|Floyd Roberts - driver
Lawson Harris - mechanic
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,
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 microphones.
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.
|Fatalities - 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
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 used.
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 Indianapolis.
He is in an unmarked grave at Crown Hill
Cemetery in Indianapolis.
|1933 - Lawson Harris is on the left
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