Industry Mourns Loss Of Legendary Indianapolis 500 Engine Builder | Performance Racing Industry
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Industry Mourns Loss Of Legendary Indianapolis 500 Engine Builder
November 11, 2019
Louis "Sonny" Meyer Jr.'s involvement in the sport was instrumental as an engine builder or chief mechanic in at least 15 Indy 500 victories.
Industry Mourns Loss Of Legendary Indianapolis 500 Engine Builder

Louis "Sonny" Meyer Jr., one of the most accomplished and successful engine builders in Indianapolis 500 history, passed away Saturday, Nov. 9 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was 89. Meyer Jr. was the son of Louis Meyer, the first three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 as a driver.

Meyer Jr. joined Meyer & Drake Engineering soon after his father and Dale Drake purchased the Offenhauser engine business from Fred Offenhauser in early 1946. Meyer Jr.’s involvement in the sport was instrumental as an engine builder or chief mechanic in at least 15 Indy 500 victories.

The Meyers introduced the supercharged midget engine to Indy in 1949-50 with Tony Bettenhausen. Meyer Jr. worked on Bill Vukovich's crew in the early 1950s before becoming a chief mechanic for Bettenhausen in 1958 as he finished fourth at Indy in the No. 33 Jones & Maley Epperly/Offy.

When his father sold out of Offenhauser in 1964 to become a distributor for Ford's double-overhead-camshaft V8 engine, Meyer Jr. relocated to Indianapolis and became a mentor to many future chief mechanics. He also worked with his father on the Ford program, and a Ford engine powered A.J. Foyt to his third Indianapolis 500 win, in 1967.

Meyer Jr. also built the engine that powered Gordon Johncock's first "500" victory in 1973 in the No. 20 STP Double Oil Filter Eagle/Offy owned by Patrick Racing. The crew chief was Meyer Jr.’s brother-in-law, George Bignotti, and Meyer Jr. also served as the team's fueler during pit stops. Meyer Jr.’s tenure at Patrick Racing was followed by a stint at Vince Granatelli Racing and then several more years as development engineer on John Menard's potent V6 turbocharged Buicks.

Meyer Jr. was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2013.

Photo courtesy of IMS