Gaston Chevrolet, Historic, Class of 2002
Youngest of a trio of brothers who were to leave an indelible mark on American racing, Gaston Chevrolet remains an enigmatic and unheralded figure in motor sport, primarily due to his untimely death in a terrible crash at the Beverly Hills Speedway on Thanksgiving Day in 1920.
Gaston Chevrolet was born in Deaunt, France on Oct. 26, 1892. He came to America in 1902 and brother Louis was already well on his way to establishing a name for himself as a master mechanic and fearless racing driver.
Gaston eventually became an integral part of the team that pioneered the use of aluminum and other groundbreaking concepts in racing construction. But it was not until the 1916 Indy 500 that the youngest brother was to get his chance behind the wheel. He failed to qualify. The 1917 season proved to be a different story, however, when he finished third in the grueling 250-miler on the Cincinnati boards won by his brother, Louis. Later that season he also posted two seconds and a third in sprint races at Chicago.
Suspended from competition by the AAA in 1918 for running in some outlaw races, he regained his license in 1919 and became one of the leading drivers for the Frontenac team. The season started slowly, but Chevrolet established his reputation as a winner with three straight record-breaking victories at Sheepshead Bay (100 miles), Uniontown, (225 miles), and again at Sheepshead (150 miles). He finished sixth in the national championship.
The Chevrolets' Frontenac team grew to eight cars for the 1920 Indy 500, which featured a new 183 cubic inch engine formula. Gaston maintained a careful pace among the leaders, and when they faltered he made up a two-lap deficit to win the big one.
Gaston drove six more times that year, winning a 100-mile match race against veterans Tommy Milton and Ralph Mulford, and was poised for another victory when disaster struck at Beverly Hills.