Dan's Indianapolis Motor Speedway ~ IndySpeedway.com

1959 Indy 500

The following are some excerpts from the May 29, 1959 Indianapolis Times newspaper.

Pole Cars Picked In Varying Ways
When the Speedway opened in 1911, the first car sending in an entry was awarded the pole position.

From 1912 through 1914, the drivers drew lots for the coveted position.

Another method was used from 1915 to 1918 with the inside first row spot going to whoever qualified the fastest, regardless of which day. In 1918 the present system of awarding the pole position to the fastest qualifier of the first day was inaugurated.

Batten 'Stretch' Ride One of the Warmest
Norm Batten took one of the warmest rides in Speedway history during the 1927 race when he drove his car standing up the full length of the straight-away while it was engulfed in flames.

He jumped from the car only after he had stayed with it for the full stretch, steering it away from the pits and the crowd.

Braking for Broke
It costs $600 for the braking system on an Indianapolis-type race car.

Fated Watchers
Seven spectators have been killed while watching 500-Mile Races.

4 Of '54 Drivers Gone
Four of the first 10 finishers in the 1954 "500" have been claimed by death. Killed in accidents since that time are: Winner Bill Vukovich, Jack McGrath, 2nd; Mike Nazaruk, 5th, and Larry Crockett, 9th.

Race Is Year-Round Job for Some The 500-Mile Race is much more than a one day job for 25 people out at the track.

Track Superintendent Clarence Cagle and his crew of 24 men put in approximately 40,000 working hours on the track's 433 acres, 98 buildings, track and grandstand throughout the year.

Just before race day the working crew is increased to 100 not including the 1500-man force that handles tickets, policing and ushering chores.

Seven for Eleven Seven sets of tires were used by Duke Nalon in driving the powerful Novi Spl. to 11th place in the 1953 500-Mile Race.

'500' Festival 3 Years old
By Nancy Lowe [abridged]

Four years ago you just went to the race. Oh, maybe you or you friends had a couple of pre-500-Mile Race parties.

And then three years ago, the "500" Festival was started. The Festival this year stretched from the selection of a queen on April 25, to the race eve parade.

Forty blonde beauties were responsible, you might say for bringing the whole idea to Indianapolis.

It was 1956 and the 40 palominos of the Murat Shrine Horse Patrol had been invited to Louisville to participate in the first parade to be held in connection with the Kentucky Derby.

A car full of Indianapolis people drove down to see the parade - Karl Fredericks, Edwin K. Steers, Cecil Byrne and Miller Keller of the Shrine and Irving Leibowitz of the Indianapolis Times.

"Its too bad there isn't a parade like this in Indianapolis for Shrine units to march in, maybe around race time," said somebody in the car.

"But it shouldn't just be the Shrine," said someone else , "The whole city should be involved - make a big thing about the prerace celebration."

Recalls Cecil Byrne, "We yakked about the idea all the way back to Indianapolis from Louisville."

"We had a perfect excuse for having a parade," said Byrne. "But it was not created in our opinion just to sell the "500" The "500" doesn't need selling. It was to make Indianapolis a more enthusiastic town.

"We didn't want it to be all Speedway - or all Shrine."

The Shrine's part in the parade has been purposely decreased through the three years, said Byrne, because no one organization should dominate.

Festival activities that first year included the parade, a pre-parade memorial service, a post-parade square dance and invitational ball.

Last year to all this was added a Mayor's breakfast for visiting dignitaries, a Governor's reception before the invitational ball for the general public. This year the two balls were combined into one again, but selection of an official queen was added to the Festival activities.

Radio-TV Coverage Extensive
By Jan Colcord [abridged]

Radio and TV coverage of the 500-Mile Race is more complete this year than ever before.

The race will be broadcast in its entirety by all the local AM radio stations with the exception of WXLW, starting at 10 a.m. for the preliminaries, and continuing until the finish in Vicotry Lane.

All stations carry the broadcast by hooking up to WIBC which originated the coast-to-coast broadcast 13 years ago with Sid Collins as chief commentator, under the direction of Gil Berry, Dill Dean and Bob Minton. Freddie Agabashian is the technical advisor on race day this year. Tom Carnegie is on the Speedway publick address system.

The broadcast is sent to every English speaking country in the world, to Latin America through the Voice of America, and to all the Armed Forces through the Armed Forces Radio Network, besides 370 other station in the U.S.A.

...Another "First" was televising of the first annual "old Timer's Bar-B-Que" on Thurdsday at 6 p.m.

Remarkable Job
Chunky Don Branson is another newcomer who won't be taking a back seat to anyone. A veteran campaigner, he passed his driver's test this year with the remarkable average of 40 perfect laps.

The rookie takes 10 laps at 115mph, 10 at 120, then 125 and 130. He's allowed a margin of one-mile under and three miles over in order to register a good lap.

Hanks '500' All-Time $$$ Champion
By Jimmie Angelopolous [abridged]

Smiling Sam Hanks, "Mr. Moneybags," retired from racing as the 500-Mile Race all-time money winner in 1957.
Hanks collected $103,000 for first place after winning the 1957 Speedway Classic and piled up a record total earnings of an estimated $200,000.

Today Jimmy Bryan, the 1958 Speedway winner, looks like the best bet to overtake Hanks as the Speedway's all-time record holder for total purses.

No. 2 choice may be Jim Rathmann. No. 3 might be Tony Bettenhausen and No. 4 could be Pat Flaherty.

When Bryan earned a total of $105,000 for first place last year, he jacked his career earnings to an estimated $180,000 more or less. Of this total his earnings from the Speedway prize alone include $114,000.

If total earnings for first place this year amount to an estimated $110,000. Bryan could shove his total earnings at the "500" to nearly $290,000 maybe more. Second place could be worth around $40,000. It brought the late George Amick $38,000 last year

Total earnings of course do not include money made away from the 500-Mile Speedway after each race. One guess might be that Bryan could have added as much as another $100,000 in earnings after winning the 1958 classic. But his favorite uncle, named Sam, probably would have gobbled most of it.


Speedway Is Big Picnic Grounds
By Gerry LaFollette

Contrary to popular belief, people don't go to the "500" to watch the race. They go to eat and drink.
Hot dogs are in first place on the demand list, closely followed by ham and cheese on white.
Coffee and soft drinks depend on the weatherman for their position.
The people at Sportservice, Inc., headed by Mrs. Virginia Taylor badger the weatherman at Weir Cook constantly.

For many years the concessions at the Speedway were handled individually. Each stand was operated by a different person. Sportservice took over in 1949. It operates 87 booths in all parts of the track. Their season starts about April 15 and lasts for two months. The four days of qualification and race day are their busiest times.

Last year 116,869 hot dogs were sold.
This year the ice cream sandwich makes its first appearance and Mrs Taylor hopes that it will prove more successful than one of her recent ventures.
That was the box lunch. People just didn't like the package plan.
But she says, "We learn every year."

And she seems to have done very well. Mrs Taylor started with Sprotservice in 1950, selling the popular hot dog. Seven years later she was put in charge of the whole Speedway program.
Another novelty she will introduce is the frozen icicle. It is a new item which comes from freezing nine ounces of a flavored liquid in a plastic bag.
With all this food and drink available the health problem is a major one. The State Board of Health has five men at the track along with three men from the Engineering Sanitation department.
But Mrs. Taylor says that there never has been a case of food poisoning from food they have sold. Most of the trouble comes from people who bring their own.

And Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Hofstader of Dalton, O., who run the Tower Terrace Restaurant, have an even more important problem: feeding the drivers.
Besides all the spectators who eat at the restaurant next to the garages, the Hofstaders feel that the last day before the race and race day morning are the most important.
As Mrs. Taylor said, "If one of those boys got sick from one of our meals, I don't know where I would hide."
But the way they handle the concessions the chances of food poisoning are very slim.

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