Thursday, May 30, 2024

1957 – Hanks Wins ‘500’ in 12th and Last Try

Sam Hanks waves to the fans after winning the 1957 Indianapolis 500. Hanks’ wife Alice (left) and movie star Cyd Charisse (right) join the winner in victory lane. – Steve Manning Collection

Indianapolis, Ind. (May 30, 1957) – Smiling Sam Hanks, who almost gave up last year when he finished second, “Thanks God” today for giving the Indianapolis 500 “a final try.”

For on the final try, he won the race and announced immediately afterwards it would be his last.

“I cam awfully close to calling it quits last year when I finished second, Hanks, a 6-0, 160-pounder, said. “I figured if I couldn’t do it in 11 tries, why try it again. But I decided to try it one more time – win or lose – this was going to be it. And now that I’ve won it, this is it. I’ve had it.”

When he lost out last year by 20.47 seconds to Pat Flaherty he thought that “that’s as close as I’ll ever come.” But he gave it one more shot and won out by 17.35 seconds.

It was the second closest finish in the 41-year history of the race. That 20.47 seconds he had finished behind Flaherty last year had been the second closest. The closest race was 2.16 seconds which saw Wilbur Shaw beat Ralph Hepburn back in 1937.

Not only did the crew-cut 42-year-old Hanks set a new speed record by winning the race – but he was also sure to surpass the record money winning total of $93,819 that Flaherty earned last year.

By winning the race, he picked up the first-place jackpot of $20,000. And by leading most of the 200 laps, he picked up another $21,150 - $150 a lap. That made him $41,150 and when endorsements and all other financial rewards which go to the winner come in, he should be the first driver ever to surpass the $100,000 mark.

As for speed, Hanks raced the 2.5-mile brick oval, with a Memorial Day Weekend crowd of over 125,000 looking on, in thee record speed of 135.601 miles per hour. The old record of 130.840 was set by the late Bill Vukovich in 1954. As a matter of fact, the first 10 finishers all exceeded Vukovich’s old standard.

The two former champions in the field, Troy Ruttman of Lynwood, Calif., and Johnnie Parsons of Van Nuys, Calif., never figured in the race. Ruttman, the 1952 winner, dropped out early when his car broke a piston rod. Parsons, who got into the field on a pass when Dick Rathmann was unable to drive because of an eye injury, finished far back in the field.

Hanks was never out of contention. Pat O’Conner, who grabbed the pole position in qualifying, led the first lap before Ruttman took over. It was not until the 36th circuit that Hanks took over. From that time on, he was in command the rest of the way.

Results –

1. Sam Hanks
2. Jim Rathmann
3. Jimmy Bryan
4. Paul Russo
5. Andy Linden
6. Johnny Boyd
7. Marshall Teague
8. Pat O’Conner
9. Bob Veith
10.Gene Hartley
11.Jack Turner
12.Johnny Thomson
13.Bob Christie
14.Chuck Weyant
15.Tony Bettenhausen
16.Johnnie Parsons
17.Don Freeland
18.Jimmy Reece
19.Don Edmunds
20.Johnnie Tolan
21.Al Herman
22.Fred Agabashian
23.Eddie Sachs
24.Mike Magill
25.Eddie Johnson
26.Bill Cheesbourg
27.Al Keller
28.Jimmy Daywalt
29.Ed Elisian
30.Rodger Ward
31.Troy Ruttman
32.Eddie Russo
33.Elmer George

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