Tuesday, December 28, 2010

History of the 500: Gil Andersen

Today marks the debut of a semi-regular series I'm hoping to feature in 2011. Called History of the 500, this will focus on a driver or event from the history pages of the Indianapolis 500. If there's one thing I love, it's obscure Indy 500 drivers. Many drivers were either flashes in the pan or 500 regulars who have been largely forgotten over time. Donald Davidson I'm not, but hopefully, this column will entertain just a little while shedding some light on these stories.  Our first feature spotlights who was in the very first 500 field, Gil Andersen.

Andersen in 1910. Note the name misspelling on the photo!
Gil Andersen was born in Norway, and was the only foreign driver to enter the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. In 1912, he was on Pole Position, but that was only due to the field being set by date of entry. His best finish was 3rd in 1915, with the first 500 being the only other one he went 200 laps on.

Andersen seemed to have a propensity in his racing career for the then-popular Elgin Road Race course, winning there twice and coming in 2nd on three other occasions--and all in only 7 starts! His only other documented win was at the short-lived Astor Cup.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Gil escaped death on the track. He worked as an engineer at both Indiana-based Stutz and the ReVere Motor Company, having a key part in the latter's auto line.  He became a naturalized American citizen and died in Logansport, IN, in 1935.


(For more on Gil Andersen, visit his page at Champ Car Stats. For more on the Elgin Road Race, check out this fine historical document: [PDF]).

2 comments:

  1. Great stuff...keep it coming! I should look into learning more about the Elgin Road Race since Elgin is right up the road from me.

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  2. Thanks! Yeah, apparently for a number of years in the early 20th Elgin was a pretty popular track. A lot of 500 drivers were also active up there.

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