I love it when two areas of hobby interest intersect, in this case, the Indy 500 and aviation. I have posted before about the exploits of American Eddie Rickenbacker and Frenchman George Boillot, both pilots in WW1 and drivers at Indy. But what about WW2?
There are a few examples, but one I was reading about today concerns one Ray Crawford. Though his racing career is somewhat non-distinguished (with finishes of 23rd, 29th and 23rd in three Indy starts in the late 1950s), he is apparently the only WW2 fighter ace who also raced at Indy. He recorded six victories in P-38s over North Africa in 1943.
Crawford was so skilled as a fighter pilot that he was brought back to
the states as a test pilot. He and another pilot were taking turns
flying the jet powered Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star prototype near the
end of the war out of Burbank. On one of Crawford's turns he was ready
to go up when there was a mechanical problem that made him bring the
plane back so he lost his turn. After the problem was corrected the
other pilot took the plane up only to suffer an engine flameout and was
killed just after takeoff. The other pilot was Richard Bong who is
better known as America's leading fighter ace with (at least) 40
confirmed victories in the Pacific.
Crawford died in Los Angeles in 1996.
Race car drivers and fighter pilots. Both require a special kind of crazy!