The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Fatalities - May 15th 1953

Chet Miller - driver

Chet Miller

Chester Miller was born July 19, 1902 in Detroit. He drove his first race in Saginaw Michigan in 1924 at the age of 22.

In the 1934 Indy 500 after only 11 laps, he hit some oil on the track left by a car that had thrown a rod. He went about 30 yards through the air and over the wall and landed on all four wheels in a Mrs. Stevens' backyard. The car never stopped and Chet drove it through the gates to the garages, "without shifting gears, " said Henry McLemore who worked for the newspaper.
"Where've you been, Chet?"
"Over the wall," he said, but it was quite a while before anybody would believe him, as he dejectedly watched the rest of the race from the pits.

In 1939 he was involved in a three-car collision that killed Floyd Roberts. When Bob Swanson collided with Roberts, Swanson's tank exploded and the car burned. Swanson was thrown out of his car until the track. To avoid hitting him, Chet Miller crashed in the infield, broke his shoulder, and was hospitalized for six months. Swanson suffered only minor injuries.

In 1952, Miller set a one-lap qualifying record at 139.60 mph

Chet Miller - 1946
Chet Miller - May 1946

Miller was out practicing all day at the Speedway on May 15th. At 3:15 p.m. he was clocked at 138.46 mph right before his fatal crash. His wreck was similar to the one that killed Ralph Hepburn six years previously. Mechanics said the damage to the two cars was almost identical. The angle of the crash into the outside wall was the same. Miller apparently got too low in turn 1. His left front wheel went into the apron gravel and the car spun into a skid. The back end whirled around and the front-wheel-drive powered the car into the wall. The left front end hit the concrete and the car seemed to hug the wall. Momentum carried it another 300 feet, bumping the barrier from time to time and finally stopping in the short-chute in front of what was then Gransdstand D.

Both Hepburn and Miller were the oldest drivers on the track at the times of their deaths. Miller was 50, Hepburn 52. Both were killed in Novi Specials, on turns during practice runs, running into grass, with front-wheel-drive engine spin, and catapulting into the wall. Both held one and four lap records.

Some of his friends said that he had promised his wife that 1953 would be his last year. He had told a reporter that he was definitely going to retire soon and that he would let the reporter know when. But in 1952, he had already "retired," giving a friend his helmet, goggles and gloves. "I won't be needing these anymore, " he said. And here he was back again.

Mrs. Gertrude Miller was in Indianapolis at the time of her husband's death. They had no children. Most of his relatives lived in Detroit; but Chet made his home in Glendale California where he sold cars and owned a upholstery business.

He was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis on May 19th. Louie Meyer and Wilbur Shaw were amoung the pallbearers.

Chet Miller's Indy 500 Record

Year Car# Car Laps completed Start Finish
1928 35 B.W. Cooke 0 - wrecked in practice
1930 41 Fronty Ford 160 15 13
1931 27 Marr 200 15 10
1932 9 Hudson 125 - engine 29 21
1933 28 Marr 163 - rod 32 20
1934 46 Bohnalite 11 - accident 32 33
1935 34 Milac 200 17 10
1936 18 Boyle 200 3 8
1937 7
16
Boyle
Boyle Products
36 - ignition
Relieved Cummings
13 30
1938 3 I.B.E.W. 200 5 3
1939 3 Boyle 109 - wreck 5 21
1940 34 Alfa Romeo 189 27 17
1941 41 Boyle 200 9 6
1946 5 Miller 64 - oil line 17 18
1948 31 Don Lee 108 - oil trouble 19 20
1950 43 Novi Mobil Did not qualify
1951 32 Novi Purelube 56 - ignition 28 25
1952 21 Novi Pure Oil 41 - supercharger 27 30
1953 1 Novi Govenor died in practice

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