History Makers: Lou Moore

By: Spencer Neff
August 18, 2020

Welcome to IndyCar1909 and today we begin a new series for you. This is the first installment of “History Makers”.

In this collection of profiles, we will discuss the lives and contributions of those whose contributions have been significant to IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Today, we begin with Lou Moore. Like many, Moore’s contributions began behind the wheel. Later on, he became one of racing’s most prominent executives.

Career Beginnings

A star on the California dirt tracks, Moore’s career saw him dominate from the young age of 15. At age 18, Moore dominated the short track scene- winning 18 of 23 races that season, with mechanical issues dropping the Hinton, Oklahoma native out of contention.

From there, Moore would move on to Indianapolis and his presence was felt immediately.

Indy Beckons

In 1928, Moore entered his first Indianapolis 500 at the age of 23. During qualifying, Moore would start eighth, the best effort by a rookie in three years. Although he was unable to lead that day, Moore finished second to race winner and fellow rookie Louis Meyer, the third consecutive rookie to win at Indianapolis.

In their efforts, Meyer and Moore were the first rookies to finish 1-2 since Rene Thomas and Arthur Duray in 1914, the only other such occurrence.

Over the next few years, Moore’s efforts in the “500” would be hampered by mechanical issues and crashes. In 1929, he led 22 laps but finished 13th. By 1932, Moore’s luck began to reverse course.

Moore poses in his car after winning the pole for the 1932 Indianapolis 500 (IMS/INDYCAR)

That year, he earned the pole for the race at 117.363 miles per hour. During the race, Moore led only the first lap. By Lap 79, he was forced out of the race due to a broken timing gear.

Shifting Focus

Over the following two years,. Moore earned a third-place finish at Indy, including a fourth-place start in 1934.

Unfortunately, the early success that Moore found at the 500 would not follow him toward the end of his career. During his final two starts, Moore did not complete 200 laps. In 1936, he started 29th and worked his way up to 17th before running out of fuel with 15 laps to go.

By 1938, Moore had stepped away from driving and focused on team ownership. As a car owner, Moore would utilize aviation fuel (AV-gas). For the master strategist, the sacrifice of power for increased durability would pay off.

Floyd Roberts earned the first of five victories for Moore in 1938 (IMS/INDYCAR)

During the race, his driver Floyd Roberts started on the pole and led twice for 92 laps on his way to victory. Three years later, Floyd Davis and Mauri Rose co-drove to the win after starting 17th and leading 45 laps.

Although the race was cancelled during World War II (1942-1945), Moore’s team came back stronger than ever.

In 1947 and 1948, drivers Mauri Rose and Bill Holland earned 1-2 finishes in the race while driving Moore’s Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials. A year later, the duo again found themselves running first and second, albeit Holland in front. Late in the race, Moore urged his drivers to slow their pace down, displaying a “Hold POS” sign from pit lane.

Although Holland complied, Rose continued to push. With eight laps remaining, Rose’s race ended with a broken magneto strap. Moore emerged victorious with Holland at the wheel but promptly fired Rose after the race.

Over the next three years, Moore entered the race with some of the sport’s biggest names like Tony Bettenhausen and Lee Wallard. However, he would not find victory lane again as a car owner and his record stood at five victories.

Bill Holland won the 1949 Indianapolis 500 after finishing second in the previous two runnings (IMS/INDYCAR)

Stepping Away

In 1953, Moore’s friend Chet Miller was killed during practice leading up to the race. Following Miller’s passing, Moore opted to step away from ownership duties.

In September 1955, Moore was appointed to run Pontiac’s racing division. Tragically, Moore passed away on March 25,1956 due to a brain hemorrhage.

Legacy

As was the case with Moore, many of the current car owners from the NTT IndyCar Series and in motorsports were former drivers. In 1987, Roger Penske broke Moore’s record as Al Unser became the second four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, Penske enters his first “500” as owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In addition to Penske, two more car owners have a chance to surpass Moore.

If one of their entries were to win, Chip Ganassi or Michael Andretti would surpass Moore as second-winningest car owner at the Indianapolis 500. In 103 runnings of the race, no other car owner has won more than three races.

Though the General Motors brand Pontiac is now defunct, its presence was felt at Indianapolis long after Moore’s passing. Four times (1958, 1980, 1984 and 1989), a Pontiac would serve as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500.

In the 1984 event, Kevin Cogan’s Eagle chassis was powered by a Pontiac engine as he started 27th and finished 20th, down 63 laps due to a wheel issue.

Kevin Cogan’s Dubonnet/Curb entry in 1984 was powered by a Pontiac engine (IMS/INDYCAR)

In 2000, Pontiac found victory lane at IMS- NASCAR when Bobby Labonte won the Brickyard 400.

Lou Moore’s legacy stretches through many aspects of IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500 and auto racing in general.

Today, much of his success has become a model for the sport as we know it.

Header Image By IMS/INDYCAR

Published by Spencer Neff

I am a lifelong auto racing fan. Through IndyCar1909, I look forward to sharing my passion for the series and its illustrious history with you.

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