#68 1958 Indy 500

2021-04-20 01:00

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#1958, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Simone Pietro Zazza,

#68 1958 Indy 500

On the difficult, insidious Nurburgring circuit, traced by a capricious hand through the wooded hills of the Eifel, the 1958 1000 Kilometre race for c


While the Nürburgring 1000-kilometre race is being held in Germany, the Indianapolis 500, the fourth race of the 1958 Formula One World Championship season, is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the United States on 30 May 1958. For the second year in a row, the starting grid was assembled single-file in the pit lane. The cars were instructed to pull away and assemble into the official eleven rows of three after they entered the racing surface. Confusion occurred on the pace lap, however, as the three drivers of the front row (Dick Rathmann, Ed Elisian, and Jimmy Reece) pulled away, and inadvertently escaped the pace car. The three cars were alone, and rather than wait for the grid to catch up, they rushed around to catch up to the back of the field. Sam Hanks pulled the pace car off the track and into the pits, but chief starter Bill Vanderwater displayed the yellow flag to wave off the start. An extra pace lap was allowed, and the front row re-took their position at the front of the pack. By the time Hanks was ready to pull the pace car back out on the track, the field had re-formed, and Vanderwater gave them the green flag. At the start, Dick Rathmann took the lead in turn 1, Ed Elisian was second, and Jimmy Reece third. As the cars went down the backstretch, they battled into turn three. Elisian spun and took Rathmann to the outside wall, triggering a huge 15-car pileup. Reece braked and was hit from behind by Pat O'Connor. O'Connor's car sailed fifty feet in the air, landed upside down and burst into flames. Several other cars spun to the wall and into the infield. Jerry Unser touched wheels with Paul Goldsmith, and flipped over the outside wall. Unser suffered a dislocated shoulder. Although O'Connor was incinerated in the accident, medical officials said that he was probably killed instantly from a fractured skull. Widely blamed for the accident, Elisian was suspended by USAC for the accident (reinstated a few days later), and was shunned by many in the racing community. Following the accident, race officials announced that they would change the starting procedure, abandoning the single-file trip down pit lane that was used in 1957 and 1958. 


Also, for the 1959 Indy 500, metal roll bars welded to the frame behind the driver's head were mandated, and helmets were required to pass safety certification by Speedway medical officials. Jimmy Bryan escaped the opening lap crash, and came around to lead the first lap. Eddie Sachs and Tony Bettenhausen also got by unscathed, to run second and third. Due to the crash, the yellow light stayed on for the first 25 minutes (18 laps). Four of the top five starting positions were out of the race from the crash, including polesitter Dick Rathmann, who placed 27th. When the green flag conditions came out, Bryan, Sachs, Bettenhausen, and rookie George Amick all traded time in the lead. There were 14 lead changes in the first half. The second yellow came out on lap 38 when Chuck Weyant crashed in turn 4. Eddie Sachs, a contender in the first quarter of the race, dropped out on lap 68 with transmission trouble. The second half of the race settled down to a battle between Jimmy Bryan and Johnny Boyd, with George Amick also in contention. However, Boyd lost the lead during a pit stop on lap 126. Bryan's team had fast pit stops (three stops for 1 minute and 31 seconds), which allowed him to hold the lead. Rookie A. J. Foyt spun out on lap 149. Bryan led the final 75 laps (139 total) en route to victory. Bryan was victorious in the same car in which Sam Hanks won the 500 a year earlier. Amick, a rookie, stayed within striking distance of Bryan for the last part of the race, but Amick's crew chief decided to accept a safe second-place rather than risk pushing his rookie driver into a mistake.  During the race, as the news of Pat O'Connor's death spread around the track, the mood among the spectators became sombre and gloomy. Reportedly, some in attendance left the grounds upon hearing the news of the fatality, some never to return. As was the case in previous editions, no European teams came to the United States to attend the Indianapolis 500, so the Formula One World Championship will continue on 15 June 1958, on which occasion the European Grand Prix will be held in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.


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