The 1913 Indianapolis 500 Was The Craziest Race Ever



Chicagoan. Cubs fan (:-().
Writer of sentence fragments.

The Indy 500 is the most famous car racing event in the United States. We also just discovered that you’re totally allowed to bring your own booze to watch the race, so it’s now our favorite race as well. But it didn’t always have things like “modern cars” and “safety regulations in place.” In fact, it used to be pretty crazy. And no race was crazier than the third running of the Indy 500, when things got weird. How weird do you ask?

The Winner Was French (And Drunk)

Now, just this past weekend, Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500. But who was the first foreign winner of the race? Why that would be Jules Goux, the 1913 winner, who managed to crush the field by thirteen minutes. Oh, and he also was wasted for it. That’s right, each of his pit stops involved him downing a bottle of champagne, which is both the most French thing we’ve ever heard of, and also the first time we’ve thought about a French person and came away with the impression of “man that dude really knows how to party.”

Alcohol was banned by the race the following year, though it’s pretty hilarious to think that no one thought to ban that until a guy up and won a race drunk. But that’s not the only crazy thing that happened.

Most Cars Didn’t Even Come Close To Finishing

Of the 27 cars that ran, only 11 finished. Could you imagine having a race where only 40% of the cars finish? That seems less like an actual car race and more like a pretty decent episode of American Ninja Warrior.

A Driver Flipped His Car On The 51st Lap And Still Finished In 16th Place

So many cars didn’t even make it 51 miles that this guy didn’t even finish in the bottom ten despite breaking his own dang leg. The Indianapolis 500 was pretty ridiculous back then. Though our personal favorite anecdote from this race was…

The Third Place Car Finished (While on Fire)

Marlie Merz was the first American to finish the race, and he came away with a cool $10,000 for getting third place, but he definitely earned his money. As he entered his last lap, the engine of his car caught fire, so his navigator (yes, cars had navigators to race on circular tracks back then) climbed out of his seat and spent the final lap racing at 70 miles an hour beating at the flames with his hands. They managed to finish, but can you imagine that spectacle? On one hand, we shouldn’t root for cars to catch on fire, but on the other hand, if a car were to catch on fire, we should only be so lucky for it to do so in such an impressive fashion.

But man, yeah. The Indy 500 was hardcore back in the day, wasn’t it?