By the time Memorial Day 1946 came around, I suspect most of the country was ready for things to get back to normal after the end of the war nine months earlier. According to one news reel from the time, 175,00 people returned to the new renovated race track for the first Indy 500 since 1941. World War Two brought with it shortages in some of the necessities of modern life, like fuel. So racing at the Brickyard halted for a few years, while the Allies opened up a can of Whoop Axis in Europe and in the Pacific.
33 drivers took their positions at the starting line of the 2.5 mile track and were waved into action by the green flag, but only 7 drivers survived (figuratively) for the checkered flag over 4 hours later.
British born George Robson in car number 16 won the race by 44 seconds over Jimmy Jackson in car 61. Robson would never win at Indy again, he died 4 months later at another holiday race. On Labor Day racing in the Lakewood 100 in Atlanta, Robson was in an awful wreck durning the next to last lap of the race. In a cloud of dirt from the track, Robson’s car struck a stalled car and he was thrown from his racer. Two other drivers unable to avoid him, ran over Robson and he died on the track.
Most of this film is shot from the infield, but there are a few feet of footage coming into one of the turns. And there’s some good footage at the head of a parade of cars from automotive history.
Here are a few more facts that I learned while looking up info on this race:
The race was held on a Thursday. Memorial Day used to be on the 30th of May, but some time in the late sixties/early 70s congress changed all of that and blessed us with a 3 day weekend.
This was the first Indy race that drivers used a radio transmit ion communication device to talk to their pit crews. Two drivers — Louis Tomei and Emil Andres — were able to communicate with their pit crews with a mobile radio telephone system. Raytheon came out to the track with what was basically a radio station in a box truck. A little more info can be found here with a a picture of the drivers and the Raytheon “laboratory”. http://theoldmotor.com/?p=27576 The radio communication didn’t help either driver win, but one did come in 4th and the other in 26th.
Rudolf Caracciola failed to qualify after he blacked out and wrecked during his trial. Most of the press said he had been hit by a bird in the temple. But another rumor out there is that he was shot. Rudolf was not only German, but also a member of the National Socialist Motor Corps during the war, and although he never joined the Nazi party it was close enough for a lot of Americans at the time. So did a want to be “nazi hunter” take a shot at him? There’s no proof that either a bird or a bullet hit him, he only felt a pain in the temple before he lost consciousness. but the gun theory is fascinating. (http://www.crapwagon.com/forums/showthread.php?20987-Historic-question-Famous-driver-shot-while-competing-in-1946-Indy-500)
The pacemaker for this race was Henry Ford, II driving/riding in a Lincoln Continental V-12.
News Reels: 1946 Indy 500
News Reel: 1946 Lakewood 100