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Highlights from the the Indianapolis 500, Runnings 31-40


The Associated Press has compiled a list of highlights of all past Indianapolis 500 races, as the buildup to the 100th running presented by PennGrade Motor Oil takes place this May 29.

Here are runnings 31-40, from 1947 through 1956.

Past pieces:

  • Runnings 1-10
  • Runnings 11-20
  • Runnings 21-30


RACE: 31st Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1947

WINNER: Mauri Rose

AVERAGE SPEED: 116.338 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: The race went out without defending champion George Robson, who died in another race months after winning Indy. Rose passed Lou Moore teammate Bill Holland for the lead with eight laps left. But the race was marred by yet another death, to driver Shorty Cantlon. Cantlon swerved into the outside retaining wall to avoid a spinning car and was killed instantly.

NOTABLE: Only seven of 30 cars were on the lead lap at the end of the race. Several top drivers of the American Society of Professional Auto Racing group threatened to boycott the race over the purse size.


RACE: 32nd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 31, 1948

WINNER: Mauri Rose

AVERAGE SPEED: 119.814 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Rose topped Holland for the second straight 1-2 finish between the teammates. Rose also became the second driver to win the Indianapolis 500 two straight years. He became a three-time Indy winner, with a victory in the 1941 race.

NOTABLE: Sid Collins joined the radio crew as a turn reporter. He would eventually become the official radio voice of the Indianapolis 500 and coined the phrase “the greatest spectacle in racing.” In what would have been his 30th year as the “Voice of the 500,” Collins committed suicide at 54 after he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.


RACE: 33rd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1949

WINNER: Bill Holland

AVERAGE SPEED: 121.327 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Holland finally broke through after consecutive runner-up finishes and won his first Indianapolis 500. He gave team owner Lou Moore his third straight Indy 500 win. Holland would finish second again in 1950.

NOTABLE: George Metzler was killed attempting to qualify for the race. Trying to get his car into the field on the final day of qualifying, Metzler drove into the wall on turn one and was pronounced dead six days later.


RACE: 34th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1950

WINNER: Johnnie Parsons

AVERAGE SPEED: 124.002 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Parsons won a race shortened to 138 laps and 345 miles because of rain. He was the only driver to finish the race on the lead lap and just three other drivers in the 33-car field completed 137. Bad enough he had to win under rain, Parsons had his name misspelled on the Borg-Warner Trophy. “Johnny” instead of “Johnnie” Parsons was inscribed on the winner’s trophy.

NOTABLE: The 1950 film “To Please A Lady” starring Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck was filmed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indy 500 driver Joie Chitwood had a role in the film and Stanwyck was in victory lane for the celebratory kiss to the winner.


RACE: 35th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1951

WINNER: Lee Wallard

AVERAGE SPEED: 126.244 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Wallard led 159 laps in the No. 99 Belanger Special in what would become his greatest and final racing triumph. He was injured in a race one week later in Reading, Pennsylvania, and was burned when his car caught fire. He needed more than two dozen skin grafts and never raced again.

NOTABLE: Duke Nalon returned to the race for the first time since his car burst into flames in the 1949 race and he suffered serious burns. He missed the 1950 race, the won the pole for the 35th Indy 500 in a Novi.


RACE: 36th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1952

WINNER: Troy Ruttman

AVERAGE SPEED: 128.922 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: At just 22 years and 80 days, Ruttman became the youngest winner in Indianapolis 500 history. He still holds the record. Bill Vukovich led a race-high 150 laps and seemed poised to win the race until a busted steering linkage with nine laps left cost him the checkered flag.

NOTABLE: The Indy 500 introduced what would become a popular staple of the race, the rookie of the year. The award goes to the top first-year driver who has qualified or started the race. Art Cross finished fifth and was the first winner.


RACE: 37th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1953

WINNER: Bill Vukovich

AVERAGE SPEED: 128.740 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Vukovich won the first of two straight Indianapolis 500s. This one was known as “The Hottest 500" because the track temperature reached 130 degrees. At least 16 of the 33 starters needed relief drivers.

NOTABLE: Chet Miller, known as “Dean of the Speedway, was killed in a crash during practice for the race.


RACE: 38th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 31, 1954

WINNER: Bill Vukovich

AVERAGE SPEED: 130.840 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Vukovich won his second straight Indianapolis 500. By this point, more cars (some with relief drivers) were finishing on the lead lap. There were 11 cars that completed all 200 laps and one more that finished 199.

NOTABLE: The 1954 race was believed to be the first time Indy was dubbed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”


RACE: 39th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1955

WINNER: Bob Sweikert

AVERAGE SPEED: 128.209 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Tragedy again struck the race. Two-time winner Bill Vukovich was killed when he seemed on his way toward a third straight checkered flag. His car landed upside down after going over the outside backstretch retaining wall and burst into flames. He joined Floyd Roberts in 1939 as the only defending race winners to die in the race the next year.

NOTABLE: Vukovich led 50 laps and officially finished 25th, ahead of eight other drivers.


RACE: 40th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1956

WINNER: Pat Flaherty

AVERAGE SPEED: 128.490 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Flaherty dominated and led 127 of the 200 laps at the Brickyard. Flaherty did not get the chance to defend his victory because he was severely injured in a race car crash a month later that sidelined him from the 1957 race.

NOTABLE: The track was paved with asphalt, leaving only about 600 yards of the mainstretch still remaining brick.