On the morning of May 30, 1913, the third annual Indianapolis 500 kicked off with 27 of the world’s most skilled drivers pressing the gas to chase down the largest trophy in professional racing. The race was a historic one, marking the first time non-American drivers faced off in the Indiana competition. Come the final lap, though, this particular Indy 500 would be known for a much boozier reason thanks to French driver Jules Goux.
According to press accounts at the time, the 28-year-old kicked off what would become an afternoon of drinking and driving during his first pitstop. After slashing a tire on the 25th lap, Goux pulled his Peugeot into the pit, hopped out of the car, and reportedly declared, “Donne moi une bouteille de vin, ou je suis fini” (fetch me a pint of wine, or I’m done). It’s no wonder that his first request was something to drink; temperatures exceeded 87 degrees that day, and likely felt much hotter near the burning hot asphalt Goux was driving on.
As Goux’s crew was servicing his car on the sidelines and far from the boozed-up spectators and concession stands, they unsurprisingly did not have any wine on hand. The crewmen dashed to the grandstand to search for the booze, and one of them “happened on a party of millionaires from Pittsburg [who] furnished the excited pitman with half a dozen small bottles containing the most select vintage of la belle France,” according to a 1913 story in The Star. The crewman returned with the loot to the pit, where Goux reportedly snatched a bottle, cracked it open on the retaining wall, and took a healthy drink before hopping back into his car and taking off.
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The story goes that during every subsequent pitstop throughout the six-hour race, Goux and his riding mechanic Emil Begin — who was sitting shotgun — would grab and guzzle more Champagne to stay hydrated. By the time mile 500 approached, the two had allegedly consumed nearly six pints between the two of them.
The imbibing clearly had little effect on Goux’s driving, because after six hours and 35 minutes, the Frenchman was the first to cross the finish line with the checkered flag waving to signify his victory. With this win, Goux became the first European driver to ever take home the honor. Adding to his triumph was the fact that Goux beat the second-place driver by over 13 minutes, and he was also be the first driver to ever complete the race without the help of a relief driver.
While it’s an astonishing story, many historians have questioned how much Champagne Goux and Begin actually consumed during the race. Some speculate that the true amount sits closer to around four or five pints, while others argue they only drank a few sips, with most swigs serving as makeshift mouthwash before it was spit out. Historians, though, generally agree that Goux did down that first half pint the crewman brought to the pit.
Following Goux’s legendary victory, in 1914 the American Automobile Association (AAA) banned the consumption of alcohol during all future Indy 500 races. But regardless of how much Goux indulged, it was a stunning feat to win the race at all — let alone by the largest victory margin in the history of the Indy 500. Goux’s first request post-win was, predictably, yet another bottle of Champagne, after which he delivered his famed victory sign-off: “Without the good wine, I would not have won.”