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Pete DePaolo

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing

Pete DePaolo
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Wikipedia: Pete DePaolo

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Born: 6 April 1898
Died: 26 November 1980

Former race car driver, winner of the 1925 Indianapolis 500, and nephew of Ralph DePalma.

Biography

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Pete DePaolo page on 7 May 2019, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

He was born on April 6, 1898 in Roseland, New Jersey. Pete saw his first race in 1919, where he watched his uncle Ralph DePalma win as his riding mechanic.[1] He drove in the 1922 Indianapolis 500 finishing 4th. DePaolo had his worst career injury at the Kansas City board track; his car rolled four times.[1] He ended up spending three weeks in the hospital after losing two teeth and his face was severely cut up.[1] His riding mechanic Cotton Henning spent several months in the hospital with broken ribs and one ankle.[1]

He pulled out to a huge lead in the 1925 Indianapolis 500. DePaolo's strategy in the race was to run the left side tires in the oil slick on the middle the track for two laps then runs his right side tires in the oil slick for two laps.[1] His fingers became badly blistered around the midpoint of the race, and car owner Fred Duesenberg pulled DePaolo out of the car in favor of Norm Batten.[1] DePaolo had his hands repaired in the infield care center, and returned in the car after missing 21 laps.[1] He had dropped to fifth. He raced his way to the win on his way to the series drivers championship. The race was the first Indianapolis 500 to average over 100 miles per hour (101.270 mph). Pete did not consider this to be his greatest win (since he was replaced for 21 laps). Pete becomes the first driver to average more than 100 mph at the Indianapolis 500, recording 101.13 in his Duesenberg, 1925.

He began his only team in 1927. He finished second in the 1927 Indianapolis 500, and added two wins on his way to the series drivers championship.

In 1934, DePaolo drove the Harry Miller four wheel drive race car in races throughout Europe and Africa. At the Avus course, near Berlin, while leading the race in a down pour, his engine threw 2 connecting rods which narrowly missed hitting Adolph Hitler in his track side box seat.

He decided to retire after he was in a coma for 11 days after crashing in Spain in 1934. He sang Back Home Again In Indiana in 1971. As of 2018, he was the only driver to sing the song prior to the Indianapolis 500.

He died on November 26, 1980 at age 82.


Images

Ralph DePalma and Pete DePaolo at Tacoma Speedway, 1920 Subject:  Ralph DePalma (left) & Pete DePaolo (right)
Source:  Marvin D. Boland Collection
Event:  Tacoma Speedway, 1920
Caption:  Ralph DePalma (front) squinted as he smiled into the camera, his goggles pushed up on his forehead, in July of 1920. Behind him is his nephew, Peter DePaolo, future winner of 1925 Indianapolis 500. Ralph DePalma was one of the crowds' favorites entered in the July 5th, 1920 Tacoma Classic auto race at the Tacoma Speedway. He was also one of the favorites of the other drivers due to his unerring good sportsmanship both on and off the track. In his career, which spanned over 25 years beginning early in the century, DePalma won over 2000 races on every surface imaginable. He took every major prize including the Vanderbilt Cup, Savannah Grand Prize, Elgin National Trophy and the Indianapolis 500. He is probably best remembered, however, for a race he lost. In the 1912 Indy 500, after leading for 196 of 200 laps, DePalma's Mercedes cracked a piston, putting him out of the race. He and his mechanic proceeded to push the car the remaining mile and over the finish line, an image that came to represent the race, and overshadowed the winner that year. (TDL 7/5/1920, pg. 3; www.motorsportshalloffame; hickoksports.com; wikipedia) Speedway 116
View photo of Ralph DePalma and Pete DePaolo at Tacoma Speedway, 1920 - 287KB
Pete DePaolo and Giulio Ramponi at 1925 Italian Grand Prix Subject:  Pete DePaolo (left) & Giulio Ramponi (right)
Event:  1925 Italian Grand Prix
Caption:  Entry #10 at GP at Monza on 6 September 1925 was an Alfa P2 driven by Pete DePaolo. Next to the car is the mechanic Giulio Ramponi. They ended in 5th place.
View photo of Pete DePaolo and Giulio Ramponi at 1925 Italian Grand Prix, 1920 - 287KB
Pete DePaolo in 1925 Subject:  Pete DePaolo
Date:  1925
View photo of Pete DePaolo in 1925 - 133KB
Pete DePaolo in 1925 Subject:  Pete DePaolo
Source:  National Photo Company
Date:  10 July 1925
View photo of Pete DePaolo in 1925 - 3.5MB
Pete DePaolo in 1926 Subject:  Pete DePaolo
Source:  Le Miroir des sports
Date:  17 July 1926
View photo of Pete DePaolo in 1926 - 157KB
Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 2 Subject:  Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 2
Source:  Hot Rods and Racing Cars #2, January 1952
Location/Event:  1925 Indianapolis 500
View Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 2 - 775KB
Hot Rod and Speedway Comics: Issue 1 Subject:  It's All in the Records
Source:  Hot Rod and Speedway Comics: #1, February 1952
View Hot Rod and Speedway Comics: Issue 1 - 988KB
Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 3 Subject:  It's All in the Records
Source:  Hot Rod and Speedway Comics: #1, February 1952
View Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 3 - 945KB
Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 3 Subject:  It's All in the Records
Source:  Hot Rod and Speedway Comics: #1, February 1952
View Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 3 - 998KB
Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 3 Subject:  It's All in the Records
Source:  Hot Rod and Speedway Comics: #1, February 1952
View Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 3 - 1.0MB


Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
30 November 1925DE POLO IS CHAMPION 1925 AUTOMOBILE RACERThe Ludington Daily News


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