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1948: ..........
Part 1: The men, cars and events as they did take place


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Mauri Rose


Deidt-Offenhauser 'Blue Crown Special'


IMS Museum



Blue Crown Special, IMS Museum 2011

To start with, I realize that a lot of the info in this section may be well known to Indy fans. But as 8W also gets visitors and readers with less detailed knowledge on Indy history, I will take the effort to give enough detail in advance before getting to the reasons why this article was written in the first place.

The first of the two drivers involved in this 'could have been a controversy' outcome of the race is eventual winner Mauri Rose, the other is Dennis 'Duke' Nalon, most often referred to and better known as Duke Nalon.

Rose was driving the same car he drove the year before, the Lou Moore-entered Blue Crown Special, a front-wheel-drive Deidt-Offenhauser. Nalon was driving the Novi Grooved Piston Special, a front-driven Kurtis chassis powered by what was officially a Winfield V8. The engine as well as the car were by now better known as the Novi.

Now, having named these two car-and-driver combinations I could easily create two separate articles about them if it comes to giving all the relevant pre-event information. However, compared my usual standards here at 8W, I will leave a number of stones unturned. Nevertheless, you still need a better understanding of the men, the machines and the situation as it evolved in May 1948, before as well as on Race Day. I will break these up into smaller parts, dealing with one subject at the time.

A: The men involved

Mauri Rose is one of Indy's better known and more successful drivers of the recent past. His debut at Indy came in 1933, and he was one of the two co-winners of the last pre-war '500'. During that 1941 race he started in a Lou Moore-entered straight-eight Maserati, a car close to the more familiar car of Wilbur Shaw. The Maserati (the Elgin Piston Ring Special) failed on Rose. Meanwhile, team mate Floyd Davis in another Moore entry, the Noc-Out Hose Clamp Special (the name alone!) wasn't setting the world on fire. Team owner Lou Moore brought that car in and ordered Davis to abandon it and let Rose continue. From lap 72 on and down in 14th place, Rose charged through the field, overtook his other team mate Cliff Bergere to take the lead on lap 162 and was the first to receive the chequered. (Now, remember that overtaking his team mate for the lead!)

For the second and last time two drivers who had shared the winning car were proclaimed the winners. Winning cars driven by more drivers hadn't been unusual, with several drivers getting assistance from relief drivers during a stint in the race. Especially in the 1911-1925 years some unheralded drivers have not been given at least a bit of the credits for having driven relief in what was eventually the winning car.

Rose became the second driver who finished the race in the winning car that had been started by another driver, Joe Boyer who had taken over the team car from L.L. Corum in 1924 having been the other.

Noc-Out Hoseclamp Special, IMS Museum 1988

Definitely not among the more sophisticated Indy winners of all time, let alone its era, seen here in 1988, the second car that won a '500' for entrant Lou Moore, co-driven by Floyd Davis and Mauri Rose. A car suited to dirt track racing most of all, simple, rugged and sturdy, and with the potential to do well in the '500' in case more sophisticated cars retired. Which is exactly what happened in 1941.

Mauri Rose won his second '500' in 1947, this time entirely on his own, at least if it came to driving the winning car. But again this was a win with a story. In the closing stages of the 1947 race, while in second place, Rose disobeyed orders by his team boss (Lou Moore again) to take it easy and bring the car home. Rose, however, still went after the leader, his team mate (rookie) Bill Holland. Holland was also given the order to ease up and he obeyed, assuming he had a lap on Rose. It was only after the finish that he found out this had not been the case at all and that with letting Rose pass he had effectively given away the win. His team owner explained that for good reasons (on which more later on) it didn't matter to him which driver won as long as they finished 1-2. Many years later the story that it didn't matter to Moore proved to be not 100% correct. Nevertheless, right after the 1947 race Moore made it clear to Holland and everyone else that he simply had not wanted a duel between his drivers that might have caused one or maybe both men retiring. Anyway, Mauri Rose had won and your opinion about Rose depends on how you think about being a team player and obeying team orders and/or never giving up and always going for the maximum result. And because of the way it happened, Rose's victory became one of the less popular victories: There was a lot of sympathy for Bill Holland, as many felt that, no matter what good reasons Lou Moore may have had, victory was stolen from Holland.

In defense of Mauri Rose the following can be said. In one of his 2018 episodes of the 'world famous' radio series (at least in the Indianapolis area) called The talk of Gasoline Alley, co-host and IMS historian Donald Davidson recalls a talk he had with Rose about his 1947 win. Rose had explained that by that time he didn't race all season anymore but only the Indy 500. As the prize money he won at Indy would be part of his income for the rest of the year it was of far more importance for him personally to maximise the amount, regardless of how Lou Moore would feel about that.

Despite the controversy in 1947, Rose was again hired by Lou Moore for 1948, again teamed up with Bill Holland.

Duke Nalon had had a less stellar career at Indy up to 1948. He was better known for his abilities in midgets and sprint cars and his trademark was his ever-present spotless appearance in bright white overalls. He made his Indy debut in 1938 and made all races ever since. His best result was an 11th place in his debut year.

In 1946 he was hired by the Italian Scuderia Milan to drive one of three Maseratis entered by the team. This car numbered 54 was powered by a blown straight-four engine of a mere 1.5 litres. On the last day of qualifying, Duke managed to qualify his underpowered car for what was eventually 32nd spot in the field (29th fastest in the field). His qualifying speed was only some 1.5mph slower than that of his team mate Gigi Villoresi who drove a supercharged 3-litre Maserati. In the race Duke had brought his little car up to 5th after 20 laps and he was even one place higher on lap 46 when he had to retire from the race. He was classified 22nd.

From driving an underpowered flyweight one year, Duke went to the opposite of the scale one year later. In 1947, he qualified the Don Lee Mercedes, a genuine 1939 Grand Prix Mercedes W154! One of the favorites for the race, but the highly sophisticated Mercedes was a bit too much of a car for the Don Lee team to handle maintenance-wise. Nalon was unable to qualify on Pole Day but once he had qualified he had the 18th starting spot. However, he was second fastest in the field. His race ended after 119 laps, which left him 16th in the final rankings, after the car retired prematurely with mechanical failure.

In 1948 Duke Nalon ended up with the Novi team after a string of unfortunate and tragic events, more on that in due course.

B: The cars

Both men drove cars that looked very similar and shared a number of features too, yet were entirely different in their design philosophy.

Mauri Rose drove a Deidt-Offenhauser. The car was a concept thought up by owner Lou Moore, centered around a specially designed gearbox for use in a front-wheel-driven (from here on in short FWD) chassis. The gearbox was designed by Leo Goossen. Front-wheel drive had been introduced at Indy in 1925 and since that time been deemed a suitable and theoretically better option for use at the Speedway. Despite the thoughts about the theoretical advantages it had over rear-wheel drive, FWD cars had won only three times at Indy and generally the results were not as good as they should have been in theory. Famed designer Leo Goossen, however, had designed a new concept for a FWD gearbox with the intention for the driveline to be located lower within the frame and improve the car's center of gravity. Goossen had made the design ordered by Lou Moore during the war! Already at that time Moore was thinking about creating a car that would win the Indy 500 once the race would be held again.

When the war was over, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the '500' were rescued from oblivion by Wilbur Shaw and Tony Hulman. Lou Moore was able to carry out his plans. Chassis builder Emil Deidt eventually built two cars for Moore. Moore did not have the money to build his cars in time for the 1946 race but one year later they were ready. They were sponsored by the Blue Crown spark plug company and known as Blue Crown Specials. Apart from having the drive line as low as possible within the chassis, Moore wanted the car to be as light as possible too. In order to achieve that, Moore used a near standard Offenhauser four-cylinder engine. His engines used an extremely high compression ratio so they could use gasoline fuels with an very high octane rating. This gave the car a very decent power output at an excellent fuel consumption rate, thus reducing the amount of fuel the car needed to be carried along during the race. To improve tyre wear even more, the car was fitted with inboard front brakes to reduce unsprung weight. Despite having only some 275hp, their lightness and excellent fuel consumption allowed the cars to make the race distance on a single pitstop for fuel and new tyres. Saving time in the pits and yet be fast enough was the strategy thought out by Moore, and in 1947 that had worked for Mauri Rose. By the way, with a regular rear-drive dirt-car type of car, the same strategy had worked for Moore in 1938 already, when his driver Floyd Roberts also won the race on a single stop for fuel and tyres. It was Moore's favorite strategy.

Moore had taken a big financial gamble with his new cars. He had invested nearly every penny he owned and also borrowed what he needed to have the two cars built. It was for this reason that in the final stages of the race, with his cars in the first two places, Moore wanted to make sure that his two drivers held position. This meant that he would win the largest amount of prize money allowing him to pay off most of his debts. A duel between his drivers that could cause one or both men to retire was his nightmare which is why he gave his team orders. The duel that Moore feared didn't happen as Bill Holland wasn't aware, let alone had been told that his team mate was challenging him for the lead. Only in later years it transpired that for Moore himself it would have been better if Holland had won. Bill had signed a contract for 30% of all prize money, Mauri had a contract for 40%... So victory for Holland would have been more beneficial to Moore but as the difference between first and second was much less than any other option possible, Moore refused to take any gambles.

Out of curiosity, I tried to find out how large this difference in prize money for Lou Moore may have been. But even that question is not easy to answer. I found two figures for first and second place. When I use the purse values published in the 1948 Clymer, after the share of prize money for the drivers taken off, Moore could keep $39,050 with Rose as the winner. Had Holland won the race, Moore would have been able to keep $2370 more, a little over 6% extra! Still a respectable figure in those days. However, when I use the purse figures given in the Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500, we see something quite different. With Rose as the winner, Moore could have kept $42,985 in his pockets. Had Holland won the race, Moore would have been able to keep an additional $382.50, so not even 1% more! Anyway, we have at least an indication of the figure Moore had given up upon for the sake of 'settle for silver instead of risk losing that because of going for gold'.

Something that needs to be mentioned: whatever prize money was left after the driver's part had been cut off, Moore still had to pay his other crew members and cover some of the costs the team had incurred. So for Moore it was indeed a matter of the more money won, the more that was left for him eventually to pay off his debts because of having those two cars built.

After their debut year it was clear for everyone that the 'Blue Crowns' were among the hottest cars at the track, it was built according to a well-thought-over theory and concept, carefully and well designed. The low torpedo-shaped cars with their minimal ground clearance compared with the rear-wheel-driven cars looked modern and advanced.

In the contemporary world of Indycars, it was one of the few cars designed with a single purpose - to succeed at Indy. The car was of little use on other tracks than the Speedway but Lou Moore knew where most money was to be won and which was the most prestigious event to win.

We had to wait for some 20 years before another team owner appeared at Indianapolis and eventually equalled and even outdid Lou Moore in planning, determination and commitment to the Indy 500 while achieving the results to support all of his efforts.

According to the entry blanks Duke Nalon drove a Kurtis-Winfield V8 entered and owned by Lew Welch. However, the car was better known as the Novi, a name derived from its primary sponsor. Welch owned a factory for car parts located in the Detroit suburb Novi and to promote the company he put the name Novi in the entry names. The car's chassis was built by Frank Kurtis in 1946 and used the same basic-design gearbox as the Blue Crown cars. Welch's car, however, was powered by a 3-litre (183 CI) supercharged V8 designed by Bud Winfield and Leo Goossen and built by the Offenhauser Engineering Co. The first engine of its kind was built in 1941 and had been used in a 1935-vintage front-drive Miller chassis entered under the name Bowes Seal Fast Special. The V8 was capable of some 450hp, way too much for a chassis that had been designed with 160 to 180hp in mind at best. Driver Ralph Hepburn had managed to bring the ill-handling car home in fourth place, a far more creditable achievement than what it appears to be at first sight. In order to prevent the engine from releasing all of its power and making him lose control of the car, Hepburn had put a block of wood underneath the throttle pedal that enabled him to only apply the lower half of the rev range! Thus in effect he had a car with just a little over the power output that the chassis was designed for, but with much more weight up front, which made the car much less well-balanced.

Miller Winfield Novi

Seen here in May 2016, the reworked 1935 Miller-Ford chassis that was fitted with the very first Winfield-Novi engine. The snailhouse in the back of the engine bay is the supercharger, on top of the engine the intercooler and the ducting for cool air towards the intercooler can be seen. The half-circle little tubes about halfway the engine are part of the left-side manifold pop-off. Not visible on this picture but the car still has a little left of the original 1941 paint-job. The engine is a genuine Winfield-Novi but due to loss of some of the one-off parts made in 1941, it does use some components of postwar origin. (photo HG)

Early 1946, Frank Kurtis built a new FWD chassis for the Winfield V8 engine. The new car was entered for the 1946 Indy 500, to be driven by Hepburn. It was the first year that the car was entered with the Novi name incorporated into the entry (Novi Governor Special) and also the engine was referred to as Novi by some.

Despite being a late arrival and doing so very late in the month of May, Hepburn shattered the 1 and 4-lap qualifying records with the car, fought his way into the lead but had to retire after 121 laps. By then he had been in the hunt for the lead after a pitstop due to brake failure. The car cemented its near legendary status at the Speedway during that first year already. Apart from its tremendous speeds when driven flat out it impressed everyone with its deafeningly loud engine noise, combined with the banshee wail of its centrifugal supercharger. Kurtis built a second identical chassis in 1947, while Offenhauser Engineering Co. built Welch two more new engines, so two cars started the race that year. Cliff Bergere was an early retirement after leading the race and then took over his team mate Herb Ardinger's car that drove an unspectacular race in the backfield. Bergere managed to bring that car home in fourth place.

At its worst, the Novi was the second most powerful car at Indy in 1947 and 1948 - depending on the output figures of the Don Lee Mercedes W154. Unlike Lou Moore's little FWD cars, the Novis were big and heavy, the V8 alone was a bit over 260kgs already. The cars were the heaviest of all cars in the race every year they qualified, with the exception of the years in which a Cummins Diesel qualified. Engineer Bud Winfield and his team boss Lew Welch put their faith in high speed thanks to tremendous power, even if it came at the expense of weight, high fuel consumption and tyre wear. The Novi was the fastest car at the track but only over a limited distance because it wore out its tyres so fast that the cars needed additional stops for fresh tyres. Because of their speed, their noise and spectacular appearance they were many a fan's favourite. But in hindsight, the conclusion about the Novi can't be anything else but it being an ill-conceived car that was anything but the almost certain winner many fans at the time believed it was. Like the Blue Crown, it was low and torpedo-shaped, and had similarly little ground clearance as the Blue Crown. It looked at least as advanced as the Blue Crowns but because of being a bit larger perhaps even more menacing than the Blue Crown. On track, with its loud, bellowing engine, it was certainly more intimidating.

From the first day it appeared at the track the Novi created spectacle and headlines, and quickly became a car that would be looked back upon as a legend. And few years in the history of the Novi (or 'The Novi Legend') were as legendary as 1948.

1947 Indy pitbadge

Since a few years it had become a habit that people who had work to do at the Speedway needed to wear a metal badge. 1947 saw the introduction of two kind of badges. They looked the same but one was made of bronze, the other was silver-coloured. Perhaps it was the impact that Ralph Hepburn and the Novi made in 1946 that the 1947 design of the pitbadge resembled the shape of Hepburn's Novi on their qualifying picture made the year before.

There is a lot more to tell in detail about both Lou Moore's team and his cars as well as Lew Welch's team and its inventory. In fact, would I do so, this introduction would be longer than our main story! So let's leave it at that when presenting the men, the cars and the teams in the run-up to May 1948.

C: The first 30 days of May 1948 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Not unusual for Indy since 1946, the Novi team was the focus of attention during practice at Indy in May 1948, and primarily for unwanted reasons.

Cliff Bergere was still with the team, back in the car he had driven in 1947, the older 1946-built machine that carried number 12. For the second car, numbered #54, the team had hired another veteran with lots of pre-war experience, Chet Miller.

The team arrived late in the month, on May 12. If we keep in mind that Pole Day, and so the first rows of the grid, were contested three days later (May 15), this late arrival was hurting. Bergere had difficulties keeping his car under control and on May 14, the day before the first day of qualifying he had yet another mishap with the car, spinning it and running backwards into a pole, damaging the tail slightly. Back with his team Bergere explained what had happened. One of those attending that meeting was James Bell Gardner, better known as 'Radio' Gardner. 'Radio' was pretty much a piece of inventory at the Novi team, a mechanic, a 'gopher', the 'Jack of all trades' of the team. When 'Radio' told me about this meeting he did so in his own unmistakable way. According to 'Radio', once Bergere had finished explaining what had happened, Bud Winfield nearly blew his stack and accused Bergere of making up a story because in Cliff's version of what had happened the car required to have a differential. Which the Novi hadn't! A heated debate between Bergere on one side and Bud Winfield and Lew Welch on the other side broke out and, as 'Radio' told me, laughing, he couldn't remember if Bergere had quit the team before or after Welch had fired him! The two sentences were spoken within seconds of another, if not at the very same moment.

We will again meet 'Radio' later on in this story.

Bergere gone, however, did mean that one of the Novis was without a driver one day before Pole Day. At that time, the Pole did not have that status it would gain in later years, with all the rewards that came with it, but still it was one of the most prestigious achievements at Indy.

Meanwhile, Chet Miller had his own difficulties in the second car, not feeling as comfortable with the car as he wanted to be.

A replacement for Bergere was found. The year before he hadn't been available for just about any team but this year Ralph Hepburn, the current track record holder (as was the ex-Bergere car) was back again, readily available and happy to give the Novi another try when Lew Welch offered him the drive. Before Ralph went out with the car, however, he wanted to have it put back in the specifications as he had driven it two years before. Winfield and Welch tried to convince Hepburn that the new setup was better, but it was in vain and eventually Winfield and Welch gave in.

Saturday, May 15, was Pole Day, and pole was won by Rex Mays who drove a car powered by an engine to which Bud Winfield had also contributed, the supercharged Bowes straight eight. Mays' companions on the front row were Mauri Rose and Bill Holland in the Blue Crowns. None of the Novis made the field, although Hepburn did drive a few laps with the #12.

Hepburn was back in the #12 on Sunday, May 16, the second day of qualifying. During one of the test hops he made that day, Hepburn lost control when entering Turn Three, got on the infield but when he floored it in order to pull the car out of the skid and back onto the track the tyres provided grip at the moment it was heading straight for the outer retaining wall. Hepburn was killed instantly when the car slammed into the wall head on.

The car was beyond immediate repair and to make things worse for the Lew Welch-owned team, Chet Miller had asked to be relieved from his drive in car #54 as he couldn't get to grips with the car. This happened in good standing and understandings between the team and Miller. So the remaining car was also without a driver. But the misery for Lew Welch and his men didn't end there.

Cliff Bergere had gone home after his breakup with the Novi team but once the news reached him that Hepburn was killed in the car he had initially driven he was very outspoken in his opinion about the Novi, saying it was dangerous. For this, as well as other reasons, the #54 Novi was inspected by the technical committee in order to verify Bergere's claims as well as perhaps finding a cause that could have contributed to Hepburn's accident. Nothing was found, however, and Lew Welch was told that his car remained eligible to qualify and race.

Despite the knowledge that the Novi was potentially the fastest car in the field, finding a suitable driver was difficult, the more so as several available drivers had their reservations now one of their most experienced colleagues who had shone in the car two years ago was killed in it. But Lew Welch did eventually find a driver.

Duke Nalon had driven the Don Lee Mercedes W154 GP car in the '500' the year before, so he had some experience with a very powerful car, be it one with rear-wheel drive. He had already expressed his interest in trying the Novi and for Lew Welch this appeared to be a good opportunity to give Duke a chance. And thus, Novi #54 - remember Duke's 1946 number? It had been used before the war by Welch's entries before - went to Duke Nalon. Duke took his first laps in the car on Wednesday, May 19, took things easy initially but once he sought for speed he spun the car! But he hadn't lost his ability to register what had happened during the spin and told Lew Welch and Bud Winfield that he wanted the brake and clutch pedals moved further away from each other because he had only wanted to use the brakes but had inadvertently operated the clutch at the same time! Winfield and his crew went to work to fulfil Duke's request.

In the next two days Duke got more of a handle on the Novi, went faster and faster and was ready to qualify on Saturday, May 22. That day Duke put in an admirable performance - fastest of the day with a speed of 131.603mph, but rules forced him to line up behind the cars that had qualified during the first weekend. So he ended up in 11th place, in the middle of the fourth row. No position to worry about given the history of the Novi in the previous two years. There was every reason to believe that Duke could fight his way to the front and challenge whoever was leading.

Now, compared with all the Novi mayhem, there was little to almost nothing of interest to tell about the Blue Crown team. Holland drove a car numbered #2 and Rose had the #3. But if anything, the cars were in more than good shape. The team was ready to qualify both cars on Pole Day (Saturday, May 15). By taking second (Holland) and third (Rose) spot on the grid, their starting numbers matched their qualifying position. Given their results of the year before, the Moore-owned cars had to be among the favourites for the race. Holland had qualified with an 4-lap average of 129.515, while Rose had clocked 129.129. Only pole sitter Rex Mays had been faster that day with 130.577. And of course one week later Duke bettered their speeds, yet they didn't lose a grid position due to the qualifying rules at Indy that favour those who qualify early in the month.

And so, the field was filled and became set for Race Day.

May 31th, 1948: Race Day at Indianapolis

On Race Day, Monday, May 31, Duke started rather conservatively. In previous years, Hepburn and Bergere had gone for the lead right from the first laps on (and suffered the occurring mechanical problems as a result?). Duke, however, took things easy. Initially, Nalon hung on to fifth place for much of the early part of the race. He was in second place by lap 92 and when leader Rex Mays had to make a pitstop Duke took over the lead. He lost the lead on lap 100 when he made what was supposed to be his lone pitstop for fuel and fresh tyres. The Novi had a fuel tank of no less than 112 gallons or 424 litres! This stop is listed as having taken 1 minute and 48 seconds.

Once back in the race, Duke climbed back into the top-three but by lap 160 at 400 miles the confusion about who was leading stepped in. Duke as well as Mauri Rose were given signals that they were leading. But in lap 167 the official word came out that Duke was leading. He was still said to be the leader when after 185 laps, and without any warning, he came in for yet another pitstop. The Novi had run out of fuel. Unfortunately, if that didn't cause enough time to have been lost, the engine stalled and only after a lot of efforts the crew managed to start up the engine. The entire stop had taken 2 minutes and 18 seconds but the time loss was much larger because of Duke's slowing down once he started to head for the pits. Once Duke was back on the track, he was down in fourth place!

He gave it all that both himself and the car still had but only Ted Horn in the former Wilbur Shaw Maserati who ran a reduced pace due to technical troubles could be passed. Third place was the maximum left for Duke and the Novi, behind Mauri Rose and Bill Holland who repeated their double victory of the year before. According to the printed values for the times needed for the drivers to cover the full race distance (1948 Clymer, Page 42) Duke got the chequered flag 3.46 after Mauri Rose.

The exact cause as to why Duke Nalon ran out of fuel has never been fully explained. Two theories are most commonly accepted. The first has it that the Novi was refuelled under pressure and because of that, the tank had been filled with a liquid containing a lot of nitrogen gas that separated from the liquid in the time that followed after the stop. Once this gas had dissolved from the liquid the actual volume of fuel was not enough. The resulting effect was that the car had received not enough fuel. I have read figures of some 35 gallons short (some 130 litres). But could it have been that much? The Novi could carry 112 gallons (424 litres) and assuming the car had been fully fuelled Nalon had used much of that amount in the warm-up laps and the first 100 laps. To make it to 85 laps after that he must have had at least 80 gallons (303 litres) but more likely 85 to 90 gallons (321 to 340 litres) available to him. With a tank containing 112 gallons, that makes it likely that he was some 25 or so gallons (95 litres) short.

The other theory has it that a clamp in the inlet trajectory near the intercooler had come loose and leaked some of the fuel/air mixture. The crew member who had refuelled the Novi was the aforementioned 'Radio' Gardner. To me, he has vehemently denied having accidentally shortfuelled the car. On the other hand, some technical experts I spoke to expressed doubts about how the hot Novi engine could have leaked an air/fuel mixture under the hood in the vicinity of a hot engine without this flammable mixture spontaneously igniting. So make up your own mind about who you like to believe...

Over the years, Duke Nalon told everyone that the reason he had lost the 1948 race, apart from the gas bubbles, was because the crewman who refuelled the car had his glasses fog up. This explanation was also given by Duke's son Patrick. Also according to Patrick, his father remained convinced that he would have won the race, had it not been for that additional fuel stop.

Going back to the aftermath of the 1948 race, the crowd went home in the knowledge that Duke and the Novi had lost the race because of an unscheduled stop while leading. A legend that even today is occasionally mentioned. It is, however, a legend...

The following day when the final race results were announced, it then transpired that after his scheduled pit stop Duke had never been in the lead at all. Mauri Rose had been the leader all the time in that final part of the race, so also when Duke made his unscheduled stop. Now, none of that mattered since Duke had made that stop and Mauri Rose was flagged home as the undisputed winner.

Mauri Rose, 1948 Indianapolis 500

An image of Rose on his way to his third and final "500" victory.
(photo copyright First Turn Productions LLC, used with permission)

But somehow the myth that Duke was forced to make a pitstop while in the lead lingered on, and even today people still believe the myth.

The cause for all the confusion at Timing & Scoring during the race is generally believed to be a result of the fact that the two Blue Crown cars looked so much alike in color and trim. On top of that, both cars also had a single digit number (2 and 3) which likely had caused a moment of confusion for the Timing & Scoring people during the actual race. This was rectified after reviewing all official data after the race.

In his Fabulous Novi Story, author C. Lee Norquest wrote the following about the confusion that occurred during the race.

At lap 120, Rose was leading Nalon by 2:25, Rose made a stop in lap 124 which lasted 1:20 and at lap 130 Rose still was 34.01 seconds ahead of Duke. But at that time, Novi team boss Lew Welch could not understand how Rose could still be 34 seconds ahead of Nalon after the pitstop while Nalon was gaining on him before his pitstop. The protest was granted and a lap was then taken from Rose. But later on this lap was given back to Rose. Norquest regrettably didn't mention if this happened during the race already or after the race when reviewing the Timing & Scoring tapes.

Because of things happened the way they did, the 1948 race isn't regarded as one of the most controversial races when it comes down to who is the real winner or who should have won it, at least not compared with the events of 1981 and 2002, and let's add 1995 to this shortlist as well.


Well, if you do some more thinking, some questions may arise. And by then, once you continue to ask new questions. every answer will eventually lead to a scenario that defies belief. A scenario that would have caused controversy if the same actions had taken place in later years.

Duke Nalon, 1948 Indianapolis 500

'Hindsight' on Duke and the Novi during the race. We will use hindsight of a different kind in our next chapter.
(photo copyright First Turn Productions LLC, used with permission)