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Frank Lockhart arrived on the North American racing scene with a flourish but disappeared all too soon.
Background and Indianapolis 500 success as a rookie
He settled in California with his mother at an early age and it was on the state’s short tracks that his legend began – his Fronty Ford dicing with more powerful machinery during his early-twenties.
He was yet to race at a national level when he travelled to Indianapolis for the 1926 500 without a drive. But when Peter Kreis fell ill, Lockhart was drafted in as his replacement in Miller number 15. The rookie qualified in 20th position and took the lead soon after quarter distance. The fresh-faced youngster drew away from the field and was two laps in the lead when the Indiana rain started to fall. That forced officials stop the race after 160 of the scheduled 200 laps with Lockhart declared the youngest winner to date.
Subsequent racing career
A star had been born out of obscurity. That was confirmed on the board tracks from North Carolina to California but it was not enough to secure the 1926 National Championship for Lockhart finished as runner-up behind Harry Hartz.
He was also something of an engineer and he fitted his Miller with an intercooler for the following season – the first Indycar to be so equipped. He qualified on pole position for the 1927 Indy 500 at a new record speed (120.100mph) and led for 110 of the first 119 laps before his con rod fractured. He set speed records over the flying mile and again finished second in the Indycar standings – this time beaten by Pete de Paolo.
Land Speed Record attempts
Lockhart had a new ambition – to better Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Land Speed Record of 206.956mph. He drove a Miller-powered Stutz Blackhawk on the sands of Daytona Beach in February 1928 but the strong winds blew him into the sea. By the time the car was repaired, Ray Keech had regained the LSR for America with an average of 207.552mph.
On April 25 1928 Lockhart was ready to try again but a tyre punctured during his run. The Blackhawk was sent crashing end-over-end at more than 210mph and it disintegrated. Its 25 year old driver was found dead having been thrown clear of the wreckage.