|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Ralph R. Hepburn was born in Somerville MA on April 11,
1896. His family moved to L.A. when he was ten.
He became a motorcycle racer and raced on dirt and
board tracks. He began racing autos around 1924 and
his first Indy 500 was in 1925.
By 1948, he was a veteran of 15 Indy 500-mile races and
52 years old.
Cliff Bergere crashed the Novi Grooved Piston Special
and he and Chet Miller both told car owner Lew Welch
that they did not want to race his Novis. Welch then
assigned the cars to Hepburn and Duke Nalon.
After a few practice laps on Saturday, Hepburn told
Welch he didn't feel that comfortable in the car and
asked him to set the car up like the Novi he drove in
1946. This required dialing back the turbo boost.
Welch didn't want to cut the power, but did so anyway.
The work on the car wasn't finished, so Hepburn missed
qualifying on Pole Day. Ten cars qualified Saturday at
speeds over 122 mph.
Hepburn's Novi was ready for Sunday's time trials.
As he ran some practice laps, he got the car up to 130
mph. He lost control of it in turn one and he struggled to
correct it. Unfortunately, he ended up smashing head
first into the concrete wall. He was so jammed in the car
that the cowling had to be removed before the safety
team could extricate him. He had died instantly of head
and chest injuries and a broken neck.
He was survived by his wife Ida Mae Hepburn and one
daughter Joanne Hepburn (16).
Ralph's father died four days after Ralph and they were
buried together. James P. Hepburn, 83, had been ill for
In 1998, Hepburn was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle
Hall of Fame.
144 - Gas tank
151 - Flagged
39 - Fuel tank leak
48 - Timing gears
Relieved Babe Stapp
14 - Transmission
Relieved Leon Duray
33 - Rod bearing
164 - Connecting rod
196 - Flagged
Left at Line
107 - Crash BS
47 - Steering
121 - Stalled
Practice crash, died
Harry A. Miller
Bowes Seal Fast
Bowes Seal Fast
Novi Grooved Piston
|Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA
Ralph Hepburn after recorrd breaking qualifying run in 1946.
He took this super-charged Novi V-8 to 133.994 mph.
However, he did not qualify on Pole Day, so he only started the race in 19th position.
This record would stand until 1950.
The Novis were the fastest cars, but troublesome.
Hepburn charged to the front and led the race from laps 12-56.
He then had to pit to repair the brakes. This put him out of contention.
His engine then broke on lap 122 ending his race.
Speedway Closed 1942-1945 For World War II