When Will Overhead Won The Indy 500
Many of the drivers that won the Indianapolis 500 have had their names become immortalized. Names like Shaw, Foyt, Mears and Unser will live forever in the annals of the Indianapolis 500. But have you heard the name Overhead? When did he win the race?
A little bit of Indy trivia has almost been eroded away over the years. During the 1933 Indianapolis 500, the citizens of Walsenburg, CO were led to believe that a relatively unknown driver by the name of Will Overhead had won the race. In the golden days of newspapers, most of the special stories were sent by telegraph. Since the telegraph wires were above ground, an industry insider would refer to this as sending an overhead.
While the race was only at the halfway point, the young editor of The World-Independent of Walsenburg had received his last news reports of the day by telephone. He thought it was important to go to print with the final results of the race. The editor sent a telegram to the Denver office of the Associated Press asking them to send him the results of the 500. In response, the Denver office sent a telegram back that said “WILL OVERHEAD 500 WINNER”.
Anyone knowing the industry jargon of the day, would have known that this meant that they would send the results via telegraph when the race was over. But the young editor was green, and he assumed it meant that Will Overhead had won the race.
The young editor was familiar with most of the big names in the race, but he had never heard of a driver named Overhead. But he was up against a deadline, so he ran with it. To make matters worse, he improvised and wrote an elaborate story how an unknown driver named Will Overhead had started from the back of the field and charged his way up to take command in the latter stages and win the Indianapolis 500.
For the record, the winner of the 1933 Indianapolis 500 was Louie Meyer. This was the second of three victories for Meyer, who would win again in 1936 to become the first three-time winner of the 500, the first to drink milk in Victory Lane and the first to receive the Borg-Warner trophy. There was no Will Overhead in the race that year or any other.
But to the readers of The World-Independent in Walsenburg, CO on May 31; the winner was Will Overhead. I’m not sure that this rivals the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman” headline following the 1948 presidential election, but it always generates a few laughs and is definitely worthy of remembering as one of the many little gems from the Indianapolis 500.