Bob Burman was born in Imlay City, Michigan on April 23, 1884. At the age of 17 he won his first race, a local 5 mile match race. In 1906 he entered and won a 50-mile race in Detroit. Next was a 24 hour endurance race at St. Louis, MO. Teaming up with Ernest Kelly, Burman not only won, but beat the competition by 82 miles. Burman’s succes at the race track didn’t go unnoticed and he got signed as a factory driver by the Buick Company. He won the first race he entered under the Buick colors, the 187-mile Garden City Sweepstakes on Long Island.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was opened on August 12, 1909 with a series of races held. Burman won the inaugural race, the 250-mile Presto-O-Lite Trophy dash, beating Louis Chevrolet. On his 27th birthday, April 23, 1911, Burman celebrated by smashing the one-mile record at 141:73 mph breaking the old record, set by Barney Oldfield in the same car by 10 mph. A month later, Bob Burman was named “World’s Speed King,” with a $10,000 crown covered with jewels when he broke the track record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a time of 35.25 seconds (102:127 mph).
In 1912 Burman faced bad luck in some of his races. Running in 2nd place at the Indianapolis 500 on the 153rd lap, his car blew two rear tires simultaneously and flipped, putting him in the hospital for a week. Labor Day found Bob back at Brighten Beach, New York breaking the world dirt track record at 48.85 seconds. The car was taken to the beach at San Diego, California and on December 26th Bob was clocked at 129 mph before his car burst into flames and he drove it into the ocean to extinguish the fire. However, Burman still excelled on the dirt in 1912. Out of 43 races he entered, he won 33 and was 2nd 8 times, earning him the “Driver of the Year” award.
On his way to Indianapolis, Bob stopped off at Oklahoma City, where on April 29, 1915 he drove the last 100 miles of a 200 mile race with one broken goggle and a splinter of glass imbedded in his eye, causing him great pain, but still winning the race. That same year found Burman finishing 6th at the Indy 500, his best finish there. Bob Burman had made a great career in racing and he was still in his prime when entered his last race on April 8, 1916. On a road race running through the streets of Corona, CA, Burman was pushing his car to the limit to catch the leader, when the car rolled over killing Burman, his mechanic Eric Schroeder and a track guard.