Practicing for the Big Race – Photo by Ryan Hamlett
The name Wilbur Shaw is synonymous with auto racing in Indianapolis. The three time 500 winner (’37,’39 & ’40) Shelbyville native was the last Hoosier to take the checkered flag and was the man who looked over a sad, dilapidated 2 1/2 mile brick track and talked Terre Haute baking powder magnate Tony Hulman into purchasing the speedway from WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, saving the track from certain demolition. With Hulman’s financial backing and Shaw’s foresight and leadership as track President, the two managed to turn a weed riddled eyesore into what would become known as the greatest spectacle in racing. Both his time as IMS president and life were cut short in a plane crash near Decatur, IN on October 30, 1954, one day before his fifty-second birthday.
Shaw’s racing heritage lives on, not only at the track he helped to save, but also at a track of a slightly different nature on the near northwest side. On the corner of West 30th Street and Cold Springs Road, the nation’s longest soap box derby track, the Wilbur Shaw Memorial Hill is set to host the 76th annual All-American Local soap box derby race this Saturday starting at 7am. The track, built in 1953 and recently upgraded to feature a laser timer, digital weighing system and scorer’s bridge at the base of the hill, has featured an All-American race each year since its construction. Grab a cooler, lawn chairs and some friends and get there early to grab a good seat!
Thanks, Ryan — buildings and places have more meaning when we know the history of the people for whom they were named.
Very nice remembrance.