A.J. Pete Kreis Raceway Tombstone.

Killed at the Speedway

Field review by the editors.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Dozens of drivers and spectators have been killed at the Indianapolis Speedway, but A.J. "Pete" Kreis probably has the only tombstone depicting the exact moment a racer drove off the mortal coil.

A.J. Pete Kreis Raceway Tombstone.

Pete was born into a family that had made a fortune in dairying, construction, and marble quarries. He never had to work, so he became a race car driver -- and he was pretty good at it. He survived several crashes, but his luck ran out on May 25, 1934, while preparing for the Indianapolis 500. Pete took a practice run on the Speedway, lost control on the first turn, flipped over the retaining wall, and was crushed to death in his own car.

Pete's family connections helped him even after he was deceased. His father commissioned Albert Milani, the most famous stonecutter in Knoxville, to carve Pete's marble tombstone. Twelve feet wide, titled "The Last Lap," it features a portrait of Pete and a aerial perspective of the brick-paved Speedway, showing Pete's custom-built race car at the moment and exact spot where it left the track. Pete and his mechanic, who also died in the crash, are still visible in the car's open cockpit (though over time, fans or the weather have worn off their heads).

A.J. Pete Kreis Raceway Tombstone.

The New York Times, not normally concerned with goings-on in Knoxville, gave Pete's tombstone a "Most Outstanding Memorial" award.

Pete's two siblings didn't outlive him by much. According to the other gravestones in the family plot, his older brother John died in a car crash two years later, and his oldest brother Roy died a year after that, never recovering from being gassed during the closing days of World War I.

Killed at the Speedway

Asbury Cemetery

Address:
5100 Asbury Cemetery Rd, Knoxville, TN
Directions:
Asbury Cemetery. Southeast edge of the city. From TN-168 turn south at the stoplight onto N. National Drive. Drive a half-mile. Turn left onto Asbury Rd. Drive 100 yards, then turn right onto Asbury Cemetery Rd. Drive a half-mile, continuing straight as the road narrows. You'll pass the cemetery archway on the left. Continue straight, following the stone wall, then make the next left into the cemetery. You'll see the Indy 500 tombstone up ahead, on the right.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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In the region:
Atom Age Gatehouse, Oak Ridge, TN - 28 mi.

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February 18, 2020

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