An association of 7 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race drivers in 1935.

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Champion Drivers, Inc. was a company incorporated by Wilbur Shaw, Peter DePaolo, Fred Frame, Al Gordon, Louis Meyer, Lou Moore, and Elbert Babe Stapp on June 7, 1935. They all were Indianapolis 500 Mile Race drivers, and they all claimed Indianapolis as their place of residence.

“The purpose or purposes for which it is formed are as follows: To engage in automobile racing, including the owning of racing automobiles, promoting automobile races and contracting for the same; also contracting for the services of drivers and mechanics for the operation of racing automobiles.”

Wilbur Shaw was a legendary race car driver who first participated in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 1927 and won it in 1936, 1939 and 1940. He helped to save the race track grounds from housing development after WWII and became the track’s president. There are several informative sites about Shaw on the internet.

Peter DePaolo, whose uncle Ralph DePalma won the Indianapolis 500 in 1915, competed in seven of these races, and won in 1925. After suffering from a coma from a race crash in 1934, he owned and managed the winning car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1935. Its interesting that he signed the paperwork for the Champion Drivers company about seven days later. He later became a very successful sprint car owner.

Fred Frame began his career as a dirt track racer, and participated in eight Indianapolis 500 races, winning it in 1932. Al Gordon raced in the 500 in 1932, 1934 and 1935, but was killed in a race crash in 1936.

Louis Meyer, another racing legend who began the tradition of drinking milk from a milk bottle after winning the Indianapolis 500, won the race in 1928, 1933 and 1936. Lou Moore, also a racer, was more successful as a car owner winning five Indianapolis 500 races. Elbert “Babe” Stapp raced in twelve Indianapolis 500 races, and later became more famous as sprint car racer.

There were no more annual reports sent to the State after 1935 by Champion Drivers, Inc., so they probably didn’t continue this association. But this attempt at financial cooperation between these very successful race car drivers is intriguing, and probably unprecedented.

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer

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