Above: 1971 Indianapolis 500 polesitter Peter Revson’s McLaren M16.
Eldon Palmer, an Indianapolis-area car dealer and businessman who crashed the pace car into the photographers stand at the start of the 1971 Indianapolis 500, has died in Indianapolis after a sudden illness. He was 87.
Palmer paced the Indy 500 field in the orange 1971 Dodge Challenger, with Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman Jr., astronaut John Glenn and ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel seated with him in the car. He led the field to green and peeled off onto pit road but the brakes locked, and as the field reached Turn 1, Palmer’s out-of-control Dodge hit the three-tiered camera stand at the end of pit road at an estimated 60mph.
“It was much faster than I had practiced,” Palmer told the Indy Star earlier this year. “[Polesitter Peter Revson] was going 125 mph.”
No one in the car was hurt and there were no fatalities, but several cameramen fell down several feet and suffered injuries.
The Butler University graduate taught for one year before purchasing a used car lot. He opened Palmer Dodge in 1958, Kenworth Truck Center in 1965 and bought Pebble Brook Golf Course in Noblesville in 1975. Palmer Trucks currently employs more than 500 people in several locations.
Palmer is survived by his wife of 65 years, Elaine, four children, 13 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, as well as a sister and three brothers.