Charles Van Acker
14/3/1909 - 31/5/1998
Raced at the Indy 500 three times between 1946 and 1950. Later became a mechanic after his successful driving career ended. Charles Van Acker died 24 years ago, he was 89
Born in Brussels of both Belgian and Dutch ancestry, Charles started racing in the United States in 1946 after WWII and became a regular on the midget racing scene. He was part of a group of 14 racing enthusiasts who decided to build their own racetrack in 1944.
Charlie began his working life working on a beet farm in Ohio, before his family settled in Indiana.
It took then two year to complete but on August 23rd 1946 the South Bend Motor Speedway opened with 35 cars taking to the track. Charlie tried to qualify for the Indy 500 that year in a Voelker powered Singer but failed. He returned in 1947 and managed to qualify his Stevens Lencki in 24th spot on the grid. Unfortunately he crashed out on the 25th lap.
A few months later he took his only AAA Championship win, capturing the 100 mile race on the 1 mile dirt oval at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in his Stevens at an average speed of 85.96 mph. In August he finished third in the George Robson Memorial 100-mile race at Goshen, N.Y., behind Bettenhausen and Ted Horn.
In 1948, he had his best run at the Brickyard, qualifying 12th and finishing 11th, 8 laps down on the winner. He had a contrasting time the next year, destroying his car after just 10 laps.
The 1950 race was a round of the F1 World Championship and Charlie drove a Bromme, but came up short in qualifying. It was his last attempt to qualify for Indy.
During his career he also ran on dirt ovals in the mid-west and after a bad crash at Dayton, he was actually declared dead! Van Acker insisted that the report was exagerated. After his retirement he ran the track at South Bend and worked as a mechanic.