|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.
Year Car No. Car Laps Completed Start Finish
1958 93 McKay Building Failed to Qualify
1959 51 Thompson-Sears Turn 3, died
Jerry Unser, Jr. is part of the famous Unser racing
family. 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
15-car 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,
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 oxygen
tent. He died on May 17th.
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
belt 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
|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
(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.
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