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Road to 100: 1921

Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-27 17:00:07-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- In 1921, the booming Circle City boasted a population of 300,000 people. 

Thousands more came to the city for the same reasons they do today: Conferences.

And headlines in the Indianapolis Star focused on the grip of Prohibition.

Reports of crackdowns and requests to the residents to be on their "best behavior" toward guests visiting for the upcoming Indianapolis 500, with the mantra to "protect our visitors."

One of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's four founding partners, Frank Wheeler, took his own life in 1921, with reports of his health problems as the reason. Wheeler suffered from diabetes and had a foot wound that wouldn't heal before he used his "favorite shotgun" to commit suicide.

On the track that year, a Monday, May 30 race saw race veteran Ralph DePalma starting on the pole for the second year in a row. 

For the first time, cars lined up in rows of three, creating the now-familiar Indy 500 starting grid. But whereas the modern race includes 33 entries, there were just 23 for the 1921 running.

It looked as if DePalma would repeat his 1915 win, leading the entire first half of the race, until his Mercedes broke down on lap 112, the third time DePalma had mechanical issues in the Indy 500.

Tommy Milton, who was virtually blind in one eye, swooped in and took the lead, holding it all the way to the checkered flag with an average speed of 89.6 miles per hour. This was the first of two wins for Milton.

DePalma would retire afterward with one Indy 500 victory and 612 laps led, a record that would stand until Al Unser, Sr. tied it in 1987.

Other interesting notes from the race included two driver no-shows after qualifying for the 500, and another who was disqualified for only paying half the entry fee.

MORE ON THE ROAD TO 100
1920 1919 1916 | 1915  | 1914 | 1913 | 1912 | 1911 | Special Section: Road to 100 | Enter to win tickets to the Indy 500 | Start your engines: 100 stories in 100 days

Tune in to RTV6 News at 6 p.m. every night for our Road to 100, where we take a look back at each of the races leading up to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Want tickets to this year's race? Tune in to RTV6 News at 6 p.m. and watch for the daily trivia question and answer, then click here to enter the answer to be entered daily for your chance to win tickets to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

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