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Indy 500: Schwitzer Award Rewards Innovation, Excellence

20 May 1998

INDIANAPOLIS -- Louie Schwitzer, not Ray Harroun as most racing followers believe, won the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Only that race was a distance of 5 miles instead of 500.

Schwitzer, a young engineer from Austria, drove a Stoddard-Dayton powered by a four-cylinder, 212-cubic inch engine to an average speed of 57.4 mph in the initial race at the official opening of the Speedway on Aug. 19, 1909. The track was crushed stone, and officials quickly realized the surface would have to be paved with bricks to accommodate the speeding vehicles.

Schwitzer drove again in 1910 and was a relief driver for Harry Cobe in the first 500-Mile Race in 1911.

Though his fame as a driver never reached high levels, his talents as an innovative engineer helped in development of the automobile in the pre-World War II era. He also joined the Speedway technical committee in 1912 and served as its chief from 1919 until the last pre-World War II race in 1941.

Today, Schwitzer's name is remembered each May at the Speedway. The Indiana Section of the Society of Automotive Engineers presents the Louis Schwitzer Award for Engineering Innovation and Excellence to someone involved with the race for a new racecar development. A check for $5,000 goes to the winner.

The committee voted May 19, and the award will be presented May 22.

The award was first presented in 1967 to Andy Granatelli for his turbine-powered car.

"This is the only award that isn't given directly to the car," said Steve Robey, longtime committee member and former chairman.

"It goes to responsible engineers," current chairman Bruce Watson said. Roby, a former Formula One and Indy-style car mechanic, is manager for Engine Systems, Schwitzer, Inc. Watson works in advance engineering for Cummins Engine Company.

Other committee members are: Pat Wildeman, systems engineer for Allison Transmission Electric Propulsion Systems; Lee Fisher, sports marketing manager for Cummins Engine Company; Steve Holman, program engineer for Borg Warner Automotive Transmission Engineering; John Williams, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology at Purdue University, and Keith Pierson, engineering director for Kysor Cooling Systems, a Schwitzer Group company.

The Society this year voted on four candidates:

1. The Delphi Delco Electronics Track Condition Radio in-car yellow-light system.
2. The Riley & Scott chassis.
3. The Emco gearbox.
4. The GM safety package.

In addition to the check, the winner will be honored at a banquet, receive an award plaque and garage shingle as well has his/their names added to the permanent trophy maintained in the Speedway Museum.

Previous winners:

1967:   Andy Granatelli, turbine-power car
1968:   Dan Gurney, low cost racing engine
1969:   Colin Chapman, Lotus Type 64
1970:   Bruce McLaren, McLaren M15
1971:   Josef Karasek, McNamara chassis
1972:   Dan Gurney, Eagle chassis
1973:   Smokey Yunick, stock block engine
1974:   A.J. Foyt, Coyote chassis
1975:   Parnelli Jones, Parnelli VP J6 chassis
1976:   Roman Slobodynskyj, Lightning chassis
1977:   Bruce Crower, Bob Bubenik, automotive clutch and Flat 8 engine
1978:   Roman Slobodynskyj, laydown Lightning chassis
1979:   Jim Hall, John Barnard, Chaparral 2K chassis
1980:   Geoff Ferris, Penske PC-9 chassis
1981:   John Ward, Eagle chassis
1982:   Geoff Ferris, Penske PC-10 chassis
1983:   Vernon Gleasman, Gleason-Torsen differential
1984:   Robin Herd, March 84C chassis
1985:   Ron Kociba, Joe Negri, Buick V6 turbo engine
1986:   Mario Illien, Ilmor-Chevrolet engine
1987:   Stuart Grant, Goodyear Racing radial tire
1988:   John Lindo, Ray Sorce, Tolton Carbon carbon clutch
1989:   Anthony Purnell, Intelligent dashboard
1990:   Bill Simpson, Mike Held, Tim Halsmer, Luciano Aquirre, "Beadall"
racing helmet
1991:   Don Halliday, Truesports 91C chassis
1992:   Alan Mertens, Galmer 9200 chassis
1993:   Nigel Bennett, Penske Chevy 93 chassis
1994:   Mario Illien, Mercedes-Benz 500 I engine
1995:   Chris Munroe, Don Nowicki, tire monitoring system
1996:   Dave Schnelker, I-Fu Shih, Ning Wu, Ed Rothrock, Racing EyeCue
1997:   Ed Keating, Roger Allen, Indy Aurora V8 engine