in charge of the whole
Another novelty she will introduce is the frozen icicle. It is a
new item which comes from freezing nine ounces of a
flavored liquid in a plastic bag.
With all this food and drink available the health problem is
a major one. The State Board of Health has five men at the
track along with three men from the Engineering Sanitation
But Mrs. Taylor says that there never has been a case of
food poisoning from food they have sold. Most of the trouble
comes from people who bring their own.
And Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Hofstader of Dalton, O., who run the
Tower Terrace Restaurant, have an even more important
problem: feeding the drivers.
Besides all the spectators who eat at the restaurant next to
the garages, the Hofstaders feel that the last day before the
race and race day morning are the most important.
As Mrs. Taylor said, "If one of those boys got sick from one
of our meals, I don't know where I would hide."
But the way they handle the concessions the chances of
food poisoning are very slim.
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