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
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 some time.
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
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
|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
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