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Ray Crawford (October 26, 1915 – February 1, 1996) was an American fighter ace, test pilot, race-car driver and businessman.
|Born||26 October 1915|
Roswell, New Mexico
|Died||1 February 1996 (aged 80)|
Los Angeles, California
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Teams||Elder, Kurtis Kraft|
|Entries||5 (3 starts)|
|First entry||1955 Indianapolis 500|
|Last entry||1959 Indianapolis 500|
Born in Roswell, New Mexico, Crawford served as a U.S. Army Air Corps fighter pilot and flew the P-38 Lightning in combat over North Africa in 1943. He was tied as the top-ranking fighter ace of the 97th Fighter Squadron with six enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed and one probably destroyed. Rotated home, he eventually became an early jet pilot. At war's end Crawford was evaluating the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star at Burbank, California and was to have flown the very aircraft that fighter ace Richard Bong was eventually killed in. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with fourteen Oak Leaf Clusters before separating from active duty as a Captain in February, 1946. Crawford remained in the Air Force Reserves until April 1953.
Crawford was introduced to racing by Sam Hanks, a former high school classmate, and competed notably with unlimited hydroplanes and automobiles. He drove in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1954-59 seasons with 9 starts, including the Indianapolis 500 races in 1955-56, and 1959. In 1954, he won the stock-car class of the Carrera Panamericana (a nine-stage, five-day race across Mexico) in a Lincoln. He also finished 7th and 4th in the invitational "Race of Two Worlds" events held at Monza Autodrome, Italy in 1957 and 1958, respectively.
In 1955, Crawford drove a Lincoln-Kurtis sports car at the 12 Hours of Sebring and finished the race in thirteenth position after running the entire length without a co-driver. To date, he is the only driver to have completed the race without relief of any kind.
Crawford's family owned a successful supermarket chain based in El Monte, California which led to his nickname, "The Flying Grocer." Crawford was one of the first owner-drivers of the post-war era at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and raced his own privately funded cars throughout his career. The only exception came in 1956, when Crawford raced the 12 Hours of Sebring for Chevrolet's inaugural Corvette team. He was also the driver of Corvette's experimental SR-2 at the Bahamas Speedweeks event that December. Cars owned by Crawford also qualified for the Indianapolis 500 with other drivers in 1953, 1954 and 1962.
Serious injuries received during a crash at the 1959 Indianapolis 500 curtailed Crawford's driving career.
Speed legend Mickey Thompson cites Crawford as an early influence in his autobiography, Challenger. Crawford provided Thompson with his first exposure to the Indianapolis 500 as a member of his pit crew.
Crawford died in Los Angeles, California on February 1, 1996 after battling Alzheimer's disease and is buried at Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside California. He is the subject of a 2015 biography by Andrew Layton titled Ray Crawford - Speed Merchant. Dick Wallen, a noted auto racing photographer and publisher, also contributed to the book.
World War II Aerial Victory creditsEdit
|March 1, 1943||2||Messerschmitt Bf 109s; On bomber escort|
|March 22, 1943||1||Messerschmitt Bf 109 (Probably destroyed)|
|April 5, 1943||1||Messerschmitt Bf 109|
|April 11, 1943||2||Junkers Ju 52 Transports; Ace status|
|June 15, 1943||1||Macchi C.202|
Awards and decorationsEdit
Crawford's ribbons as they appeared upon separation from the armed forces in 1953.
From top, and from left to right:
Indy 500 resultsEdit
Complete Formula One World Championship resultsEdit
|1955||Ray Crawford||Kurtis Kraft 500B||Offenhauser L4||ARG||MON||500
|1956||Ray Crawford||Kurtis Kraft 500B||Offenhauser L4||ARG||MON||500
|1957||Meguiar's Mirror / Crawford||Kurtis Kraft 500G||Offenhauser L4||ARG||MON||500
|1958||Meguiar's Mirror / Crawford||Kurtis Kraft 500G||Offenhauser L4||ARG||MON||NED||500
|1959||Meguiar's Mirror / Crawford||Elder||Offenhauser L4||MON||500
- Bong, Carl. Dear Mom: So We Have a War. Burgess Publishing, 1993.
- Thompson, Mickey and Griffith Borgeson. Challenger: Mickey Thompson's Own Story of His Life of Speed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964.
- "Layton, Andrew. Ray Crawford - Speed Merchant. Revolution Press, 2015".