Ralph De Palma

Inducted 1973

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1946

Won 2,557 races out of 2,889 racing starts

Earned racing acclaim because of his planning and strategy on the race track

Ralph De Palma loved to race — on foot, on bicycles and motorcycles, and eventually in cars. Driven by intelligence and a sense of good sportsmanship, Italian-born De Palma became a winner through perseverance and strategy rather than flashy driving. In 1914, he won the Vanderbilt Cup in a Mercedes and distinguished himself by completing the race without a single pit stop. While others drove furiously, stopping to refuel and replace worn tires, De Palma paced himself and his car to conserve fuel and tire wear-and-tear, thereby avoiding the need for pit stops. In 1919, when the mile-a-minute mark was still a novelty on American roadways, De Palma set a world record of 149.875 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida. Four years later, he established the De Palma Manufacturing Company in Detroit to build race cars and engines for automobiles and aircraft. A competitor once said of De Palma, “Nothing — not bad tracks nor irate farm boys — seemed to bother Ralph. He drove so fast and so smooth you never knew how badly you were getting beaten.”

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