• Indianapolis 500 1957

Hanks bows out with an Indy win

Martin Williamson May 30, 1957
Sam Hanks (rear) and the builders of the Belond Exhaust Special pose with the racer described as the lowest smallest-type car ever built for the Indianapolis Memorial Day race, as it was readied for shipment. The engine lies on its left side at an angle of 18 degrees from horizontal, permitting a lower center of gravity, lower hood and better visibility for the driver. The car has four-inch ground clearance and the driver sits two inches above the floor. At left is sponsor Sandy Belond and at right is designer-builder George Salih © Associated Press
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Another all-American field for the Indianapolis 500 underlined what an irrelevance this race had become in terms of the FIA World Championship, although with a ten-year arrangement in place that it would count towards that title nothing was about to change.

The Indy 500 itself, as ever, was not short on thrills and spills, and was won by 42-year-old Sam Hanks at his 13th attempt. Hanks, who had started racing two decades earlier, immediately announced his retirement. Even his car had a story attached to it - it was designed by George Salih who could get no funding to build it and so went it alone in his garage at home.

It had seemed it would never happen for Hanks after he finished third in 1952 and 1953 and then came second in 1956 after charging through the field when a spin had left him last. But in his final outing he led for 136 of the 200 laps and was a deserved winner. He was immediately made Director of Racing for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A post he held for 21 years.

Veteran world champion Nino Farina entered the race for the second year running but withdrew when his back-up driver Keith Andrews was killed practising at the Speedway when his car span and clattered into the retaining wall several times and breaking his neck.