Fatalities - May 1959
Jerry Unser - driver
Bob Cortner - driver
Bob Cortner, a resident of Redlands, California,
was a ten-year veteran of midget car racing.

He came to race in the Indy 500 in 1959.  He

passed his rookie test at the Indy Speedway on
Monday, May 18th.

The next day winds at the speedway were 19-29


Cortner entered the track to practice in his #51
Offenhauser Cornis Engineering Special.  He got

the car up to 128 mph.

On the next lap, after only 3 minutes on the track,

the car careened out of control in turn 3.  It flew
276 feet to the white line on the inside of the track,
then slid 189 feet in the dirt, then shot 138 feet
across the track to crash head-on into the outside
wall and finally spun for an additional 171 feet.

The crash either threw the car out of gear or broke

the differential; the engine was racing wildly until
another driver, Buddy Cagle, switched it off.

It is thought that perhaps he got caught in a cross

wind which made him lose control.
Cortner's Indy Record
Robert Charles Cortner
Year   Car No.     Car                          Laps Completed       Start    Finish
1958    93            McKay Building      Failed to Qualify
1959    51            Thompson-Sears   Turn 3, died
Jerry Henry Unser, Jr.
Jerry Unser, Jr. is part of the famous Unser racing
.  He had a fraternal twin named Louie who
worked as his mechanic.  His two younger brothers,

Al, Sr. and Bobby, are both multiple Indy 500 winners.  
However, Jerry was the first Unser to race at Indy.

Jerry was born in Colorado Springs in 1932.  He

began racing in 1949 when he moved to Albuquerque.

Jerry won the USAC stock car championship in 1957.

In his only start, in 1958, Jerry was caught up in a
pileup on the first lap thus ending his race
before it barely got started.

Jerry returned to Indy the following year.

He went out to practice in the afternoon of May 2,


After turning several laps at 133 mph. the car went

out of control on the 4th turn, wobbled below the
white safety line for 50 feet, then returned to the

track, went into a 580-foot half-spin, hit the inside
wall and punctured the gas tank, dashed 144 fee
across the
track, and struck the wall broadside on
the right side.

Burning fuel had sloshed into the cockpit and Jerry's
uniform had not been fireproofed, though the officials
strongly advised it for all drivers.  Some drivers at

the time only wore tee-shirts!

The steering wheel and the car itself were bent.  
Firemen extinguished the flames; Ralph Little of the
Herbrand Tool Co gave every fireman and crash

crew member a tool to unbend and strip the body
from the car to remove Jerry, still conscious.

A bone was broken in his neck and he was burned

(It was this crash that finally prompted USAC to

require that all drivers wear long-sleeved,
flame-proofed uniforms.)  

Jerry developed uremia and failed to respond to
artificial kidney treatment.  Third-degee burns

covered 35 percent of his body.  A few days after
the accident he was moved from Methodist Hospital
to Robert Long Hospital at the Indiana University
Medical Center, where he was put on
the kidney
machine and, subsequently, placed in an
tent.  He died on May 17th.
Unser's Indy Record
Year        Car #        Car               Laps             Start       Finish
1958        48        Sumar         DNQ
1958        52        Duncan       DNQ
1958        92        McKay        0 - accident           24           31
1959        57        Helse          Died in practice
Cornter, unconscious, was wearing a safety
but no shoulder harness.  His face had
struck the steering wheel with such impact

that the wheel was bent into an L-shape.  

He had a fractured skull, crushed facial
bones, and a broken jaw.  His hlmet was

At Methodist Hospital he had a tracheotomy
and was put in an iron lung, for the had lost
a large amount of blood before he was
removed from his car.  He died seven
hours afthe crash.  He was 32-years-old.

He was survived by his wife Marilyn (Mandy),
his parents and one brother.
Sunset Memorial Park, Albuquerque, NM
Fatalities - May 1940
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
INDY 500 MEMORIAL - 1959
(The car he wrecked was repaired and driven in
the 500 by
Al Keller, who finished 18th.)

Survivors were his wife Jeanne, two sons - Jerry
(3) and Johnny(1), his mother and his brothers.
Home    Contact    About    Site Map    Privacy
Copyright © 2015  IndySpeedway.com All Rights Reserved