1953 KURTIS 500B

Indianapolis 500

1953 Kurtis 500B

Second Place — 1953 Indianapolis 500

Chassis No: 363
Owner: Andy Granatelli
Driver: Freddie Agabashian
Qualified: Second, 137.546 MPH
Engine: Offenhauser 4 cylinder overhead cam
Displacement: 270 cubic inch
Horsepower: 400
Weight: 1800 lbs

Weighing in at only 1800 lb, sitting on a 96.5-inch wheelbase and powered by a 270 cubic inch Offy made this a very potent package. Agabashian qualified for the 1953 Indy 500 in second position at a speed of 137.546 mph.

Bill Vukovich started on pole and dominated one of the hottest 500s in history. Agabashian ran strong dogging Vukovich until the 102nd lap, exhausted by the extreme heat (only five drivers went the distance) he was relieved by Paul Russo. Officially they finished in 4th position but Granatelli was convinced they had actually finished in 2nd. The speedway’s general manager Wilbur Shaw acknowledged the scoring error but persuaded Granatelli not to protest the result for the good of the speedway.

In 1954, Granatelli entered the Kurtis for driver Jim Rathmann. In practice the car was very fast, but a qualifying error erased their first attempt with what would have been the Speedway’s first 140 mph lap. Rathmann did not raise his hand to signal he was attempting to qualify and his run was not allowed. Granatelli protested the ruling. As the argument went on the engine was kept running. Granatelli did not want competitors to see his new ram air induction system so the hood was not opened, which resulted in the engine overheating. The one of a kind 400-hp engine could not be repaired in time to qualify for the race.

Discouraged, Granatelli sold the car to Racing Associates, who entered the car in it’s last 500 in 1955. Driven by Cal Niday, the car qualified ninth at 140.302 mph. In the 500 Niday ran with the front runners until lap 170. Running in third place the front axle broke and he crashed out of the race.

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photo credit: Ron Kimball via © 2012 Kimball Stock
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