|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
|Hartford W. Stubblefield - driver
Leo Whitaker - mechanic
Johnny Hannon - driver
Clay Weatherly - driver
The record for 500 miles falls for the fourth year in a row,
with Kelly Petillo averaging 106.24 mph. Crash helmets
are required for the first time, and green and yellow traffic
lights are installed around the track. Under yellow, drivers
must slow to 75 mph and hold their positions.
Despite these changes, four men die at the speedway.
Rookie Johnny Hannon dies in a crash on his first
practice lap at speed. Veteran Stubby Stubblefield and
riding mechanic Leo Whittaker are killed on the 8th lap of
a qualifying run. Rookie Clay Weatherly dies when he
plows through the Turn 4 wall on the ninth lap of the race,
ironically in the same car as Hannon.
|Hartford "Stubby" W. Stubblefield
Year Car No. Car Laps Completed Start Finish
1930 25 Allen-Miller Didn't Qualify
1931 36 Jones-Miller 200 9 8
1932 15 Gilmore Lion 178 25 14
1933 8 Shafer 8 200 10 5
1934 5 Cummins-Diesel 200 29 12
1935 15 Victor Gasket Special
Before racing, Stubby had been a boxer. Proud of his
strength, he liked to take a hand exerciser and hold it
closed in his hand for eight minutes - at least five minutes
longer than the average man.
In 1930 he won the AAA Pacific Coast championship. He
also drove relief for Allen-Miller Products at this first Indy
race. In 1931 he drove a Jones-Miller and finished 8th.
Driving a streamlined car in 1932 nicknamed the "Catfish"
Stubby set a mile record at 147.356 mph shortly before
bringing the car to Indianapolis; but he failed to finish in the
top ten at Indy.
In 1933 Stubby was a member of Phil Shafer's 2-car team;
he averaged 100.762 mph and drove so well that he
should have finished better than 5th. In 1934 he became a
charter member of the 100-Mile-an-Hour Club, having set
a new high average for diesels with a Clessie Cummins
Diesel, the first time a 2-cycle diesel had been driven to
the end of the race.
|Clay Weatherly in the Bowes Seal Fast/Leon Duray car
Stubby came to the track without a car or even the promise
Phil Shafer had entered three Buick-engined cars (Victor
Gasket Specials) in the race. He was pleased when Stubby
asked to drive one because Stubby had driven a Shafer
Special into 5th place in the 1933 race.
Unassuming and well-liked by the racing clan, H.W.
Stubblefield had a reputation for being a hard but
confident driver and a safe one. Phil Shafer and Stubby
were good friends. Stubblefield enjoyed a joke and
particularly liked to tease Shafer about his age and
Stubby had made his 7th lap of qualifying near sundown
at 114.709 mph. He was going into his 8th lap when he
lunged over the wall coming out of the southwest turn,
fatally injuring himself and his mechanic, Leo Whitaker,
of South Gate, California.
Something apparently was wrong with his steering. He
went over the outside wall, ripping away several rods of
the wire fence on top of the wall, and then pitched down
the other side to land 200 fee from the track.
There were no skid marks on the track to help explain
what happened. Both Stubblefield and Whitaker died of
skull fractures before they reached the City Hospital.
The accident had occurred at almost exactly the same
spot as Preis's.
Stubblefield and Leo Whitaker were both buried at Angelus
Abbey in Los Angeles, side by side.
Stubby was married and lived in L.A. He was likable and
determined, "a dashing young driver of the Frank Lockhart
Leo Whitaker, who had been racing for 12 years on the
West Coast, was making his first ride at Indy.
Both men were prominent in Califonria racing circles,
though Stubblefield had driven only a few years on the
Johnny Hannon had extreme daring. Formerly a and had
been racing on dirt tracks for 10 years. In 1933 he was
runner-up for Eastern auto racing champion. He won the title
in 1934. For Johnny, there was only one way to go
- hard and fast, a technique that worked well for him on the
dirt tracks in the East.
When he arrived in Indianappolis, Leon Duray and Tony
Gulotta, both veterans, took him on practice runs and tried
to explain the tremendous difference between dirt and
brick, especially in the turns.Reminding Hannon that back
wheels could not dig into the brick as they did into dirt,
they advised him to be cautious on the turns until he had
the "feel" of the bricks.
On May 21st, about 11 a.m., Hannon headed out to the
track to drive for the first time. He took out one of the
Leon Duray Bowes Seal Fast Specials to do some
practice laps. He got Oscar "Shorty" Reeves to ride
along as the mechanic. Gulotta had just driven the car a
couple of laps, getting the car up to 117 mph.
On their first lap, the car zigzagged on the back straight,
then spun and hit the northeast upper retaining wall,
tearing away a yard of concrete as it went over.
Hannon landed 50 feet away from the car. He died a few
minutes later, his chest and head crushed. Reeves was
hospitalized for spinal injuries and lacerations.
No mechancial problems were found with the car and it is
assumed that Hannon just lost control.
Reeves said "I hardly knew Johnny, but I knew he was an
excellent driver and I wasn't afraid when he asked me if
I'd like to make a practice spin with him. Frankly, I don't
think he knew how fast we were going. I believe we were
making at least 120 mph."
Hannon had been crowned the Eastern Dirt Track
Champion just 5 months prior. On May 19th, just a few
days before his crash, Hannon had set a record at a
Milwaukee dirt track, going over 120 mph. However, the
first time any driver tries the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,
he is a rookie. Johnny Hannon was perhaps the most
famous rookie to date.
His fatal accident caused the AAA to devise the Rookie
Tests that have been used ever since. (Henry Banks was
the first to pass the official test in 1936. All drivers, no
matter how experienced, must pass the test to be
allowed to participate in the Indianapolis 500.)
Hannon was 25-years-old, married and had two children.
As soon as he was able, Reeves continued to ride and
drive whenever he had the opportunity.
|Stubblefield's Indy Record
Year Car No. Car Laps Completed
1935 45 Bowes Seal Fast Wrecked in practice NW, died
The car in which Clay Weatherly was killed was the same
car that Johnny Hannon wrecked on May 21st.
Weatherly was desperate to find a ride so he could
compete in his first Indy 500. He managed to talk Leon
Duray into letting him use the rebuilt Hannon car.
When Weatherly qualified the car, the team signalled "Love
and Kisses" on the black chalk board.
They used that same board during the race to signal
Weatherly to slow down on the wet track. As Weatherly
went into the 10th lap, he lost control at 100 mph and
crashed through the outside wooden wall on the 4th turn
leading into the front stretch, bumped the outside concrete
wall in front of Grandstands G-H, rolled down outside the
embankment, and stopped on the grass in
front of a crowd of spectators in Grandstand H.
Both driver and mechanic were thrown clear. Weatherly
died of a fractured skull and crushed chest before they
reached the speedway hospital; and his mechanic,
Francis Bradburn, had a broken back. Bradburn's
chances for recovery were extremely slim, but he made it.
Weatherly had been a dirt track driver for about three years
in the Midwest and had a reputation as a brilliant driver.
He had lived in Janesville, WI, and in Chicago; but he
was currently living with his mother in Harmon IL.
Francis Edwin Bradburn worked in Leon Duray's
garage in Indy. He had been assigned to ride with Johnny
Hannon and was disappointed when Oscar Reeves
actually received the coveted honor He felt lucky when he
ended up being in the race after all, but then ironically it
appears he would have ended up wtih a broken back
regardless of which car he was in.
Year Car No. Car Laps Completed Start Finish
1935 56 Cresco Did not qualify
45 Bowes Seal Fast 9 - wrecked NW, died 25 32
|Palmyra Cemetery Illiinois
Hole in the wall that Hannon's car punched out