Novi is a famous American make of engine used in racing cars in the Indianapolis 500 from 1941 to 1966. The dual overhead cam supercharged V8 engine was designed by Bud Winfield and Leo Goossen, and was built by Fred Offenhauser in suburban Novi, Michigan, near Detroit. The Novi was first used in 1941 at the Indianapolis 500 under the “Winfield” name; it produced over 450 hp (340 kW), an amazing output for the time. The Miller car powered with Novi and piloted by Ralph Hepburn finished fourth. In 1946, Frank Kurtis built a new FWD chassis for the Winfield V8 engine. The new car was entered for the 1946 Indy 500, to be driven by Hepburn. It was the first year that the car was entered with the Novi name incorporated into the entry (Novi Governor Special) and also the engine was referred to as Novi.Hepburn finished 14th in 1946. Kurtis built a second identical chassis in 1947, while Offenhauser Engineering Co. built two more new engines, so two cars started the race that year. Cliff Bergere was an early retirement after leading the race and then took over his team mate Herb Ardinger’s car that drove an unspectacular race in the backfield. Bergere managed to bring that car home in fourth place. For the 1948 edition of the Indy 500 Novi team entered same two Kurtis-Kraft – Novi cars, to be driven by Cliff Bergere (#12) and Chet Miller (#54). But both drivers had serious difficulties in managing the super powerful but hard-to-drive car, and Bergere was stepped down. Novi owner Lew Welch offered the drive to veteran Ralph Hepburn. Hepburn drove the #12 on Sunday, May 16, the second day of qualifying. During one of the test hops, he lost control when entering Turn Three, crashed the car for the outer retaining wall. Hepburn was killed instantly when the car slammed into the wall head on. Following Heburn’s fatal crash Chet Miller had asked to be relieved from his drive in car #54. Despite the knowledge that the Novi was potentially the fastest car in the field, finding a suitable driver was difficult, the more so as several available drivers considered the car too dangerous. Finally Welch agreed with Dennis “Duke” Nalon, who had driven the Don Lee Mercedes W154 GP car in the ‘500’ the year before, so he had some experience with a very powerful car, be it one with rear-wheel drive. Nalon qualified the car in the second qualifying weekend, fastest of the day with a speed of 131.603 mph, but rules forced him to line up behind the cars that had qualified during the first weekend. So he ended up in 11th place. In the race Nalon was always among the leaders, led in the middle of the race, and eventually finished 3rd, behind Maurie Rose and Bill Holland in Lou Moore’s Diedt – Offy cars.
|1948||AAA National Championship||Indianapolis 500|
|Duke Nalon||54||W.C. Winfield|
|Kurtis Kraft FD||Novi||Novi Grooved Piston|