26/5/1906 - 1/1/1981
Record updated 31-Jan-23
Mauri Rose was an engineer and race car driver who won Indy three times, 1941, 1947 and 1945. He worked at the Allison aero engine factory near the Indianapolis Speedway. In May each year, he could be seen leaving the factory at lunchtime, sandwich box tucked under his arm, returning to his drawing board an hour later, having practiced and qualified for the Indy 500 during his break!
Small in stature with a bushy moustache and smoking a pipe, Rose did not look like a typical racing driver. When helmets became mandatory wore an unusual brimless one.
Rose had started racing back in 1927 on the old half-mile board track in Bridgeville, Pennsylvaniak, near his home town of Columbus, Ohio. After failing to qualify for Indy in 1932, he made his first start in the classic in 1933, driving a modified 2 seater Studebaker.
Mauri Rose back in the early 1930s
In 1934 he finished 2nd at Indy, just 27 seconds behind 'Wild Bill' Cummings. And, in 1936, he finished 4th at Indy but won the AAA National Championship. At Indy in 1939 he came in 5th, and finished 3rd in 1940. Rose's formula for success included careful planning and the best equipment. Rose liked to qualify on the first day and then return just to watch his opposition.
Rose in the No3 Elgin Piston Pin Special in 1941
Mauri won the Indy 500 for the first time in 1941. He was obliged to retire his No.3 supercharged Maserati Elgin Piston Pin Special at mid-distance, but the team owner, Lou Moore, allowed him to take over the Wetteroth Offenhauser mount of slower team mate Floyd Davis, after he threatened to drive relief for another team. He took over the No.16 Noc-Out Hose Clamp Offy in 14th place and by 300 Mile mark he was up to 4th. He took the lead after 425 miles and held it to the finish. However, this victory is sometimes credited to Davis alone, who not only didn’t lead a lap of the race, but never lead a single lap at Indianapolis in his entire career!
His race in 1946 ended when the steering failed on the No.8 Blue Crown Spark Plug Special, crashing in turn three.
The Blue Crown Spark Plug Special, crashing in turn three in 1946
In the 1947 race, Rose was running second to his rookie teammate, Bill Holland. Late in the race both were shown the 'E-Z' sign from pit lane. Holland followed team order but Rose ignored the sign and pressed on. As he closed on Holland he was surprised when Holland not only gave way to him but also gave him a friendly wave as he passed on his way to victory. However Holland thought he had already lapped Rose rather than just being a few seconds ahead. Holland was understandably not amused after the race.
He won again the following year capturing back-to-back Indy 500s driving one of the Deidt/Offenhauser Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials, owned and prepared by veteran driver/car owner Lou Moore
In 1949 there was almost a repeat of the 1947 race. Holland was leading and Rose was running second late in the race. Rose was pressing to pass his teammate when Lou Moore once again hung out the 'E-Z' sign from the pits. Once again Rose chose to ignore the sign and continued to push. However this time, Rose's car broke and Holland cruised home to victory. After the race, Rose was fired on the spot for disobeying team orders.
Mauri Rose made his fifteenth and final Indianapolis 500 start in the 1951 which ended with an accident around mid distance.
At the age of 45, Rose retired and moved to California. There he went to work full-time as an engineer at General Motors where he helped Chevrolet to establish its presence in both Hot Rodding and Stock Car racing.
He did appear at the Brickyard again in 1967 at the wheel of the Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car.
In the post-World War II era Rose's proudest accomplishment was not winning the Indy three times, but the invention of a device that allowed amputees to drive an automobile.