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Thursday Trivia

Robert Emslie May 11, 2017 Thursday Trivia 5 Comments

Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! 

This week’s question: what was the first car to run the Indianapolis 500 nonstop?

If you think you know the answer, make the jump (or scroll your mobile) and see if you’re right.

Races aren’t always won on the track. A lot of work also goes into pitting strategy—when to do so, rehearsing the effort needed to get car back out onto the track in as little time as possible—making the Pit Crew as indispensable a part of the team as the driver. What if you could somehow eliminate the need to enter the pits entirely, how would that then change the dynamic?

When it comes to a race like the Indianapolis 500, named for the five hundred miles the 200 laps of the 2.5-mile circuit the race covers, that’s simply impossible within the scope of the demands of fuel tank capacity. Tires too are today designed to last only part-way through the length of the race making their replacement mid-race a forgone conclusion. That wasn’t always the case however. At one point in Indy’s history, a car allowed to run outside the requirements of the official rules completed the 500 mile race without making even a single stop.

From Cummins Engines:

1931 – 500 Miles on $1.40 worth of “furnace oil.” The Great Depression was hitting hard during the race’s 20th year. Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Eddie Rickenbacker was having a tough time finding cars to fill out the field, but letting a diesel-powered car into the race was unheard of. There were not any rules governing diesels, and the AAA’s contest board had to allow the diesel car to race as a special engineering entry because the car was too heavy and the engine displacement too large to qualify under existing rules.

Cummins didn’t expect to win, but he and his crew had a different achievement in mind – he just wanted a chance to show the world the fuel efficiency and durability of the diesel engine. The #8 Cummins Special qualified with an average speed of 97 mph.  Two days later, with Dave Evans behind the wheel, it became the first entry ever to run the entire race nonstop, finishing 13th on just $1.40 worth of “furnace oil.”

Today, $1.40 won’t even buy you one gallon of diesel fuel, nor are diesels presently looked upon in a good light. Cummins however remains one of the fuel’s biggest supporters, and as we saw in last week’s Craigslist Crapshoot, the company’s products show up in some of the most unexpected of places. Sadly I think, none of those are Indy cars anymore.

Image: CarandDriver

  • Papa Van Twee

    How much fuel is $1.40 in 1931?

  • outback_ute

    Not that I know that much about Indy 500 history, but I feel I should have thought of this!

    • Rob Emslie

      I think it’s noteworthy that this 1931 achievement was realized by a company that’s still in business today.

      • outback_ute

        True. Thinking about it from the reverse point of view I’d guess that most current automotive companies of that size or larger were around in 1931!





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