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.
We continue our countdown with #16 Bob Sweikert. Born Robert Charles Sweikert in Los Angeles, California, his mother relocated the family to Bay Area when she remarried. At 16, Bob worked at Heyward, California’s Ford dealership as a mechanic, where he naturally migrated to the street racing hobby. Sweikert made friends with another racer, Ed Elisian, and their careers followed similar paths.
After a quick stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Bob moved back to Heyward, opened up his own business and began racing a track roadster that he built. Finding immediate success, he decided to become a full-time racer and closed his shop.
In 1948, Sweikert began racing midgets in the popular Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA), becoming a fan favorite and well-known name in the industry. In 1949, he won the first BCRA Indoor Midget Race Championship before moving into Sprint Cars.
Sweikert became friends with many of the other drivers and often helped them solve issues with their own cars. This made him one of the most liked racers among the racing community.
He qualified and ran his first Indy 500 in 1952, running 77 laps before retiring with rearend problems. In 1953, Sweikert faired better by running 151 laps before a radius rod failure caused handling problems, forcing him to retire early again. Finishing in 14th place in 1954, the car was flagged with 197 laps completed.
1955 was the breakout year for Sweikert and his team. He won the Indianapolis 500 in May, finished the year by winning the AAA big car National Championship, and the Midwest Sprint Car Championship. These were considered the three biggest open wheel races at the time, earning the “Triple Crown” designation. Sweikert was the only driver to ever win all three of these original triple crown events in the same year.
Sweikert returned to IMS in 1956 and finished 6th in the Indy 500, in what would be his last crack at the great race. Sadly, he would perish only weeks later while competing in a Sprint Car race at Salem Speedway. Sweikert’s Sprinter flew over the track’s wall and crashed. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Washington County Hospital.
He is buried at Lone Tree Cemetery in Fairview, California.
- 1953: First driver to break 100 mph on a one-mile oval at Eastern Speed Dome in Syracuse, New York.
- 1953: Won the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
- 1954: First driver to average 90 mph in a 100-mile race at at the Eastern Speed Dome in Syracuse, New York.
- 1955: Won the Indianapolis 500, the AAA National Championship, and the Midwest Sprint Car Championship (Original Triple Crown). He was the only driver to win all three in the same year.