(October 31, 1902 - October 30, 1954)
WILBUR SHAW KILLED
VICTIM OF PLANE CRASH.
(AP) -- WILBUR SHAW, 52, president of the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway and three-time winner of the 500-mile
race, and two companions were killed in a plane crash
near Decatur Indiana late today.
The light plane exploded and crashed in a field as a farmer
watched nearby. State police and Sheriff ROBERT W.
SHRALUKA said the bodies were ground to bits in the
SHAW was identified by a credit card and a private pilot's
license. The pilot of the plane was identified as RAY
GRIMES, 40, Greenfield, Ind.
At Detroit, where the men had gone to take part in a car
test, the third man in the plane was identified as ERNEST
ROOSE, Indianapolis businessman and artist.
A representative of an advertising firm - McCann-Erickson
-- said SHAW, GRIMES and ROOSE were in Detroit
today testing a new Chrysler car on the Chrysler proving
SHAW flew the plane to Detroit and ROOSE was to have
flown it back, the advertising man said. The plane left Ann
Arbor Airport at 4 p.m.
ROOSE, 41, was the artist who painted the portrait of the
500-mile race winner each year.
State police said the plane exploded on striking the ground
on a farm near Peterson, five miles southwest of Decatur.
HOMER GINTER, owner of the farm, who was working on
his tractor, said he heard a roar, looked up and saw the
plane in pieces, 20 to 30 feet from the ground.
The plane, a Cessna, was owned by the Muncie Aviation
Corp. GORDON LACKEY, manager of Sky Harbor Airport
at Indianapolis, said the plane with three men left
Indianapolis at 9:05 a.m. for Detroit. It presumably was
returning to Indianapolis at the time of the crash.
SHAW won the big race at Indianapolis in 1937, 1939 and
World War II ended his career as a driver, but when
ANTON HULMAN, JR., of Terre Haute, Ind., bought the big
two-and-one-half-mile track at the west edge of
Indianapolis in 1945 he gave SHAW the job of running it.
The track was full of holes and the grandstand was going
to pieces. Cynics said auto racing was an anachronism in
a day of supersonic air speeds. But under SHAW'S
direction the Memorial Day event boomed again, drawing
crowds estimated at more than 150,000.
Besides his three victories, SHAW finished second in the
"500" in 1933, 1935 and 1938, fourth in 1927 and seventh
He was the leading money winner at the track, with a total
of $91,300 in winnings, until Bill Vukovich won his second
straight victory last May 31.
SHAW survived several racing accidents and a severe
heart attack. In 1941, in his last Memorial Day race, he hit
the wall and spent the summer in a cast with three
smashed vertebrae. In 1923 he suffered a skull fracture at
Paris, III., and he broke some ribs in two crackups at
The heart attack felled him in 1951 as he ran up a hill at
the Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. He was in critical
condition for several days but made it back to his office
before the 1952 race.
He was married and had one son, WARREN WILBUR
Only a few weeks ago, SHAW asserted he would be willing
to drive the powerful Novi Special in an attempt on a new
closed course record at Chrysler's proving ground track at
Chelsea, Mich. This was the car in which noted drivers
RALPH HEPBURN and CHET MILLER were killed -- but
SHAW wasn't afraid of anything.
He told a newsman recently:
"Auto race drivers are like boxers, or pit bull dogs. Once
one gives ground to another, the other fellow will be the
boss forever after that. I never was about to back off and
let somebody pass me in a jam."
A fierce, cocky little guy in his early days, he set out
deliberately to polish himself and he did it with the
thoroughness he used grooming a race car. He bacame a
popular after-dinner speaker, one of the most effective
story tellers in the country, and a suave host in the
restaurant he opened a year ago in downtown Indianapolis.
(Appeared in the Kansas Salina Journal 10-31-1954)
|1939 - Wilbur Shaw drove the Maserati 8CTF
to victory in the Indy 500
Wilbur Shaw was was born in Shelbyville, Indiana on
October 31, 1902. He was the son of James and Etta
Swimming, fishing and racing, whether on foot, bicycles or
skates, was very popular at the time. Many local
youngsters owned their own goats and often held goat cart
races. Wilbur’s father bought him a goat when he was
eight years old, and he entered the goat races at the
Shelby County Fair in 1910. It was his first formal race on
any track, and even though he lost, he was hooked on
Moving to Indianapolis in 1913 brought about a lot of
changes for Wilbur. He did not do well living in a big city
and quit school to find a job to help support his family. He
went to Detroit to work for a battery storage company,
but returned to Indianapolis two years later to work at the
Speedway Engineering Company.
By 1919, Shaw decided to build race cars for a living, and
he vowed he would someday win the Indianapolis 500.
He won his first race in 1921, driving a car he built from
junk parts. The next year he drove a new car and won
repeatedly all over the Midwest auto racing circuit.
He drove in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1927 at the age of
24. Running the entire race, Wilbur finished fourth.
Shaw won the Indianapolis 500 race three times, in 1937,
1939 and 1940.
Shaw was the second person to win the 500 three times,
and the first to win it twice in a row.
In the 1941 race, Shaw was injured when his car crashed;
it was later discovered that a defective wheel had been
placed on his car.
During World War II, Shaw was hired by Firestone Tire and
Rubber Company to test a synthetic rubber automobile tire
at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which had been
closed due to the war. He was dismayed at the dilapidated
condition of the racetrack and quickly contacted then-
owner Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I flying ace and
president and founder of Eastern Air Lines. When the
United States entered World War II, ending racing at
Indianapolis and elsewhere for the duration, Rickenbacker
padlocked the gates and let the race course slowly begin
During a meeting soon after the tire test, Rickenbacker
informed Shaw that what was left of the track would be
demolished and the land turned into a housing subdivision
unless Shaw could find someone else who might have
other ideas. Shaw sent out letters to the major car
manufacturers trying to find a backer to buy the speedway.
However, all indicated that should they buy the IMS they
would turn it into a private testing facility for their own cars
only and that its days as a racetrack would be well and
Shaw then met Terre Haute businessman Tony Hulman
who had inherited his family's business, Hulman &
Company, a wholesale grocer and producer of coffee
and baking powder, Clabber Girl.
A lifelong fan of automobile racing in general and the "500"
in particular, Hulman listened with great interest to what
Shaw had to say. Despite what Hulman saw amongst the
weeds and deterioration when Shaw took him to
Indianapolis, he purchased the Speedway from
Rickenbacker in November 1945 for the sum of $750,000.
The world war ended and Shaw put on a highly successful
race in 1946.
As a reward for his efforts to revive the Speedway, Shaw
was appointed as its president, where he would have
complete day-to-day control over the track. To this job,
Shaw brought his extensive knowledge of the business of
auto racing, something Hulman would admit that he himself
didn't have, and Shaw's hard work only cemented the
reputation of the "500" as the "Greatest Spectacle in
It seemed as though Shaw and Hulman had a "Midas
touch" at the Speedway. Hulman poured money into
improvements, and Shaw delivered the world's greatest
automobile race to enthusiastic crowds, which grew in
number by the year. The Indianapolis "500" of the late
Forties and early Fifties was a very special event through
the work of Hulman and Shaw, although Hulman was
always sure to point out that it was Wilbur putting it all
Shaw competed in 13 Indy 500's, finishing 8 times.
He never started from pole, but was on the front row 5
Shaw is the namesake of the longest soap box derby track
in the country (1000 ft), The Wilbur Shaw Memorial Soap
Box Derby Hill, at 30th Street and Cold Springs Road in