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Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Gaston Chevrolet


The New York Times
26 November 1920

Mechanician Dead, Eddie O'Donnell at Death's Door, After Los Angeles Collision.


Dead Driver Is Found to Be Winner of 1920 Auto Speed Championship.

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 25. - Gaston Chevrolet, famous automobile racing driver, and Lyall Jolls, mechanician for Eddie O'Donnell, were killed today when Chevrolet's and O'Donnell's machines crashed together on the Los Angeles Speedway at the east end of the grand stand near the close of the 250-mile race for the 1920 championship with its title of "Speed King of the Year."  O'Donnell was so seriously injured that it was at first reported that he was killed.  His skull was fractured and both arms were broken and little hope was held that he could recover.  John Bresnahan, Chevrolet's mechanician, was seriously injured.

Chevrolet, it developed, had won the national championship for 1920 on a point basis, Roscoe Sarles, winner of the race today, being far behind.

The accident occurred while Chevrolet, O'Donnell and Joe Thomas were fighting to make up the half dozen laps they were behind the leaders at the 150 lap point.  The three cars were bunched on the east turn.

According to persons grouped about this turn, Chevrolet turned to pass Thomas, who was on the inside of the bowl, and his car struck that of O'Donnell, who was on the outside.  O'Donnell's car turned and plunged down the incline and Chevrolet's, apparently out of control, shot to the top of the track, tore out 20 feet of fence and then rolled down the incline, falling on top of the wreckage beneath which O'Donnell and Jolls were pinned.

Sarles led every lap but one, rolling over the 200 laps on the mile and a quarter track without a stop in 2 hours 20 minutes and 20 seconds, an average speed of 103.2 miles an hour.  Eddie Miller finished second in 2:26:14 and Eddie Hearne third in 2:27:27.  Sarles, in addition to winning the first prize of $10,000, took the same amount in lap prizes.  Miller and Hearne won $6,000 and $3,000, respectively.  Jimmy Murphy finished fourth, taking $2,000 in prizes, and Joe Thomas was fifth.  Jim Crosby finished sixth.  Al Melcher, Tommy Milton and John Thiele were forced out by engine trouble.

Chevrolet's point total for the season in the championship competition was 1030, acquired previous to today's race.  Milton, who did not finish today, had 930, with other competitors as follows:  Murphy, 885; Ralph De Palma, 605; Sarles, 540; Thomas, 351; Mulford, 350; Hearne, 345; Ira Vail, 140; O'Donnell, 110.  Mulford and Vail were not entered in the race today.  De Palma was entered but did not start.

The following drivers and cars were entered in the race:

Eddie O'Donnell, Duesenberg; Roscoe Sarles, Duesenberg; Eddie Miller, Duesenberg; Jimmy Murphy, Duesneberg; Tommy Milton, Chevrolet; Eddie Hearne, Revere; Gaston Chevrolet, Frontenac; Joe Thomas, Frontenac; J. A. Thiele, Thiele; Waldo Stein, Miller; Al Melcher, Melcher; Jim Crosby, Patterson.

Chevrolet, who was 28 years old, was the youngest of three racing brothers, the others being Louis and Arthur, who survive him.  He was a mechanic for two years before he demonstrated at the 500-mile Memorial Day race at Cincinnati in 1917, where he finished third, that he was a driver of merit.

On May 31 last he won the 500-mile Indianapolis Speedway race in the second best time in the history of that annual event.  He averaged a speed of 88.16 miles an hour.

Chevrolet was born in Deaunt, France, Oct. 26, 1892, and came to this country in 1901.  He was not connected with the Chevrolet Motor Company, but was associated with an automobile company in Detroit at the outbreak of the war, and after being conscripted was assigned to duty there, where he served continuously until discharged from the army.

He married Miss Marguerite Bueron of Brooklyn on Oct. 27, 1916.

Eddie O'Donnell began his racing career as a mechanician in 1912.  In 1914 he drove his first race at Kalamazoo, Mich., winning second place in the 100-mile contest.  In 1915 he started in ten races and finished nine of them, each time in the money.

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