Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Friday, May 22, 2009

1950 Indinapolis 500 Starting Bomb

This postcard shows the starting field of the 1950 Indianapolis Motor Speedway race, 69 years ago. It was photographed in Kodachrome and Ansco color by Robert Martin for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. The description on the reverse side is vague but contains one note of specific interest. It records that the 33-car starting field awaits "the starting bomb" -- the speedway's signal for drivers to start their engines. This was the last year before the now traditional "Gentleman, start your engines" command would be uttered.

The winner of this race was Johnnie Parsons. He is in the yellow car, number one, far right, the fifth starting position. The first row is off picture further to the right. The car featured a lightweight aircraft-like tubular space frame, welded with chrome-moly steel. Instead of solid front axles with springs used by most cars, Parson's sported an independent front suspension with torsion bars. The modern suspension gave the car a softer ride, superior handling and faster cornering speeds. A DVD of the race is available here.


  1. I can't believe that the stands were ever positioned that close to the track; hopefully not that many spectators had to die before they figured that out.

  2. It still happens (see here)

    Many local tracks in the US and Europe still let people stand nose to fence to get close to the action. It is tempting the grim reaper but I do not understand why in the US OSHA lets it occur. After all, race tracks are a work place and work sites have strick standards for worker and public safety. I’ve raced cars but when I am a spectator I sit well back from the action.

    Here is a fairly comprehensive list of driver deaths from the past few decades:

    Of course the greatest motorsport tragedy occurred May 12, 1986 at La Mans. Initially 80-plus people were killed but other estimates say over a hundred died later in hospitals.

    Racing has come a long way, at least at the higher levels to ensure public and driver safety. It still has vast room for improvement at local tracks.