A pioneer of motor sports who set an example for later racers such as Foyt, Petty, Andretti and Earnhardt.
Ralph DePalma was born in Italy, and immigrated to the United States before the turn of the century.
Proficient in nearly every type of racecar he ever drove, Ralph De Palma won nearly 2,000 races in his 25-year career, including the Vanderbilt Cup, the Savannah Grand Prize, the Elgin, the Illinois Grand Prix and the 1915 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
DePalma completed 10 Indianapolis 500 races, the last in 1925, when his nephew, Peter DePaolo, emerged as the winner. Despite only one win at Indianapolis, De Palma dominated the race time and time again, only to be thwarted by mechanical ills just short of victory. His record of leading 613 laps over a 10-year career stood until 1987, when it was broken by Al Unser.
In 1912 and 1914, De Palma was recognized as the AAA National Champion, and was the Canadian Champion for 1929. As late as 1936, he was still setting records in stock cars. His career total of 24 championship race wins still ranks high on the all-time list. The fact that his wins are a combination of road course, dirt track, board track and oval track competitions is also notable. DePalma also competed successfully in Europe and helped design the Packard V-12, which he drove to a land speed record of 149.87 mph at Daytona Beach in 1919. DePalma was a pioneer of motor sports, and set an example for later racers such as Foyt, Petty, Andretti and Earnhardt.
Ralph DePalma died on March 31, 1956 and was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1981.