Jean Marcenac came to the United States from Europe as a riding mechanic soon after World War I and quickly established himself as one of the most respected and successful individuals in his field. His career spanned more than 40 years. During one six-year period beginning in 1927, Marcenac prepared cars that won the Indianapolis 500 four times: with George Souders in 1927, Ray Keech in 1929, Billy Arnold in 1930, and Fred Frame in 1932. He is perhaps best known for becoming the chief mechanic of the colorful Novi Specials after the death of Bud Winfield in an automobile accident in 1950.
Under his direction, Duke Nalon won the pole in 1951 and Chet Miller set one- and four-lap qualifying records in 1952. When several Indianapolis 500 cars and drivers went to Monza, Italy, for an invitational 500 mile race in 1957, Tony Bettenhausen amazed the Europeans with a lap of 176 miles per hour in a Novi prepared by Marcenac. After Lew Welch sold the Novi cars to Andy Granatelli, Marcenac returned briefly to work on the cars in 1963 and saw three of them qualify – Jim Hurtubise qualified one Novi on the front row of the Indianapolis 500 and was an early leader of that race.
Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum