“THE ’55 500”
"THE UNFORGETTABLE 500"
one knew of course, that of the 33 drivers who started the 1955
Indianapolis 500-mile race, 14 would be dead within eight years.
The mid-1950's was indeed a dangerous time to be a race driver.
The '55 500 was an exciting race, featuring a well-deserved
victory by a comparative newcomer to the track, however it will
always be remembered as the tragic end of the Vukovich era.
Bill Vukovich, the "Fresno Flash", almost won three
Indianapolis 500's in a row, and actually came close to four
in a row, except for a broken steering pin in 1952 (while leading)
and his tragic crash in 1955, also while leading. The two years
in between, he won the race (1953 and 1954)! Both original films,
“The ’55 500” and "The Unforgettable
500" have now been digitally restored by Rare Sportsfilms
and are now available for the first time ever on this new 47-minute
Three nice driver interviews begin
the program. First, National Champion Jimmy Bryan talks about
his season in 1954 and last year's 500. Then, soon-to-be-winner
Bob Sweikert is heard talking to his young chief mechanic A.J.
Watson about pit board signals for the upcoming race. In another
garage, Jimmy Davies talks about the engine in his #15 Bardahl
Special. Next, drivers Bill Vukovich, Tony Bettenhausen and
Johnny Boyd are featured with flashbacks of them in previous
Indy 500's. Jack McGrath in his cream-colored Hinkle Special
is shown setting a new track record of 142.580 MPH in qualifying.
Before the race, other drivers are shown in nice color closeups:
McGrath, Pat Flaherty, Jim Rathman, Shorty Templeman, Johnnie
Parsons, Cal Niday, Art Cross, Walt Faulkner, Jimmy Davies and
Al Herman. Pole-sitter Jerry Hoyt, Bettenhausen and McGrath
make up the front row, with Vukovich starting fourth as the
red and white '55 Chevy pace car leads the field for the start.
When the green flag drops, Jack McGrath beats the others into
turn one to take the lead. However, lead-footed Vukovich, who
has already passed Hoyt, takes second away from Bettenhausen
on the second lap, one second back of McGrath! By the end of
lap three, Vukovich has also passed McGrath and is now leading!
However, McGrath re-takes the lead, as the two begin a nip and
tuck battle that thrills the fans for the first 50 miles. Bob
Sweikert, who started 14th, is up to 4th place after 125 miles.
Even though McGrath has been putting up a terrific fight with
Vukovich during the early part of the race, a broken magneto
brings him in after 54 laps, his car smoking badly. While McGrath
is shown working on his car in the pits (Jack is his own mechanic),
Jimmy Bryan takes over second place behind Vukovich, who is
setting new records as he attempts to become the only driver
to win the race three years in a row.
The beginning of the tragic 4-car
wreck on the backstretch is shown by cameras in turn two, which
catch the skid that starts it all. Rodger Ward spins out just
before the bridge. Al Keller, trying to avoid Ward's mishap
by driving to the inside, spins out of control. But instead
of staying to the inside, his car slides back across the track
toward the outside wall. Just behind Keller are Johnny Boyd
and Vukovich, trying to squeeze through on the outside. Keller
slams into Boyd, blocking Vuky's path and propelling his Hopkins
Special up over Boyd's car and out of the speedway! The car
is shown flipping many times outside the retaining wall and
hitting several parked vehicles before it comes to rest upside
down, trapping Vukovich inside. Film from three other sources
shows the accident from different angles inside the track just
opposite the bridge. Keller's car is shown coming to a stop
and Boyd's car lands upside down on the track, trapping Boyd
underneath! Ed Elisian, although not involved in the accident,
is shown dashing across the track to aid Vukovich, as Keller
runs to Boyd's car. With the help of track guards, Keller is
shown helping roll Boyd's car upright!
During this caution, Tony Bettenhausen
is shown pitting. Cal Niday pits. Jimmy Bryan is now the leader
and is shown pitting also. Bob Sweikert is now second. Vukovich
is now long overdue on the main straightaway, and Vuky's crew
is shown straining in vain to see Vukovich coming out of the
After about 25 minutes of cleanup,
the green flag flies again, and after 90 laps, fuel pump failure
brings in Jimmy Bryan for good. Part of Cal Niday's crash in
turn four is shown, and finally Don Freeland in the #12 Bob
Estes Special exits the race with a bad transmission.
Great shots of car owner John
Zink and crew in the pits as the final laps wind down and Bob
Sweikert takes the checkered flag. A happy Sweikert with wife
Dolores and race queen Dinah Shore are shown in Victory Lane,
ending a truly unforgettable 500!
get your own copy of BOTH of these newly restored films, now
available on DVD for the first time ever, send
only $29.95 plus $4.00 for shipping. (Illinois residents must
add $2.00 tax).