AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-9) Among the actual competitors, 21 cars were using the familar four cylinder Offenhauser engine. The other dozen powerplants in use were divided among 3 Maseratis, 2 Sparks, and one each of Alfa Romeo, Bowes straight 8, Duray, Fageol, Mercedes-Benz, Miller, and the Novi (Winfield V8). It was expected that Floyd Roberts' (1904-1939) race record of 117.200 mph, set in 1938, would now be bettered.
Rex Mays, who had been in ten previous "500"'s, viewed his 1948 prospects much more cautiously than Duke Nalon. Mays said on May 29 (quote), "I know a lot of people say I drive too hard, ruin my car and throw away my chances to win. With such thought I can't agree. I've started in the last row, in the middle and in the front row. I've paced my car, trying to save it for the last 100 miles, and I've stepped on it from the start. It hasn't made any difference. Something always has occurred to keep me from winning."
"Long ago I came to the conclusion the whole race is a gamble, from start to the finish. That is why I have always tried to win the pole. That is why I have gone after the lap money. I believe in taking it when you can get it. There's no use nursing your car. If it is going to stand up for the full 500 miles it will. If it isn't, it just won't. I'm going after the lap money Monday and after I have won all the 100 dollar bills that I can I expect to win the race, if my car stands up."
Holland, Rose, and Nalon were all using a one stop race day strategy. Nalon's Novi could hold 112 gallons of fuel (700 pounds of fuel!). Apparently Nalon was going to take things a bit easy until his first and only stop at about 300 miles, and then "pore on the coal" for the last 200 miles of the race.
Rex Mays, from the pole position, started collecting all the $100 dollar bills and led the first 17 laps. Ted Horn, in the ten year old Maserati 8CTF, passed Mays on circuit 18 and Ted then led rounds 18 to 72 before he himself came in on lap 73. Holland came in on lap 75 and Bill was in for one minute and fifty seconds. Rose thereby passed Holland and remained in front of Holland for the rest of the day. At 20 laps (50 miles) the running order was Horn, Mays, Holland, Rose, Nalon, and Jackson. Nalon had moved up from his 11th starting position. At 50 laps (125 miles) it was Horn, Mays, Holland, Rose, Nalon, and Jackson. After Horn pitted on lap 73 Mays regained the lead and held it for circuits 73 to 91. Mays made his first stop on circuit 92.
When Mays pitted, Nalon moved into the front position for laps 92-100. Nalon stopped for fuel and tires on his lap 101 and was in for one minute and fifty seconds. It was supposed to be Nalon's only scheduled stop, as he taking on enough fuel for the remaining 250 miles. Rose didn't pit until lap 124, getting fuel and new tires. Mauri was in for one minute and nineteen seconds. Rose's stop gave the front position back to Ted Horn again, who then led circuits 124-142.
In a Speedway scoring mixup, beginning about lap 140, one of Rose's laps was incorrectly given to Bill Holland. So from about lap 140 to lap 185, the Speedway's Public Address system blared out that Nalon and the No. 54 Novi was the race leader. At first Lou Moore was not very seriously disturbed as his crew scored Rose in first place. But after continued PA reports that Nalon had the lead, Moore got more concerned. Meanwhile Nalon himself and Lew Welch thought Nalon was in the lead and out in front.
Rex Mays retired on lap 130 with a leaking fuel tank. When Horn stopped for a 2nd time (lap 143), his motor's oil pressure was very low and he had now to back off for the remaining portion of the race to save the engine. Apparently not all of the abrasive grit had gotten removed, and some of it had worked itself loose, causing damage to the connecting rod bearings. Ted returned to the track in 4th position which is where he remained. The actual running order at 400 miles (160 laps) was Rose, Nalon, Holland, Horn, and Bettenhausen. Rose had led laps 101-123 and then 143-200. Nalon, while in 2nd place, surprizingly had to pit for fuel on lap 185. A mistake on Nalon's first stop (lap 101) by a pitman, had resulted in a short supply of petrol for the remaining 250 miles of the contest. Nalon was in for two minutes and thirty seconds because the motor stalled and was hard to restart. Meanwhile Holland sped by and moved into the 2nd position, where Bill stayed. At the end Horn and Nalon made two stops to Rose's and Holland's one.
The top five positions at the finish were:
1, Rose, Mauri, Offenhauser/Deidt FD (1947), 4:10:23.33, 119.814 mph NTR
2. Holland, Bill, Offenhauser/Deidt FD (1947), 4:11:47.40, 119.147 mph
3. Nalon, Duke, Winfield/Kurtis FD s/c (1947), 4:14:09.78, 118.034 mph
4. Horn, Ted, Maserati s/c (1939), 4:14:30.47, 117.844 mph
5. Hellings, Mack, Offenhauser/Kurtis (1948), 4:24:38.52, 113.361 mph
The same exact four cars that had filled the top four positions in 1947, had now in 1948 placed one-two-three-four again, although the 1947 Novi had moved up a notch to 3rd, while the 1939 Maserati had lost a position, dropping to 4th. For the first time ever the first three finishing positions were all front drive machines. In 1947 the first two places had been front drives. Front drive cars before 1947, had wins here only in 1930, 1932, and 1934. Rose's 1948 victory put him among the small select group of three time winners, which then included only Louis Meyer (1928, 1933, & 1936) and Wilbur Shaw (1937, 1939, & 1940), besides the 135 pound, 42 year old, Rose (1941, 1947, & 1948) himself. Although Bill Holland placed 2nd overall, he did not lead any laps in 1948. The attendance was estimated at about 175,000 and Rose's win was worth $42,300.
Floyd Roberts' (1904-1939) old 1938 record winning race average of 117.20 mph was now set aside as Rose's 1948 winning speed was 119.814 mph. In fact the first four finishers in 1948 broke Roberts' former speed. There were no serious accidents in 1948. Duane Carter lost a left wheel in turn 2 but was not hurt, while Jimmy Jackson spun on lap 194 when a left spindle let go. Jackson had run with the leaders in the early going but gradually fell back. On lap 60 Jackson had lost 12 minutes and 55 seconds on a pit stop, to have a new magneto installed. In the final listings Jackson was placed 10th. Bettenhausen, after a good drive, was out after 167 laps with a broken clutch shaft in the Belanger No. 6. Bill Holland, near the end of the race, had transmission problems when inexplicably the car car would jump out of gear.
Tommy Hinnershitz in the factory Kurtis "works" car, had started 22nd, and had worked himself up to 8th position by 225 miles. But later he had to replace a magneto, which took all of twenty minutes. Tommy had already made a three minute stop for fuel and a new right rear tire on lap 85. Even so, Hinnershitz placed 9th in the final standings, being flagged off after 198 circuits completed. Lee Wallard, in the Iddings Special No. 91, moved up from 28th at the start to 7th position at the end, and completed all 200 laps. But Wallard was more than 24 minutes behind the winner Rose at the finish. Billy DeVore, in the six wheeled "Clancy Special", ran all day but made no impact. The combination of DeVore plus six wheels finished 12th overall, with 190 laos to its credit.
The front wheel drive V8 Novi design, which everyone in 1946-1948 regarded, without question, as the fastest Speedway mechanisms ever constructed, had fared rather poorly, in the actual races themselves. The design led only laps 12-55 (Hepburn) in 1946, laps 1-23 (Bergere) in 1947, and circuits 92-100 (Nalon) in 1948! It was not just not bad luck. The Novis were overweight, hard to drive, over complicated mechanically, and consummed fuel at an alarming rate. By contrast, Lou Moore's two front drive "Blue Crowns" were simpler, more reliable, and very fuel efficient. Moore's two cars led rounds 24-200 in 1947 and laps 101-123 and 143-200 in 1948. With just two cars total, in both the 1947 and 1948 500's, Lou Moore's vehicles had finished one-two both years, an incredible feat.
Edited by john glenn printz, 23 March 2010 - 12:40.