Indianapolis Memories: DePalma in 1912
Topics: Indianapolis 500
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The 2006 Indianapolis 500 isn't the only time a spectacular near-win has made racing history.
Indianapolis is famous for its checkered-flag drama, which goes all the way back to the second Indy 500 ever held, in 1912.
Ralph DePalma in 1912
Ralph DePalma and riding mechanic Rupert Jeffkins built a five lap lead in the race with only 50 miles to go.
Jeffkins even shouted over the engine noise, "We have won! Fifty miles to go and five laps in front of Dawson. We cannot lose!"
Fans were leaving the track while the all-but-decided race continued. However, the engine in DePalma's Mercedes started trailing white smoke from the exhaust. DePalma tried the accelerator, and the engine sputtered.
DePalma held back, trying to ease the car through the remainder of the race. Seeing DePalma in trouble, Joe Dawson pushed his car to catch up.
DePalma's engine quit on lap 198, stopping on the backstretch. Joe Dawson's National drove by, still 12 miles behind but now closing on the stopped Mercedes.
While the car's engine had quit, Ralph DePalma would not. He got out and began pushing the car with Rupert Jeffkins.
DePalma's Mercedes inched along while Dawson passed the powerless car again and again. DePalma and Jeffkins were on the front stretch between turn 4 and the pits, still on lap 198, when Joe Dawson won the 1912 Indianapolis 500.
But the race was not over yet. While Dawson was enjoying the finish-line ceremonies, Ralph DePalma and Rupert Jeffkins kept pushing. As they neared the finish line, the remaining fans began cheering, building to a tremendous ovation when the Mercedes finally crossed the finish line.
Ralph DePalma officially finished eleventh.
©2006 Bill Crittenden
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