Morning Qualifying – A Mad Russian in the Noonday Sun edition

The Mad Russian, Bill Vukovich in the winner's circle after the 1953 Indianapolis 500

Bill Vukovich broke into auto racing driving midgets for Vic Edelbrock’s dirt track team; Right our of the box, “Vuky” was fast….very fast.  Fast enough to win the west coast midget titles in each of his first two professional seasons, 1945 and 1946, and the national midget crown by 1950.  In his second Indy 500, in 1952, Vukovich led 150 of the 200 laps before his steering failed only laps from victory.  Entering the 1953 AAA racing season, it was clear that Bill Vukovich was on his way to being the best driver in the US.

Bill Vukovich in his Offenhauser powered, Kurtis Kraft Fuel Injection Special.

In qualifying, Vukovich easily won the pole position with an average lap time of 65.4 seconds.  As race day approached, a high pressure system rose north from Texas driving temperatures into the low 90’s.  As the band played “Back Home Again in Indiana”, the air temperature hovered at 93 degrees, with the track temperature exceeding 130.
Vukovich leads the pack at the start of the 1953 Indianapolis 500

The sweltering heat took its toll on drivers; more than a half of the 33 drivers that started the race used back-up drivers.  One driver, Carl Scarborough, died from heat stroke related complications at the infield hospital.  Bill Vukovich cruised through the heat dazed field, leading 195 of the 200 laps, setting a lap record of 65.25 seconds in the process.  The Mad Russian would repeat the feat, in less sweltering conditions, in 1954, and was well on his way to a third consecutive victory when he was killed at the 1955 Indy 500.
Here’s a color highlight clip from the 1953 Indianapols 500, showing Vukovich claiming his first Indianapolis 500 victory.



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  1. topdeadcentre Avatar

    Note the pith helmets in the pictures! Does anyone wear anything except freebie (or sponsor) baseball caps at races anymore?
    (LeMons type events excluded, of course…)

    1. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
      Joe Btfsplk

      Jack Roush comes to mind with his fedoras and classy straws. I've never seen Jack in a baseball cap.

  2. dmilligan Avatar

    Bah! All Russians are mad as spoons.