The 103rd Indianapolis 500 event is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 26, 2019, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. The legendary event has been the premier event for American open wheel racing for decades with roots deeply imbedded in dirt track racing. To honor this heritage, we plan on counting down the top 20 dirt track racers that have won the Indianapolis 500.
Today we profile Louis Meyer at #13 on our list. At this point in the countdown, it becomes almost impossible to rank one driver over another. Meyer did enough in dirt track racing, and certainly in Indy car racing by becoming the first three-time winner of the great American spectacle, he could rank as high as Fourth or Fifth. We settled to place him in the lucky #13 spot.
Originally born and raised in Manhattan, New York, the family moved to California where he grew up. He began racing in the numerous California tracks, becoming a skilled mechanic and engine man. His work on Miller engines led him to become the mechanic for Wilbur Shaw. Meyer was also Shaw’s co-driver for the 1927 Indianapolis 500.
The following year, Meyer passed the Indy rookie test and qualified for the race. He took the late race lead and won the 1928 Indy 500 by almost a half-minute over the nearest competitor with an average speed of 99.5 mph. He finished the year by winning the AAA National Championship.
By this point, Meyer was known as a brick and board track racer. By 1929, the board tracks were being closed and dismantled for safety reasons, Meyer focus went back to dirt track racing.
In 1933, Meyer won the Indianapolis 500 by four laps over the field becoming a two-time winner of the race. It was in victory lane where Meyer began the tradition of the winner drinking milk in the winner’s circle. He won again in 1936, where he drank the milk straight from the milk bottle, a tradition which has continued to this day.
Meyer came up short in his attempt to win a Fourth Indianapolis 500 in 1939, when he spun battling for the lead with only four laps to go. He sold his car to the up and coming Rex Mays the following year and concentrated on becoming an engine builder with his friend Dale Drake. They bought out Fred Offenhauser and began producing the Meyer-Drake-Offys that would be the dominant engine package for several decades at Indy.
Meyer continued engine building with Ford in 1964, helping to develop the Ford V8 that propelled four drivers to Indianapolis 500 victories. He retired in 1972, moved to Searchlight, Nevada, where he lived to the ripe old age of 91. Meyer passed away on November 7, 1995.