• Indianapolis 500 1955

Death of Vukovich overshadows Sweikert's win

ESPNF1 Staff
May 30, 1955
Bill Vukovich pictured shortly before the start of the race © Unknown
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The death of double champion Alberto Ascari four days earlier hardly registered in the USA when all attention was on the Indianapolis 500, nominally the third round of the Formula One season. But by the end of the race America was in mourning for one of its own legends.

Bill Vukovich had dominated the Indy 500 for the previous three years. In 1952 he led much of the race until breaking down nine laps from the end; he put that right by winning in 1953 and 1954, and in 1955 few would have bet against him making it a triple.

Although he was only fifth on the grid he soon took the lead and recorded the fastest lap for good measure. But on the 56th of 200 laps there was a three-car pile-up which Vukovich tried unsuccessfully to avoid. His car became airbourne and cleared the outer wall and burst into flames. He died of a fractured skull. His was not the only death. At the end of the first qualifying day, Manny Ayulo crashed due to a possible steering fault and died the next day.

The tragedy overshadowed Bob Sweikert's impressive win starting from 14th on the grid.

As usual, none of the European drivers bothered to travel to the USA for the race.