Fatality - May 1934
Peter Kreis - driver
Pete Kreis was from Knoxville Tennessee and had a
hard-luck racing career from about age 15, when Pete’s
dad bought him a car to race on the dirt tracks at county

In May of 1925, Pete brought a Duesenberg to Indy and
finished 8th in his first Indy 500! Spurred on by this
success, he returned the following year with a new Miler
Special. However he got sick and had to let
drive in the race – and Lockhart won the Indy
500 with it!

Pete Kreis’s racing luck improved at the Monza course in
Italy, but he continued to have his ups-and-downs at Indy.
In 1931 he qualified a car, withdrew it, and drove relief for
Ralph Hepburn, who finished 3rd. In ’32 Pete drove a
Studebaker in the 500 and finished 15th.
Henry Ford
complimented his driving in the race when he barely
avoided a tire that flew off Luther Johnson’s car. After the
race, Pete was injured in tire tests when he hit the north
wall and broke his ribs.

Kreis’s family owned a construction business specializing
in railroads and levees. Pete was trained to work in this
business and he raced for thrills, not money. After he
became an airplane pilot, he promised his family to give
up all racing except at Indy.

Seth Klein, a starter of the 1934 race said, “He was one
of the most popular men at the track – always the
gentleman. He had had a lot of hard luck, because he
would rather break a car in fast company than lag behind.”.
Kreis's Indy Record
Peter Kreis
Year  Car No.   Car               Laps Completed                      Start   Finish
1925    35      Duesenberg        200-96.32                             9       8
1927    9       Cooper            123-bent front axel                   12      17
1928    32      Marmon            73-rod bearings                       19      22
1929    4       Detroit           91-engine seized                      17      16
      25      Armacost-Miller   Relieved Cliff Bergere                
1931    22      Coleman Motors    Qualified, withdrawn                
      19      Harry Miller      Relieved Hepburn who finished 3rd
1932    18      Studebaker        178-wrecked SW                        17      15
1933    2       Frame-Miller      63-universal joint                    11      32
1934            Miller-Hartz      Wrecked in SS near SW, died                        

Safety and fuel economy were big concerns in 1934 as
the Speedway tried to reduce fatalities and injuries. The
starting field is reduced back to 33 cars to cut down on
race day traffic. Also, to help reduce speeds, fuel is limited
to 45 gallons for the race – this means the winner must
average at least 11 mpg. The fastest qualifying speed this
year would be 119.329 mph. Even with fuel restrictions,
speeds creaped upward.

Kreis was partial to front wheel drives. He usually brought
his own cars, but
Fred Frame had asked him to drive the
car in which Frame had won the 1932 race in.

Bob Hahn showed up at Indy with Harry Hartz. He had
raced at Ascot on the West Coast and on Eastern dirt
tracks. He was wanting to start looking around Indy for a
possible run at it in a few years. Somehow he ended up
performing as the ride along mechanic for Kreis even
though he wasn’t assigned as Kreis’s official mechanic!
This would be a fateful decision for Hahn.

On their way to the Speedway one morning for practice,
Pete Kreis and
Cliff Bergere stopped at Michigan Street
and White River Boulevard, where a serious auto accident
had just occurred. One person was killed and an
ambulance arrived. Since the two race drivers were unable
to help, they headed for the track. Exactly an hour later,
Kreis would be dead too.

What was described as “the most unusual accident in the
history of the speedway”, Kreis and Hahn jumped the wall
on the south end at 90 mph. A patrolman saw the car
riding the top of the wall, straddling it, before finally
plunging off into a tree and being torn right in half. The
halves fell 25 feet from each other. The tree was the same
one that
Benny Benefield hit in ’32, killing his mechanic,
Harry Cox.

Thrown clear of the car, Pete Kreis was killed instantly, his
skull fractured and his chest crushed. Mechanic Bob Hahn
was pinned in the wreckage of the rear of the car and lived
only a few minutes.

Pete Kreis was unmarried.
He's buried in Asbury Cemetery on the east side of Knoxville TN.
His tombstone has an image of the Indy Speedway.
Notice there is a car on the track and
that the track looks to be paved in bricks.
(photos by Susan Loper)
Peter Kreis (driving for Studebaker) meets Henry Ford - 1932
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
INDY 500 MEMORIAL - 1934
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