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Wilbur Shaw Dies In Plane Crash

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Wilbur Shaw

Wilbur Shaw Dies In Plane Crash

The Milwaukee Sentinel
31 October 1954

2 Friends of Race Driver Also Killed

DECATUR, Ind., Oct. 30—(AP)—Wilbur Shaw, 52, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as three-time winner of the 500-mile race, and two companions were killed in a plane crash near here late Saturday.

The light plane exploded and crashed in a field as a farmer watched nearby. State police and Sheriff Robert W. Shraluka said the bodies were ground to bits in the wreckage.

Shaw was identified by a credit card and a private pilot's license. The pilot of the plane was identified as Ray Grimes, 40, Greenfield, Ind.


At Detroit, where the men had gone to take part in a car test, the third man on the plane was identified as Ernest Roose, Indianapolis businessman and artist.

Shaw flew the plane to Detroit and Roose was to have flown it back, the advertising man said.

Roose, 41, was the artist who painted the portrait of the 500-mile race winner each year.

State police said the plane crashed on a farm near Peterson, five miles southwest of Decatur.


Homer Ginter, owner of the farm, said he heard a roar, looked up and saw the plane in pieces, 20 to 30 feet from the ground.

The plane was owned by the Muncie Aviation Corp. Gordon Lackey, manager of Sky Harbor Airport at Indianapolis, said the plane with three men left Indianapolis at 9:05 a. m. for Detroit. It presumably was returning to Indianapolis at the time of the crash.

Peterson is 20 miles south of Fort Wayne.

Shaw won the big race at Indianapolis in 1937, 1939 and 1940. World War II ended his career as a driver, but when Anton Hulman Jr of Terre Haute, Ind., bought the big two and one-half mile track in 1945 he have Shaw the job of running it.

The track was full of holes and the grandstand was going to pieces. Cynics said auto racing was an anachronism in a day of supersonic air speeds. But under Shaw's direction the Memorial Day event boomed again, drawing crowds estimated at more than 150,000.

Besides his three victories, Shaw finished second in the "500" in 1933, 1935 and 1938, fourth in 1927 and seventh in 1936. He was the leading money winner at the track, with a total of $91,300 in winnings, until Bill Vukovich won his second straight victory last May 31.

Shaw survived sveral racing accidents and a severe heart attack. In 1941, in his last Memorial Day race, he hit the wall and spent the summer in a vast with three smashed vertebrae. In 1923 he suffered a skull fracture at Paris, Ill., and he broke some ribs in two crack-ups at Ascot, Calif.

A heart attack felled him in 1951 as he ran up a hill at the Soap Box Derby in Akron, O. He was in critical condition for several days but made it back to his office before the 1952 race.

He was married and had one son, Warren Wilbur Jr.

(Shaw drove in early Milwaukee auto races, See Page 9.)

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