December 18, 1882 - March 31, 1956
Raffaele "Ralph" de Palma
Born in Biccari, Italy.
An Italian-American racecar driving champion who won the 1915 Indianapolis 500. His entry at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame estimates that he won about 2,000 races. DePalma won the 1908, 1909, 1910, and 1911 American AAA national dirt track championships and is credited with winning 24 American Champ car races. He won the Canadian national championship in 1929. DePalma estimated that he had earned $1.5 million by 1934 after racing for 27 years. He competed on boards and dirt road courses and ovals.
DePalma was the brother of 500 competitor John DePalma and the uncle of 1925 Indy winner Peter DePaolo. Born in Biccari, Italy, De Palma obtained his American citizenship in 1920 and as such he is considered the second non-American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 after Jules Goux.
Ralph DePalma had a small role in the 1920 Hollywood film, High Speed and in 1924 played the part of the Champion in an action/drama written by Wilfred Lucas titled Racing for Life. In 1923, he established the DePalma Manufacturing Company in Detroit to build race cars and engines for automobiles and aircraft.
In 1973, he was made a posthumous member of the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1991, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1992.
He died at his home in South Pasadena, California, from cancer on March 31, 1956 at age 73.
Ralph DePalma Packard 1918
Ralph DePalma and mechanic in the Packard that won the Harkness Handicap at Sheepshead Bay Speedway in Brooklyn.