The Last Lap

The Last Lap

By William T. Walker



Death arrived early at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two years before the track hosted its first 500-mile event, five drivers and spectators were killed during inaugural races on the Speedway. Death has lingered around the oval ever since. Over the past century, fatalities have mounted and a total of seventy-three drivers, mechanics, and spectators have perished on the two-and-a-half-mile circuit. One of the greatest Indy mysteries is the deaths of driver Pete Kreis and riding mechanic Bob Hahn in 1934. Piloting a front-drive race car in practice, Kreis crashed into the wall of Turn One, rode along the top of the retaining wall for seventy-five feet, and careened down an embankment at the south end of the oval. As the car smashed into a tree in the backyard of a nearby house, both men were killed. The next year, an impromptu "coroner's jury" of Indy drivers and Speedway experts held an intense review of the accident, and they concluded that Pete's demise was "the strangest death in all racing history," later implying that the accident may have been a suicide. That informal judgment appeared in a nationwide newspaper story that fueled more controversy and debate among Kreis's relatives, friends, and race fans. My search to solve the mystery surrounding Pete's death became a lifelong quest, one that has absorbed three-quarters of a century and taken me on a winding pilgrimage covering more miles than I care to record. Here is the result-the story of Pete Kreis, his colorful racing career, and his tragic death.

ISBN: 9781642341430


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