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The information within these pages was derived primarily from contemporary magazines and newspapers. I am indebted to all those outstanding journalists and newsmen for their dedicated reporting. Without their stories, we would not have learned about what happened at these events. Secondary sources have also been helpful but to a much lesser extent. Several others have given valuable advice and corrected errors. I extend my appreciation to all those helpful specialists. I am immensely grateful to Leif Snellman for providing a site where these factual and elaborate accounts enable us to relive these long-ago races and also for his incredible lifelike drawings.
Hans Etzrodt


Gaston Chevrolet should be the driver of the year with the Monroe racecar as he won the International Indianapolis 500, the most significant race of the year, deserving special recognition. Guiseppe Campari won with Alfa Romeo the Mugello Circuit, a national Italian race, and Guido Meregalli won the Targa Florio in a Nazzaro production car. Only these three events were held in 1920, disregarding other AAA events in the USA.

In January 1920 the ACF declined to hold a Grand Prix in 1920 as the French automobile industry, except Ballot, uniformly made a firm stand against race events in France. The reason was due to disorganization of the French automobile works with war production, requiring reorganization for fabrication of regular new types. This did not mean that the French industry would not be represented at the 1920 Targa Florio or Indianapolis.

In June 1920, L'Auto reported about the A.I.A.C.R. (International Association of the Recognized Automobile Clubs) meeting on June 15, under the chairmanship of President Baron de Zuylen de Nyvelt and others. René de Knyff addressed the representatives of the Automobile Clubs with an invitation, to participate at the Grand Prix de la ACF in 1921. Other races were not mentioned.

The 1920 Indianapolis Formula lowered the engine capacity from 305 cubic inches (5-liter) to 183 cubic inches (3-liter) maximum engine capacity which had already been planned before the war for Europe but no formula existed in Europe.

Formula Libre without engine capacity restrictions worked well and produced good racing, allowing smaller and others with larger engines to contest non-Formula Grand Prix races.

1920 Targa Florio regulations
Targa Florio regulations were only for cars with production chassis as delivered per catalog to the public. The entries were divided by engine capacity into 7 categories, up to 1.5-liter, 2-liter, 2.5-liter, 3-liter, 4-liter, 5-liter and over 5-liter. As production car was understood only a car described in the normal factory sales catalogue.

The Races
In April 1920, the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders forbade their members to take part in 1920 French or Italian races, but not in American events. In Europe only Italy held races to the free formula. Indianapolis was run to the 3-Liter formula in compliance with the European 3-Liter formula for 1921. The Targa Florio was considered a major event but was held to the free formula. The Mugello Circuit race was a lesser event but very important in Italy. These were the three 1920 races listed here, although another road race, the Elgin National Trophy west of Chicago, was held in August and won by Ralph DePalma in a Ballot.


Factory Racing Teams

SA Italiana Ing. Nicola Romeo & C. (Milan, Italy)
After World War I the pre-war Alfa models were marketed as Alfa Romeo when defunct L’Alfa was put into liquidation and absorbed by La Romeo. The Alfa type 40/60, was based on a 1913 design with a 4-cylinder (110 x 160 mm) 6082 cc engine, producing 82 hp at 2400 rpm, capable of 150 km/h with a racing weight of 1100 kg. Only one of the 1914 Alfa Grand Prix car was made, taken out of storage in 1920 and prepared for racing with fabrication of a new cylinder head, allowing usage of larger valves. The 4-cylinder (110 x 143 mm) 4490 cc engine, produced 102 hp at 3000 rpm with the car’s weight 1050 kg.
Drivers: Giuseppe Campari - Antonio Ascari - Enzo Ferrari, all were Italians.
Races entered: Targa Florio, Mugello Circuit.

Etablissements Ballot (Paris, France)
Ernest Ballot had designed engines for Delage and built his first cars in 1919 with 4.9-Liter 8-cylinder engine for the 1919 Indianapolis 500 race, designed by Ernest Henry. The Ballots were said to be the fastest cars at that time. At the 1920 Indianapolis 500 the 3-Liter engine formula went into effect and Ballot built a smaller version of the 4.9-Liter engine. The cars had a straight-8 (66 x 112 mm) 2973 cc engine, delivering 107 hp at 3800 rpm. The weight was quoted as 780 kg and top speed as 180 km/h.
Drivers: Ralph DePalma - René Thomas - Jean Chassagne.
Races entered: Indianapolis

Diatto cars were built by Societŕ Anonima Autocostruzioni Diatto (Turin, Italy)
Diatto had started building Clément cars under license in 1905 and in 1921 he started his own company. In 1920, Diatto produced the 24 HP 4 DA with 4-cylinder (85 x 120 mm) 2724 cc engine, producing 25 hp. The top speed of the car was 95 km/h with a weight of 730 kg. Simultaneously, he produced the 25 HP 4 DC with the same engine specifications producing 50 hp and a top speed of 95 km/h. Diatto also produced the 3-liter car with 4-cylinder (90 x 116 mm) 2952 cc engine, producing 90 hp and a top speed of 180 km/h with a weight of 900 kg.
Drivers: independent entries: Augusto Tarabusi - Aldo Bonfiglioli - Guido Peyron - Pietro DiPaola.
Races entered: Targa Florio, Mugello Circuit.

Duesenberg Inc. (Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
The Duesenberg brothers had emigrated from Germany to America when still children and in 1903, started an automobile supply company in Iowa. Duesenberg racing cars first appeared in 1914. Duesenberg had raced at Indianapolis every year since 1917. For 1920 Tommy Milton was declared the AAA-Champion in a Duesenberg and Jimmy Murphy came second in another team car. Four Duesenberg were entered at 1920 Indianapolis plus one Revere with a Duesenberg engine. Duesenberg finished third, fourth, sixth and ninth with the Revere tenth.
Drivers: Tommy Milton - Jimmy Murphy - Eddie O'Donnell - Eddie Hearne.
Races entered: Indianapolis and other races of the 11-race AAA championship in 1920.

Fiat SpA (Turin, Italy)
Fiat had built racecars since 1904. At Mugello in 1920, the Masetti brothers entered two of the fast red Fiat 1914 racecars type 14B/S57 with a 4-cylinder (100 x 143 mm) 4492 cc engine producing 135 hp at 3000 rpm and a weight of 1150 kg, estimated maximum speed of 165 km/h. Most other Fiat entries were made in the lower class with the type 501 Fiat 4-cylinder 1.5-liter or other pre-war types.
Drivers: independent entries only: Giulio Masetti - Carlo Masetti - Edoardo Weber - Guido Peyron - Alberto Pedani - Guido Materazzi - Paolo Pellis - Mario Bersanti - Giuseppe Piro - Pio Maravigna.
Races entered: Mugello Circuit, Targa Florio.

Frontenac Motor Company (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)
The Frontenac Corporation was founded by Louis Chevrolet in 1914. In 1916 he won with a 4-cylinder Frontenac the Uniontown Board Speedway race. More Frontenac wins followed in 1917. Frontenacs won in 1919 four major AAA races on the board tracks. In 1920 Louis Chevrolet moved his activities to Indianapolis at a space of the William Small Company that made the Monroe cars. With Cornelius Willett van Ranst, his right hand, he built for the 1920 races seven racecars of identical design. Four cars raced under the Monroe name and were painted green and three as Frontenacs, painted purple. These 4-cylinder cars with two overhead camshafts driving 16 valves, had a capacity of 182 ci (2982 cc). Gaston Chevrolet's Monroe with Frontenac engine won the 1920 Indianapolis 500 while the Monroe of Joe Thomas finished eighth. But five of those cars retired, all due to broken steering arms that had not receive the required heat treatment.
Drivers: Louis Chevrolet - Gaston Chevrolet - Roscoe Sarles - Joe Thomas drove Monroe cars. The three Frontenacs were driven by Joe Boyer - Bennie Hill - Art Klein.
Races entered: 1920 Indianapolis and other races of the 11-race 1920 AAA championship.

Monroe cars: see Frontenac Motor Company.

SA des Automobiles et Cycles Peugeot (Lille, France)
Between 1913 and 1920 Peugeot had entered at Indianapolis and won in 1913, 1916 and 1919 with some good placings in 1914 and 1915. For 1920 they entered four cars with new engines for the 3-liter formula to be driven by Jules Goux, André Boillot, Howdy Wilcox and Ray Howard. The cars were not ready despite day and night work after they reached the track for tuning. The 3-liter 4-cylinder (80 x 149 mm), three o/h camshaft engine with 20 valves, five for each cylinder, and dual ignition, caused overheating problems and other troubles. The engines overheated and engine trouble was the reason for their withdrawal from the race, in various stages.
Drivers: Jules Goux - André Boillot - Howdy Wilcox - Ray Howard.
Races entered: Indianapolis.

VICTORIOUS DRIVERS and others nearby

The success of drivers in Major Grand Prix races can be found in the list of 1920 Major Grand Prix Races.

Gaston Chevrolet, 28, born 1892 in La Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland, won the 1920 Indy 500, in June he retired at the Uniontown 225, finished 7th at Tacoma, came 8th at Elgin, in September he was 5th at the Uniontown 225, 4th at Fresno and at the Beverly Hills 250 he crashed to his death. Gaston also won the controversial 1920 Indy-car championship of 5 races, as published in 1920. But Milton won when applying the 11-race series, which included 5 shorter races and was published many years later.

Giuseppe Campari, 28, born June 8, 1892, in Fanfullo, Lodi, south of Milan in Italy, had raced with the Alfa team since 1913 at the Parma - Poggio di Berceto hill climb where he finished fifth. At the 1914 Giro di Sicilia he retired but at the following 1914 Coppa Florio, Campari finished fourth with the Alfa 40/60 and later finished second at the Parma-Poggio di Berceto hill climb. After WW I at the 1919 and 1920 Targa Florio, he retired with the Alfa Romeo. In 1920 he came third at the Coppa della Consuma hill climb, won the Parma-Poggio di Berceto hill climb and also won the Mugello Circuit.

Guido Meregalli, 26, born 1894, finished second with a Nazzaro in the 1919 Coppa della Consuma and came second in the Parma - Poggio di Berceto climb the same year. In 1920 he won the Targa Florio in a Nazzaro.

Jimmy Murphy, 26, born September 12, 1894 in San Francisco, USA. After spending World War-I in the Army Air Corps, Murphy rode as riding mechanic with O'Donnell, Eddie Rickenbacker and Tommy Milton. In 1919 he was given his first chance to drive but crashed the Duesenberg. He was given a second chance in 1920 and won that 250-mile race. Out of the 11 championship races that year he won 3 and finished second in the 1920 AAA championship.

Tommy Milton, 27, was born 1893 in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, to a wealthy family in the dairy business. In 1913 he joined Alex Sloan's IMCA circus on the dusty fairground circuits. By 1916 he had joined the AAA, then the major Automobile racing group. In 1917 he won his first major victory at Providence, Rode Island in a Duesenberg. Driving for the same team, Milton won the controversial 1920 AAA championship with 4 victories out of 11 races and at Indianapolis he came third in a Duesenberg.

René Thomas, 34, was born March 7, 1886 in Perigueux, France. Thomas won the 1914 Indy 500 in a Delage and in 1919 at the Indy 500 he finished 11th with an 8-cylinder Ballot. With one of the 3-liter Ballot, he came second at the 1920 Indianapolis 500. Prior to that, he finished fifth at the 1908 Voiturette Grand Prix at Dieppe. In June 1909 he was third at the Coupe de l'Auto at Boulogne in a Le Gui and in 1911 at the same pace came third with a Delage. At the 1912 Grand Prix he retired his Lion-Peugeot but finished 9th in 1913 in a Schneider. In 1914 he went to America and won the Indy 500.


November 25, 1920 --- Gaston Chevrolet (USA) born 1892, driving a Monroe, crashed with Eddie O'Donnell at the Beverly Hills 250-mile board track in California. On his 147th lap when in the east turn, Gaston Chevrolet attempted to pass Joe Thomas who was running on the inside lane. Gaston moved to the right and collided with O'Donnell, who was running on the outside. O'Donnell's Duesenberg went sideways and moved in front of Gaston's Monroe, who then T-boned the Duesenberg, both went out of control, Gaston hit the outside railing and tore away 20 feet of fencing, with the front of the Monroe torn away, it all skidded down the embankment. Joe Thomas, driving in the lower part of the track, was not involved in the crash and drove on. Gaston died a few minutes after the collision, while his riding mechanic, Johnny Bresnahan, was thrown clear and escaped with only a few scratches.

November 26, 1920 --- Eddie O'Donnel (USA) born 1878, died the day following a crash with Gaston Chevrolet at a Beverly Hills, California, board track. O'Donnell's Duesenberg turned over after the second hit from Chevrolet's Monroe and ended upside down at the inside of the track. O'Donnell suffered a fractured skull, internal injuries and a broken arm but never regained consciousness. He died the next morning in the Hospital. Lyall Jolls, his riding mechanic, was ejected from the car over the outer track's guard rail where he was picked up severely injured but died before reaching the hospital.

Chevrolet (Monroe)
4 Gaston Chevrolet
William Small Co.
Thomas (Ballot)
25 René Thomas
Ernest Ballot
Milton (Duesenberg)
10 Tommy Milton
Duesenberg Brothers


Indianapolis Speedway (USA), 31 May 1920 (Monday).
200 laps x 2.5 mi (4.023 km) = 500 mi (804.67 km)


1Cliff DurantB. OldfieldChevrolet SpecialMiller3.0S-4withdrawn
2Ralph DePalmaErnest BallotBallotBallot3.0S-8
3Louis ChevroletWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-4
4Gaston ChevroletWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-4
5Roscoe SarlesWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-4
6Joe BoyerFrontenac Motor Co.FrontenacFrontenac3.0S-4
7Bennie HillFrontenac Motor Co.FrontenacFrontenac3.0S-4
8Art KleinFrontenac Motor Co.FrontenacFrontenac3.0S-4
9Ray HowardPeugeot Auto Co.PeugeotPeugeot3.0S-4
10Tommy MiltonDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-8
12Jimmy MurphyDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-8
14Waldo SteinOldfieldMiller Special3.0S-4withdrawn
15Pete HendersonRevere Motor Car Corp.RevereDuesenberg3.0S-8
16Jules GouxJules GouxPeugeotPeugeot3.0S-4
17André BoillotJules GouxPeugeotPeugeot3.0S-4
18Howdy WilcoxJules GouxPeugeotPeugeot3.0S-4
19Jean PorporatoJean PorporatoGregoireGregoire3.0S-4
20Tom RooneyTom RooneyRevereDuesenberg3.0S-8did not qualify
21Jack ScalesJack ScalesGregoireDuesenberg3.0S-8did not qualify
22Ira VailFrontenac Motor Co.PhilbrinFrontenac3.0S-4did not qualify
23Jules EllingboeJules EllingboeEllingboe SpecialDuesenbergdid not qualify
24C Glenn HowardC Glenn HowardEllingboe SpecialDuesenbergdid not qualify
25René ThomasErnest BallotBallotBallot3.0S-8
26Jean ChassagneErnest BallotBallotBallot3.0S-8
27Kurt HitkeKenworthyDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-8did not qualify
28Joe ThomasWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-4
29Eddie O'DonnellDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-8
31Eddie HearneDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-8
32John BolingC.L. Richards Richards SpecialBrett3.0S-6
33Ralph MulfordRalph MulfordMulford SpecialDuesenberg3.0S-8
34Willie HauptMeteor Motors CoMeteorDuesenberg3.0S-8

Relief Drivers
No.DriverCarTypeLaps   Relieved

3Salvatore BarbarinoMonroeFrontenac16   Rel. L. Chevrolet 64-78
3Jerry WonderlichMonroeFrontenac15   Rel. L. Chevrolet 80-94
6Ira VailFrontenacFrontenac37   Rel. Boyer 155-191
7Roscoe SarlesFrontenacFrontenac41   Rel. Hill 75-115
9Aldo FranchiPeugeotPeugeot50   Rel. Howard 41-90
15Tom AlleyRevereDuesenberg108   Rel. Henderson 93-200
28Art KleinMonroeFrontenac11   Rel. Joe Thomas 105-115
28Harry ThicksonMonroeFrontenac10   Rel. Joe Thomas 116-125
32Riley J. BrettRichardsHudson101   Rel. Bowling 99-199
34Wade MortonMeteorDuesenberg37   Rel. Haupt 55-111

Gaston Chevrolet wins the Indianapolis 500, René Thomas 2nd, Milton 3rd

by Hans Etzrodt
The 8th International 500 Mile Sweepstakes at Indianapolis was held for the first time to the 3-Liter formula or 183 cubic-inch. The preceding two 1920 races were open to cars of 300 cubic-inch. Of the 23 cars started, eight were of French design and fifteen were created by American Engineers, including four Monroe, three Frontenac, four Duesenberg and one each Revere, Mulford Special, Richards and Meteor. Joe Boyer (Frontenac) set the early pace, leading 95 laps in total, but Jean Chassagne (Ballot) and Art Klein (Frontenac) each got in the lead for one lap. Boyer came back with a great sprint for the next 23 laps when DePalma, who had been delayed, nosed him out for two laps. DePalma was in the lead a second time from lap 54 to 58 and then led the third time for 76 laps, 83 total of the $100 lap prizes. The Peugeots played no role in the race when three cars retired with engine problems and one was still running at the end but was 50 laps behind. The leading DePalma was delayed with magneto trouble 13 laps from the end, with his car in flames, then repeated with a second blaze before he could continue. Gaston Chevrolet (Monroe) was right there, running smoothly and consistently to take the lead and win the race by over six minutes ahead of René Thomas (Ballot) in second place, followed by the two Duesenberg of Tommy Milton and Jimmy Murphy, Ralph DePalma (Ballot) who had dropped to fifth place, then Hearne, Chassagne, Joe Thomas, Mulford and Alley for Henderson in tenth place, who finished 1h45m after the winner had crossed the wire. After the ten winners two other cars were still running, Boling (Richards) and the Peugeot of Ray Howard relieved by Aldo Franchi. Both were flagged off but no times were published.
The eighth Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was held on Monday May 31, Memorial Day, a national holiday. The AAA reduced the 300 cubic inch engine formula to 183-cubic-inch or 3-liter for 1920 with a minimum weight of 1,600 pounds. For the first time a four-lap qualifying system was introduced for 1920.
      The racing purse was the largest ever at $85,000. Prize money of $50,000 was allocated to the first ten cars classified, with $20,000 for first, $10,000 for second, 5,000 for third, 3,500 for fourth, 3,000 for fifth, 2,200 for sixth, 1,800 for seventh, 1,600 for eighth, 1,500 for ninth and 1,400 for tenth. In addition, numerous trophies and special prizes were awarded to the winners and for the first time, $100 lap prize money was given to the race leader every lap, awarded by Indianapolis business men and manufacturers. However, the lap prize fund was limited to $20,000. Accessory Prizes of $15,000, were awarded by manufacturers of automobile accessories to winners using their product.
For the race three European companies had placed entries. Of these Fiat was not able to finish with the construction of the new racecars due to strikes in Italy. Peugeot in the last five Indianapolis races had been three times victorious and twice finished second. They had built three cars for the 1920 race. The engine was a straight-4 (80 x 149 mm) 2973 cc with three shaft-driven overhead camshafts for the 20 valves, and dual ignition, delivering 105 hp at 4000 rpm. The cars arrived end of April at Indianapolis and the team was very secretive renting a garage in town. The Peugeots were not ready despite day and night work after they reached the track for tuning. Engine trouble was the reason for their withdrawal from the race, in various stages. Only one of the famous blue creations was running at the end of the race, when Ray Howard was on the 149th lap as assistant starter Root called him in.
      Ballot was more fortunate, although they had to complete their cars in four months. Ballot retained previous year's 8-cyliner type but for the 1920 Indianapolis 500 the 3-Liter engine formula went into effect and Ballot built a smaller version of the 4.9-Liter car, with a straight-8 (66 x 112 mm) 2973 cc engine, delivering 107 hp at 3800 rpm, with two carburetors and two ignition magnetos. The aluminum body contained the steel fuel tank for 500 miles, so that a refill during the race was not required. DePalma's car was painted in yellowish cream white while Chassagne's and René Thomas' cars were painted blue.
      In 1920 Louis Chevrolet moved his activities to Indianapolis at a space of the William Small Company that made the Frontenac cars. With Cornelius Willett van Ranst, his right hand, Louis Chevrolet built for the 1920 races seven racecars of identical design. Four cars raced under the Monroe name and were painted green and three as Frontenacs, painted purple. These 4-cylinder cars with two overhead camshafts driving 16 valves, had a capacity of 182 ci (2982 cc). Gaston Chevrolet's Monroe with Frontenac engine won the 1920 Indianapolis 500 while the Monroe of Joe Thomas finished eighth. Five of those cars retired, all due to identical broken steering arms that by mistake had not receive the required heat treatment, explained by Louis Chevrolet. Drivers were Louis Chevrolet, Gaston Chevrolet, Roscoe Sarles and Joe Thomas in Monroe cars. The three Frontenacs were driven by Joe Boyer, Bennie Hill and Art Klein. A field of 23 cars started with information of a few contenders following.
#2 - Ralph DePalma, 37, was born in Italy. Since 1893 in the USA where he was the dirt track king from 1906 to 1911 and national champion in 1912 and 1914. He won the 1912, 1914 and 1920 Elgin National Trophy, the 1912 and 1914 Vanderbilt Cup and the 1915 Indianapolis 500. In 1919 he drove a 4.9-L Packard and in 1920 he drove for Ballot in a 3-Liter car, 183 cubic inches, with a straight-8 (66 x 112 mm) 2973 cc engine, delivering 107 hp at 3800 rpm. The weight of his yellowish cream-colored Ballot was quoted as 780 kg and top speed was 180 km/h or 112 mph. The Ballots were said to be the fastest cars at that time.
#4 - Gaston Chevrolet was the youngest of three Chevrolet brothers, Louis was the oldest born 1878 and Arthur was born 1884. Gaston Chevrolet, 28, born 1892 in La Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland, won the 1920 Indy 500. Thereafter in June he retired at the Uniontown 225, finished 7th at Tacoma and came 8th at Elgin. In September he was 5th at the Uniontown 225, 4th at Fresno and at the Beverly Hills 250 he crashed to his death. Gaston also won the controversial 1920 AAA Championship of 5 races, as was published in 1920. But Milton won when applying the controversial 11-race series, which included 6 shorter races and was published many years later.
#10 - Tommy Milton, 27, was born 1893 in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, to a wealthy family in the dairy business. In 1913 he joined Alex Sloan's IMCA circus on the dusty fairground circuits. By 1916 he had joined the AAA, then the major Automobile racing group. In 1917 he won his first major victory at Providence, Rode Island in a Duesenberg. In 1920 Milton drove again for Duesenberg, the other men on the team were Eddie Hearne, Jimmy Murphy and Eddie O'Donnell, either of whom was considered a dangerous contender. Milton won the controversial 1920 AAA Championship with 4 victories out of 11 races and at Indianapolis he came third in a Duesenberg.
#12 - Jimmy Murphy, 26, born September 12, 1894 in San Francisco, USA. After spending World War-I in the Army Air Corps, Murphy rode as riding mechanic with O'Donnell, Eddie Rickenbacker and Tommy Milton. In 1919 he was given his first chance to drive but crashed the Duesenberg. He was given a second chance in 1920 and won that 250-mile race. Out of the 11 championship races of 1920, he won 3 and finished second in the 1920 AAA championship.
Preceding the time trials, which began on the Wednesday before Monday's race, most drivers practiced with their cars much earlier. On Wednesday, May 19, twelve days before the race, Jean Chassagne in his blue Ballot was chased by his teammate Ralph DePalma in the afternoon. Late evening after most spectators had gone home, three Monroes scurried out on the track and did some half dozen laps at around 90 mph. Those who saw them, said they were mighty neat looking cars and sounded mighty well to the ear.
      On Thursday, May 20, three of the Monroe racing cars to be driven in the 500-mile dash were taken to the track. Louis Chevrolet had one of the cars out for a short spin, as he was making adjustments. Ralph DePalma spent the day in his garage and was changing the seats of the Ballot, so that he and his mechanic would have more room. Howard Wilcox made the same alteration on his Peugeot. It seemed as though the French drivers were better able to curl up in the small seats than the Yankee drivers. When René Thomas' Ballot arrived Thursday evening, he said, my car is ready to go. Jean Chassagne drove his Ballot at 95 mph, which was the fastest time he had made here. Barny Oldfield drove his Marmon up to 90 mph and when he rolled into the pits said:" Don't tinker with this job any more, it's fast enough for me."
      On Friday, May 21, both Ballots were on the bricks. DePalma whizzed about in his 300-cubic-inch Ballot, which would not be entered in the 500-mile race, and also had his 183-inch car out. The Ballot and Peugeot teams had the track to themselves except for Louis Chevrolet's purple Frontenacs and green Monroes. For almost two weeks Jean Chassagne and Ralph DePalma had given their Ballot racecars daily workouts while Goux, Wilcox and Boillot had been working hard on the Peugeot entries.
      On Saturday, May 22, 3000 people watched the drivers at the Speedway. René Thomas drove 40 miles in all and after an inspection of the car by Ernest Ballot, president of Ballot, drove off to his garage. Ray Howard and his mechanic drove several laps in his Peugeot, making adjustments and tuning up in general. Art Klein and Arthur Chevrolet took to the track for a while in the afternoon.
      Spectators were not permitted to enter the Speedway grounds on Sunday, eight days before the race. Arthur Chevrolet driving a Monroe, DePalma a Ballot and Thomas a Ballot were speeding around at a 95-mph clip. They were well bunched with Thomas slightly in the lead as the cars entered the first turn. DePalma was on his heels and Chevrolet was close behind. Thomas right rear tire suddenly collapsed and the car skidded up into the outer wall. While he was ascending, DePalma rushed his car past, missing the runaway car by inches. After hitting the wall, Thomas' Ballot turned around four times and Arthur Chevrolet's Monroe was riding the top of the wall in an attempt to clear. It appeared as though Chevrolet would escape the Ballot when it made a final turn, shooting its tail directly in the path of the Monroe. The Monroe hit head on, rose in the air, hit the wall and rolled to the bottom of the track with the Ballot in flames. Arthur Chevrolet was badly cut on the chin and nose from contact with the track when his car turned over and was injured about the chest from the steering wheel. His riding mechanic, Marcelle Chevoux, was not hurt. Neither Thomas nor his mechanic, Ferrand Rennard, were injured. The stands were empty and the accident was witnessed only by a few railbirds, who rushed to the scene. The flaming Ballot was extinguished with sand and hand fire extinguishers and Chevrolet was rushed to the Methodist Episcopal Hospital. The Monroe was damaged, but it was said at night that it would probably be ready to start the race while the Ballot will be on the track in a day or so. Later arrived Jean Porporato and Jack Scales, who were to drive Gregoires. Their only mechanic was Eugene Fluery. Porporato was Italian, Scales an Englishman and Fluery a Frenchman. They presented a peculiar appearance. Scales was the interpreter for the crowd as he spoke English, Italian and French. Barney Oldfield's Special arrived as did John Boling's Richard's Special.
      On Monday, one week before the race, it was officially announced that Arthur Chevrolet, who was injured on Sunday afternoon, would not be able to start the race, breaking the trio of famous racing brothers, but Louis and Gaston were to represent the Chevrolet household. Little Bennie Hill was named to replace Arthur Chevrolet on the Monroe team. Hill was the smallest driver entered in the race, tipping the scales at 115 pounds. Ralph DePalma had his Ballot out again and drove 15 laps at an average of 95 mph. Barney Oldfield was on the track with his Special. Waldo Stein was scheduled to drive the car in the race.
      On Tuesday only one car appeared on the Speedway track as all other drivers and mechanics were in the garages preparing for qualifying the next day. Louis Chevrolet was the only one to take to the track and made a few laps and then hurried off to his garage. The three Peugeots to be driven by Wilcox, Goux and Boillot were shrouded in mystery. The cars were quartered at a garage outside the track and few people had seen the 1920 members of the famous team. The Ballot of René Thomas which was wrecked Sunday, was rapidly being pounded back into shape and was to be in A-1 order at race time.
Wednesday elimination trials:
For the first time elimination trials to determine the starting order for the race was conducted from 1 to 7 pm Wednesday afternoon. The four fastest drivers were getting the front row positions, the next four the second row and so on. Cars failing to qualify had a second opportunity on Friday at the same time. The rules demanded an average minimum qualification speed of 80 mph for four laps. In the years before just one lap was required. This meant that the average for each of the four laps had to be 1m52.50s or less. Drivers who made 80 mph or more for the four laps were not entitled to any additional trials. The fastest times set on Friday would draw positions immediately back of those which had qualified on Wednesday.
      Ralph DePalma in the Ballot got the pole position for the 500-mile race. He averaged 99.152 mph for four laps, his fastest lap was just a shade less than 100 mph. Joe Boyer in the Frontenac with 96.90 mph and Louis Chevrolet's Monroe with 96.30 mph placed next to DePalma and Jean Chassagne in the Ballot at 95.45 mph completed the first row. The second row was made up of Art Klein in a Frontenac, who qualified at 92.70 mph. Next to him was Gaston Chevrolet's Monroe at 91.55 mph, Roscoe Sarles in a Monroe at 90.75 mph and Bennie Hill's Frontenac at 90.55 mph. The first two drivers on the third row were Eddie Hearne in a Duesenberg at 88.05 mph and Ray Howard in a Peugeot at 84.60 mph. Ralph DePalma, already mentioned earlier, was the last driver to make the trial. He took two fast laps and then held up his hand, signifying his intention to start. The red flag fell on him and he was off. His speed for the first lap was 98.1 mph. He gathered momentum on the second, for the average was 99.4 mph. The third was a shade faster, 99.5 mph and the fourth was fastest, 99.95 mph. When he rolled to the tape, he was given a grand ovation by the five thousand spectators who packed the stands and remained until the last car had left.
      On Thursday afternoon cars that had not yet qualified, had a fling under the supervision of the officials of the American Automobile Association. The trials started at 1 p.m. and ended at 7 p.m. The drivers seen on the track were Roscoe Sarles in his glossy green Monroe, Willie Haupt in his Meteor, John Boling in the Richards Special, Bennie Hill in a Frontenac, Louis Chevrolet in a Monroe, driven by Bennie Hill and Eddie O'Donnell who was working out his Duesenberg for the first time. Another car of Duesenberg interest was the white painted Revere, equipped with a Duesenberg 8 motor, to be driven by Tom Rooney, the veteran driver and hero of many brushes, glories and accidents. Rooney was superintendent of the Revere factory at Logansport. He had recovered from an accident at the Speedway, which nearly cost him his life. After six months, Rooney recovered in an Indianapolis hospital but now had his Revere out for a spin on Friday. The Peugeot mystery was still unresolved. Not a single Peugeot took the track Thursday and there was no definite news from their camp. All the drivers and their mechanics passed the stringent physical examination each was subjected to before he was permitted to enter the race.
Friday elimination trials:
Five thousand persons watched the performance at the Speedway on Friday afternoon. Tommy Milton qualified his Duesenberg at 90.20 mph, the best average of the day. John Boling qualified his Richards Special at an average speed of 81.85 mph for the four laps. Willie Haupt averaged 85.48 mph in his Meteor qualification test, while Eddie O'Donnell averaged 88.20 mph. Only these four cars qualified for the third and fourth row, leaving ten cars to qualify Saturday. René Thomas had his Ballot out for the first time since his smashup last Sunday. The Ballot sounded nice and did not appear to be harmed by its practice crash.
Saturday elimination trials:
On Saturday afternoon three more racers qualified while six drivers who did not take part had another opportunity to qualify on Sunday. The next one to qualify on the fourth row was Jimmy Murphy in the Duesenberg at 88.70 mph, followed by André Boillot's Peugeot at 85.70 mph and Pete Henderson in the Revere at 81.15 mph qualified on the fifth row. Another six cars still had to qualify.
Sunday elimination trials:
Sunday afternoon was the last chance to qualify. Four cars went the required ten miles at better than 80 mph. Howdy Wilcox averaged 88.82 mph in his Peugeot, cleverly timing his gait with a stop watch. He was loafing on the straights but opened up on the turns. He gave no indication of the speed of his Peugeot. His teammate, Jules Goux, averaged 84.30 mph. René Thomas qualified the Ballot that he had crashed last Sunday at the average of 93.95 mph and Joe Thomas in a Monroe was right on his tail with an average of 92.8 mph. Jean Porporato (Gregoire) failed to meet minimum qualifying speed in the dusk of Sunday evening, but was allowed to start by official permission, likewise Ralph Mulford (Mulford) who made an incomplete qualifying attempt.
In the night before the race, it had rained and the brick surface of the race track had cooled down, which was advantageous for the tires. Although weather conditions were ideal for speed, the sky was overcast with clouds and the weather was cool. From shortly after 6:30 until well after the start at 10:00 o'clock, people streamed through the Speedway gates. Officials estimated that a crowd of over 120,000 had passed the controls, the largest ever assembled at one sporting event. Before the race there was considerable betting, with Ralph DePalma being the favorite to win at odds of 4 to 1.
      The 23 cars lined up on the starting grid in rows of four according to the order established during the qualification runs. Jean Porporato (Gregoire) failed to meet minimum qualifying speed but was allowed to start with official permission, likewise Ralph Mulford (Mulford) was allowed who had made only two qualifying laps through a mistake.
Pole Position




L. Chevrolet






G. Chevrolet
























R. Thomas


J. Thomas










* = did not qualify under rules, but allowed to start with official permission.

After the mechanics cranked up the cars the loud roar of the 23 engines was heard accompanied by a cloud of castor oil fumes. Engines were warmed up, drivers and mechanics climbed into the cars. Ralph DePalma's yellow-cream colored Ballot was on pole position. Barney Oldfield was the official pacemaker in a Marmon Roadster to lead the 23 racecars around the track. The warm-up lap behind the pace car did not count as a lap of the race. Joe Boyer's Frontenac was right next to DePaolo in the first row. When Boyer noticed the right rear tire of the Ballot going soft, he informed DePalma's mechanic, his nephew Peter DePaolo, who wrote in his book Wall Smacker, that he "let his uncle know, who excitedly signaled Barney Oldfield to halt the procession. The pacemaker had the authority to do this if all cars were not under way. However, Barney waved back that it was too bad for us, and we had to keep on going completely around". A Newspaper report stated, that at the start DePalma was late, as he and his mechanic were adjusting the motor when pacemaker Oldfield led the field for the initial lap. DePalma eventually got away with the sixth row with most of the field ahead of him. The pace car went around the oval, continually faster, before Barney pulled over to the safety apron and the race was on after the official starter William E. Easterly lowered the red flag. Joe Boyer in his Frontenac leaped into the lead and took the first circuit of the brick oval at the rate of 89.53 mph with Gaston Chevrolet in second position. The remainder of the field was strung along the track. Chevrolet pushed Boyer for the lead on the second lap but the Frontenac maintained his advantage.
      In the meantime, DePaolo had limped steadily around to their pit, following the rest of the field. As the car came slowly into the straightaway, De Paolo's brother, Johnny, who was leaning far out of the Ballot pit, noticed the signaling from the car for a right rear tire. The two-man pit crew was now informed and ready. They changed the wheel in 12 seconds before the Ballot was leaving to the cheering roar from the grandstand. DePaolo was three quarters of a lap behind when he left the pits.
      John Boling in his Richard Special was the second car to take to the pits. He had trouble with the magneto at the end of the 1st lap. Pete Henderson in the Revere came in at the end of the 6th lap with a leaking right rear tire due to a defective valve. Roscoe Sarles in his Monroe was the next to call for help when he stopped at the pits at the end of the 7th lap for a tire change. Joe Boyer lost the lead on lap six when Jean Chassagne collected the $100 lap prize and Art Klein was the leader on lap seven, according to the Indianapolis Star Lap Prize Table (June 1st, pg. 11).
      Boyer was leading after 10 laps at the 25-mile mark, after 16m31s at 90.21 mph. Art Klein in his Frontenac had moved into second place at this time with Chassagne in a Ballot third and Gaston Chevrolet fourth. Jean Porporato in his blue Gregoire came into the pits at the end of his 10th lap on call of officials, who warned him to drive closer to the inside of the track. This lecture seemed to have taken the heart out of the driver, because he did not make a credible lap after the warning, and the officials ordered Porporato to withdraw from the race at the finish of the 22nd lap. In the meantime, Porporato had stopped at the end of the 18th lap to repair a sticking valve. André Boillot was the first retirement when the crankshaft of his Peugeot broke after lap 16.
      The Peugeot of Ray Howard was the first car to draw up at the pit for more than momentary aid. When Howard first came in it looked as if a defective spark plug was the extent of his trouble, but before the blue Peugeot was ready to leave the pits, more than half an hour had elapsed and a sticking valve had been repaired, the magneto pulled out and several minor motor adjustments made. When Howard did get back on the track his stay was of short duration because he was forced to stop at the end of the next lap. This time a new camshaft was placed in his motor, taking out another half hour of his time. On his 17th lap Porporato in the Gregoire encountered trouble in the north turn and he stopped. His mechanic ran about three quarters of a mile for tools and oil to fix the trouble.
      DePalma was driving hard to get into the first-ten division and passed many cars on the track. His daring attracted much applause from the crowd. After 50 miles René Thomas (Ballot) was credited in fifth place ahead of DePalma, Louis Chevrolet, Wilcox, Milton and tenth O'Donnell (Duesenberg). After 50 miles, Boyer led in 33m05.3s when the pace had slackened to an average speed of 90.67 mph in the following order after 20 laps, 50 miles, times by Motor Age:
1.Boyer (Frontenac)33m05.30s
2.Klein (Frontenac)33m11.90s- 6.60s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)33m17.95s- 12.65s
4.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)33m18.60s- 13.30s
5.R. Thomas (Ballot)33m44.15s- 38.85s
6.De Palma (Ballot)33m52.50s- 47.20s
7.L. Chevrolet (Monroe)34m21.05s- 1m15.75s
8.Wilcox (Peugeot)34m24.10s- 1m18.80s
9.Milton (Duesenberg)34m27.20s- 1m21.90s
10.O'Donnell (Duesenberg)34m53.40s- 1m48.10s

After his 23rd lap Jean Porporato with the Gregoire was withdrawn by the officials who believed his car was unbalanced and dangerous. The order after 30 laps, 75 miles, was uncertain with Joe Boyer still leading, followed likely by Chassagne second, De Palma third, Klein fourth, Gaston Chevrolet fifth, René Thomas sixth, Louis Chevrolet seventh, Wilcox eighth, Milton ninth and Eddie O'Donnell tenth.
      While the leaders were averaging 90 mph in the first 100 miles, DePalma was averaging about 92 mph. According to the Indianapolis Star Lap Prize Table (June 1st pg. 11), De Palma was leading on lap 38 and 39. To the contrary, The Boston Globe (June 1st pg. 1) wrote that there was a mix up in the count when Boyer was credited with leading at 100 miles, 40 laps. Then someone woke up and discovered a mistake, that DePalma took the lead before 90 miles, 36 laps. So, the order at 40 laps -after these arguments- was still unresolved, when the positions were supposedly: DePalma, Boyer, Chassagne, G. Chevrolet, R. Thomas, Klein, Wilcox, Milton, Hill and L. Chevrolet. The times by Motor Age after 40 laps, 100 miles:
1.DePalma (Ballot)1h05m39.90s
2.Boyer (Frontenac)1h05m40.60s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)1h06m16.30s
4.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)1h06m32.40s
5.R. Thomas (Ballot)1h06m40.05s
6.Klein (Frontenac)no time
7.Wilcox (Peugeot)1h08m43.30s
8.Milton (Duesenberg)1h08m47.15s
9.Hill (Frontenac)1h09m09.25s
7.L. Chevrolet (Monroe)1h09m57.50s

Art Klein driving a Frontenac had a narrow escape from injury on lap 41 when a steering arm broke losing his car which crashed into the retaining wall at the north turn, bounded across the track to the inside wall and then into the center of the track. The car was badly smashed, but without injury to driver or the mechanic. Klein later entered the race as relief driver for Joe Thomas, lap 105-115.
      Ray Howard stopped his Peugeot on lap 41 and was relieved by Aldo Franchi. After 50 laps, 125 miles, Boyer was still in the lead, Chassagne was second, Gaston Chevrolet third, René Thomas fourth, DePalma fifth, Louis Chevrolet sixth, Wilcox seventh, Bennie Hill eighth, Jimmy Murphy ninth and Milton tenth. Willie Haupt stopped his Duesenberg on lap 54, for Wade Moton to drive relief from lap 55 to 111. After lap 53 DePalma regained the lead for five laps from lap 54 to 58. Later, he would lead for the third time, from lap 112 to 187, a total of 83 laps, (2+ 5 + 76 = 83). On lap 57 Aldo Franchi relieved Ray Howard in the Peugeot. Roscoe Sarles wrecked his Monroe on lap 58 at the north turn after the steering arm broke. He escaped uninjured. After 60 laps Joe Boyer was ahead of DePalma with the times by Motor Age after 60 laps, 150 miles:
1.Boyer (Frontenac)1h38m03.60s
2.DePalma (Ballot)1h38m08.15s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)1h39m25.10s
4.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)1h39m29.55s
5.R. Thomas (Ballot)1h39m34.45s
6.L. Chevrolet (Monroe)1h41m08.65s
7.Wilcox (Peugeot)1h43m21.65s
8.Milton (Duesenberg)1h43m22.30s
9.O'Donnell (Duesenberg)1h44m30.25s
10.Murphy (Duesenberg)1h44m37.00s

DePalma stopped at the end of his 61st lap to get a new right rear and right front tire, gasoline, oil and water. He had signaled his pit men when he passed on his 60th lap that he would stop the next time around for tires, oil and gasoline. These supplies were ready when he pulled in. While the pit men were changing tires and pouring oil and gasoline into the Ballot, the driver himself was eating an orange, washing his face in cooling water and talking excitedly with his pit men. After two minutes DePalma was back at the wheel. Boyer made his first pit stop on lap 62, when René Thomas took the lead, which he held for seven laps, from lap 63 to 69, then Boyer led again from lap 70 to 107. Louis Chevrolet in a Monroe had a near crash on the 63rd lap when the steering arm broke. His car ran for some distance out of control when the back of his Monroe hit the wall. After a repair in the pits the relief driver Salvatore Barbarino drove the car up to the 79th lap after which Jerry Wonderlich took over the relief until he retired after lap 94. When last year's winner Howdy Wilcox retired his Peugeot with engine trouble on lap 65, only two other Peugeot were left in the race.
      Wade Morton for Willie Haupt in the Meteor was next in the pits with a broken steering rod. His mechanic, Arthur W. Kempf had climbed out in front and held the broken parts together with his hands on the back stretch until the pits were reached. When the Meteor purred out, Wade Morton was still at the wheel of the maroon car. Bennie Hill in his green Monroe then drew up at his pit for oil, gasoline and water, but was relieved by Roscoe Sarles when the car returned to the track on lap 74. Eddie O'Donnell with his Duesenberg, was forced to stop at the end of his 74th lap to repair an oil line which took twenty minutes. Salvatore Barbarino for Louis Chevrolet pulled in with his Monroe after he had finished his 79th lap. After the car had lost about ten minutes with repairs, he was relieved by Jerry Wonderlich. After 200 miles Joe Boyer was leading with a time of 2h11m13.61s at 91.45 mph ahead of Gaston Chevrolet and René Thomas with the times by Motor Age after 80 laps, 200 miles:
1.Boyer (Frontenac)2h11m13.60s
2.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)2h12m53.15s
3.R. Thomas (Ballot)2h12m55.40s
4.Chassagne (Ballot)2h13m20.60s
5.DePalma (Ballot)2h14m13.65s
6.Milton (Duesenberg)2h17m59.50s
7.Murphy (Duesenberg)2h19m46.80s
8.Goux (Peugeot)2h21m01.65s
9.Klein for Joe Thomas (Monroe)2h22m49.50s
10.Henderson (Revere)2h24m20.15s

On lap 90, 225 miles, Ray Howard took over his Peugeot from relieve driver Aldo Franchi. Jerry Wonderlich, the second relief driver for Louis Chevrolet, retired the Monroe after 235 miles, 94 laps, as the repairs after the crash had caused problems.

After 250 miles, Gaston Chevrolet stopped and pulled into the pits for oil, gasoline and water. The pitmen urged him to take relief but the sturdy little Frenchman emphatically refused to yield his seat behind the wheel. His pluck and his determination to save his car for the finish were demonstrated a little later when signals were repeatedly displayed from the pit urging him to make a greater speed, his chances as a winner being more apparent at that stage of the race. Chevrolet only smiled at the signals and kept up his steady speed, which saved his car and made him a winner. (Source: The Indianapolis Star, June 1st, pg. 3).

At 250 miles Joe Boyer was leading after 2h44m26s at 91.22 mph ahead of Gaston Chevrolet, René Thomas and Ralph DePalma with the times by Motor Age after 100 laps, 250 miles:
1.Boyer (Frontenac)2h44m36.45s
2.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)2h46m15.40s
3.R. Thomas (Ballot)2h46m08.75s
4.DePalma (Ballot)2h46m47.15s
5.Chassagne (Ballot)2h47m02.00s
6.Milton (Duesenberg)2h52m26.05s
7.Murphy (Duesenberg)2h54m10.00s
8.Roscoe Sarles for Hill (Frontenac)2h56m22.85s
9.Goux (Peugeot)2h57m52.45s
10.Henderson (Revere)3h01m33.80s

Boyer came in for his first stop on the 104th lap for gasoline and oil. After a few seconds as he left the pits, he received thunderous applause from the crowds. In the meantime, René Thomas had swept into first position, with De Palma driving hard to catch him. At 110 laps, 275 miles, René Thomas was still in the lead, DePalma was second, three seconds behind his teammate, Boyer third, Gaston Chevrolet fourth, followed by Chassagne, Milton, Murphy, Goux, Sarles for Hill and Klein for Joe Thomas.
      Wade Moton who drove relief for Willie Haupt (Duesenberg) from lap 55 to 111 stopped and Haupt took over but would retire on lap 127. Boyer held first place until lap 107 when René Thomas passed him to lead for five laps from 108 to 112. Then DePalma took the lead on lap 113 and was going to lead up to lap 186, for 74 continuous laps. Art Klein for Joe Thomas (Monroe) stopped at the pits after lap 115 to be relieved by Harry Thickson who carried on with the Monroe up to lap 125 when Joe Thomas took the wheel again.
      On lap 115 Rocoe Sarles for Bennie Hill ended his race when the steering arm broke on the Monroe. He crashed Hill's car into the outer retaining wall like he had his own car earlier and escaped injury for the second time. He rightened himself and limped into the pits. After 300 miles the average had dropped to 90.03 mph with a time of 3h18m36.45s. The three French Ballot were now under the first five cars. The order of the 16-car field with the times by Motor Age after 120 laps, 300 miles:
1.DePalma (Ballot)3h18m36.45s
2.Boyer (Frontenac)3h19m49.55s
3.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)3h21m23.45s
4.R. Thomas (Ballot)3h22m03.15s
5.Chassagne (Ballot)3h23m14.30s
6.Murphy (Duesenberg)3h31m12.65s
7.Milton (Duesenberg)3h29m23.85s
8.Goux (Peugeot)3h33m03.25s
9.Thickson for Joe Thomas (Monroe)3h40m31.00s
10.Alley for Henderson (Revere)4h02m55.70s

Boyer dropped the Frontenac from second to fifth place because of a broken carburetor spring which was repaired at the pits. This enabled Gaston Chevrolet to take second place. Harry Thickson driving relief for Joe Thomas stopped on lap 125 and handed the car back to Joe Thomas. Willie Haupt in the Meteor retired on lap 127 with a broken spring. After 350 miles DePalma was in the lead with a time of 3h51m18.4s, at 90.79 mph average, ahead of Gaston Chevrolet, R. Thomas, Chassagne, Boyer, Milton, Murphy, Goux, J. Thomas, Alley for Henderson in this order. There followed five drivers with their order unknown, Ray Howard, Eddie O'Donnell, John Boling, Ralph Mulford and Eddie Hearne with the times by Motor Age after 140 laps, 350 miles:
1.DePalma (Ballot)3h51m18.40s
2.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)3h54m47.15s
3.R. Thomas (Ballot)3h56m00.30s
4.Chassagne (Ballot)3h57m02.85s
5.Boyer (Frontenac)4h00m41.80s
6.Milton (Duesenberg)4h03m35.90s
7.Murphy (Duesenberg)4h06m20.00s
8.Goux (Peugeot)no time
9.J. Thomas (Monroe)4h21m06.90s
10.Alley for Henderson (Revere)5h20m28.10s

After lap 148 Jules Goux brought the Peugeot into the pits with strong misfiring. After an engine check-up he attempted to rejoin but the Peugeot would not start and this ended his race. Eddie O'Donnell retired his Duesenberg after lap 149 with a broken oil line. Ira Vail was relief driver for Boyer from lap 155 to 191. DePalma drove a sensational race in the lead, still followed by Gaston Chevrolet two laps behind, R. Thomas and Chassagne. After 400 miles De Palma's average was 90.70 mph. The 13-car field was in the following order with the times by Motor Age after 160 laps, 400 miles:
1.DePalma (Ballot)4h24m35.15s
2.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)4h28m18.15s
3.R. Thomas (Ballot)4h29m39.90s
4.Chassagne (Ballot)4h30m18.15s
5.Milton (Duesenberg)4h37m22.25s
6.Vail for Boyer (Frontenac)4h40m33.20s
7.Murphy (Duesenberg)4h40m48.30s
8.Hearne (Duesenberg)4h44m11.35s
9.J. Thomas (Monroe)4h57m40.43s
10.Alley for Henderson (Revere)6h00m49.15s

DePalma went into the pits on the 162nd lap to change the right rear tire and his men effected the transfer in 12 seconds. The order of the cars after 425 miles, 170 laps was the same as at 400 miles. After 450 miles, DePalma led at a time of 4h58m33.53s with an average of 90.44 mph with Gaston Chevrolet still second and Chassagne third. The 13-car field (the ten leaders plus Ray Howard, John Boling and Tom Alley for Henderson) were in the following order with the times by Motor Age after 180 laps, 450 miles:
1.DePalma (Ballot)4h58m33.50s
2.G. Chevrolet (Monroe)5h02m01.10s
3.Chassagne (Ballot)5h03m29.10s
4.R. Thomas (Ballot)5h10m14.60s
5.Milton (Duesenberg)5h11m07.30s
6.Vail for Boyer (Frontenac)5h14m32.05s
7.Murphy (Duesenberg)5h15m27.95s
8.J. Thomas (Monroe)5h36m07.80s
9.Hearne (Duesenberg)5h32m28.15s
10.Mulford (Mulford)6h38m37.15s

After 180 laps, DePalma still held the lead but then trouble started for the Ballot team. First, Thomas lost five minutes when he stopped at the pits to replace a broken contact on one of his magnetos. Then, while passing another car, Chassagne collided with the outer retaining wall, bent the axle and could finish the race only at reduced speed. Then on lap 187, after 475 miles DePalma came to a stop after rounding the north turn into the stretch when he was two laps ahead of Gaston Chevrolet. The car's engine sputtered and caught fire which the mechanic Peter DePaolo put out. The thinking was, they were out of gas, so the mechanic ran half a mile to the pits and returned with a can of gasoline. In the meantime, DePalma had started the car as they were not out of gas but instead the second magneto for the rear cylinder block had failed. The intrepid driver was cheered as he re-entered the contest, but soon on the south stretch he again came to grief when his car caught fire again. After beating out the flames they stopped at the pits, removed the four rear sparkplugs and finished the race with only the four front cylinders firing. The official reports of the umpire referee and the technical board of the AAA do not show that DePalma's car caught fire at any stage of the race, but record that he stopped with ignition trouble. The failure was costly, for it permitted Gaston Chevrolet in a Monroe to take the lead for the first time from lap 187 forward, winning the race.
      After 190 laps, 475 miles, Gaston Chevrolet was in the lead after 5h19m03s, or 89.31 mph and kept it during the remainder of the race. René Thomas in the Ballot drove in second place. Ira Vail for Boyer went out of the running on the 192nd lap when he was closely following Joe Thomas in a Monroe. According to Ira Vail, Thomas' car skidded on the oily pavement and in order to keep from crashing into the Monroe, Vail attempted to maneuver his car but he also skidded and struck the outside retaining wall. Like a flash the car careened across the track and turned over. Both Vail and Ernest Amsterberg, his mechanic, were thrown clear of the wreckage. An ambulance and special detachments of guards rushed across the infield to the scene of the accident and the injured men were taken to the Emergency Hospital. Vail suffered a deep cut under the chin, requiring several stitches, and the lobe of his left ear was torn. Amsterberg suffered bruises to his right arm.
      At the end of the last lap, the official starter William E. Esterly waved the checkered flag from the overhead bridge to Gaston Chevrolet, his average down to 88.55 mph after 5h38m32s with his riding mechanic John Bresnahan. Chevrolet made only two stops during the entire race, the first at the end of 250 miles, when he went into the pits to take on oil, gas and water. On the 197th lap he exhausted his supply of gas, according to race officials but fortunately so near the pit that he was able to coast in, and hastily take on sufficient fuel to finish the race.

      Gaston Chevrolet, whose consistent driving had won the admiration of the crowd from the very start, was given an ovation every time he turned the circuit after winning the lead, and when he dashed across the wire and the checkered flag fluttered down, the grand stand crowds arose and cheered him lustily.
"I am glad he won," Louis Chevrolet said, emphatically, with his slight French accent, "and I am more glad that an Indianapolis-made car, the Monroe, won. We worked hard for it". Gaston smiled happily, "All I can say is I am glad it's over," he said. "All I did was some hard work. I'm happy that it was a hometown car that won. It was too bad that DePalma had bad luck, but it's something that's liable to happen to anyone." He was reluctant to speak of his own achievement, but he brightened when he thought of what seemed to be the most important feature of the race to him and explained enthusiastically: "But one thing is those tires. This is the first time in the history of the 500-mile race that a car has gone through it without a single tire change." Chevrolet's car was equipped with Oldfield tires, made by Firestone. On his return to his garage the winner was met by his wife, who witnessed the race from a seat just opposite the Monroe pits. She flung her arms about his neck and spoke happily and volubly to him in French. Mrs. Louis Chevrolet and her mother were also there, with Louis' daughter and his young son Alfred, whom Gaston took in his arms, while the remainder of the group fired questions at him in French.
(Source: The Indianapolis Star, June 1st, pg. 3).

      René Thomas finished second in the Ballot at an average of 86.95 mph. Tommy Milton thundered into third place in a Duesenberg with an average of 86.85 mph and his teammate, Jimmy Murphy, brought another Duesenberg into fourth place with an average of 86.52 mph. Fifth place fell to Ralph DePalma with an average speed of 82.20 mph. He failed to get away from the fateful jinx that seemed to pursue him on every track. He had a magneto problem, initially diagnosed as out of fuel. Eddie Hearne sent his Duesenberg into sixth place with an average speed of 80.05 mph and seventh place was given to Jean Chassagne's Ballot with a speed of 79.95 mph. Joe Thomas in another Monroe finished in eighth place. Mulford finished in ninth place and Alley (Revere) passed Boling and won tenth and last prize, while Boling completed the course in 11th position, but no official record of his time was taken. His Richards Special was geared entirely too low, but he stuck it out to the end. Ray Howard's Peugeot was the 12th and last car of the field, who was on his 149th lap when he was flagged from the course at 5:29 o'clock and the greatest race of the Speedway was over.
      Prizes to the winners were $100 per mile, total of $50,000 divided among the first ten to finish. Additional for the first-time lap prizes of $100 per lap, a total of $20,000 was awarded by Indianapolis business men and manufacturers to the leaders during the race as follows: Gaston Chevrolet cashed the $20,000 first prize and $1,300 in lap prizes plus a number of rich accessory awards. René Thomas won $10,000 for second place and $700 in lap prize money, Tommy Milton collected $5,000 for third place, Eddie Murphy $3,500 for fourth place, Ralph DePalma $3,000 for fifth place and $8,300 in lap prizes, Eddie Hearne $2,200 for sixth place, Jean Chassagne received $1,800 for seventh place and $100 lap prize money, Joe Thomas $1,600 for eighth place, Ralph Mulford $1500 for ninth place, Tom Alley $1,400 for tenth place, Joe Boyer $9,500 in lap prize money and Art Klein $100 lap prize. (Lap prize contradictions existed for DePalma and Boyer, but we think to have the true numbers.)


Pos.No.Driver/Relief DriverEntrantCarTypeEngineLapsTime/Status

1.4Gaston ChevroletWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-42005h38m32.00s - 88.55 mph
2.25René ThomasErnest BallotBallotBallot3.0S-82005h44m51.06s - 86.95 mph
3.10Tommy MiltonDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-82005h45m02.48s - 86.85 mph
4.12Jimmy MurphyDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-82005h52m31.35s - 85.20 mph
5.2Ralph DePalmaRalph DePalmaBallotBallot3.0S-82006h05m10.19s - 82.20 mph
6.31Eddie HearneDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-82006h10m21.55s - 80.05 mph
7.26Jean ChassagneErnest BallotBallotBallot3.0S-82006h15m16.03s - 79.95 mph
8.28Joe Thomas/Klein/ThicksonWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-42006h21m41.55s - 78.55 mph
9.33Ralph MulfordRalph MulfordMulford Spcl.Duesenberg3.0S-82007h17m14.25s - 68.55 mph
10.15Pete Henderson/Tom AlleyRevere Motor Car Corp.RevereDuesenberg3.0S-82007h23m53.95s - 67.50 mph
DNF32John Boling/Riley BrettC.L. RichardsRichards Spcl.Brett3.0S-6199flagged
DNF6Joe Boyer/Ira VailFrontenac Motor Co.FrontenacFrontenac3.0S-4192crash
DNF9Ray Howard/Aldo FranchiPeugeot Auto Co.PeugeotPeugeot3.0S-4150camshaft
DNF29Eddie O'DonnellDuesenberg BrothersDuesenberg 8Duesenberg3.0S-8149oil line
DNF16Jules GouxJules GouxPeugeotPeugeot3.0S-4148engine
DNF34Willie Haupt/Wade MortonMeteor Motors CoMeteorDuesenberg3.0S-8126broken spring
DNF7Bennie Hill/Roscoe SarlesFrontenac Motor Co.FrontenacFrontenac3.0S-4115steering arm/crash
DNF3L. Chevrolet/Barbarino/WonderlichWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-494steering arm
DNF18Howdy WilcoxJules GouxPeugeotPeugeot3.0S-465engine
DNF5Roscoe SarlesWilliam Small Co.MonroeFrontenac3.0S-458steering arm/crash
DNF8Art KleinFrontenac Motor Co.FrontenacFrontenac3.0S-440steering arm/crash
DNF19Jean PorporatoJean PorporatoGregoireGregoire3.0S-422withdrawn by officials
DNF17André BoillotJules GouxPeugeotPeugeot3.0S-416engine
Fastest lap was not timed.
Winner's average speed: 88.55 mph (142.503 km/h).
Fastest lap during the time trials: Ralph DePalma (Ballot) 1m30.05s at 99.95 mph (160.849 km/h).
Weather: cool day, overcast.

Primary sources researched for this article:
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Berlin
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung, Wien
Automobil-Welt, Berlin
Chicago Tribune, Chicago
L'Auto, Paris
MOTOR, Berlin
Motor Age, Chicago (Floyd Clymer)
San Francisco Cronicle, San Francisco
The Boston Globe, Boston
The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis
The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis


© 2022 Leif Snellman, Hans Etzrodt - Last updated: 15.02.2022