Since this is Indy 500 week we were thinking that it would be fun to look back on some of the neat stuff that has happened at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the years. Plus, the frightening nature of the Danny Ongais video made us want to share a happy story before the day was out. Cummins diesel engines are known the world over these days for powering trucks, boats, equipment, and industrial machinery of all size and shape. The company is a world leader in the realm of diesel engine production and engineering. It has not always been an easy road for Cummins and through much of their history the company kind of bounded from one precarious situation to another. Clessie Cummins who was the main brains behind the operation’s engineering efforts was brilliant and had the company with his name on it not survived way back in the day, we’re sure he’d have made his mark elsewhere.
All this being said, it is incredible to us at how successful Cummins diesel engines were during the era of racing where there were few rules and, especially at Indy, innovation lead the way. There was no wrong way to do it back then so when Cummins started sending diesel cars to the speedway int he 1930s, people did not really make that huge a deal of it. Things reached a performance apex in 1952 when the Cummins diesel special qualified on the pole for that year’s race, setting a new course record, averaging nearly 140mph through the qualifying session. The engine and were different in a couple of major ways. The first was that the thing ran on diesel fuel, the second was that the engine was laid on its side in the chassis to lower the profile of the car and provide more stability, the third was that it had a turbo on it and this was the first time a turbo showed up at Indy, technology that became an integral part of the race for years after.
It had to have been thrilling for the Cummins engineers on this project to not just race at Indy but qualify on the pole. No, they never won the big show but everyone knew they were there and frankly that was the mission.