The Short Chute
PAGE 5 - Newsletter #83 - Summer 2003
Duesenbeg At The Brickyard
By Jerry Gebby
By Jerry Gebby
1922 saw the first time the Duesenberg factory took first place at Indianapolis. The win was
tainted, however, by the fact that Jimmy Murphy owned the car and had replaced the engine and
radiator with Miller units.
1922 was the high-water mark in Duesenberg racing at the Speedway. This year, Duesies won everything except third place, ninth place and the grandstands. This success can be traced directly to the great Jimmy Murphy who had won the French Grand Prix the year before. Duesenberg was now a make to be reckoned with and the motto became “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Every good driver and some not so good wanted on the team, which resulted in a fleet of nine cars in the starting field. There was but one disappointment, Jules Ellingboe had a rear tire go flat in the twenty-fifth lap and in the following skid, the wheel collapsed and the car was sidetracked for the rest of the race. Jimmy Murphy won easily, with a comfortable two lap lead over second place Harry Hartz.
Hartz had ridden a Duesenberg engined Revere with Eddie Hearne the year before and did an excellent job for the firm that promoted him to driver. He was promptly signed by Cliff Durant to drive one of his Miller-built Durant Specials, another case in which a better money offer took a high-placing driver away from Duesenberg. Hartz went on to finish a Speedway career that totaled three second place finishes and two fourths. Spots that would have looked very good to Duesenberg on several occasions.
If 1922 was high-tide for Duesenberg fortunes, 1923 came close to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Piston displacement limits had been lowered again, 10 122 cubic inches. New cars were built and three entries made. Progress, however, was so slow that local betting was against Duesenberg making the program this year. Sometime after midnight, with the race due to start in a few hours, one car left the plant for the track, By special arrangement, it was qualified just after daylight. At about that time the other two cars left the factory but were almost immediately blocked by the early morning traffic jam and neither reached the track by starting time. The one that made it was new and tight, but ran well. Driver Wade Morton gave it a conservative ride to tenth place money. Fred Duesenberg in a model “A” Phaeton paced the 1923 race.
1924 was different. Not only were the cars ready in plenty of time, but a fourth car was added to the string. And in addition, Duesenberg held all the aces, SUPERCHARGERS!
Slim Corum. a very successful dirt track driver, millionaire Joe Boyer, Ernie Ansterberg and Pete DePaolo, nephew of Ralph DePalma, made up the driver list. In 1923, Corum had finished fifth, Boyer lasted 59 laps in a Packard, while the other two had been riding mechanics. This year, Corum and Boyer provided the fireworks. Joe jumped into the lead on the first lap and it was obvious to everyone that the cars with the blowers were faster than all of the others. When Boyer went out with a stripped gear in the engine, Corum was well up in the field and driving a very steady race. He stopped for supplies at 109 laps and Boyer took over. The car was then in fourth place and Boyer started working it toward the front. When he received the checkered flag, Joe had a lead of more than a lap over the second place Miller-Studebaker Special driver by Earl Cooper. Pete DePaolo did well with his first drive on the bricks by finishing sixth.
Ira Vail Drove this Disteel Duesenberg to eighth place in 1922 with mechanic W. Butler.