|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Floyd Roberts was born in South Dakota but lived nearly
all of his life in California. While he lived in Van Nuys,
most of his racing was done in Glendale. He raced for
He won the 1934 Pacific Coast championship.
He first showed up at Indy in 1935 driving the same car
that Lester Spangler and his mechanic had been killed in
in 1933. He practiced less than 100 miles, qualified
perfectly and finished 4th!
In 1936 the AAA limited the fuel the Indy cars could use to
37.5 gallons. Seven drivers ran out of gas before the end
including Roberts who ran out with 17 laps to go while
running in 5th position. He ended up with 19th.
He broke his arm a week before the next Indy 500, but
strapped it up and raced anyway. He raced 485 miles
and then his clutch burned up.
In 1938, Roberts won the Pole Position with an average
speed of 125.506 mph. He led 92 laps to win the 26th
Indy 500 for car owner Lou Moore. The race was marred
when Emil Andres wrecked which threw a wheel into the
grand stands killing spectator Everett Spence.
No one had ever won the Indy 500 two years in a row and
Roberts was determined to be the first. Not only did he
return to Indy in 1949 as the reigning Indy 500 champion,
but as the national champion as well.
On Friday before the Tuesday race, he had qualified, but
had had several troublesome days. Driving well, but not
all-out, he was following Robert Swanson in the big race.
(Swanson had replaced Ralph Hepburn as a relief driver
three laps earlier.) When Swanson skidded coming out
of the 2nd turn on the backstretch, Roberts swerved to the
outside of the track to miss him; but Sawnson's car shot
toward the outer wall, momentarily locking wheels with
Roberts' car. The Bud Piston Ring Special cartwheeled
over the outside retaining wall and crashed at the foot of
the embankment at the Speedway golf course. Swanson,
his car in flames, was thrown out on the track. To avoid
hitting him, Chet Miller overturned in the infield. Roberts
had a broken neck - the first 500 winner to die on the
track. He never regained consciousness and died in the
early afternoon at Methodist Hospital. The race slowed
for over 30 minutes to clean Swanson's wreckage off the
Roberts was a deeply religious and emotional man, proud
that he had once been a Sunday School teacher. He was
survived by his wife Edna and his two children - Betty(10)
and Billy (8)
183 - out of gas
194 - flagged
106 - Fatal Crash
Abels & Fink
Burd Piston Ring
Burd Piston Ring
Burd Piston Ring
|Oakwood Memorial Park, Chatsworth CA
|1938 Indy 500 winner Floyd Roberts with owner Lou Moore at Finish.
|Floyd Roberts Gets Checkered Flag to Win 1938 Indianapolis 500
|Floyd Robert's 1936 Racer
After winning the Indy 500, Roberts was
literally speechless in front of the
After he realized that his family could hear
him back home in California, he talked to
them, tearfully telling the whole world what
it felt like to be a 500 winner.
|Fatality - September 20, 1939
Elbert "Babe" Stapp of Los Angeles and Lawson Harris of Indianapolis,
had been testing Firestone tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
for about 3 weeks.
They were driving the car that Ted Horn had raced in that year's Indy
500. The car was owned by Mike Boyle of Chicago.
On September 20th, with Stapp at the wheel, the car was traveling
down the main straight at 116 mph when a broken tie-rod or a broken
axle disabled the right front wheel and threw the vehicle out of control
in the first turn, near Stand E.
Harris was thrown to the track.
Stapp stayed with the car, brought it to a stop and ran back to aid
Harris's helmet was torn off, a shoe was virtually ground into the track
and his sweat shirt was torn to bits.
Harris suffered a crushed skull and had lacerations all over his body.
He died soon after being taken to Methodist Hospital.
Stapp was also taken to the hospital. He suffered a severe cut on his
lip and had a bruised leg, but no broken bones.
Stapp had raced in 11 Indy 500 races and was well known to fans.
Harris had been a riding mechanic for ten years
and was the only mechanic to ride in two winning
cars - 1933 & 1936, both wins for Lou Meyer.
Harris had also rode shotgun for Rex Mays.
The big mystery here is why was there a riding
mechanic in the car? 1937 was the last year that
driving mechanics were used. Lawson had also
been riding along back in April with Jimmy Snyder
who was testing at the speedway.
Speedway historian Donald Davidson said he has
no idea why riding mechanics were still being
Harris was 32 and survived by his mother, Mrs. J.G.
Harris, and a sister, Mrs. Marjorie Cassidy, both of
Muskegon, MI; a brother William Harris of Detroit,
MI and a 16-year-old son, Robert Harris of
He is in an unmarked grave at Crown Hill
Cemetery in Indianapolis.
|1933 - Lawson Harris is on the left