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The 1928 AAA National Championship


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#1 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 18:53

HISTORY OF 1928 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACING by John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken. INTRODUCTION. The five year time span of 1928 to 1932 is a transitional period in American AAA Championship racing of the first importance and of permanent effects. From the supercharged 91 1/2 cubic inch throughbreds of 1926-1927 we end up with the totally non-supercharged 366 cubic inch formula limit which allows stock block powered cars to compete with the pure bred types. During these years, all the still remaining board tracks will disappear and all AAA Championship events thereafter 1931, except Indianapolis and the two George Vanderbilt Cups, would be staged on dirt surfaced tracks until the 200 miler run at Darlington on December 10, 1950. Likewise the number of AAA Championship races held during the years 1928 to 1946 underwent a very marked decline.

The 1928 season's seven Championship races held and their winners were;

1. May 30, 1928 INDIANAPOLIS 500, Meyer, Louis, Miller, 99.48 mph BR

2. June 10, 1928 DETROIT 100, Keech, Ray, Miller, 77.87 mph D

3. July 4, 1928 SALEM 15, Duray, Leon, Miller FD, 130.59 mph B (The start of the scheduled 200 mile race, halted by rain.)

4. July 4, 1928 SALEM 185, Keech, Ray, Miller, 122.73 mph B (The remaining portion of the scheduled 200 mile race.)

5. August 19, 1928 ALTOONA 200, Meyer, Louis, Miller, 116.62 mph B

6. September 1, 1928 SYRACUSE 100, Keech, Ray, Miller, 75.30 mph D

7. October 12, 1928, SALEM 62.5, Woodbury, Cliff, Miller, 117.00 mph B (The scheduled 200 mile race was halted at 62.5 miles because the track was unsafe.)

Addendum, i. e. non-Championship event:

1. September 1, 1928, ATLANTIC CITY 100, Keech, Ray, Miller, 131.80 mph B

Beginning with the 1926 Indianapolis 500 all AAA National Championship races were run with a maximum engine size restriction of 91 1/2 cubic inches. With the exception of Indianapolis all the AAA National Championship contests staged in 1925, 1926, and 1927 had been held on board speedways. In 1928 however only three of the big board tracks, i.e. Altoona, Atlantic City, and Salem, were still in operation and Atlantic City did not stage any AAA Championship races in 1928. For both Atlantic City and Salem, 1928 would be their last season. The Altoona boards lasted until the end of 1931.

It was announced in early January 1928 that Val Haresnape, a secretary of the AAA Contest Board, had resigned from the Board and had accepted a position at the Stutz Motor Car Company. Probably this had all been arranged by the Stutz President, Fred E. Moscovics. There had been apparently considerable acrimony at the AAA Contest Board during 1927. Val thought that American auto racing was in state of complete crisis. The chief problems were the decline of the board speedways and their entire possible extinction, the now complete Miller car monopoly at the AAA tracks, and a growing general apathy to the sport by the public.

In any case, Ernest N. Smith, the official head of the AAA gave Haresnape a generous and glorious send off by saying (quote), "When the contest board was reorganized in 1925, the offices moved to Washington, and the stage set for bigger things in the racing field, Mr. Haresnape was brought from Los Angeles to carry out our program of enlarged service. For many years prior to his appointment to the board, he had been a racing enthusiast with an intimate knowledge of conditions on the tracks and speedways.

He served as secretary of the board during a period of 18 months, and during his tenure of office at A.A.A. headquarters in Washington, the board's services to the speedways and dirt tracks, to the racing drivers, to the automotive industry, and to the general public were greatly increased in scope and in efficency.

In my opinion the contest board has never experienced such a period of accomplishment as it has under his able direction. His energy, resourcefulness and integrity under many trying conditions gave to the work of the board an authority and reputation it had not enjoyed in many years."

The 18 month period, referred to by E. N. Smith, began on May 22, 1926 when Val was appointed as the manager of the Contest Board as a replacement for Paul Pommer, who had resigned. Haresnape then assumed his new duties at the main AAA headquarters, located in Washington, D.C. For two years prior to his new 1926 appointment Val was a member of the (Pacific Coast) AAA Contest Board which controlled all Championship level events west of the Rocky Mountains. Haresnape had worked for the Contest Board, in one capacity or another, since 1920. Haresnape was a graduate of Pomona College in 1913 and served in World War I as a sergeant and later as a lieutenant of infanty. Val obtained his first sports experience as a timer in swimming meets for the A. A. U. and from that jumped to being a member of the western AAA Contest Board. On April 7, 1923 the AAA Contest Board Chairman, William Schimpf, appointed Haresnape the AAA representative for the Los Angeles district. Just prior to this April 1923 appointment, Haresnape had been the head of timing at all the big AAA California speedway races.

At a meeting of the AAA Contest Board held in New York on March 27, 1928 a motion was passed to allow National Championship events to be staged on dirt tracks of one mile or more in length, using engines of 183 cubic inches or under. Indianapolis and all the Championship contests held on the board tracks were still limited to 91 1/2 cubic inch motor or under. Thus dirt track racing returned to the Championship schedule in 1928 and two such events were held at Detroit (June 10) and Syracuse (September 1). Although nothing was said about the matter, this was the result of the board track decline and decadence. There were seven Championship races run in 1928 and practically all of the cars, whatever they might be happen to be named, were designed and built by the two Duesenberg brothers, Fred and Augie, and by Harry A. Miller.

Pietro Bordino (1887-1928), one of the most flamboyant Italian drivers of the 1920s, was killed while practicing for the Targa Florio road race on April 27, 1928. Pietro hit a little mongrel puppy and the dog's body became entangled in the steering gear. Bordino's Bugatti hit a ditch and flipped over. Bordino died instantly and his mechanic, Lasagne, died a few hours later. Both had sustained crushed skulls. In the U.S. Bordino was known as the "Mad Mullah".

Bordino had run a 3-litre Grand Prix Fiat in some west coast California board tracks in early 1922. Then in late 1924 and early 1925 he ran a type Tipo 805 Fiat at Culver City. On April 19, 1925 Bordino won a non-Championship 25 mile sprint race at Culver Ciry using his Fiat at an average speed of 133.49 mph. Pietro's only appearance at Indianapolis was in 1925 with the Tipo 805. He started 8th and was 10th at the finish, with some relief help, i.e. laps 74-179, from Antoine Mourre. Bordino had been very well liked by his U.S. competitors. Pietro had first come to the U. S. in 1908 with the Fiat racing team when they ran in the November 26, Savannah held, American Grand Prix. On this occasion Bordino was the riding mechanic for Ralph DePalma, then a promising new comer.

Of much greater weight than Bordino's demise, was the death of Frank Lockhart (1903-1928), on the sands of Daytona Beach in a Land Speed Record attempt on April 25, 1928. However the Lockhart story, as far as I can reconstruct it, is already posted under the thread "Frank Lockhart" and there is no reason to repeat it here.

And on May 13, 1928 the veteran driver Dave Lewis (1881-1928), who was entered in the 1928 "500", died in rather odd and peculiar circumstances. Lewis was found alone and dead of a gun shot wound to the head, inside his San Francisquito Canyon mountain cabin following the extinguishing of a brush fire around it. A forest ranger brought the blaze under control. Lewis' relatives chose to believe that robbers had killed him and then started the fire to cover up the evidence of crime, but the sheriff's deputies were of the opinion that Lewis had killed himself after panicking, when the a small brush fire that he had started got beyond his control! Dave's cabin was located near the area of the March 12, 1928 St. Francis dam disaster which killed more than 450 people. Lewis had made reservations to leave on May 15 for Indianapolis, where he expected to drive a front drive Miller.

Lewis began driving in the major AAA races in 1911 and had piloted such makes as Crawford, Duesenberg, Fiat, Hoskins, Miller, Premier, and Stutz. In 1925 he almost won the Indianapolis 500 but late in the race, and near exhaustion, he overshot his pit and had to take another lap around, losing much time. Meanwhile DePaolo shot into the lead and stayed there. Dave had four Championship wins which all occurred in 1927 and 1928, using a 91 front drive Miller. Lewis' AAA Championship rankings were 7ths in 1925 and 1926; 9th in 1927, 10th in 1923, and 13th in 1916. He was unranked for the other years.

Edited by john glenn printz, 06 October 2011 - 17:52.


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#2 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 14:58

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-1) 1. INDIANAPOLIS 500, MAY 30, 1928. The 1928 "500" saw a further perfecting of the 91 1/2 cubic inch displacement supercharged racing cars, now in their third year of use. The chief technical interests were centered around the development of the front wheel drive Millers and the use of intercoolers and superchargers. Supercharging had been introduced at the Speedway by the Mercedes team in 1923, the front drive car by Harry Miller in 1925 with two examples; and intercooling by Lockhart and two stage supercharging by Cliff Durant in 1927. The front drive model Millers were generally thought to be faster than the more conventional rear drive machines on board and brick speedways, though they had failed as yet to provide a winning car at the Speedway, and were almost totally useless on dirt surfaced tracks. But now in 1928 and at Indianapolis, most of the top U.S. pilots were using them because it was now thought that the "bugs" had pretty much been eliminated from them. Peter DePaolo had won the 1927 AAA National Title in one and they were beginning to look dominant on the board ovals.

Harry Miller himself refused to market or manufacture any intercoolers for his 91 cubic inch straight 8's for others, and thus forced everyone who owned Miller powered equipment into building their own intercoolers. Hence there resulted a considerable variety and shapes of intercooler designs on the 91 Millers during 1928 and 1929. After May 1924 most of the machinery running on the AAA Championship circuit was supercharged and all the starters at Indianapolis in 1928 were so equipped, as had also been the case in 1927. Intercooling, though a new principal in American racing, appeared on no less than 19 of the 36 entries for the 1928 race, which also showed the huge impact that Frank Lockhart had made on everyone during 1927.

The auto manufacturers Marmon, Reo, and Stutz all sponsored cars at Indy in 1928 but that didn't hide the rather obvious fact that these vehicles were all Miller built products or nearly so. The three Marmon front drive machines all utilized Miller made components but their chassis were designed and constructed by ex-driver Earl Cooper (1886-1965). These were the first factory backed "Marmons" entered since the company had won the inaugural 1911 "500" with drivers Ray Harroun and Cyrus Patschke.

Frank Lockhart had had in his possession, at the time of his death, two rear drive 91 Millers which incorporated all his detailed refinements to the valves, rods, pistons, chassis, superchargers, intercoolers, etc., etc. Apparently he and Tony Gulotta (1903-1981) had been engaged to drive them under the name Stutz Black Hawk Specials, but the death of Frank had changed the situation. Both of Frank's rear drive Millers were entered at Indianapolis by Lockhart's estate. Sometime in May 1928 M. A. Yagle purchased one of the cars and most of Frank's racing equipment for Ray Keech's (1900-1929) use. Keech's 1928 Indianapolis Miller was one of the two ex-Lockhart cars (now called however the Simplex Piston Ring Special) and Gulotta retained the second Lockhart car and ran it at the Speedway under Stutz sponsorship. For Keech, this was his first try at Indianapolis and he had only become nationally known since breaking the Land Speed Record on April 22, 1928 at Daytona Beach, by posting a 207.553 mph average in a huge and ugly vehicle dubbed the White Triplex Special.

One of the entries that got a great deal of attention was Earl DeVore's (1889-1928) "Chromolite Special", a rear drive Miller entered by the newly founded (in April 1928) Chromolite Corporation. Instead of being painted, its body was entirely chrom plated along with the frame, axles, springs, wheels, and various engine parts. The Chromolite car was also unique in having the only water cooled intercooler. Harry Miller entered a special front drive machine No. 16, piloted by Ralph Hepburn. It incorporated an intercooler, an extra large blower, and other refined design details. Six Duesenberg cars were entered, with the two new 1927 off-set chassis jobs now in the hands of Benny Shoaff (1897-1960) and Dutch Bauman (b. 1896). The latest factory backed Duesenbergs now also had intercoolers. The most technically advanced, complex, and expensive car at the Speedway in 1928 was Cliff Durant's front drive Detroit Special No. 5. It was a highly customized vehicle using many Miller producted parts. This machine had been build for the 1927 Indianapolis race and incorporated the combined engineering saavy of Tommy Milton, Dr. Sanford A. Moss, and Cornelius Van Ranst. This was the vehicle that had introduced two stage supercharging to the Speedway in 1927.

There were 40 entries in all. The first qualifying trials took place on May 26 and 19 cars moved into the starting field. The six fastest times were Duray (122.391 mph), Woodbury (120.417), Bergere (119.955), Gulotta (117.031), Stapp (116.887), and Hepburn (116.354). At first Woodbury and then Duray bettered Lockhart's 1927 records marks of one lap at 120.918 mph and four circuits at 120.100. Duray set a new one lap record of 124.018. Both Duray and Woodbury were using front drive Millers, as were Bergere, Stapp, and Hepburn. DePaolo crashed on his qualification attempt late in the day when his car's steering gear locked up momentarily and Peter was very seriously injured as the car had flipped over three times. DePaolo sat out the rest of the 1928 AAA season. DePaolo's front drive car was repaired in Louis Chevrolet's Indianapolis shop and later assigned to Wilbur Shaw. There were 5 more qualifiers on May 27, 4 on May 28, 3 on May 29, and Shaw qualified DePaolo's "Flying Cloud Special" on the morning of the race, May 30.

The brick surface of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was very rough by the mid-1920s and many of the starting drivers in 1928 had lined up possible relief pilots for themselves, just in case they succumbed from the heat and the constant pounding during the five hour grind. The AAA had laid down a rule that all relief drivers must have some practice time in the car that they were assigned to. Would-be reliefer Kelly Petillo (1903-1970) wrecked Henry Kohlert's Miller in practice but Kohlert managed to get it repaired quickly enough to finally qualify it on May 29. Detroiter Chet Miller (1902-1953) wrecked Buddy Marr's (1896-1996) already qualified Miller in practice on May 29 and as it could not be rebuilt in time for the race, it was eliminated. Chet was taken unconscious to a hospital where it was reported that he had broken his right arm in two places.

In the early morning race day (May 30) practice, the two qualified Duesenbergs of Dutch Bauman and L. L. Corum (1899-1949) were both wrecked and could not start the race. When everything got finalized there were 29 starters, all straight 8's, which included 4 Duesenbergs (Frame, Gleason, Hall, & Shoaff), 12 front driver Millers (Bergere, Comer, Durant, Duray, Hepburn, Kreis, Ross, Seymour, Shaw, Snowberger, Stapp, & Woodbury), 12 rear drive Millers (Arnold, Batten, DeVore, Evans, Gulotta, Keech, Kohert, Litz, Meyer, Moore, Schneider & Souders), and 1 car from the Green Engineering Company.

The rookie crop for 1928 consisted of Billy Arnold, Clare W. Belt, Jimmy Gleason, Ira Hall, Henry Kohlert, Ray Keech, Deacon Litz, Lou Moore, Sam Ross, Johnny Seymour, and Russ Snowberger. Leon Duray and Cliff Woodbury were the pre-race favorites to win and one of the 12 front drive Milllers was certainly expected to emerge the overall winner. It was expected also that the Peter DePaolo/Norm Batten record speed of 101.13 mph for the full 500 miles, set in 1925, would be broken also.

Among the top contenders in the 1927 "500", i.e. Lewis and Lockhart, and now missing for 1928, was also to be placed Harry Hartz (1896-1974) who had not yet recovered from a fiery crash at Salem (Rockingham) on October 12, 1927, during the running of a 200 mile Championship event. Other famous and renowned drivers, who still were competing during 1927, but had now permanently retired were Earl Cooper (1896-1965), Frank Elliott (1890-1957), Eddie Hearne (1887-1955), and Tommy Milton (1893-1962). During the 1920s Hearne was affectionally called and known as "Grandpa" as no one could remember when Eddie hadn't been racing. Hearne did, in fact, go back further than Cooper, Milton, or Elliott, as Eddie's first year in major U.S. competition was 1909.

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 July 2010 - 13:43.


#3 john glenn printz

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 19:58

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-2) The information or sources now available on the 1928 "500" are very discrepant in the details. For instance there are two variant lap leader charts for the event. Here are the lap leaders according to MOTOR July 1928, on page 37.

Duray 1-54; Stapp 55-57; Duray 58-62; Souders 63-78; Gleason 79-82, Stapp 83-96; Gleason 97-148; Gulotta 149-181; Gleason 182-186; and Meyer 187-200.

Here is what Mr. Donald Davidson sent to me on February 13, 1969. This is presumably the official IMS and USAC reckoning.

Duray 1-64; Souders 65-73; Gleason 74-85; Stapp 86-92; Gleason 93-135; Snowberger (driving in relief of Gleason) 136-146; Gulotta 147-181; and Meyer 182-200.

Still it is possible to give a general idea as to what took place. Leon Duray dominated the first 150 (60 laps) before his torrid pace began to take its toil on the engine. Leon averaged 106.193 mph for the first 100 miles. Already before the first 60 laps had been run the Miller front drives were proving remarkably fragile. Snowberger-out after 4 laps; Bergere-out 7 laps; Shaw-out 42 laps; Hepburn-out 48 laps; and Woodbury out-55 laps. All five had retired with either supercharger, transmission, or timing gear failure. After Duray's front drive Miller began to fade, Gleason's Duesenberg and Tony Gulotta's ex-Lockhart Miller began to emerge as possible winners. Meanwhile the Miller front drives continued their disappearing act with the retirement of Kreis (lap 73), Ross (lap 132), Duray (lap 133), Seymour (lap 170), and Durant (lap 175). Gleason had led at the 200 (average-105.120 mph), and 300 (average-103.236) mile marks, while Gulotta was the leader at 400 miles (average-100.980 mph). The race's average speed had dropped rather quickly.

As the race progressed a new and unknown pilot from California, one Louis Meyer, had been averaging a consistant 100 mph average from the start. Lou started 13th, was 9th at 50 miles, 8th at 100, 7th at 175, and 4th at 200. After Meyer made his only pit stop of the day on lap 85 (2 minutes and 15 seconds) he was listed 5th at the half way mark. Towards the 400 mile mark Meyer was in 3rd place running now only behind Gulotta and Gleason. Then it began to rain a bit and the caution flag was out for a brief period. When the green returned Earl DeVore in the Chromilite Special skidded on the wet track and smashed into the south wall (lap 164) splitting the gas tank. Earl however was able to drive the car back to the pit area.

On Gulotta's 182nd circuit the fuel line became clogged and his Miller No. 8 stalled. On about the same lap or just a little earlier Gleason's Duesenberg had a water hose let go and the engine started to overheat from its lack of coolant. Gleason was soon forced to pit (lap 187). Meyer inherited the lead and led the either the last 13, or 19 laps. On lap 195 Gleason's Duesenberg retired permanently either from piston problems brought on by the overly hot motor or an overly wet magneto. And it took almost half an hour to get Gulotta's mount running again and all Tony could then salvage was 10th place.

According to what was suppose to happen, predicted, and prophesied just five hours before: the final results for the top six placements were bizarre, improbable, and totally unexpected;

1. Meyer, Louis, Miller, 5:01:33.75, 99.482 mph, total prizes $28,500

2. Moore, Lou/Schneider, Lou, Miller, 5:02:17.64, 99.241 mph, total prizes $13,650

3. Souders, George, Miller, 5:06:01.04, 98.034 mph, total prizes $8,450

4. Keech, Ray/Shaw, Wilbur, Miller, 5:21:28.45, 93.320 mph

5. Batten, Norm/Meyer, Zeke, Miller, 5:21:47.51, 93.320 mph

6. Stapp, Babe/Hepburn, Ralph, Miller, 5:23:50.40, 92.638 mph

It was the third straight year that an unknown youngster in a conservatively designed car had won the race over the much more favored veterans in newer and more exotic equipment. Meyer's Miller had been in two previous "500"s and had been driven by Phil Shafer in 1926 to 10th and by Tony Gulotta in 1927 to 3rd. Alden Sampson, its present owner, had purchased the car for $5,500 from Phil Shafer (1891-1971) about 10 days before the race. Meyer had come to the Speedway in 1928 to pilot a car for the Duesenberg team, but the Duesenberg had been sold out from under him and given over to Ira Hall (1892-1987). Louie then went to a friend, Samson, and had him purchase Shafer's Miller, which had been originally assigned to Wilbur Shaw (1902-1954). Louie, together with his father had gotten the Miller ready for the race, after Lou had qualified it at 111.353 mph, to start 13th.

Only two of the Miller front drives were running at the finish and they were listed in 6th (Stapp) and 9th (Comer). The front drive Millers worked very well on the smoother wooden saucers but the tough roughness of the Indy's bricks and the longer distance involved here proved inimical to their chances. Myron Stevens also told me that (quote), "everyone wound up and ran the little 91's much too tight". Nor was the situation much improved by pilots like Leon Duray (1896-1956) who would drive the cars flat out until they disintegrated under the strain. The best placement in 1928 for a vehicle equipped with an intercooler was Keech's ex-Lockhart rear drive Miller, in 4th.

The race had gone badly for Duesenberg, for in addition to losing two qualified cars race day morning in pre-race mishaps (Bauman and Corum), two of their machines (Hall and Shoaff) crashed during the race in the southwest turn. Hall's car was wrecked while being driven by relief driver Jack Petticord (b. 1898) on lap 116. The best Duesy finish was 8th place (Frame) and this example, which had won with Souders in 1927, was privately owned by Bill White.

The brief period of rain killed all possibility for the 91 cubic inch class cars to maintain an overall average of 100 mph or better, but Meyer's winning speed of 99.482 mph set a new record for the 1 1/2 litre cars. The results of the 1928 Indianapolis race were indicative that an entirely new crop of young drivers were on the scene, for Meyer, Moore, and Keech had never been in the Indianapolis race day lineup before, and all the pilots listed in the top six finishing positions, except Batten and Hepburn, had had their first year at the Speedway either in 1927 ot 1928. The rookie Ray Keech, who finished 4th with some help from Wilbur Shaw, might well have proved more of a contender if he hadn't been slowed down by a leaking fuel line. Lou's victory was not considered to be by a rookie because Meyer had driven 41 laps of relief for Wilbur Shaw, in the 1927 "500". The attendance for the '28 Indianapolis event was placed at about 145,000.

Edited by john glenn printz, 15 July 2010 - 13:40.


#4 john glenn printz

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 12:10

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-3) ON EARLY LOUIS MEYER. Although Louis Meyer had made his first start as a driver at Ascot in his elder brother's (Eddie) model T Ford Rajo equipped racer, probably in 1925, Meyer was not really a California dirt track driver, as the news media claimed just after he had won at Indianapolis in 1928. Meyer spun out early in his Ascot debut and may not have actually raced again until at the Charlotte board speedway on November 11, 1926 in a 50 mile sprint event where a broken connecting rod put him out early. During 1926 Meyer worked as a mechanic for driver Frank Elliott (1890-1957) and Louie was occasionally allowed to take Elliott's Miller out on the various board tracks for test runs.

There was no doubt that Meyer himself now wanted to race and he appeared at Culver City for the Championship ranked 250 miler on March 6, 1927 but failed to make the starting field in a Miller. It was here that the AAA starter, Fred J. Wagner, told Lou that regardless of how well he qualified he would have to start dead last, because he lacked proper and prior board track racing experience. In the 1927 Indianapolis, Meyer relieved Wilbur Shaw for laps 77-129 and thus gained some valuable brickyard know how. Meyer appeared at Altoona in a Duesenberg (June 11, 1927) without making the race, but he made the Salem 200 lineup on July 4, 1927, but was forced out of the race after 26 laps with no oil pressure. Later in the same race he relieved "Grandpa" Eddie Hearne and the pair finished 10th. At the of his 1927 AAA campaign Louie was listed 17th in the final National Point standings with a total of 41 counters; i.e, 38 from Indianapolis and 3 from Salem, both for relief roles. That seems to be about the total of Lou's former competitve experience before winning the 1928 "500".

Louie Meyer got into automobile racing through his older brother, Edward "Eddie" Meyer, Jr., who was born in Europe at Metz, Alsace-Lorraine on October 5, 1893. The family came to the U.S about three years later and resided at first in New York City. Louis Meyer was born on July 21, 1904 in Yonkers, New York and about a year later the family moved to California. In 1913 Eddie began to run a Ford shop located in Redlands, CA and remained there with it for another 16 years. Shortly after World War I Eddie began racing automobiles with his souped up, Ford T Rajo head powered racer, the "Rajo Special". Eddie won a road race of some sort staged between Ontario and Uplands, California. The date for this event is c. 1920, but the exact contest still remains unidentified. It was Eddie's rivalry with a local Chevrolet dealer which led him to enter the Ontario-Uplands contest. After that Eddie raced at the various California dirt ovals located at Pismo Beach, San Jose, San Louis Obispo, etc. In 1924 Eddie ran at the new 5/8's mile dirt Ascot oval set up and constructed by George R. Bentel. Lou started to work for Eddie as his chief grease monkey and on the their treks to the various California dirt racing ovals, Lou made the journeys riding in the race car, when being towed by and to his brother's truck!

Then in 1926, AAA driver Frank Elliott took Lou under his wing and hired him as a mechanic. Acting as Louie's mentor at Indianapolis in 1928, Frank advised the 23 year Meyer to average a constant 100 mph average. Elliott thought it should be a good enough speed to win the event. Whether by design or just the circumstances, that's what Meyer did, and he thereby became the actual race winner! After his victory Meyer said, "Elliott taught me all I know about race driving. You know I worked for him for two years as a mechanic." When Louis rolled into victory lane he exclaimed, "I didn't even know I had won. I thought the checkered flag was a mistake, but I am happy to take it seriously!" August Duesenberg was now rueing the fact that they had elected earlier to exchange Ira Hall for Louie Meyer, because of some nice, cold cash. "I knew that Meyer could win it.", Augie proclaimed. And in mid-June, Ralph Hepburn remarked (quote), "Some people said that the kid was lucky to win, but when a driver averages 99.48 miles an hour over a distance of 500 miles there is something more than luck attached to it."

The next Championship contest was the Detroit 100 slated for June 10. It was the very first 100 mile AAA National Championship race ever staged on dirt and would be the first of many.

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 October 2010 - 14:30.


#5 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 15:50

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-4) 2. DETROIT 100, JUNE 10, 1928. Detroit, long nominated and venerated as the U.S. automobile capital and hometown of the "big three" (Ford, General Motors, & Chrysler) automobile manufacturers, was never an important center or hub of motor racing. No large tracks or speedways ever existed in the Detroit area proper. The biggest speedway ever constructed in the Detroit area was the 1/2 mile dirt oval located on the east side at 8 Mile Road and Schoenherr. It was build in 1932 by the Zeiter brothers, Don and Carson. After 1938 it's size went down to a 1/4 mile and soon became more popularly known as the Motor City Speedway. It's last year of operation was 1958.

The earliest race meet staged in the Detroit area was held on October 10, 1901, at the one mile dirt horse oval located in Grosse Pointe and owned by the Detroit Driving Club. It was probably also the earliest race meet in the entire state of Michigan. It had no real significance at all but Henry Ford (1863-1947), in a two car ten mile sprint, defeated Alexander Winton (1860-1932), when Winton's car started malfunctioning. Ford's car, nicknamed "Sweepstakes", was a specially built 2 cylinder, 538 cubic inch, 28 horsepower racer, put together in late 1901 by Ford, Oliver Barthel, and Edward "Spider" Huff. This was Henry Ford's only drive in an actual race. Henry's winning time was 13 minutes and 23 seconds for an average speed of 44.83 mph.

In 1902 Ford constructed two more racing cars, both for bicycle racer Tom Cooper (1874-1906). The two identical new cars had four cylinder motors of 1080 cubic inches, rated at about 80 horsepower. The two vehicles were named the "Arrow" and "999", and the detail design work and the blueprints were drawn up by Childe Harold Wills (1878-1940). The design made its debut at the same Grosse Pointe track on October 25, 1902, with Barney Oldfield, using the "999" car. Here Oldfield defeated three other competitors (i.e. W.C. Buckman, Charles Shanks, and Alexander Winton himself) in the five mile "Manufacturer's Challenge Cup". Barney's time was 5 minutes and 28 seconds for a speed average of 54.88 mph. This was Oldfield's very first automobile race and it started him on his long career of barnstorming and being the U.S. public's most famous and popular "speed king". Barney became the first man to clock a lap on a one mile dirt oval under 60 seconds. Oldfield achieved this by being timed at 59.6 seconds on June 20, 1903 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, located in Indianapolis itself, using the "999" car.

The first annual series of Detroit race meets took place at the Grosse Pointe track. After 1901 and 1902, race meets were held at Grosse Pointe on September 7-8, 1903, August 26-27, 1904, and August 7-8, 1905. Thereafter the scene shifted to the one mile dirt horse track located at the Michigan State Fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward Avenue. Here a 24 hour marathon took place on June 21-22, 1907 won by Frank Kulick and Bert Lorimer. Their winning 40 horsepower Ford covered 1135 miles during the allotted 24 hour time span. One of the 1917 matchups between DePalma (Packard V12) and Oldfield (Golden Submarine Miller 4) took place on July 4 at the Fairgrounds. These 1917 so-called DePalma-Oldfield duels were promoted by William "Bill" Hickman Pickens (d. July 20, 1934, at age 60) and may not have been strictly on the up and up.

The Michigan State Fairgrounds' dirt oval become a bastion and mainstay for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) during the period 1915 to 1925. Beginning in 1926 however, the Michigan Fairgrounds site switched over to AAA sanctioned contests. This was due, I think, from the instigation, effort, and influence of Eddie Edenburn (d. Sept. 21, 1934 at age 50), who then resided in Detroit. Edenburn was the Chief Steward at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1919 to 1934.

The Detroit auto makers seldom engaged in major league U.S. motor racing. Packard had a car in the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup and supported Ralph DePalma's efforts during 1917, 1918, and 1919. Packard also had a three car team at Indianapolis in 1923, using Joe Boyer, Ralph DePalma, and Dario Resta as the pilots, but none of the three entries here got pass the 88th lap. After that the three cars and the Packard racing team were seen no more. In 1909 the Chalmers-Detroit car company, based in Detroit, supported the joint AAA-Manufacturer's Contest Association (MCA) stock chassis races. The team had some success during 1909, using Bert Dingley (1885-1966), Willie Knipper (1882-1968), Joe Matson (b. 1881), and Al Poole as their main drivers. However the team was disbanded for 1910.

General Motors was into full scale racing only with the Buick racing team which lasted for four years, i.e. 1908 to 1911, unless one wishes to add Cliff Durant's private endeavors 1914-1920 using the Chevrolet name. In this rather unique case it seems that Cliff's father, William Crapo Durant (1861-1947), was being overly indulgent with his son, as GM Chevrolet advertising money may have been used to pay for it all. And the base camp for all Cliff's racing ventures was the state of California, not Detroit, Michigan. The Buick headquarters 1908-1911, it should also be pointed out, were located in Flint, MI, not Detroit. Ford's only foray into the AAA big-time was their quasi-official team at Indianapolis in 1935. The Chrysler Corporation, formed in 1925, never engaged or ran vehicles in the AAA Championship division.

It is true that the Studebaker Corporation fielded a factory team at Indianapolis in 1932 and 1933, but the firm resided in South Bend, Indiana; not Detroit, Michigan. The original Frontenac racing cars of 1916, we must not forget, were constructed in Detroit by Louis Chevrolet. The only big name among the major AAA drivers, who was raised in Detroit was apparently Joe Boyer, Jr. (1890-1924), who was the co-winner with L. L. Corum at Indianapolis in 1924. That's about it for Detroit's history or heritage into early and major American motor racing before 1928. It could in no way compare with either Indianapolis or Los Angeles. The very first horseless carriage to appear on Detroit's streets was that of Charles Brady King (1869-1957) on March 6, 1896, but it took more than thirty years later (i.e. June 10, 1928), before the motor city held a really important and significant motor car race.

The 1928 Detroit 100 was the first AAA National Championship race to be contested on a dirt track since the Syracuse 150 of September 15, 1924. However the AAA had been sanctioning non-Championship 100 mile events in Detroit during both 1926 and 1927. This, the first Championship event ever staged in Detroit, was promoted by Chester M. Howell. Among the pilots entered were, Arnold, Batten, Cantlon, Duray, Frame, Gleason, Keech, Litz, Marr, L. Meyer, Moore, Ross, Schneider, Shaw, Souders, Stapp, and Woodbury. A total of 27 machines were listed among the entrants, but only the 14 fastest would start.

During the qualifications Ray Keech set the fastest time with quick round trip in 41.83 seconds (86.062 mph) which was also a new track record. The former record here had been held by Lockhart at 42.71 seconds. Cliff Woodbury also got under Lockhart's old clocking by recording a lap at 42.68 seconds (84.348 mph). Louie Meyer's car, now one of the ex-Lockhart rear drive Millers (i.e. Gulotta's Miller at the 1928 Indianapolis), developed oil pressure problems during its qualification run and Meyer's total time was a tenth of a second too slow to make the show. Meyer could not have started anyway because he had just burned a rod as he completed his qualification run.

Keech, driving the same ex-Lockhart Miller in which he finished 4th at Indy, led the first 47 laps, with Woodbury in 2nd. Then Woodbury passed Keech and led circuits 48-60. Woodbury however was forced to slacken his pace because of a loss of oil pressure and Keech regained the number 1 position and led laps 61-100. Woodbury stopped once to get his oil problem checked or solved, and returned to the track but he quit the race after 69 laps. After the retirement of Woodbury, Keech found himself with a two lap advantage over Lou Moore, now running 2nd. Fred Frame, in 3rd, now gradually moved up on Moore and finally passed him on the 87th circuit. Frame had an 8 second advantage over Moore at the finish. Keech's time for the 100 miles of 1:17:15.53 (77.879 mph) broke the former record established by Lockhart by 13 seconds. There had been 14 starters but only five cars were still running at the finish. The five top finishers were 1. Ray Keech (Miller); 2. Fred Frame (Miller), one lap behind; 3. Lou Moore (MIller); 4. Bill Spence (Miller); and 5. Howard Taylor (Miller), flagged at 95 laps. Taylor was a driver who hailed from Flint, Michigan.

The next AAA National Championship race after Detroit was a 200 miler to be held at Salem (Rockingham), New Hampshire on July 4th.

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 October 2012 - 19:53.


#6 ensign14

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 16:00

1. September 1, 1928, ATLANTIC CITY 100, Keech, Ray, Miller, 131.80 mph B

Ouch.

#7 john glenn printz

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 20:35

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-5) After winning at Indianapolis Louis Meyer switched cars and took over for the rest of the '28 season the ex-Lockhart Miller that Tony Gulotta had driven at Indy to 10th position, i.e. the Stutz Black Hawk Special No. 8. Gulotta had lost control of the car when it was purchased by Alden Sampson in June 1928, at the expressed request of Meyer. Lou said, "I thought that my winning Indy Miller was a very good car but I was convinced that Lockhart's two Millers were better." Meyer of course became its new driver. Gulotta had driven it at Indianapolis when it was still owned by the Lockhart estate. This rear drive Miller was the 1926 Indianapolis winner and the machine that Lockhart had used at Muroc Dry Lake, CA on April 13, 1927 when Frank recorded a two way average of 164.85 mph. And it was Lockhart's mount at Indianapolis in 1927 as well, where it had led for 110 laps, before a rod let go! Before his death Frank had intended to pilot this same machine again at Indianapolis for 1928. A newspaper notice of August 11, 1928 (CUMBERLAND EVENING TIMES, page 8) states the Deacon Litz (1897-1967) had purchased Louis Meyer's 1928 Indianapolis winning Miller.

Anthony "Tony" Gulotta (1903-1981), hailing from Kansas City, started his racing career as part of W. W. Brown's racing emporium. Gulotta was supposed to ride with Brown in the inaugural Kansas City 300 of September 17, 1922, but Brown never got AAA clearance to drive. After that Tony worked as a mechanic for millionare, George L. Wade, who was stuck down and killed along with photographer Harry Hughes, at Beverly Hills on November 29, 1923 in pre-race mixup. Harlan Fengler was driving Wade's Miller that day. Thereafter Tony was employed by Fengler during 1924 as a mechanic. However Fengler sat out the entire 1925 AAA season and Gulotta then joined Harry Hartz's team as a mechanic on June 1, 1925.

Soon Gulotta wanted to drive and drove his very first AAA Championship event at the 1926 Indianapolis, in a Miller entered by Hartz. During most of 1926 Tony drive for Hartz but in 1926 and 1927 he seems to be linked up also with DePaolo on occasion. In late 1927 Gulotta was chosen by Frank Lockhart to pilot Frank's second rear drive Miller and two were planning to run both cars at Indianapolis in 1928. The death of Lockhart on April 25, 1928 altered that situation but Gullota did drive one of Lockhart's Millers in the 1928 Indianapolis 500. Tony even led the race for 33 laps in it, i.e. numbers 149 to 181.

During the dedication ceremonies for the new half million dollar 500 acre Packing proving grounds located north of Utica, MI on June 14, 1928, Leon Duray in his No. 4 front wheel drive intercooled 91 Miller set a new AAA closed course record for a single lap. Duray sped around the 2 1/2 concrete oval in 60.739 seconds for an average of 148.174 mph. Duray was helped in this venture by having Norman Batten pace him. Those who witnessed Duray's feat included Edsel Ford (1893-1943), Charles F. Sorensen (1881-1968), and all the Packard top brass. Duray's new clocking beat Frank Lockhart's old mark of 147.729 mph set at Atlanta City on May 5, 1927.

Duray's mark remained the U.S. closed course record for Champ cars until the first day qualification trials took place at the new superfast Daytona International Speedway on March 28, 1959, in preparation for the USAC Daytona 100, to be run on April 4. When the March 28 Daytona time trials were concluded Dick Rathmann (1926-2000) had the fastest lap at 173.210 mph. On March 30 George Amick (1924-1959) upped Dick's record to 176.887 mph. A speed above Duray's old 1928 record of 148.174 mph was not recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until May 22, 1960 when Jim Hurtubise (1932-1989), during a qualification run, turned in a four lap average of 149.056 and a fast lap at 149.601.

At the beginning of the 1928 AAA Championship season there had been scheduled a Championship event for the Altoona board speedway to be held on June 16, 1928, but the AAA refused to sanction it saying that the existing track was unsafe and that the inside portions of the oval would have to be replaced with new lumber. The Altoona track was forced to spend $40,000 to make the needed repairs and no actual racing took place there until August 19, 1928.

In the U. S. automobile trade journals of May-June 1928 there appeared an announcement of the formation of a new corporation to build a 2 or 2 1/2 mile concrete speedway in Flint, MI. The president of the Flint Super Speedway and Airport Corporation was Edwin S. Lunt, a branch manager of the Buick Motor Car Company. $750,000 was said to have been raised and the idea was to hold two major races a year including possibly a 500 miler every Labor Day. The whole complex, which was to be built by Arthur C. Pillsbury, was to include an airport and a 1/2 mile dirt track for horse races. When W. D. Edenburn, T. E. "Pop" Myers, and other AAA officials visited the proposed site area in early June they were said to have been impressed, but then one hears nothing more about this project.

A notice appeared in some U.S. newspapers (i.e. June 22) that the German automobile racer, Rudolf Caracciola (1901-1959), had issued a challenge to the Indianapolis winner, Louis Meyer. Rudolf's proposal was a $25,000 match race to take place at the Avus raceway located in Berlin.

On July 4 there was also an AAA non-Championship 100 miler held at Atlantic City (Amatol), NJ and run in conjunction with National Motor Racing Association. There were very few good cars or drivers present. 12 cars started. Fred Winnai (1905-1977) won the contest in a Duesenberg with a very slow time of 59:38.4 (101.0 mph). Chester "Chet" Gardner (1898-1938) placed 2nd about a lap and a half behind Winnai. Zeke Meyer (1892-1962) was 3rd. Gardner and Meyer drove Millers. The attendance was put as about 15,000. A cash award of $1,000 and a silver loving cup was presented to Winnai by Mayor Anthony M. Ruffu (1875-1930) of Atlantic City.

Edited by john glenn printz, 26 August 2010 - 14:05.


#8 Michael Ferner

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 22:45

During the dedication ceremonies for the new half million dollar 500 acre Packing proving grounds located north of Utica, MI on June 14, 1928, Leon Duray in his No. 4 front wheel drive intercooled 91 Miller set a new AAA closed course record for a single lap. Duray sped around the 2 1/2 concrete oval in 60.739 seconds for an average of 148.174 mph. Duray was helped in this venture by having Norman Batten pace him. Those who witnessed Duray's feat included Edsel Ford (1893-1943), Charles F. Sorensen (1881-1968), and all the Packard top brass. Duray's new clocking beat Frank Lockhart's old mark of 147.729 mph set at Atlanta City on May 5, 1927. Duray's mark remained the U.S. close course record until beaten by Jim Hurubise at Indianapolis on May 22, 1960 during the qualications. Jim turned in a 4 lap average of 149.056 mph and a fast lap of 149.601.


John, don't forget Daytona! George Amick averaged 176 mph there on March 29 in 1959, and I believe even the stock cars ran faster than Duray there!

#9 john glenn printz

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 18:44

Dear Michael;

Well you caught me sleeping again. I will forthwith modify and correct the text.

Sincerely, J.G. Printz

#10 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 June 2010 - 12:05

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-6) 3 & 4 SALEM 200, JULY 4, 1928. All the previous AAA National Championship events staged at the Salem-Rockingham, New Hampshire 1.25 mile board speedway and their winners are;

1. October 31, 1925, 250 miles, DePaolo, Peter; Duesenberg, 125.2 mph. 122 cubic inch limit.

2. July 5, 1926, 50 miles, DePaolo, Peter; Duesenberg, 128.25 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit.

3. July 5, 1926, 200 miles, Cooper, Earl; Miller FD, 116.37 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit.

4. October 12, 1926, 25 miles, Hill, Bennett; Miller, 130.05 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit.

5. October 12, 1926, 25 miles, Duray, Leon; Miller FD, 130.39 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit.

6. October 12, 1926, 200 miles, Hartz, Harry; Miller, 123.26 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit.

7. July 4, 1927, 200 miles, DePaolo, Peter; Miller FD, 124.35 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit.

8. October 12, 1927, 65 miles, Lockhart, Frank; Miller, 125.70 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit. (Scheduled 200 miler halted at 65 miles because of Harry Hartz's accident.)

9. October 12, 1927, 75 miles, Lockhart, Frank; Miller, 126.67 mph. 91 1/2 cubic inch limit. (A "impromptu" and substitute 75 miler added to fill up the day's program.)

There were about 16 entries for the July 4, 1928 Salem 200. They were all Millers except for Jimmy Gleason's Duesenberg. The starting field was limited to 14 cars. The first day of qualifying was July 2 and ten cars posted speeds. They were 1. Leon Duray 144.231 mph (31.2 seconds), 2. Bob McDonough 139.319 (32.3), 3. Ralph Hepburn 138.889 (32.4), 4. Fred Comer 138.461 (32.5), 5. Lou Meyer 137.615 (32.7), 6. Cliff Bergere 136.364 (33.0), 7. Norman Batten 134.328 (33.5), 8. Earl DeVore 132.353 (34.0), 9. Ray Keech 132.353 (34.0), and 10. Bill Spence 128.571 (35.0). Duray's 144.2 exactly equalled Frank Lockhart's record of 144.2 mph set here on October 10, 1927, during the time trials. The remaining cars took their qualifications on July 3. The July 3 qualifiers were: 1. Cliff Woodbury 135.542 (33.2), 2. Lou Moore 135.542 (33.2), 3. Babe Stapp 134.730 (33.4), and 4. Dave Evans 133.929 (33.6). The non qualification of Gleason made all the starters Miller cars, as was also the case of all the starters at the Detroit 100 on June 10. Bill Spence (1906-1929) was now driving Alden Sampson's No. 14 rear drive Miller, which Louie Meyer had used to win at Indianapolis.

Leon Duray had just taken the lead from Bob McDonough, with an average of 130.592 mph, when a thunder shower made flagman Al Hart put a stop to the race after 12 laps (15 miles). The running order after 12 laps was 1. Duray, 2. McDonough, 3. Comer, 4. Hepburn, and 5. Woodbury. All five were using Miller front drive cars.

After a delay of 45 minutes the cars were lined up again, with the distance to be run now given as 185 miles. Ralph Hepburn, who had orginally started, could not join the restart because of a dead engine. Duray led most of the first 100 miles but then developed motor trouble and fell back. Leon had to pit for a new set of spark plugs and thereby lost four laps. Keech, who did not make a pit stop during the race, took over the front position and led to the end. On his 114th lap Bergere blew a tire, his car skidded off the track, and then hit the infield fence. Cliff nonchalantly extricated himself from the cockpit and walked back to the pits while at the same time firemen, an ambulance, and horde of officials swarmed around his parked car.

Lou Meyer was involved in three single car incidents. After a tire blowout Lou swerved all over the track but then drove to his pit and effected a tire change. On another occasion Lou got by Ray Keech but then went into a tailspin and for a moment it looked like Lou would crash into the referee's stand but Meyer regained control and kept going. Two laps from the end, Meyer speeding to catch Keech, lost control coming into the stretch, spun around like a top, shot down into the dirt, righted his car, and proceeded as if nothing had happened after casting a quick glance at his tires. Still it was agreed that Leon Duray had furnished the most spectacular driving of the day.

The order of the finish was first announced as 1. Keech, 2. Batten, 3. Meyer, 4. Comer, 5. Evans, and 6. Spence, but there were some doubts. Four hours after the race in a recheck, the final and official results were posted. They were now altered to (top five) 1. Keech (1:30:26.50), 2. Meyer (1:30:28.68) , 3. Batten (1:30:30.93) , 4. Spence, and 5. Evans. It was now noticed that the top three finishers had all placed within five seconds of each other! The two ex-Lockhart rear drive Millers had taken the 1st and 2nd positions and the 1928 Indianapolis winning vehicle was 4th. The best final placements for the front drive Millers were McDonough in 6th and Duray in 7th. Keech's winning average speed was 122.73 mph.

The 1928 AAA National Championship point standings, after the first four races, were; 1. Louis Meyer 1196; 2. Ray Keech 690; 3. Lou Moore 406; 4. George Souders 270; 5. Fred Frame 146; 6. Norman Batten 137; 7. Bill Spence 115; 8. Zeke Meyer 54, 9; Babe Stapp 53; 10. Leon Duray 44, 11; Bob McDonough 38; 12. Dave Evans 37; 13. Fred Comer 33; 14. Billy Arnold 26; 15. Tony Gulotta 20; 16. Harry Taylor 20; 17. Earl DeVore 20; 18. Cliff Woodbury 8; 19. Ralph Hepburn 4; and 20. Cliff Bergere 2.

The next AAA Championship contest after Salem was the Altoona 200, listed for August 19.

Edited by john glenn printz, 06 July 2010 - 15:00.


#11 E.B.

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Posted 29 June 2010 - 20:11

John, don't forget Daytona! George Amick averaged 176 mph there on March 29 in 1959, and I believe even the stock cars ran faster than Duray there!


Unless I'm missing something, wouldn't Sam Hanks' 182 mph run at the Chrysler grounds in 1954 qualify here too?


#12 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 17:31

Actually the latest notice by "E.B." here has jogged my memory!!! I now remember that when the new Chrysler Proving Grounds, northwest of Detroit at Chelsea, MI, were first formally dedicated (June 16, 1954), the top four finishers at Indianapolis and their cars, were invited up to run speed trials. Their fastest recorded speeds were Jack McGrath 179.386 mph, Troy Ruttman 174.762, Bill Vukovich 170.234, and Jimmy Bryan 166.342. The new oval measured 4.7 miles in length. I still remember being at the breakfast table, reading the morning paper, and wondering why the Indy winner Vukovich could muster only the third fastest time.

Edited by john glenn printz, 30 June 2010 - 18:06.


#13 Russ Snyder

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 17:43

Their recorded speeds were Jack McGrath 179.386 mph, Troy Ruttman 174.762, Bill Vukovich 170.234, Jimmy Bryan 166.342. I still remember being at the breakfast table, reading the morning paper, and wondering why the Indy winner Vukovich could muster only the third fastest time.


Mr Printz,

Was an additive used by Mr McGrath to attain the extra mph?

thanks again for all the information. Russ


#14 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 18:31

Dear Russ;

Well of course I don't know, but McGrath (1919-1955) was a known user and practitioner of the power additive "nitro". It was dangerous to use, but was sometimes effective, however a lot of blown engines resulted from its employment. I remember one year at the Speedway during the last day of time trials, when a slow Federal Engineering entry, was loaded up with nitro in a desperate last minute try to put the car in the race. The driver pulled out of his pit, but just before he was to move onto the track at the end of the pit lane, the engine let go and exploded in a cloud of white smoke!

Edited by john glenn printz, 02 July 2010 - 18:02.


#15 E.B.

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 20:38

Actually the latest notice by "E.B." here has jogged my memory!!! I now remember that when the new Chrysler Proving Grounds, northwest of Detroit at Chelsea, MI, were first formally dedicated (June 16, 1954), the top four finishers at Indianapolis and their cars, were invited up to run speed trials. Their fastest recorded speeds were Jack McGrath 179.386 mph, Troy Ruttman 174.762, Bill Vukovich 170.234, and Jimmy Bryan 166.342. The new oval measured 4.7 miles in length. I still remember being at the breakfast table, reading the morning paper, and wondering why the Indy winner Vukovich could muster only the third fastest time.


Hi John,

Hanks did his run 2 weeks later on June 30 (56 years ago today!), but was using a 331 ci Chrysler engine, which of course was too big to have competed at Indy.

I believe the June 16 runs were all completed using Indy legal machinery, no idea if McGrath was using pop though. I'd say yes if I was a betting man.


#16 john glenn printz

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 11:49

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-7) Driver Bruce Miller (1902-1928) of Detroit, was killed in a three car pile up at Milwaukee on July 4, at the West Allis State Fair Park. Bruce had no AAA Championship starts but had been entered at Indianapolis in 1927, in a Jones-Whitaker sponsored front drive Miller entered by Stanley L. Reed. During Miller's qualifying attempt a rod let go, and Bruce remained a non-starter.

In the July 1928 issue of MOTOR (U.S.) there is contained an article penned by Harold F. Blanchard entitled "WHO WANTS 91 1/2 INCH ENGINES?". Mr. Blanchard claims in it that there exists a general dissatifaction about the 91 1/2 formula cars and the 91 1/2 cubic inch formula. The article is the first hint and indication of the AAA Championship rules, i.e. the Junk Formula", as later put forward by Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973) and the AAA Contest Board on January 8, 1929. The new junk formula rules or formula first went into actual use at Indianapolis in May 1930 and may have been used also at Langhorne on May 3, 1930 in some altered form or other, which possibly allowed single seat and supercharged equipment to run as well. The AAA formula rules for the May 3, 1930 Langhorne 100 are not precisely known at present. Mr. McMaken thinks the 1930 Langhorne 100 may have been a "free for all".

Blanchard states that the 91 1/2 cubic inch vehicles are too expensive, too complicated mechnically, and too frail in their complexity. He goes on to say that a major problem is the supercharger device or mechanism which is very costly and prone to failure. And finally Harold remarks (quote), "Engineers object to these little cars because three years of racing has shown that they are entirely too special to teach the industry any worth-while lessons which it can apply to passenger car construction."

Blanchard's proposed solution to all this is to ban all supercharging, up the piston displacement to a 300 cubic inch limit, and require that the motors used in all the racing vehicles be taken from normal stock production passenger cars. Such motors could be modified for racing use and be installed in special chassis built specifically for racing. If such vehicles were built for this new racing formula, the cost of running a racing car on the AAA Championship circuit would go down considerably, to the benefit of all. Or so Blanchard claims.

Mr. Blanchard admits however that as much as $500,000 might be tied up in the 91 1/2 cubic inch cars and equipment, and that the present owners might object to their investments being wiped out. What then should be done with the older 91 1/2 model cars? Blanchard suggests that perhaps they could be raced with the new stock block powered machinery (quote), "The speed of this new type of car would probably be about the same as the present 91.5 cubic-inch jobs, and if so, it would be quite fair to allow the two types to compete." And again (quote), "In order to protect the investment in the present 91.5 cubic-inch cars permit them to continue racing until worn out."

How much real meat or substance was contained in Blanchard's remarks? First off, the construction of thoroughbred racing cars is always expensive, and nothing was ever going to alter that. Secondly, despite the high cost, all-out type racing cars have always been manufactured for the existing formulas. And regardless of the huge expenses involved, the actual car count seems to have gone up in 1927 and 1928. It is true that the 91 Miller supercharged, intercooled, front drives proved to be overly complex and too frail for use on the Indianapolis bricks, but during 1926 to 1928 everyone, both the drivers and car owners, thought such front drive Millers were the acknowledged leaders in technological design and engineering prowess. Auto historian Griffith Borgeson (1918-1997) still thought so four decades later. And the art and use of supercharging could be viewed as a developmental process which would perhaps later pay big dividends. And finally it was true that racing cars and passenger cars had probably separated totally by 1903. They were constructed and designed for entirely different purposes. The idea that racing could be a "test track" for passenger cars was total myth in 1928 and had been long before that.

Blanchard's projected "reforms" also implied a distant but real threat to Harry Miller's lucrative business of supplying most of the competitive thoroughbred racing cars, actually then being used on the AAA's National Championship circuit. The bulk of the vehicles used during the 122 and 91.5 cubic inch limit formulas (i.e. 1923-1929) in the U.S., had certainly come out of the shops of Harry A. Miller. Just what Miller himself thought about Blanchard's ideas here is not known.

I think the AAA car owners themselves in 1928 were against any major formula changes as they had too much money tied up in the existing cars. A radical new formula for AAA Championship racing would mean much more added expence, to construct the totally new and needed cars. Blanchard's idea was basically to alter AAA Championship racing into a contest of competing stock block motors, and, according to him, the hitherto existing thoroughbred racing cars had to go. This 1928 article was prophetic however with regard to future developments in AAA Championship racing, both for 1929 and 1930.

On July 15 in a non-Championship AAA 100 miler in Detroit, George Souders (1900-1976), the 1927 Indianapolis winner was critically injured. Souders crowded the inside railing too closely coming off the fourth turn and his wheel hubs scraped the inside fence. George was thrown 10 feet into the air and 25 feet inside the infield. Souders landed on his head and left arm, and was found unconscious. The driverless car continued to run, smashing through the fence posts and uprooting 10 of them. The car turned end over end and stopped on its wheels almost directly across the track. Souders was taken to the Highland Park General Hospital where he remained unconscious until July 19. George eventually recovered but his left arm remained badly mangeled and mauled, and Souders never drove in competition again. Souders was primarily a dirt track driver and he gained his initial experience in the mid-west. Later George campaigned on the dirt ovals located largely in the state of Texas. In just two tries at Indianapolis, George won as a rookie in 1927 and placed 3rd in 1928 with no relief driver either time.

In late July the Indianapolis Motor Speedway stated that the 91 1/2 cubic inch limit on engines size and the allowance of supercharging would be retained for the 1929 "500".

Edited by john glenn printz, 27 August 2010 - 15:14.


#17 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 July 2010 - 13:15

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-8) 5. ALTOONA 200, AUGUST 19, 1928. The Altoona 1.25 mile board oval was constructed in late 1923 by Jack Prince and held its first race on September 4, 1923. The Altoona 200 for August 19, 1928 was the 10th AAA National Championship staged here. All the previous AAA Championship contests and their winners were:

1. September 4, 1923, 200 miles Hearne, Eddie; Miller 111.51 mph. (122 cubic inch limit)

2. June 14, 1924, 250 miles Murphy, Jimmy; Miller 114.43 mph (122 cubic inch limit)

3. September 1, 1924, 250 miles, Murphy, Jimmy, Miller 113.95 mph (122 cubic inch limit)

4. June 13, 1925, 250 miles, DePaolo, Peter; Duesenberg, 123,33 mph (122 cubic inch limit)

5. September 7, 1925, 250 miles, McDonough, Bob; Miller 126.8 mph (122 cubic inch limit)

6. June 12, 1926, 250 miles, Lewis, Dave; Miller FD, 112.43 mph (91 1/2 cubic inch limit)

7. September 18, 1926, 250 miles, Lockhart, Frank; Miller 116.38 mph (91 1/2 cubic inch limit)

8. June 11, 1927 200 miles, DePaolo, Peter; Miller FD, 116.57 mph (91 1/2 cubic inch limit)

9. September 5, 1927 200 miles, Lockhart, Frank; Miller, 127.66 mph (91 1/2 cubic inch limit)

Art Pillsbury, all the way from Los Angeles, California, approved the new construction and the track condition on August 9, 1928. The practice sessions commenced on August 10 and the qualifications were held on August 15, 16, and 17. Val Haresnape seems to be working for the AAA Contest board again, as he was in charge of the qualifying trials and is named as the official starter.

There were three multi-car teams present, i.e. Earl P. Cooper's and Mike Boyle's, both with three cars; and Bill White with two rear drive Millers. Cooper's three cars were Miller engined, front drive hybrids, with special Cooper constructed chassis put together in late 1926/early 1927. They had all run in the 1927 Indianapolis 500, piloted by the starers Bennett Hill, Peter Kreis and Bob McDonough. All three of these again had run at Indianapolis in 1928 with Marmon sponsorship. For in early 1928 the Marmon company had got back into big league AAA racing for the first time since 1911, when the Harroun/Patschke driver combination won the first "500". The 1928 vehicles were duly numbered 32, 33, and 34 in honour of their winning No. 32 Marmon at Indy in 1911. The cars had not faired well at Indy in 1928. Snowberger was out at 4 laps-supercharger trouble; Kreis out at 73 laps-rod bearing failure; and Seymour out 170 laps-supercharger failure.

Earl's three pilots for Altoona were originally Jimmy Gleason, Johnny Seymour, and Russell Snowberger. Earl Cooper, who had always been a first rate pilot, had now finally retired from driving in 1928. Cooper had however driven in some select 1927 events including the two big Salem events (July 4 and October 12) and the 1927 Italian Grand Prix at Monza (September 4). Cooper in the Italian race, and with some relief help from Peter Kries, placed 3rd overall with a front drive Miller/Cooper. Kries, oddly enough, had driven in the 1925 Italian Grand Prix (September 6), when Fred and Augie Duesenberg had sent a two car team over for the race with Tommy Milton and Kries as their two designated pilots. Milton placed 4th; while Peter DePaolo, the year's Indianapolis winner, and who was also on the official factory Alfa Romeo team, finished 5th.

In early March 1928 Earl had joined the experimental engineering staff at the Marmon Motor Car Company and was put in charge of the three Marmon Indianapolis entries. The cars had not been entered at Salem for the 200 miler run on July 4 and here at Altoona, they seemed to be no longer under Marmon sponsorship. In late March 1928 the Marmon company also hired Peter Kries (1900-1934) to work alongside Cooper.

Mike Boyle had two front drive Millers for Fred Comer and Cliff Woodbury and a rear driver Miller for Dave Evans (real name David Sloat). Hollywood Bill White thought he had lined up old timer Eddie Hearne, with his second vehicle's pilot unnamed. Hearne had begun racing in 1907 as an amateur, but moved into the AAA professional ranks in 1909. Eddie's greatest achievement perhaps was winning the 1923 AAA National Driving Title. In nine tries at Indianapolis Hearne's best placements were 2nd in 1919 (Stutz), 3rd in 1922 (Ballot), and 4th in 1923 (Miller). Hearne's last Championship start was at Salem on July 4, 1927 in the 200 miler. Whether by design, fate, or just circumstance neither Earl Cooper or Eddie Hearne ever resumed their competitive driving careers after the 1927 season.

When Eddie failed to show up for the 1928 Altoona 200, Bill White replaced him with Dave Evans who moved from the Boyle Valve team. A young 23 year old and an AAA Championship newcomer for 1928, Billy Arnold of Chicago, replaced Dave Evans in the third Boyle car. Jimmy Gleason jumped from the Cooper team to run White's second car but wrecked it in a bad crash on July 17. Gleason's No, 27 skidded on the west curve and dived into the dirt. The car then shot straight into the top of the incline, hitting the iron outer guard rail and bending the protective barrier. Both the front wheels and the front axle were torn loose from the vehicle. Gleason was removed from the wreckage but was not badly hurt.

There were 19 entries in all and among them were 9 front drive Millers. The 19 nominated pilots were: Batten, Bergere*, Comer*, DeVore, Duray*, Evans, Gleason, Hearne, Hepburn*, Keech, Litz, McDonough*, L. Meyer, Moore, Seymour*, Snowberger*, Spence, Stapp*, and Woodbury*. The asterisks denote the drivers assigned to the front drive Millers. The race was limited to the 16 fastest cars and a minimum qualifying speed of 125 mph was required. The five fastest qualifiers were 1. Duray 138.0 mph (32.3 seconds); 2. McDonough 137.2 (32.4); 3. L. Meyer 135.5 (33.1); 4. Woodbury 135.5 (33.1); and 5. Hepburn 133.7 (33.3). All but Meyer were using front drive Millers.

The only non-Miller entry was Bill Spence's No. 18 Duesenberg. It was out after throwing a connecting rod in practice. And so, once again, for the 4th time in 1928, the starting field in an AAA Championship race was entirely composed of Millers. All 19 entries had showed up but Gleason's wreck and Spence's disabled Duesenberg lowered the number to 17 machines ready to go. The odd man out here proved to be Russ Snowberger in one of the front drive Cooper cars, as Russ posted the slowest time in the qualifications, i.e. 126.4 mph, and thus was a non-starter.

EXCURSUS: EARL COOPER (1886-1965): PART I. THE STUTZ PHASE. Cooper was one of the true giants of American motor racing. Earl's racing career had, at least, gone back as far as September 19, 1909 when he ran a Maxwell at Tanforan, CA. Earl himself stated in May 1924 that he began his racing career at San Jose, CA, c. 1902, in a mile 25 mile match race against C. H. Letcher, who owned an auto garage and salesroom. Cooper joined the AAA's big-time circuit in 1911. Beginning with the 1912 AAA season, Cooper made a big name for himself using exclusively Stutz cars, until he retired from racing after running at Indianapolis in May 1919. Earl's first significant victory took place on July 5, 1912 at Tacoma on a 5 mile road circuit. This was an era when the AAA had a very complex and complicated multitude of car classifications, with no overall or unified formula in use. This was a legacy of the 1909 Manufactuer's Contest Association (MCA) rules and regulations, which were adopted by the new AAA Contest Board in early 1909. The result was that many of the sub-division categories, staged as separate events, often lacked a meaningful number of entries and/or competitors. Earl's July 4, 1912 Tacoma win was in the 301 to 450 cubic inch classification, which on this occasion, numbered but three total competitors. Thus Earl (Stutz) victory was just over Earl DeVore in 2nd (National) and James Rossi in 3rd (Pope-Hartford), in the 150 mile Tacoma contest.

For 1913 Cooper was dominant in the West Coast road racing action winning (1) the Tacoma July 5 Potlatch 200 mile Trophy race; (2) the Tacoma July 7 Montamarathon 250 mile contest; (3) the August 9 Santa Monica 445.25 mile race; (4) the September 9 Corona 251 mile 450 cubic inch limit contest; and (5) the September 9 Corona 301 mile free-for-all event. 1913 was also Earl's first year at Indianapolis where he was engaged as a relief driver by the factory Stutz team. Here Earl did relief work for both Gil Anderson and Charles Merz in the race. For his efforts Cooper was given the 1913 U.S. road racing championship by several prominent automobile trade journals, including MOTOR AGE.

Cooper's 1914 season was a disappointment as his only important win occurred at the July 4 Tacoma Montamarathon 250. Earl generally had good luck in the races held at Tacoma, WA. During 1914 Cooper made his first starts in the Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize classics. Earl took 4th in the Vanderbilt Cup staged on February 26, but went out early in the February 28 American Grand Prize contest, i.e. on the 6th lap with a broken valve, to place 16th. Among the six major races Cooper ran in 1914, he also placed 3rd on July 3, at Tacoma in the Potatch 200 miler, won by Hughie Hughes. 1914 saw Earl start a car at Indianapolis for the first time. He was then a member of the factory-works Stutz entry, and was teamed up with pilots Gil Anderson and Barney Oldfield. Cooper's Stutz threw a wheel on lap 119 and was put out.

Earl rebounded nicely in 1915 and won five major contests, i.e. (1) the January 9 San Diego 183 mile road race; (2) the August 20 Elgin 301 mile Chicago Auto Club Trophy road race; (3) the September 4 Minneapolis 500 mile concrete speedway inaugural event; (4) the November 20 Phoenix 150 dirt track race (cut to 110 miles because of darkness and dust); and (5) the November 25 San Francisco 103 mile road race. The new 1915 Stutz racing cars, equipped with single cam 296 cubic inch motors designed and built by the Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, were the best thoroughbred racing cars that the U.S. could then produce. They fared well, in some instances, even against the potent opposition of all the imported 1913-1914 French and German Grand Prix cars. It was while using this new Stutz model, that Cooper had won at Elgin and Minneapolis. At Indianapolis for 1915, Cooper was again on the official "White Squadron" factory Stutz team along with co-drivers Gil Anderson and Howard Wilcox. All were using the new 296 cubic inch displacement vehicles. Wilcox even posted the fastest time in the qualifications at 98.9 mph. In the race itself these three Stutz's finished 3rd Anderson, 4th Cooper, and 7th Wilcox. Johnny Aitken did relief work for both Anderson and Cooper. 1915 witnessed Earl also placing 2nd in two events at Tacoma (July 4 & 5), in a 100 mile Chicago match race (August 7), and in the 301.8 mile Elgin National Trophy race (August 21).

Edited by john glenn printz, 17 February 2011 - 16:16.


#18 john glenn printz

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 15:43

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-9) After his cars finished one-two in the big 350 mile Sheepshead Bay inaugural, run on October 9, 1915, Harry Stutz quit racing altogether and disbanded his successful racing team. Two of the Stutz drivers, Gil Anderson (1879-1935) and Tom Rooney (1881-1939), having now been forced out of action, soon joined up with the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway's racing venture or outfit, now equipped with three brand new copies made by the Premier Motor Manufacturing Company located in Indianapolis, of the 1914 Peugeot EX5 type French Grand Prix car. However Mr. Stutz gave one of his 296 cubic inch 1915 racers to Earl Cooper, with the odd proviso that the vehicle was not to be raced anywhere east of the Mississipi river.

For 1916, AAA Contest Board Chairman, Richard Kennerdell, had improvised and introduced an official U.S. National AAA Driving Title based on a point awarding system. As Cooper couldn't race anywhere in the eastern U.S., his chances of making much of an impact in this new AAA Championship circuit were dim, as he was thus excluded from competing in the eight 1916 AAA Championship ranked contests held at Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Sheepshead Bay. Cooper's first Championship start in 1916 took place at the Des Moines 150 (June 24), where he placed 5th. At Minneapolis and Omaha, Earl had no luck. At the Minneapolis 150 (July 4) Cooper successfully qualified but in a later practice session the motor threw a rod and the entry could not start; and at the Omaha 150 (July 15) he did not qualify.

Cooper did not enter the 1916 Indianapolis race. However a few days before the times trials were to begin on May 26, it was widely rumored at the Speedway that Cooper would take over the third Premier car, which was originally assigned to Harry Stillman. If so, this would have reunited Earl with his ex-Stutz teammates, Anderson and Rooney. The rumour proved false and the third Premier was given to Howard Wilcox (1889-1923). Cooper did not drive in the 1916 Indianapolis race but he was put in charge of the management of Wilcox's pit, during the running of the race. None of the Premier cars did particularly well. Wilcox, who was still running, placed 7th; Anderson was 13th, out after 75 laps with a broken oil line; and Rooney finished 17th, out after 48 laps after a crash.

Back again on the west coast proper, Earl considerably improved his fortunes. Although Cooper never won either the Vanderbilt Cup or the American Grand Prize contests, for 1916 he finished 2nd in the two races, being headed in both instances only by examples of the fabulous 1914 EX5 type Grand Prix Peugeot. In the Vanderbilt Cup (November 16) it was piloted by Dario Resta and in the Grand Prize (November 18) it was chauffeured by both Howard Wilcox (laps 1-20) and Johnny Aitken (laps 21-48). After the running of the Vanderbilt and Grand Prize races the only remaining AAA Championship event was the tough and grime filled Ascot 150 (November 30) dirt track test. Aitken, Resta, and Wilcox declined to compete at Ascot, but again and for the third straight Championship race, Cooper garnered 2nd place at Ascot, this time behind Eddie Rickenbacker in a Duesenberg. For 1916 Earl had only four Championship race starts in toto but he had compiled 1405 Championship points, to be listed 5th in the overall final 1916 AAA driver standings. Cooper was only behind (1.) Dario Resta with 4100 points; (2.) Johnny Aitken 3440; (3.) Eddie Rickenbacker 2910; and (4.) Ralph DePalma 1790.

The United States declared war on Germany on April 7, 1917 but motor racing in the U.S. was not halted or stopped. But the "Great War" did have some effect as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cancelled the running of the 1917 Indianapolis 500 on March 23 and the AAA Contest Board withdrew awarding any 1917 AAA National Driving Title on May 18. For 1917 Cooper competed in five important contests, 1. the March 4 Ascot 100 mile dirt track race; 2. the May 30 Cincinnati 250; 3. the June 16 Chicago 250; 4. the July 14 Minneapolis 100; and 5. the September 3 Tacoma 100. Earl won at Ascot, Chicago, and Tacoma, and placed 3rd in the Minneapolis 100. There were two races run at Minneapolis on June 14, i.e. a 50 and a 100 miler, but it is unclear if Earl drove in the 50 mile event. Most of the contemporary reports state that Reeves B. Dutton (1887-1981), more normally Cooper's riding mechanic, piloted the Stutz to victory in this race. Since the late 1920's, via Arthur Means' compilations, Cooper has always been listed as the winner of the June 14 Minneapolis 50 mile event. As all the official and contemporary records for the 1917 AAA season have disappeared, it is unclear what exactly took place or who the actual victor was in the 50 mile contest. There is a mixup here somewhere, but Mr. McMaken and myself have always tentatively given the win to Dutton. In any case, Cooper again, had a very stellular season in the year 1917.

With the seemingly titanic struggle against the Kaiser and the Germanic empire now engaging everyone's attention in 1918, automobile racing in the U.S. had a very diminished season that year. But major 1918 contests were still held in the east at Chicago, Cincinnati, Sheepshead Bay, and Uniontown. The only important events staged in the western U.S. all took place at Tacoma on July 4. The Tacoma program consisted of three heats of 25, 50, and 75 miles each, of which the overall winner of the day would be determined by a point system. Cooper in 1918 did not enter any major events in the eastern U.S., but he did run in all three of the July 4 Tacoma heat races. There were only five entrants total at Tacoma and in truth the whole affair may have been an "invitational" meet. Cooper did not fair well here and had an off day. Cliff Durant won the 25 and 50 mile heats and took 2nd in the 75; while Hearne was the winner of the 75 mile event. The final point totals were 1. Cliff Durant (Stutz) 33; 2. Eddie Hearne (Duesenberg) 32; 3. Earl Cooper (Stutz) 20; 4. Dave Lewis (Duesenberg) 19; and 5. Eddie Pullen (Mercer) 12. Cooper's best placement was a 3rd in the 75 mile heat. The attendance was placed at about 25,000. Harry Stutz had sold his two remaining 1915 model 296 cubic inch racing cars and by 1917 Cliff Durant had acquired one of these. Here at Tacoma in July 1918 he drove it to victory, but now the car ran as the "Chevrolet Special".

Soon after the July 4 Tacoma races, Cooper began running in International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) meets. The major IMCA pilots in 1918 included Gaston Chevrolet, Wilbur D'Alene, Louis Disbrow, Sig Haugdahl, Fred Horey, Jerry Wonderlich, and Cliff Woodbury. Cooper became involved with IMCA programs staged at Burlington IA, Cedar Valley IA, Milwaukee WI, Sedalia MO and Sioux City IA. On September 14, 1918 the AAA Contest Board suspended Earl and three others, i.e. Tom Alley, Al Cotey, and Barney Oldfield, for running in unsanctioned AAA contests. By January 1919, Earl petitioned the AAA to reinstate him. Cooper's suspension was soon changed to a $250 fine, which Earl promptly paid, and on February 25, 1919 Cooper was again in good standing with the AAA Contest Board.

Edited by john glenn printz, 09 August 2010 - 11:36.


#19 john glenn printz

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 16:58

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-10) The AAA Contest Board announced in September 1918 that they would now cease to sanction any more automobile races during the durantion of the Great War, but would still honor any sanctions already granted for the year 1918. However World War I came to an official halt on November 11, 1918 and the AAA quickly made plans for the upcoming 1919 season. U.S. motor racing during 1919 had a real revival of sorts. Of the big board speedways Cincinnati, Sheepshead Bay, and Tacoma stayed afloat after the end of the war, but not Chicago which staged its last event, a 100 miler, on June 22, 1918. In 1919 Elgin ran its first road race since 1915, while the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Santa Monica road course held their first automobile races since 1916.

The first major race for 1919 was the 250 mile Santa Monica road racing revival, run on March 15 and Cooper prepared his Stutz for the event. In early 1919 Cliff Durant purchased the third remaining 1915 built 296 cubic inch Stutz racer and entered himself and Eddie Hearne on the two cars at Santa Monica. So with Cooper's Stutz also entered, all three of the 1915 Stutz racing cars were on hand. The Santa Monica 250 event saw Durant and Heane finish one-two, while Cooper retired after lap 11 with a broken valve to be placed 10th overall.

Earl next entered the 1919 edition of the Indianapolis 500 as did also Cliff Durant with his two Stutz's. It would be the first time since May 1915 that any of these three Stutz's had been raced at Indianapolis. Earl's Stutz now sported a new streamlined tail section and all three cars made the race day lineup. Their posted qualifying speeds were Durant "Chevrolet Special" 96.5 mph; Hearne "Durant Special" 94.5 mph; and Cooper (Stutz) 94.25 mph. In the race itself Cooper was running in 3rd place at 120 laps but then troubles insued and Earl could only place 12th overall at the end, 53 minutes behind the winner. Durant was out after 53 circuits with faulty steering. Hearne placed 2nd, and was headed only by Howard Wilcox using a Speedway owned 1914 Grand Prix type Peugeot. After the 1919 Indianapolis event Cooper retired from competitive driving for more than three years, i.e. May 1919 to December 1922. So ended Earl's first phase of his driving career which might be more properly designated his Stutz phase.

There however was one brief and sensational exception. Cooper was coaxed out of his total retirement when Joe Thomas (1890-1965) was taken ill with blood poisoning on the eve of the running of the Fresno 150 "San Joaquin Classic" on October 1, 1921. Earl replaced Thomas in a Duesenberg car, even though Cooper had never driven on the Fresno one mile board oval or piloted a Duesenberg before. As it turned out Cooper won the event over Jimmy Murphy in another Duesenberg, by a margin of just 2/10's of a second! Earl, who started far back in the nine car field, passed the other cars one after another, finally going into 2nd on lap 67. Murphy jumped into the lead from the start and led laps 1-72. Murphy needed new tires and pitted on lap 73, which put Cooper into 1st. Earl himself had to pit for new rubber on circuit 97, which put Murphy back into 1st. When Cooper got back out he was running 3rd. Earl then moved up quickly into 2nd and then gradually cut down Murphy's lead. Finally Cooper and Murphy raced neck and neck, with Cooper moving into 1st place on lap 145. At the end, on lap 150, Earl led Murphy by a one foot distance.

In the same contest Alton Edward Soules (1893-1921) lost control on his 76th lap and his Frontenac crashed through the top railing. The car then dropped a distance of 25 feet. Both Soules and his mechanic, Harry Barnes, were very badly smashed up and both died later the same day. The said Frontenac was owned by Mrs. Mae Harvey and the car was stated to be the same in which Gaston Chevrolet had been killed in, at Beverly Hills on November 25, 1920. The machine was repaired and entered in the November 24, 1921 Beverly Hills 250 with Wilbur D'Alene nominated as its driver. There was an inquest held about the cause of Soules' mishap but nothing was determined, it being thought that Soules may have hit a hole in the track, or had a tire blowout, or the steering knuckle broke. At the inquest the starter, Fred J. Wagner, stated that Soules was reckless and that he had warned Alton to be careful before the race.

I don't know much about Alton Soules. He is said to be a nephew of driver Charles Patrick Soules (1876-1952), who ran in a few West Coast AAA races during 1909 to 1913. Alton was Joe Thomas's riding mechanic during 1920, but not apparently at Indianapolis, where Ray Cariens was used instead. For the AAA 1921 National Championship trail Soules procured a Frontenac 4, which he used throughout the year. Alton's first Championship start was at the Beverly Hills sprints, run on February 27, 1921, but inexplicitly he didn't enter or run at Indianapolis. Alton's best placements were 4ths in the sprint races run at Beverly Hills on Febuary 27 and April 10, 1921. In the final 1921 AAA National Championship point standings Soules is listed 17th with 50 points total. 1921 was the only year that Soules competed in the AAA Championship ranks.

Earl Cooper retired after running at Indianapolis in May 1919 but his Stutz was activated for Reeves Dutton's use, in the inaugural Los Angeles Speedway 250 mile race, held on February 28, 1920. Dutton qualified at 107.14 mph to start 8th and there were 18 cars in the complete race day lineup. Cliff Durant also entered his two Stutz's, both now running as "Chevrolet Specials". None of these three Stutz's placed particularly well; i.e. Durant was out at 56 laps with a broken piston, Reeves went out with a broken connecting rod at 152 circuits, while Hearne who was still running at the end placed 6th overall. Dutton was riding in 3rd place at 150 laps, just before retiring two laps later.

After the February 1920 Beverly Hills 250, all three of the 1915 Stutz racers became both obsolete and illegal, for the new 183 cubic inch limit for all further AAA Championship racies was about to kick in at Indianapolis in May 1920. The new 3 litre limit (183 cubic inches) now replaced the older "Class E" 301 cubic inch limit. Cliff Durant now needed a new car and had commissioned Harry A. Miller in 1919 to construct a new 4 cylinder double overhead cam racer which would incorporate all the latest technology and engineering advances. This new car was christened the "baby" Chevrolet which distinguished it from the two Durant owned "big" Chevrolets, i.e. his two 1915 Stutz's. The "baby" was entered in the February Los Angeles 250, but was not ready in time. The idea was to run the new "baby" in the Beverly Hills 250 as a good test session, in preparation for its entry and running, in the upcoming Indianapolis 500 in May. Oddly enough this vehicle (Miller) was not race ready in May 1920 and never showed up even at the Speedway!

Edited by john glenn printz, 07 August 2010 - 19:54.


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#20 john glenn printz

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 11:59

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-11) Earl Cooper did not enter or compete in the 1920, 1921, and 1922 Indianapolis 500's. After his unexpected victory in the Fresno 150 of October 1, 1921, Cooper lapsed back into retirement for a full year. Cliff Durant had quit the automobile racing game on September 1, 1920 giving his baby Chevrolet to Tommy Milton for his use, and sat out the entire 1921 AAA season; but in early 1922 Durant again wanted to drive in the year's Indianapolis classic. He retrieved his old "baby" Chevrolet from Milton in April and piloted it in the 1922 Indianapolis 500. By this time the car was powered by a straight 8 Miller motor. The new Miller 183 straight 8 had been developed over the 1921 AAA season by Frank Elliott, Milton, and Ira Vail, working in conjunction with Harry Miller's designer-draftsman, Leo William Goossen.

In mid-1922 Cliff ordered a small fleet of six 183 cubic inch double overhead cam straight 8 Miller machines, all nominally as an advertising venture for his father's Durant Motors Incorporated firm, and thus formed a new and "super" multi-car racing team. The new Durant team and cars were scheduled to make their debut at the Los Angeles Speedway's 250 miler, to be held on Thanksgiving Day, i.e. November 30, 1922. Obviously Cliff was going to need some good and experienced throttle pushers. At the pronouncements of the new and impending Durant racing team in late September 1922, Eddie Hearne, Ralph Mulford, Jimmy Murphy, and Durant himself are named as the prospective drivers. The mechanical preparation of the cars was put under the direction of Reeves Dutton, i.e. Earl Cooper's old riding companion.

Ralph Mulford (1884-1973) had been a starter in the ill fated Kansas City 300 mile inaugural of September 17, 1922, where he placed 4th overall in a Duesenberg. It was a race of mishaps and injuries with three separate accidents and five cars wrecked. Drivers who were taken to the hospital included Peter DePaolo, Eddie Hearne, and Joe Thomas, along with the riding mechanics Ed Hefferman (with Hearne), Harry "Cotton" Henning (with DePaolo), and Christopher V. Pickup (with Sarles). Among the vehicles wrecked was Jimmy Murphy's highly successful hybrid "the Murphy Special" (i.e. Miller/Duesenberg) which was badly smashed in its rear end. Murphy and his mechanician, probably Olson, both sustained severe bruises.

ROSCOE SARLES. Roscoe Sarles, of course, got the worst of it all. On his 115th lap his "Durant Special" smashed through the outside rail and plunged to the ground, 25 feet below. It was all reminiscent of Soules' 1921 Fresno accident. Sarles' mechanic, C. V. Pickup, was thrown clear but Roscoe was pinned under the car by its weight and couldn't extricate himself. Individuals who reached the car a few seconds after the accident said Sarles was still alive. The car caught on fire and Roscoe begged for help but before anything could be done the vehicle was enveloped by flame and Sarles burnt to death. Pickup, who was perhaps very badly injured himself, had attempted to rescue Sarles but the fire made it impossible.

The Kansas City inaugural had been originally scheduled for September 16, but was postponed by rain and run the next day. Sarles had been a subsitute driver for Durant, as Cliff couldn't stay because he had to confer with his father on September 18 (Monday), in New York. The car that Sarles drove at Kansas City was the vehicle that Durant had retrieved from Milton in April 1922, and its chassis was that of the "baby" Chevrolet of early 1920. Sarles, at the time of his death, had already signed to drive on the new and forthcoming multi-car Durant racing team.

Sarles originally came from the mid-West, i.e. Lafayette, IN where he began racing at the half mile dirt oval at the Lafayette Fairgrounds. It was at this location that Roscoe had his first victory. It was in late 1915 or early 1916 that Sarles first met Louis Chevrolet when Roscoe was working for the Puritan Machine Works. Louis was having some parts for his new Frontenac racing cars made there. When Louis was at this shop Sarles was pointed out to Chevrolet as being a racing driver. Eventually Sarles switched jobs and began working for Louis on his new Frontenac racing cars. In late 1916 or early 1917 Sarles became a riding mechanic for Joe Boyer and Louis Chevrolet. Sarles generally rode with Frontenac driver Joe Boyer, but when Joe was delayed by business, Roscoe was permitted to pilot Boyer's Frontenac at Minneapolis, as Boyer's replacement. Thus in 1917 Roscoe drove in his first AAA sanctioned contest, at Minneapolis on July 14, 1917. This was Sarles' first try in a major AAA race and he acquitted himself well by finishing 4th in the 100 mile event, but he wouldn't be in another important AAA contest until early 1919. Sarles's racing activities during 1918 are now hard to trace but Roscoe found employment at Harry Miller's shop working on war related aviation projects.

Sometime, probably during 1917, Sarles had followed the famous admonition of newspaperman and Presidential candidate Horace Greeley (1811-1872) to "Go West young man, go West!", Roscoe finally landed in southern California and permanently settled there. In late 1918 Sarles found sponsorship with the manufacturer of Roamer automobiles, whose headquarters were located in Kalamzoo, MI. Roscoe had obtained a 1918 model Duesenberg racer, and now ran it under the name "Roamer Special". In early 1919 Sarles won two big races at the Ascot Park CA one mile dirt oval, i.e. a 100 miler on January 26, and a 150 miler on March 23 with it. In between, on March 15, he crashed out at the Santa Monica road race using the same Duesenberg derived "Roamer". Sarles said three years later about this Santa Monica accident (quote), "Yes, there are thrills and pathos in my life. I had a real laugh watching the people scatter out of the path of my car when I drove over the sand bags in a race at Santa Monica."

Roscoe was suppose to pilot the "Roamer" at Indianapolis in May, but Sarles' early 1919 California performances had now caught the eye of Barney Oldfield. Oldfield enlisted Roscoe to drive his old 1917 Miller, and Sarles signed up. It was probably a mistake on Sarles' part but he was seemingly enthusiastic about his new ride and started overhauling the ex-Golden Submarine. Robert Bandini, Sarles' earlier riding mechanic, stayed with the Roamer vehicle, when it was reassigned by Roscoe to driver Louis LeCocq (1892-1919) in mid-April. The young Bandini had recently inherited a fortune and enjoyed the thrills and excitement of being a riding mechanic. At Indianapolis Roscoe's Miller was the first car out, lasting only 8 laps before a rocker arm broke, giving Sarles the dead last 33rd overall finishing position. Meanwhile LeCocq and Bandini motored on in the "Roamer" until lap no. 97 when LeCocq crashed in turn two while entering the backstretch. The car turned over, caught on fire, the fuel tank then exploded, and both LeCocq and Bandini were cremated. At 90 laps LeCocq had been riding in 5th place.

Actually two Roamer Specials had run at Indianapolis in 1919 and both were 1918 model Duesenberg racers. In late February 1919 Cloyd Y. Kenworthy had bought Eddie Hearne's previous year's Duesenberg and renamed it as an Roamer. Eventually Kurt Hitke (1889-1979) was assigned to pilot Kenworthy's Roamer at Indianapolis. Kurt had been born in Dresdon, Germany on December 1, 1889 and had raced bicycles and motorcycles in Europe before coming to the U.S. Roscoe Sarles it seems, owned his Roamer entry apart from the Kenworthy car, but in any case both of the Duesenberg "Roamers" were entered at Indianapols by Roscoe. Mr. Kenworthy was a Chicago IL based distributor of Roamer passenger cars whose company was called the Roamer Motor Car Company. Hitke, making his first major start at Indianapolis in 1919, had been a riding mechanic for the Duesenberg team beginning in 1916 and had ridden with D'Alene, DeVore, Mulford, and Milton during the years 1916, 1917, and 1918. Hitke at the 1919 "500" completed 57 laps before a rod bearing failed and his highest position in the race had been 15th at the 30 lap marker.

After Indianapolis, Sarles ran Oldfield's 1917 Miller at the Uniontown sprints staged on July 19. Both of the Duesenberg "Roamers" were at hand for the 301 mile Elgin August 22 revival, with Hitke and Sarles in the cockpits. Here Sarles placed 2nd and Hitke finished 5th. Sarles closed out his 1919 AAA season using a Hudson in the September 1 Uniontown 225, where he finished 2nd. In early October 1919, C. Y. Kenworthy, the vice president and general manager of the Roamer Motor Car Company, sold his interest in it and resigned. He was now involved in forming the Kenworthy Motor Company, located in Mishawaka, IN. C. Y. Kenworthy's Duesenberg was originally entered at the October Cincinnati 250 as a "Roamer" but its name had been changed by race day, to the "Kenworthy Special". Kurt Hitke was still its driver, and he had his best finish ever, by placing 3rd overall. For most of the year 1920 Sarles drove Frontenac cars but when Tommy Milton quit the Duesenberg brothers in early September 1920, Roscoe switched marques and became Milton's fill-in or replacement on the four car Duesenberg team. Sarles then drove Duesenbergs at the non-Championship 200 mile Fresno inaugural (October 2) and at the last Championship ranked event in 1920, i.e. the Beverly Hills 250 (November 25, 1920). Roscoe was 6th at Fresno and 1st in the Beverly Hills 250.

1921 was Sarles' banner year and he drove for Augie and Fred Duesenberg all season. Roscoe recorded two big AAA Championship wins in 1921, i.e. the Uniontown 225 (June 18) and the Cotati 150 (October 23). Roscoe and Milton battled for the 1921 AAA National Championship honors all year, but at the end Sarles came up short and placed 2nd. Sarles wound up with 1980 points to Milton's 2230. This was the same one-two finish that had obtained at Indianapolis in May when Milton with a Frontenac 8 finished 1st and Sarles was 2nd in a Duesenberg 8. At Indy, Sarles had trailed Milton by 3 minutes and 50 seconds. However in a largely meaningless $10,000 match race between the two, held at Beverly Hills on July 17, 1922, Roscoe won all three heats over Milton, i.e. two 10 milers and a 25 mile final. In early 1922 Sarles continued to pilot Duesenbergs but for the May Indianapolis classic Roscoe returned to drive a Frontenac 4. This, I would think, was a step backward as Louis Chevrolet's cars were now behind the technical advancements of the rival Ballots, Duesenbergs, and Miller powered vehicles. Louis thought that his cars had a good chance to win three Indianapolis 500's in a row, a gross misconception of the actual situation, as it turned out. Sarles qualified 6th fastest (98.00 mph) but went out at 88 laps completed with a broken connecting rod. Roscoe had dropped to 15th by 10 laps, to 17th at 20, and to dead last, 24th at the 30 lap reckoning, obviously he was having problems! Later Sarles returned to the event by doing some relief work for Frank Elliott in the Leach (Miller) No. 9. That proved to be in vain also as the Leach car retired with rear end failure on circuit 196. The highest Frontenac placements in the 1922 "500" were 9th (Tom Alley) and 11th (E. G. "Cannonball" Baker).

After Indianapolis, Sarles reverted back to driving Duesenbergs for a short time but for the two Cotati contests of August 6, 1922 Roscoe piloted Cliff Durant's straight 8 Miller. However Sarles retired in the first Cotati event, a 50 miler, on lap 4 with a broken valve and couldn't start in the 100 mile race. Durant had talked Roscoe into joining his upcoming and yet to be, new super team equipped with six brand new 183 cubic inch straight 8 Millers. Meanwhile Sarles could use Cliff's sole Miller 8, a combination of the 1920 "Baby Chevrolet" (Miller) chassis with a 1922 Miller engine, when Durant himself wasn't using or racing it. Cliff Durant himself was entered, using this same vehicle, for the Kansas City inaugural 300 mile event scheduled for September 16. When the contest was delayed one day by rain, Durant had to leave immediately for New York to confer with his father on urgent business. The machine was then assigned to Sarles, who in it on September 17, took his very last ride.

RALPH MULFORD. Ralph Mulford, who had started racing on May 24-25, 1907 by driving in a 24 hour endurance marathon held at Point Breeze PA, may now have decided to quit this always dangerous sport, immediately after Sarles' death and decided not go to the well once too often. Mulford had had a distinguished racing career in any case. The highlight of his success was probably victory in the November 27, 1911 Vanderbilt Cup with a factory backed Lozier at Savannah, GA. In ten starts at Indianapolis Mulford's best finishes were 2nd in 1911 (Lozier); 3rd in 1916 (Peugeot), and 7th in 1913 (Mercedes). Besides his 1911 Vanderbilt Cup win, Mulford won these important U.S. races: (1.) May 24-25, 1907 Point Breeze 24 hour marathon, Lozier, as co-pilot with Harry Michener; (2.) August 27, 1910 Elgin 305 mile road race, Lozier; (3.) Oct. 8, 1910 Fairmount Park 202.5 road race, Lozier; (4.) Oct. 9, 1911 202.5 road race, Lozier; (5.) Nov. 5, 1912 Brighton Beach 100, dirt track, Mason; (6.) July 4, 1913 Columbus 200 dirt track, Mason; (7.) Oct. 22, 1914 Galesburg 100 dirt track, Duesenberg; (8.) August 7, 1915 Des Moines 300 board oval, Duesenberg; (9.) July 4, 1917 Omaha 300, board oval, Duesenberg; and (10.) Sept. 2, 1918 Uniontown 112.5 board oval, Frontenac!

Towards the end of Mulford's illustrious career in racing, Ralph became involved and entwined in the AAA's newly created National Championship driving title. Although Ralph nevered managed to win a Championship ranked contest, he did drive in them during the title's first four years of existence. Mulford's final AAA Championship rankings were; 1916-10th; 1920-8th, 1921-20th, and 1922-10th. Ralph never drove in an AAA Championship contest again after the September 17, 1922 Kansas City fiasco and Mulford was no longer mentioned as a perspective member of Durant's new team. Ironically Ralph never drove a Miller powered car in competition, for in late 1922, just when the Miller machinery was coming in and dominating the AAA Championship division, Mulford was getting out.

Cliff Durant's idea seems to have been to field five cars at once, with regard to his new and late 1922 racing team and keep the sixth machine as a spare. With Sarles' death and Mulford's departure, Durant now found himself with only three pilots lined up, i.e. Hearne, Murphy, and himself. On November 14 the newspapers announced that Durant had now filled up his two vacancies. The two newcomers to the Durant team were to be Art Klein and Earl Cooper! Although Klein was certainly a long time veteran of racing, the selection of Art by Durant, might be regarded as a bit of an oddity. Arthur had some good past finishes to be sure, but had not proved to be a world beater.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 October 2010 - 15:19.


#21 Michael Ferner

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 13:52

In the same contest Alton Edward Soules (1893-1921) lost control on his 76th lap and his Frontenac crashed through the top railing. The car then dropped a distance of 25 feet. Both Soules and his mechanic, Harry Barnes, were very badly smashed up and both died later the same day. The said Frontenac was owned by Mrs. Mae Harvey and the car was stated to be the same in which Gaston Chevrolet had been killed in, at Beverly Hills on November 25, 1920. The machine was repaired and entered in the November 24, 1921 Beverly Hills 250 with Wilbur D'Alene nominated as its driver. There was an inquest held about the cause of Soules' mishap but nothing was determined, it being thought that Soules may have hit a hole in the track, or had a tire blowout, or the steering knuckle broke. At the inquest the starter, Fred J. Wagner, stated that Soules was reckless and that he had warned Alton to be careful before the race.

I don't know much about Alton Soules. He is said to be a nephew of driver Charles Patrick Soules (1876-1952), who ran in a few West Coast AAA races during 1909 to 1913. Alton was Joe Thomas's riding mechanic during 1920, but not apparently at Indianapolis, where Ray Cariens was used instead. For the AAA 1921 National Championship trail Soules procured a Frontenac 4, which he used throughout the year. Alton's first Championship start was at the Beverly Hills sprints, run on February 27, 1921, but inexplicitly he didn't enter or run at Indianapolis. Alton's best placements were 4ths in the sprint races run at Beverly Hills on Febuary 27 and April 10, 1921. In the final 1921 AAA National Championship point standings Soules is listed 17th with 50 points total. 1921 was the only year that Soules competed in the AAA Championship ranks.


Alton Soules was also riding mechanic for Omar Toft in the mid teens, and he was riding with Wilbur d'Alene when he crashed the "Omar Special" at Ascot Speedway on December 25, 1916. "Alton Soules has cause to be happy today", wrote the Los Angeles Times, "There wasn't a man in the audience who would have given 10 cents for his chance (of survival)". But Soules wasn't too concerned, apparently, posing with a huge grin for the photographers and "kidding the cops who had gone over to pick up the pieces". Such was the nerve required from a riding mechanic!

About the Mae Harvey Frontenac being the Chevrolet death car, that is most likely only the usual dramatisation of racing accidents of the time - in fact, there's overwhelming evidence that Harvey's Fronty was driven by Joe Thomas in the very race in which Gaston Chevrolet was killed.

#22 ensign14

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 16:10

Mrs Mae Harvey. How common was it to have a female car owner in those days? Did they let her into the pits?

#23 Jim Thurman

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 06:44

I don't know much about Alton Soules. He is said to be a nephew of driver Charles Patrick Soules (1876-1952), who ran in a few West Coast AAA races during 1909 to 1913. Alton was Joe Thomas's riding mechanic during 1920, but not apparently at Indianapolis, where Ray Cariens was used instead. For the AAA 1921 National Championship trail Soules procured a Frontenac 4, which he used throughout the year. Alton's first Championship start was at the Beverly Hills sprints, run on February 27, 1921, but inexplicitly he didn't enter or run at Indianapolis. Alton's best placements were 4ths in the sprint races run at Beverly Hills on Febuary 27 and April 10, 1921. In the final 1921 AAA National Championship point standings Soules is listed 17th with 50 points total. 1921 was the only year that Soules competed in the AAA Championship ranks.

I can add a little, but not much. As Michael mentioned, Soules was a mechanic for Omar Toft. Researcher Rick Kelly found that on his WWI draft registration card, Soules listed his profession as mechanic and employer as Toft.

And, in going through records myself, I discovered the name of Soules' riding mechanic who also died in the crash at Fresno was Harry Barner.

Mr. Printz, as always, thank you for these threads and posts on past AAA seasons :up:


#24 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 16:24

To ensign14;

Women car owners in U.S. major league open wheel automobile racing would include (1) Mrs. Leota K. Northam, who helped Omar Toft; (2) Mrs. Mae Harvey with her Frontenac in 1921; (3) Mary Falcione, Joe Marks' mother in law, who co-owned the machine driven by Wilbur Shaw at Indianapolis in 1934. She was known around the tracks as "Grandma Marks"; (4) The most famous woman AAA car owner was certainly Bessie Lee Paoli (b. 1921) of Springfield IL whose car the "Springfield Welding Special", an Offenhauser/Kurtis dirt machine type KK4000 as piloted by Chuch Stevenson (1919-1995), won the 1952 AAA National Championship title.; and (5) In our own day, Sarah Fisher (b. October 4, 1980), drives her own car and she is, in fact, the only driver-owner combination in the current Indy Racing League series.

As to what the AAA pit policy was in the 1920s, I have no information. Probably it was up to each individual track, as to what they would allow.

Edited by john glenn printz, 15 October 2010 - 12:34.


#25 ensign14

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 16:38

I'm trying to think of contemporary equivalents on the European scene in the 1920s and 1930s. There was the Hon. Dorothy Paget, and Robin Hanson's entrant Mrs Hall-Smith. But of course the privateer was not so well established.

#26 Vitesse2

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 17:28

I'm trying to think of contemporary equivalents on the European scene in the 1920s and 1930s. There was the Hon. Dorothy Paget, and Robin Hanson's entrant Mrs Hall-Smith. But of course the privateer was not so well established.

I believe Louis Chiron was financed by a number of - ahem - older "lady friends" during the early years of his career. ;)

#27 Michael Ferner

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 18:33

To add a bit to John's list of female car owners, of course we shouldn't forget Mari Hulman George. And, from time to time, wives of drivers or owners would act as "figureheads" for their spouses, mostly probably for reasons of tax avoidance: Shirley Bergere, Bessie Decker, Maude Yagle come to mind, and in later years Geneva van Acker, Shirley McElreath, Ellen Zink etc. And, speaking of Louis Chiron, at the 1929 Indy 500 some fuss was created by his "hiring" of Alice Hoffmann-Trobek as his "pit manager", with two other cars being entered by Maude Yagle and Marion Batten, the widow of racer Norm Batten.

The Decatur Review, May 6 in 1929:

Motor Speedway's Ban On Women Lifted, Two Enter

Indianapolis (AP) — A tradition as old as the Indianapolis motor speedway — that of keeping women off the track and out or the pits — will end this year. Two women own cars entered in the 500-mile race May 30, and a third is pit manager for Louis Chiron, European racing champion of 1928.


Edited by Michael Ferner, 29 August 2010 - 18:38.


#28 Michael Ferner

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 19:00

During the dedication ceremonies for the new half million dollar 500 acre Packing proving grounds located north of Utica, MI on June 14, 1928, Leon Duray in his No. 4 front wheel drive intercooled 91 Miller set a new AAA closed course record for a single lap. Duray sped around the 2 1/2 concrete oval in 60.739 seconds for an average of 148.174 mph. Duray was helped in this venture by having Norman Batten pace him. Those who witnessed Duray's feat included Edsel Ford (1893-1943), Charles F. Sorensen (1881-1968), and all the Packard top brass. Duray's new clocking beat Frank Lockhart's old mark of 147.729 mph set at Atlanta City on May 5, 1927.


Further to the discussion about the closed course record, it should be mentioned that Ralph de Palma averaged 150.83 mph on July 17 in 1926 during an exhibition run the morning of the AAA National Championship races at Atlantic City in New Jersey. De Palma was using his supercharged 122 cubic inch Miller that was no longer eligible for championship racing, hence the designation "exhibition" - he wasn't entered in the races proper that day, but he was almost five seconds faster over one lap than the fastest 91 cubic inch Millers and Duesenbergs. However, I have never seen "official" documentation about this run, only the newspaper reports of the Associated Press, which have to be treated with care, as always.

#29 Lemnpiper

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 19:30

To add a bit to John's list of female car owners, of course we shouldn't forget Mari Hulman George. And, from time to time, wives of drivers or owners would act as "figureheads" for their spouses, mostly probably for reasons of tax avoidance: Shirley Bergere, Bessie Decker, Maude Yagle come to mind, and in later years Geneva van Acker, Shirley McElreath, Ellen Zink etc. And, speaking of Louis Chiron, at the 1929 Indy 500 some fuss was created by his "hiring" of Alice Hoffmann-Trobek as his "pit manager", with two other cars being entered by Maude Yagle and Marion Batten, the widow of racer Norm Batten.

The Decatur Review, May 6 in 1929:



Plus Ray Keech won the 1929 Indianapolis 500 that year for Yagle . Now would have been the 1st major race win for a woman car owner? Are there any pictures or newsreel footage left showing the victory lane celibration that year to see if Mrs Yagle was allowed into victory lane?


Paul

#30 Michael Ferner

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 22:30

Unlikely, as she was only a "figurehead" entrant for her husband, Ed Yagle - a real estate agent in Philadelphia, and thus likely cognizant of his tax bracket.

#31 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 16:52

We can add to the list of women AAA Championship car owners, Lucy O'Reilly Schell, who entered four cars (3 Maseratis and 1 Alfa Romeo) in the 1946 Indianapolis 500. She was also the mother of Grand Prix driver, Harry Schell (1928-1960), who was killed at Silverstone while car testing in the rain. None of Lucy's four 1946 Indianapolis entrees made the race day lineup.

The only woman owner in Formula I Grand Prix racing that comes to my mind is Maria Teresa De Filippis (b. 1926), who drove her own Maserati type 250F in three 1958 Grand Prixs. Her results were (1) Monaco Grand Prix-did not qualify; (2) Belgian Grand Prix-10th place running; and (3) Italian Grand Prix-finished 9th not running, out after 57 laps with engine trouble.

At the time USAC would not allow women in either the pits or the garage areas, let alone as a driver. Here USAC was just following the older AAA practice.

Edited by john glenn printz, 06 March 2012 - 15:41.


#32 Rob G

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 17:27

The only woman owner in Formula I Grand Prix racing that comes to my mind is Maria Teresa De Filippis (b. 1926), who ran her own Maserati type 250F in three 1958 Grand Prixs. Her results were (1) Monaco Grand Prix-did not qualify; (2) Belgian Grand Prix-10th place running; and (3) Italian Grand Prix-finished 9th not running, out after 57 laps with engine trouble.

Louise Bryden-Brown occasionally entered a Lotus in 1961. Coincidentally, I just mentioned her in another thread a few days ago when I was trying to ID a photo!

#33 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 15:00

Ironically Ralph never drove a Miller powered car in competition, for in late 1922, just when the Miller machinery was coming in and dominating the AAA Championship division, Mulford was getting out.


While that is true, it should be remembered that Mulford tried Ralph de Palma's dirt track Miller "for size" at the Culver City speedway on Nov 29, 1924. The car wasn't entered for the National Championship's season final on Dec 7, but de Palma brought it along with his new speedway Miller, and Mulford took a few laps during official practice. He didn't disgrace himself, either, and lapped in 36.0" or 37.2", depending on which info you believe, well above 120 mph either way. He then considered making a comeback in one of the Duesenbergs entered, but couldn't get clearance from his employer, the Chandler Motor Car Co.

#34 john glenn printz

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 12:28

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-12) ARTHUR H. KLINE. I have no information about Arthur "Art" Hayes Kline's (1889-1955) motor racing activities before he ran at Indianapolis in 1914 using a "King Special", i.e. a Wisconsin/King. The "King Special" was put together by Art during late 1913 and early 1914. Never the less, it is stated that Klein worked as a mechanic's helper at an automobile factory, before beginning his career in automobile racing on the nation's dirt ovals. An 1920 notice states that he started racing in 1910 with a Stoddard-Dayton. At the 1914 Indianapolis event, Klein was an also-ran, i.e. he started 8th and finished 20th (out at 87 laps-broken valve). At Tacoma, in early July 1914 and with the same car, Klein placed 2nd in the 200 mile Patlatch Trophy Race on July 3, and 3rd in the 300 mile Montamarathon Trophy contest staged on July 4. Both of the Tacoma races here were road races.

Late in 1914 Art travelled to California and competed at Corona (Nov. 25), San Diego (Jan. 9, 1915), San Francisco (Feb. 27), and Venice (March 17). However Klein didn't fare any too well in any of these late 1914 or early 1915 ventures. Art was back at Indianapolis in 1915 using a vehicle he named after himself, i.e. the "Kleinart", which was apparently an old Duesenberg which he had modified and revamped. Here again Art was reduced to also-ran status as he started 8th and placed 18th overall (out at 111 laps-disqualified because of a smoking engine).

After running at Indianapolis in 1915 Klein joined the new International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) circuit, recently set up on March 29, 1915 and established by George W. Dickinson and Alex Sloan. In 1915 the IMCA "stars" were George Clarke, Louis Disbrow, Bill Endicott, Lee Gunning, Eddie Hearne, Fred Horey, Dave Koetzla, Louis LeCocq, Tommy Milton, Johnny Raimey, and Cliff Woodbury. In addition to racing in the IMCA events themselves, Klein ran the ex-Oldfield, ex-Burman 200 horsepower "Blitzen Benz" Land Speed Record car in trial or exhibition runs, as an added but totally meaningless attraction at the IMCA meets. Three times Art had been in good standing with the AAA, and three times Klein had bolted and left the AAA organization and went over to the IMCA. On his third offence or secession from the AAA ranks, the AAA Chairman Richard A. Kennerdell banned Arthur for life and stated that Art wouldn't ever be allowed to race in an AAA sanctioned event again, for as long as he lived.

In October 1917 Art, when under his third AAA suspension, joined the war effort and enlisted at the Call Aviation Field located at Wichita, TX. The site was named after Lt. Loren H. Call who had died on July 9, 1913 in a plane crash. The construction of the Call air field had begun only on September 1, 1917. In July 1918 Klein was shipped to England and then in August 1918 to Issoudun, France where he earned his silver wings. Issondun was then the world's largest flying field in the world and it is here that Eddie Rickenbacker received his pilot training. Klein, while in France, served as a chief aeronautical engineering officer.

After the war, Lieutenant Klein returned to the U.S. in April 1919. Meanwhile he had lined up and had procured somehow the last of the four extant 1914 Peugeot EX5 type Grand Prix cars and had also enlisted Detroit millionaire, Frank P. Book, to purchase it. Book bought it and the Peugeot was then duly entered in the 1919 "500" with Klein as its driver. When Art returned to America in April 1919 he was hailed as a victorious war hero, at the AAA all was forgiven, and Klein was now reinstated by the AAA Contest Board for a third time. In this reversal of AAA policy Art had had the help of Rickenbacker, Fred J. Wagner, and Book himself. Frank Book had been the money behind the DePalma Manufacturing Company formed in early 1916 and Book now owned the ex-DePalma 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes and an exact copy of it, built by the DePalma Manufacturing Company during 1916/1917. The Mercedes copy was raced under the name "Detroit Special" and was piloted in the 1919 Indianapolis classic by Charles Kirkpatrick.

At Indianapolis for 1919, Kline started 7th in Book's Peugeot, with a qualification speed of 94.9 mph. After the race's start, Art continually dropped back. He was listed 12th at 10 laps and 24th at 20 circuits. The Kline-Peugeot combination climbed back up to 14th at 60 laps and was listed in 19th place at 70 laps. But on round 70, Klein was running more than 26 minutes behind the present race leader, Louis Chevrolet in a Frontenac. Then Art went out with a broken oil line after 70 laps and was placed as finishing 19th overall. One problem Kline had encountered during the contest was a broken exhaust pipe support at the rear of the Peugeot.

All four of the original 1914 Peugeot EX5 team cars, constructed for the French Grand Prix, ran at Indy in 1919. Besides the example of Kline, the others were piloted by Jules Goux, Ray Howard, and Howard Wilcox. As it tuned out this Peugeot quartet placed 1st (Wilcox), 3rd (Goux), 16th (Howard) and 19th (Kline). Goux's car had had its Peugeot motor replaced however with a Premier copy of the Peugeot powerplant on the eve of the race. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had purchased two Peugeot EX5 models in late 1915 and had had three replica cars built from them in early 1916. The replicas ran as "Premiers" in both 1916 and 1919 and were Speedway owned. After the 1919 Indianapolis contest, Klein continued to use the Peugeot until the expiration of the AAA's class E, 301 cubic inch limit formula. Class E was still being used by the AAA in the early months of 1920, but expired at Indianapolis in May 1920, where a 183 cubic inch limit took over.

Thus Klein drove Book's EX5 Peugeot at Elgin (August 23), Uniontown (September 1), Sheepshead Bay (September 20), and Cincinnati (October 12) during 1919; and at Beverly Hills on February 28 and March 28 in 1920. Arthur fared much better at Elgin in 1919 than he had at Indianapolis. The 1919 Elgin 36 lap 301 mile revival was dominated by the two Duesenberg straight 8's, put in the hands of Milton and Mulford. Mulford led the first 22 laps, but then suffered from engine lubrication problems, had to pit, and was retired. Klein then took over the lead for circuits 23 to 31, before he too was out with a connecting rod bearing failure. Milton moved into the lead after that and led the rest of the way, i.e. laps 32 to 36, to win with a 73.5 mph average. Kline closed out the 1919 campaign by placing 6th in the Uniontown 225, 4th in the Sheepshead Bay 150, and 2nd in the Cincinnati 250.

At the beginning of the 1920 season all the anticipation and excitement was centered around the opening of the new 1 1/4 mile board Los Angeles Speedway. Its opening race was to be a 250 mile contest, to be staged on Washington's birthday, February 22. Richard Kennerdell had also reactivated the AAA's National Championship Driving Title, not run since 1916, and the Los Angeles 250 was to be the first of the 1920 Championship contests. Klein qualified Book's Peugeot with a time of 40.18 secords (109.9 mph) and would start 10th in the 18 car starting field. In the race, which was held on February 28 because of a rain delay, Klein moved into 3rd place at 25 laps and led circuits 50 to 68. On lap 69 Klein had to pit with mechanical ills and at 75 laps he had fallen all the way down to the 13th position. On his 151 circuit the left rear wheel collapsed and the vehicle did some fancy gyrations but eventually stopped on the bottom of the oval, still standing upright. Klein and his mechanic, S. A. Elmore, were not hurt, but the car was out of the race and was listed as finishing 14th in the final placements.

Klein and the Peugeot were among those invited by the Los Angeles Speedway to take part in their AAA non-Championship sprint program for March 1920. The show would consist of three 50 mile contests, i.e. two qualifying heats and a final. 13 cars participated and were separated into two groups for the two preliminary qualifying heats, where the four top placements in each would run in the final. Klein placed 1st in Heat I, and took 2nd overall in the final. This was Arthur's last go in the Peugeot EX5, as now an 183 cubic inch limit would be imposed on all the important and remaining 1920 AAA races. The new upcoming 183 cubic inch regulation limit meant that all the car constructors had to build new cars and all the drivers had to find new mounts.

(EXCURSUS: It is said that Klein retained the possession of Book's genuine example of a EX5 type Peugeot and sold it, in 1949, to car collector Lindley Fowler Bothwell (1982-1986) of Los Angeles. Bothwell then entered it, in the 1949 Indianapolis 500, as a gag! Bothwell's EX5 is not however, as is often asserted, the same exact EX5 that Dario Resta campaigned very successfully during the AAA seasons of 1915 and 1916. The ex-Resta EX5 was piloted by Ray Howard at Indianapolis in 1919 and was certainly not the Book owned EX5, which Kleine drove at Indy and at Elgin in 1919. I myself have seen Bothwell's EX5 Peugeot, as it was put on display one year in the Speedway Motel, where I came upon it by chance over 30 years ago.)

Louis Chevrolet made seven new Frontenacs for the Indianapolis race and Klein was assigned one of them. The Speedway had introduced the four lap qualification trial in 1920 also, and on May 26, Arthur Klein was the very first pilot ever to qualify at Indianapolis using it. Klein's speed was 92.7 mph and he earned 5th position in the starting 1920 lineup. By an ill fated happenstance, all seven of the new Frontenacs had been put together with defective steering knuckles, which tended to snap off during the running of the 1920 "500". Klein's car was no exception and he was out after completing 40 laps. At the 30 lap mark Arthur had been running in 5th place, just behind the eventual winner, Gaston Chevrolet, who was in 4th. Art was credited however with leading lap 12 of the race, which was the only lap Klein ever led at the Speedway. Klein later got back into the contest by relieving Rene Thomas in a Ballot for circuits 105-115.

After the 1920 Indianapolis contest Arthur drove Frontenac cars exclusively until he was hired by Cliff Durant in mid-November 1922. For the remainder of 1920 Klein curtailed his activity and drove only at the Uniontown 225 of June 19 and the Tacoma 200 of July 5. Art failed to finish at Uniontown but took 4th place at Tacoma. Although both the 1920 and 1921 Indianapolis 500s were won by Frontenacs, the marque did not fare particularly well in the other 1920-1921 AAA Championship contests. The leading U.S. make for 1920 and 1921 was probably the Duesenberg. By the middle of 1921 the new Miller straight 8 motor was beginning to show its potential and soon, even the Duesenberg cars were put into a defensive position. The year 1922 proved to be when Miller powered cars routed the entire opposition, with both the Duesenbergs and Frontenacs falling further and further behind.

After taking part at Tacoma on July 5, 1920 Klein did not race again for more than a full year. Thus Art was not an entant or participant at Indianapolis in 1921. Art had retired in mid-1920 to market a new device known as the Beacon Automatic Stop Signal. But Klein rejoined the AAA Championship circuit for the running of the Beverly Hills 250, run on November 24, 1921. Here Art ran as high as the 3rd postion at 90 laps but then his Frontenac caught on fire. And Art ended up with no great final result, but placed 9th, and was flagged off after completing 174 circuits of the 200 lap distance. For 1922 Klein had a full season on the AAA Championship Trial with his best results two 4ths, i.e. at the San Carlos 150 (April 16) and the Fresno 150 (April 27).

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 October 2010 - 15:15.


#35 Darren Galpin

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 14:25

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-12) I have no information about Arthur "Art" Hayes Kline's (1889-1955) motor racing activities before he ran at Indianapolis in 1914 using a "King Special", i.e. a Wisconsin/King.


There was a Kline who was riding mechanic to Burman in the 1908 American Grand Prize....

#36 Michael Ferner

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Posted 11 September 2010 - 07:57

All four of the original 1914 Peugeot EX5 team cars, constructed for the French Grand Prix, ran at Indy in 1919. Besides the example of Kline, the others were piloted by Jules Goux, Ray Howard, and Howard Wilcox. As it tuned out this Peugeot quartet placed 1st (Wilcox), 3rd (Goux), 16th (Howard) and 19th (Kline). Goux's car had had its Peugeot motor replaced however with a Premier copy of the Peugeot powerplant on the eve of the race. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had purchased two Peugeot EX5 models in late 1915 and had had three replica cars built from them in early 1916. The replicas ran as "Premiers" in both 1916 and 1919 and were Speedway owned. After the 1919 Indianapolis contest, Klein continued to use the Peugeot until the expiration of the AAA's class E, 301 cubic inch limit formula. Class E was still being used by the AAA in the early months of 1920, but expired at Indianapolis in May 1920, where a 183 cubic inch limit took over.


Though Goux's car in the 1919 Indy 500 is almost universally recorded as a Peugeot with a Premier engine these days, I don't believe that to have been the case. The following is an excerpt from the Indianapolis Star on May 30, 1919:

Posted Image

I read that to mean that Goux used only parts of the Premier to repair the original Peugeot engine - note how the article says that Goux "tore down the smashed Peugeot engine and (...) succeeded in reassembling and rebuilding the motor". I reckon the engine was still at least 80 % Peugeot, with perhaps as little as one of the two blocks from the Premier, maybe a con-rod and a piston. Except for the block, replacing those parts was pretty much standard routine for racing service, and he may even have had original Peugeot spare parts at the time.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 11 September 2010 - 07:58.


#37 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 October 2010 - 17:41

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-13) At Indianapolis in 1922 Art did not fare well using the same Frontenac he had piloted in California. The first day of qualifications for 1922 took place on May 25 with 19 cars moving into the lineup. Four more were added on May 26. Kline himself qualified on May 27 along with three others, i.e. Jules Goux (Ballot), Eddie Hearne (Ballot), and Tommy Milton (Miller/Milton). Art posted a very poor time of just 87.150 mph and would start 25th on race day. Only two other entries had, so far, posted slower clockings, i.e. C. Glenn Howard (1897-1946) in a Fronty-Ford at 83.9 mph and an Englishman, W. Douglas Hawkes (1893-1974) with a Bentley, at 81.9 mph. Howard's Ford No. 19, along with that of Jack Curtner No. 18, were the first Model T motorized vehicles ever to run at Indy and had been entered by Arthur and Louis Chevrolet. They were certainly cute little cars but in couldn't match the speeds of the Ballot, Duesenberg, and Miller powered equipment. These two "Fronty" Fords used special 16 valve heads designed by Cornelius Van Ranst (1892-1972) mounted on the Model T blocks.

Charles Lytle, the photo collector from Sharon, PA, always asserted that Hawkes' Bentley in 1922, was the very first car to run all 500 miles without stopping although unnoticed and unacknowledged later. However here Lytle seems to be mistaken as I have come across a source (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, MAY 31, 1922, page 11), which mentions that Hawkes pitted on lap 151 to take on oil and gasoline. In the race itself Klein gradually moved up and was in the 10th position at 80 laps and was 9th at the half way mark, i.e. 100 laps or 250 miles. Then the Frontenac's handling suddenly went awry and it was soon discovered that the car's left side frame rail had cracked, and so the machine had to be retired after completing 105 circuits. Klein later did some relief work for Frank Elliott in the Leach-Miller No. 9. After Indianapolis Klein and the Frontenac raced at San Carlos (June 14), Tacoma (July 4), Cotati (Aug. 6), and Fresno (Sept. 30). Klein took 3rd at the June 14 Fresno race which was a special AAA non-Championship 150 mile event run for the Shriners. Arthur was behind Joe Thomas (Duesenberg) who won, and Roscoe Sarles (Duesenberg) in 2nd. There had been only seven starters however.

Such, as narrated above, was the adventures and racing career of Klein up to mid-November 1922. Next Klein joined Cliff Durant's new team to run a new Miller at the 1922 Beverly Hills 250, slated for Thanksgiving Day, i.e. November 30. And so also, by a very circumlocutory route, we arrive back in late November 1922 in California, for the debut of the new six car Durant Motors racing team at Beverly Hills.

EXCURSUS: EARL COOPER PART II. THE MILLER PHASE. On November 28, in a practice session for the November 30 Beverly Hills 250, Cooper in his Durant Special No. 5, took a backskid which almost put the car into the outside rail. Earl however corrected the vehicle's direction and completed the lap. Christopher V. Pickup, who had ridden beside Roscoe Sarles at Kansas City in Sarles' fatal plunge over the outside barrier, was riding with Cooper when Earl almost hit the wall. Pickup had previously talked Cliff Durant into taking him on as a riding mechanic, and was assigned to Eddie Hearne's car for the race itself. After the practice, Cooper laughed with Durant and Reeves Dutton about his close call and said that the new Durant car was a lot faster than his old Stutz No. 8.

There were about 23 entrants, with the fastest 20 to start. The qualifying procedure for the November 30, 1922 Los Angeles 250 was that a car had to run one lap with a speed of 105 mph or above. Then all the qualified cars would draw from a hat, to established the actual order of the starting lineup, which lined up in rows of two. Al Melcher won the pole, next was Durant, followed by Hartz, Milton, Murphy, and DePaolo. There were 19 starters in all, with Cooper to start 15th. All five of the Durant team made the race, i.e. Cooper, Durant, Hearne, Klein, and Murphy. On race day Durant was quoted as saying, "May the best Durant win." But it rained and the race was postponed to December 3.

On December 3 during the early morning warmup session, newcomer Herschel Mckee (1897-1965), in a Duesenberg crashed in the east turn into the back of Joe Thomas' Duesenberg. McKee's car hit the outside guard rail, and soon burst into flame. Herschel's car then slid down the embankment and rolled over and over. Both McKee and his riding mechanic, Hugh Curley, were seriously injured, but both eventally recovered. The Beverly Hills 250 itself was controlled mostly by Jimmy Murphy who won it at a new AAA record speed for a 250 mile distance, i.e. 2:10:53.10 or 114.604 mph. Murphy thereby bettered his own previous record AAA mark for 250 miles of 2:15:11. or 111.2 mph, set at San Carlos on December 11, 1921.

Both Murphy and Cooper ran the entire race without stopping and finished one-two. Cooper had gradually moved up during the entire race, i.e. he was 10th at 10 laps, 9th at 30, 8th at 40, 6th at 60, 5th at 70, 4th at 80, 3rd at 150, and 2nd at 200. So Earl's return to racing was a complete success and new Durant team took the top two positions. Art Klein had run among the leaders but had motor troubles, beginning about lap 176, and placed only 6th. Thus began Cooper's Miller phase, when he piloted only Millers or Miller derived equipment, in contrast to his earlier successes which were mostly with the Stutz marque.

Edited by john glenn printz, 07 January 2011 - 16:10.


#38 john glenn printz

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 14:33

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-14) There was a total of eight AAA Championship events for 1923 and Earl participated in all of them. In the first three, Cooper was still with Cliff Durant's new team and then drove in the remaining five contests for Harry C. Stutz (1876-1930) who was running Miller built equipment as "H.C.S. Specials". The first two 1923 AAA Champioship contests were still held using the 183 cubic inch two-man car rules. At Indy the cubic inch limit would be lowered to 122 cubic inches and single seat vehicles would be allowed.

At the Beverly Hills 250 for February 25, 1923 Cooper set a new AAA record (116.2 mph average) at 150 miles, which bettered Jimmy Murphy's previous mark of 113.2 mph set on December 3, 1922, also while on the Beverly Hills oval. However a broken connecting rod after 137 laps put Earl's effort at an end. At the Fresno 150 run on April 26, Cooper was engaged with Bennett Hill in a struggle for 3rd place, but Earl eventually lost out to Hill and finished 4th.

The next race was Indianapolis itself. This was Cooper's first entry at Indy since 1919 when he piloted a 299 cubic inch Stutz. Cliff Durant had ordered five new 122's cars from Harry Miller but three of his older 183's machines were now modified into 122's. These latter machines were generally assigned to newcomers and to second tier pilots, i.e. Duray, Elliott, and Fengler. Earl had one of the new 122's as did Durant, Hartz, Hearne, and Murphy. Cooper qualified on May 29, the second day of the time trials, and was clocked at 99.40 mph. On his last lap a tire was going down but Earl elected to stay out. Cooper's speed was still the 7th fastest posted among the 24 starters, and Earl would be 12th on the race day grid.

On race day Cooper had to pit on the very first lap because of a broken throttle spring. The yellow Durant No. 29 car then remained in drydock while the race leaders reeled off another 14 laps. Tom Alley had been hired to be one of the Durant team relief drivers and he was anxious to get into the race. Alley was in the cockpit when the car returned to the track. Cooper remained in the pits as a possible and more valuable relief pilot for a Durant car, that was in a more credible and probable position to win. Meanwhile Alley was moving as fast he could trying to make up the lost time. At the 20 lap reckoning the Durant car of Cooper and Alley was running 31 minutes behind the leader Jimmy Murphy! On lap 22 Alley lost control in the 2nd turn, the car then bounded over the wall, and crashed through a fence upon which three teenage boys, all from Lafayette IN, were sitting. None of these youngters had paid an admittance and they were in an restricted and unauthorized area.

One of them, Hubert Shoup age 16, died on May 31 in the Methodist Hopital. Tom Alley (1890-1953) himself was in bad shape with a injured spine, bad facial cuts, and a possible punctured lung. On July 12, 1923 Earl J. Elliott, filed a suit against the Speedway and the Durant Motor Company for $25,000. Earl was the father of Charles Elliott, age 14, who was one of the injured boys. The suit stated that the Speedway was lax in permitting persons to enter without the price of admission! And further alleged that the Durant Motor Car Company had entered a car with a faulty accelerator as Alley had claimed that a sticking throttle had caused the accident. I found nothing further about this case, maybe it was either thrown out or was settled out of court.

Harry C. Stutz had sold all his holdings in the Stutz Motor Car Company of America in 1919, and then started the H.C.S. Motor Company, i. e., "H.C.S." being Harry's initials. The H.C.S. passenger cars first appeared in 1920. Stutz in early 1923 wished to return to motor racing at Indianapolis and he put together a two car entry. It was all an advertising ploy for the H.C.S. company. Stutz himself had been entirely out of racing since late 1915, when his machines finished one-two at the Sheepshead Bay inaugural 350 on held on October 9, 1915, with Gil Anderson (1879-1935) 1st and Tom Rooney (1881-1939) 2nd.

On May 16, 1923 it was revealed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Harry Stutz would field a two car "H.C.S." team for the "500", using the two past winners of Milton (1921) and Wilcox (1919) as his drivers. Originally Stutz had wanted Milton and Earl Cooper as his two pilots but Cooper was under contract to Durant to drive at Indianapolis and Cliff wouldn't let Earl break his previous agreement. When it developed that Stutz couldn't hire Cooper, Harry asked Earl where he could get a driver as good as Cooper himself, and Earl suggested Howard Wilcox. Stutz then promptly hired Wilcox to pilot the second "H.C.S." entry.

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 January 2011 - 20:44.


#39 john glenn printz

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 21:32

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-15) Milton was using a his own Miller 122 but had enlisted under the "H.C.S." banner. The second "H.C.S." car, also a new MIller 122, had just been purchased from Harry A. Miller by Stutz himself. Milton had seemingly been at hand when Miller had been developing and constructing his new 122 design and probably knew as much about these new single seat 122 Millers as anyone. A special news conference had been held at the Los Angeles Motor Speedway on April 7, 1923 where Milton showed off the first Miller 122 completed.

The press received word on May 24 that Cooper would join the H.C.S. squad immediately after the Indianapolis 500. Stutz after the Indy 500 intended to race three cars on the AAA Championship circuit, using Cooper, Milton, and Wilcox as his chauffeurs. Tom Alley would replace Cooper on the Durant No. 29 car.

Since its debut at Beverly Hills on December 3, 1922, the Durant team had not lost a race and had now won three Championship events in a row. Durant now had assembled for the uppcoming 1923 Indianapolis 500 one of the most potent entries ever at the Speedway, with eight cars all piloted by name drivers. There were a total of 28 starters. But with the odds all in his favour Cliff's team did not win. At the finish the Durant team placed 2nd (Hartz), 3rd (Murphy), 4th (Hearne/Cooper), 6th (Elliott), and 7th (Durant/Hearne) among the top ten. Durant must have been both humbled and humiliated by not winning at Indy in 1923, after having spent a fortune on racing since the fall of 1922.

Cooper, after driving one lap in the Durant No. 29, got back into the race by relieving Eddie Hearne in the Durant No. 6 for laps 88-200. And Hearne himself returned by relieving Durant for circuits 98-116 and 149-200.

The 1923 Indianapolis 500 proved mostly a H.C.S. show. The two H.C.S. Millers led 179 laps of the possible 200. Wilcox led laps 26, 28, 39-40, 44-48, and 53. Milton was in front for 3, 5, 7-15, 23-25, 27, 30-37, 41-43, 49-52, 54-62, 64, 67-73, 75-103, and 110-200! Wilcox's "H.C.S." was out after 60 circuits with clutch failure. But when Milton needed some relief, to tape up his hands, Wilcox took over the winning car for laps 103-149. Milton had taken delivery on his new 122 two months before Durant got any new Millers, and Tommy, with mechanics Dwight Kessler and George Steihl, had tuned his 122 vehicle to perfection and had put it in tip-top shape for the 500. Ralph Hepburn, the motorcycle ace, also helped out.

The wrecked Durant Special No. 29 was soon sold by Durant to Kansas City sportsman George L. Wade and was repaired. The car was now named the Wade Special and Ralph DePalma drove it at the Kansas City 250 of July 4. Thereafter it became Harlan Fengler's regular ride and Harlan won the 1923 Kansas City 250 (Oct. 21) and the 1924 Beverly Hills 250 (Feb. 24) in it. Fengler piloted this car until he had a very bad crash in it, in practice, at Indianapolis on May 16, 1924.

Harlan Fengler (1903-1981) had ridden with Harry Hartz during 1922 and with the help of Hollywood Bill White, Harlan drove at Indianapolis (May 30) and at Kansas City (July 4), in 1923. Fengler raced White's Miller as a "Durant Special", even though White seems to have been the actual owner. It any case the White's vehicle was one of the ex-183 Durant Millers now altered into a 122. After the Kansas City 250 Wade offered Harlan the use of the "Wade Special" and Harlan took it up.

As it happened Howard Wilcox, after Indianapolis, did not join the H.C.S. team using a 3rd car, but rather linked up with the Duesenberg brothers. The H.C.S. effort after the 500 used just two Millers, i.e. for Cooper and Milton. After Indianapolis there remained five more AAA National Championship contests for the year 1923, but neither Cooper or Milton would win one. Cooper's best result was 2nd place in the Kansas City 250 of July 4. Milton had a disastrous late Championship season for 1923, with his best placement in the last five races being an 8th in the Altoona 250 held on September 4.

But Milton may have made amends for the H.C.S. sponsorship at Syracuse, NY on September 15, 1923. The New York State Fair Commission put up a total purse of $10,000, with the race winner to get $5,000, for an AAA 100 mile distance dirt contest. It would be the biggest dirt track race in the U.S. for 1923. The organizers secured ten entries, i.e., Corum, DePalma, Duray, Elliott, Hartz, Hearne, Hill, Milton, Vail, and Wonderlich. Earl Cooper didn't enter but Milton used his "H.C.S." Miller. Hartz had never raced on a dirt surface before and there were nine actual starters. Hartz led the first 22 circuits and then Milton passed him and led the rest. At the finish the top five were: 1. Milton (H.C.S. No 1); 2. Hartz (Durant No. 7); 3. Vail (Durant No. 5); 4. DePalma (Duesenberg No. 4); and Hearne (Durant No. 6). Hartz was two laps behind Milton at the end. Milton collected his $5,000, Hartz got $2,000, and Vail took home $1,000.

Milton had set new AAA speed records for a flat one mile dirt oval at the 50, 75, and 100 mile marks. He ended up with an elapsed chocking of 1:15:33 or 79.99 mph. Tommy also put up a new record for a single lap with a circuit of 42,28 seconds (85.1 mph). Fred Decker, from the AAA Contest Board stated, "Milton's record unquestionably will stand. It was an astonishing performance, the greatest ever recorded on a circular dirt track. When you consider that Milton traveled 100 miles of a speed approximately 80 miles an hour on a circular dirt track that was considered so dangerous that the start was held back three hours, the result seems incredible."

It was given out to the press corp that Milton's new 100 mile record had broken Eddie Hearne's old posting of 1:29:09 (67.30 mph), established at Phoenix AZ on November 8, 1919. That information was, in fact, incorrect as Milton, at Phoenix also, had lowered Hearne's 1919 100 mile mark down to 1:24:00.4 (71.37 mph) using a hybrid Duesenberg/Miller machine on October 10, 1920. Milton thus, here at Syracuse, had bettered his own record.

Edited by john glenn printz, 18 February 2011 - 18:23.


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#40 john glenn printz

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 18:23

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-16) After their loss at Indianapolis, the Durant team rallied, and again won three straight AAA Championship events. The 1923 AAA Driving Champion proved to be Eddie Hearne with 1882 points, and 2nd in ranking, was Jimmy Murphy with 1350. Murphy probably would have won the 1923 title if he hadn't travelled to Europe to compete in the 427.12 mile Italian Grand Prix held at Monza on September 9. At this Monza race there were three Millers among the 14 starters and Murphy placed 3rd in one of them, behind the winner Carlo Salamano (Fiat) and Felice Nazzaro (Fiat) in 2nd. Murphy's trip meant that he missed both the Altoona 200 (Sept. 4) and the Fresno 150 (Sept. 29).

The Durant team drivers placed 1st (Harne), 2nd (Murphy), 4th (Hartz) and 6th (Fengler) in the final points tally for the 1923 AAA National Championship. Just Hearne and Murphy had a chance to win the AAA Title when the last contest of the 1923 season, i.e. the Beverly Hills 250 set for November 29, was run. Hearne had a total of 1622 points and Murphy had 1210.

The actual race itself was overshadowed by an unpredictable and improbable catastrophe. At the moment when only half the field had begun to move out, Harry Hartz out warming his car, came around at speed and both struck and killed car owner George L. Wade and a Pacific & Atlantic news photographer, Russell J. Hughes. Duesenberg mechanic, Jimmy Lee, also suffered a broken right leg in this unexpected melee which took place right in front of the main grandstand. Three of the four founders of the United Artists movie studio and theater chain in 1919, were sitting in front of the accident, i.e. Mary Pickford (1892-1979), Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (1883-1939), and Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)! The official starter Fred J. Wagner testified before a Coroner's Jury on December 1, that (quote), "Wade and Hughes had absolutely no business on the track at the time of the accident."

The race itself was won by Bennett Hill (1893-1977) with a 112.42 mph average in a brand new 122 Miller, with Hearne 2nd, and Murphy 3rd. Hearne added 260 points to his total, and Murphy in turn got another 140. Cooper ran a very good race here and led for 88 circuits. It looked for a long while that Earl would finish in 2nd place, but then the motor swallowed a valve and the car was out after 178 laps and Cooper finished a lowly 12th. All in all 1923 was not a particularly good year for Cooper but 1924 would prove to be much, much better. In the final 1923 AAA National Championship standings Milton was 5th with 810 points and Cooper placed 8th with 310.

Edited by john glenn printz, 04 February 2011 - 15:38.


#41 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 15:05

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-17) The AAA Championship for 1924 consisted of nine contests, the first of which was the Beverly Hills 250, staged on February 24. Meanwhile Tommy Milton had purchased a new Miller. The two 1923 H.C.S. vehicles or Millers were now assigned to Earl Cooper and Ralph Hepburn. Hepburn was then a very famous name in motorcycle racing but was still a rookie to the AAA Championship division ranks. Ralph was now a student and protege of Milton. Hepburn's car here was the 1923 Indianapolis winner.

A new AAA innovation introduced here was that the various car numbers used, were derived from the AAA driver standings from the previous year, i.e. Hearne was No. 1, Milton had No. 2, Hartz used No. 3, and Hartz spotted No. 4, etc., etc. The Beverly Hills 250 was an unexpected runaway for Harlan Fengler in the Wade Special, as he led every lap and did not make a pit stop. Harlan also set new AAA records for all distances from 1 to 250 miles! Harlan's time of 2:09:14 (116.6 mph) for 250 miles erased Murphy's old chocking of 2:09:43 (115.65 mph) made here on February 25, 1923. Fengler continued to call his Miller the "Wade Special" in honour of his recently deceased paton. Almost all the competitors except Fengler had had to pit one or two times, for new tires; even though they were averaging lower speeds and running always in Harlan's wake. Milton finished 5th and Cooper 8th. Hepburn was running in 4th position, when he was put out at 189 laps, with a broken fuel line.

This was to be the last and final race at the Los Angeles Speedway as the land upon which it was located had gotten to be too valuable for mere occasional sport. Demolition of the Los Angeles Speedway began immediately, on February 26. A new, replacement, and a much faster 1 1/4 mile board speedway, was now to be constucted at Culver City. A. "Andy" M. Young, hitherto the manager of the Beverly Hills oval, now became the manager also of the new Culver City track. The next AAA Championship race was slated for Fresno on April 24, but was never held. Perhaps the track needed repair and the AAA withdrew its sanction. So the next major race was the Indianapolis 500 itself.

Harry Stutz' sponsorship of racing ended after the Los Angeles 250 and Stutz, Cooper, and Milton then went their separate ways. Milton was now running his own two car team, while Cooper purchased his previous "H.C.S. Miller" from Stutz and now ran it as his own private entry. In mid-May it was made known that Earl had obtained the sponsorship of the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, IN and his car would be run under the name "Studebaker Special". This was Studebaker's first venture into big league racing, although during the two seasons 1910-1911, E.M.F. cars had raced in the AAA 161-230 cubic inch piston displacement stock chassis category. The E.M.F. (Everitt-Metzger-Flanders) make, had been manufactured at Detroit during the years 1908-1912, during which period Studebaker had been its selling agent.

Studebaker had been in business long before the advent of the motor car. The company had been formed in 1852 by the brothers Clement (1831-1901) and Henry Studebaker (1826-1895) to make metal parts for freight wagons. Later they manufactured complete carriages and wagons. During the Civil War (1861-1865) they were a major supplier of horse drawn vehicles to the Union army. That was also the case in World War I (1914-1918). The first automobiles produced by Studebaker were electrics in 1902. In 1904 they introduced a two cylinder gasoline car to the line and in 1913 stopped the production of electric cars altogether.

There were 31 cars nominated and entered for the 1924 Indianapolis 500. Among them were 14 Millers, 4 Duesenbergs, 3 Fronty-Fords, and 1 ex-1923 Mercedes under the name "Schmidt Special". The four Duesenberg pilots were Ernie Ansterberg, Joe Boyer, Lora L. Corum, and Peter DePaolo. There were no foreign teams at Indy in 1924, as still had been the case in 1923, with its Bugatti and Mercedes entries. For 1924 all the cars were U.S. made except for Albert Schmidt's 1923 Mercedes, now entered as a purely private venture.

Three of the four Duesenbergs were equipped with centrifugal superchargers, of whose design the Duesenberg brothers had been greatly helped in its development, by the expertise of Dr. Stanford Alexander Moss (1872-1946) of General Electric. During World War I, at the experimental McCook Field OH, Moss had developed superchargers and turbochargers for army aviation motors. Moss had been employed by General Electric since 1903. The new Duesenberg blowers were mounted along the left side of the engine and were powered by a gear train located in the middle of the motor between cylinders 4 and 5.

The Indianapolis located Ford agency of Barber-Warnock had entered a Fronty T at Indy in 1923 and were rewarded with an unexpected 5th place finish. The vehicle was piloted by Lora L. "Slim" Corum and he drove the entire distance without any relief. With this 1923 success, the Barber-Warnock firm had constructed three new Fronty racers for the 1924 event. The three cars were cute and all of them made the 1924 lineup, which still only required a minimum speed average of 80 mph.

In practice on May 15 Harlan Fengler in the Wade Special, moving too fast, lost control and the car hit the outside wall, rolled over, and then landed upside down. The Miller was badly wrecked but Harlan was extricated from the car in basically good shape, but he was now removed as a possible starter. On May 26, the first day of the time trials, 19 vehicles qualified. Jimmy Murphy won the pole with a 108.03 mph average, followed by Hartz (Miller-107.13), Milton (Miller-105.20), Boyer (Duesenberg-104.84), Hill (Miller-104.84) and Cooper (Miller-103.90).

After the original 19 qualifiers of May 26, only three more entries made the lineup. Englishman, Alfred Ethebert Moss, on May 27, put the second Barber-Warnock Ford, into the race with a speed of 85.27 mph and on May 28, Corum on a Duesenberg (93.33 mph) and Fred Harder in a third Barber-Warnock Ford T (82.77) made up the final race day starters. There would be only 22 in all.

Edited by john glenn printz, 16 September 2011 - 20:16.


#42 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 18:10

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1928 (cont.-18) The 1924 500 was Cooper's best Memorial Day race, as he led 109 of the 200 laps. At the half way mark Earl was leading with a 2:31:51.53 clocking, followed by Hill (2:33:04.1), Murphy (2:33:06.08) and L. L. Corum (2:34:30.18). Cooper was then ahead of Corum by 2 minutes and 13 seconds. When Corum pitted on lap 109, Fred Duesenberg replaced Corum with hot shoe Joe Boyer. Corum did not want to vacant his ride for Boyer and an eye-witness from Detroit, who was on the 1924 Indy Duesenberg pit crew, asserted that Fred had to employ two men to remove Corum from the Duesenberg racer.

Boyer, the top Duesenberg ace for 1924, had jumped into the lead at the start of the race and had led circuits 1-2 before a key in the supercharger gears sheared off and his No. 9 Duesenberg lost all its competitive speed. At 20 laps Boyer's car was listed as running 20th. Boyer stayed with his disabled car until lap 92 when it was turned over to Ernie Ansterburg. Ansterburg had already crashed on lap 1 with his Duesenberg No. 10. when a steering knuckle let go.

After Fred Duesenberg put Joe into the No. 15 he ordered Boyer to (quote), "Put this ship out in front or burn it up." Boyer had 91 laps in which to chip down Cooper's lead, which stood at 2 minutes and 13 seconds over Corum's Duesenberg No. 15 at the 250 mile marker. Immediately Boyer started lowering the gap. Cooper made his first pit stop on his 103th circuit, thereby giving the lead to Murphy for laps 103-124 before Jimmy himself had to stop for new tires. Murphy's stop put Cooper back in front for rounds 125-176. Meanwhile Boyer was moving up and cutting down Cooper's lead. At 110 laps Boyer was in 3rd place and at 150 circuits he had moved into 2nd, now 67 seconds behind Earl. Cooper had to pit on lap 177 and Boyer shot into the leadership. Five laps later (lap 182) Cooper stopped again for another tire change and now, unless Boyer broke down, Cooper had no chance for the victory. When it ended the fast flying Boyer was 56 seconds ahead of Cooper. Since taking over Corum's Duesenberg at lap 109, Boyer did not make a pit stop.

The top final finishing order was 1. Corum/Boyer (Duesenberg) 98.23 mph; 2. Cooper (Miller) 97.79 mph; 3. Murphy (Miller) 97.27 mph; 4. Hartz (Miller) 96.54 mph; and 5. Hill (Miller) 96.46 mph. The race was a splendid first Indianapolis win for the Duesenberg marque. On the morning of the race there existed very few persons, who thought that any of the four Duesenbergs, would be able to outrun all of the 14 Millers. The two Duesenbergs, Fred and August, had entered every Memorial Day race except the inaugural of 1911 and their best results before 1924 had been 2nds in 1916, 1921, and 1922; and a 3rd in 1920. Cooper, who had been in three previous 500s, now added a 2nd to his 4th place of 1915. 1924 was also the first occasion that Earl had led laps here.

Cliff Durant, who had five Millers in the contest, didn't have a particularly good day, as they placed 4th (Hartz-200 laps), 7th (Comer-200 laps), 12th (Wonderlich-200 laps), 13th (Durant-199 laps, out of fuel), and 19th (Hearne-151 laps, broken fuel line). The three Barber-Warnock Fronties proved reliable but had no speed to challenge the now perfected thoroughbred Duesenbergs and Millers. All the 1924 race proved was that running souped up Ford T's at Indianapolis was no longer a viable or lucrative option. All three had to be flagged off at the end. They finished 14th (Hunt-191 laps), 16th (Moss-177 laps), and 17th (Harder-177 laps).

The four Duesenbergs fared 1st No. 15 (Corum/Boyer 200 laps 98.23 mph, new track record), 6th No. 12 (DePaolo 200 laps 94.30 mph) in the unsupercharged Duesy, 18th No. 9 (Boyer/Ansterburg/Houser 176 laps wrecked) and 22nd No. 10 (Ansterburg 0 laps wrecked). Boyer led laps 1-2 and 199-200 but with a different car and another oddity was that Corum qualified the winning car No. 15 at 93.33 mph but its average speed for the full 500 miles was 98.23 mph.

Peter DePaolo (1898-1980) began his racing career as the riding mechanic to his famous uncle Ralph DePalma, during the AAA seasons of 1920 and 1921. DePaolo then quit working for DePalma and talked Louis Chevrolet into giving him a 4 cylinder Frontenac to use in early 1922. DePaolo made his first start as a driver at Beverly Hills on March 5, 1922. At Indy, Peter led laps 84-86 before crashing out on circuit 111, when riding in 8th place. After a bad accident at the 1922 Kansas City inaugural 300 (August 17, 1922), while piloting a Junior Special owned by George Wade, DePaolo curtailed his racing and appeared only at Beverly Hills on December 3, 1922 and at Fresno on April 26, 1923. But during 1924 DePaolo got the itch to race again and talked Fred Duesenberg into giving him a normally aspirated Duesenberg racer for the 1924 "500". At Indianapolis in 1924 DePaolo was very much the lowest ranked Duesenberg team driver but it was the beginning of Peter mending his past fortunes. Up to now he had the reputation of being mostly a wall smacker.

During the 1920s the Duesenberg racers were credited with having a superior chassis over the Miller produced machinery. The Miller equipment had a very stiff suspension system which half beat a man to death on the rough Indy bricks. The Duesenberg cars gave a much smoother and more relaxing ride, more suitable to the long distance Indianapolis race conditions. This factor, no doubt, helped contribute to the Duesenberg "500" wins over Miller during 1924, 1925, and 1927. Apparently also the Duesenberg were not so hard on tires. However the Miller motors were generally ranked as giving much more power that those designed and manufactured by the Duesenbergs. However in both 1924 and 1925 the Duesenbergs, with their new innovative "sidewinder" superchargers, may have then equalled the Millers in the horsepower department, for a brief time.

Edited by john glenn printz, 29 September 2011 - 13:52.


#43 Michael Ferner

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 18:53

The next AAA Championship race was slated for Fresno on April 24, but was never held. Perhaps the track needed repair and the AAA withdrew its sanction.


Actually, the reason for the cancellation of the Fresno race was an outbreak of the hoof & mouth plague in the vicinity.

#44 Jim Thurman

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 00:26

Actually, the reason for the cancellation of the Fresno race was an outbreak of the hoof & mouth plague in the vicinity.

The situation with the Fresno track was interesting to say the least. I assume you've run across the charges of financial improprieties by its operator, that led to a Grand Jury investigation. He had an interesting response to the investigation. He offered to donate the speedway to the county.

But, yes an outbreak of hoof & mouth disease led to the race (and entire festival) being re-scheduled.

Edited by Jim Thurman, 30 June 2011 - 16:41.


#45 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 18:58

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS 1928 (cont.-19) After Indianapolis there were still seven 1924 AAA Championship events still to be contested. Jimmy Murphy then reeled off three consecutive wins, i.e. at the Altoona 250 (June 14), the Kansas City 150 (July 4, and the Altoona 250 (September 1). Cooper was running at the end in all three but just had modicum final placements, i.e. 6th at Altoona in June, 5th at Kansas City, and another 5th at Altoona in September. Murphy was seemingly putting a lock on the 1924 AAA Driving Title. After the September 1 Altoona 250, the AAA Championship point standings (top 8) were 1. Jimmy Murphy 1595; 2. Earl Cooper 650; 3. L. L. Corum 570; 4. Harlan Fengler 563; 5. Fred Comer 545; 6. Tommy Milton 371; 7. Harry Hartz 256; and 8. Bennett Hill 254.

The biggest news however, with regard to the September Altoona 250, was the unexpected demise of Joe Boyer, Jr. Late in the race and while in 2nd place a lap behind the leader Murphy, Boyer's No. 9 Duesenberg burst a right rear tire on lap 190. The car crashed into the upper guard rail and broke both of Joe's legs. Boyer was partly thrown from the Duesenberg, lying between the left rear wheel and the car's body, with both his legs under the body of the vehicle. Joe was pinned in the wreckage and had to be extricated but he remained fully conscious. He was rushed to a hospital where his condition was listed as serious.

In an attempt to save his life, both of Boyer's legs were amputated. Joe was given blood transfusions both before and after the operation. The blood being used here was supplied by and came from racing mechanic Jean Marcenac. But it was all in vain as Boyer expired at 12:25 on the morning of September 2nd. Peter DePaolo, who was at Boyer's bedside, always asserted that Joe took a last puff on a cirgarette, looked up and said, "Tell the blond in Philly that I won't be able to see her tonight", and then died.

Boyer, in the major AAA races, drove Frontenacs during 1916-1919 and then Duesenbergs during 1921-1924. The only exception was when he elected to join the DePalma-Vincent Packard team at Indy in 1923. Joe never drove a Miller. Boyer was selected as a driver on the Duesenberg 1921 French Grand Prix team, but retired after 17 circuits of the 30 lap event with engine trouble. Joe described the event (quote), "This is not an automobile race but rather a rock throwing contest."

Boyer's immediate family didn't like his racing and feared for his life. Joe promised not to race during the year 1922, a promise he kept. But once 1922 was over Boyer started racing again. After winning the 1924 Indianapolis event his father, Joseph Boyer, Sr., sent him a telegram which read (quote), "Congratulations. Now let's do something else." The elder Boyer frowned with anxiety whenever his son's Indianapolis victory was mentioned saying (quote), "I would much rather my son had not won the race. It would have been better for him if he had lost. You see, he has a delightful wife and two young children. It is not fair to them for him to jeopardise his life. I figured if he lost this race he might give up the game. But his victory undoubtedly will stir him to seek new honors on the race track."

The day after Boyer died some U.S. newspapers published a report from the Brooklands track, located in Surrey, England, that Dario Resta had been killed in a crash. Dario had then been engaged in setting a new world's record for the 50 kilometer distance, in a 1924 160 horsepower Sunbeam Grand Prix car. After only completing a circuit or two the Sunbeam went into 300 yard skid, turned sidways, dashed over the banking, and hit an iron fence. The petrol tank was ruptured and the car burst into flame. Resta had been thrown out of the Sunbeam with terrific force and his head must have somehow struck either some part of the car or one of the wooden fence posts, as he was almost decapitated and died instantly. William Perkins, the riding mechanic, was thrown clear and suffered only minor injuries. The accident may have been caused by a rear tire leaving its wheel because of a broken or defective lug nut. At first Resta seemed to retain control of the machine in the skid but then something went wrong. Dario, only a few days before had described the Brooklands oval as (quote), "the easiest track in the world to race on." Thus Boyer died on September 2 and Resta on September 3.

Resta's lasting fame in motor sport is mainly based on his two seasons, i.e. 1915 and 1916, spent in the U.S., using 1913 and 1914 imported Peugeot Grand Prix cars. Resta, then a quite unknown quantity, won his first two starts in the U.S; nor were these two events any normal races. They were the American Grand Prize (Feburary 27, 1915) and the Vanderbilt Cup (March 6, 1915)! In both he used a 1913 Peugeot Grand Prix car as reconditioned by Harry A. Miller. He soon switched to a more modern 1914 Peugeot Grand Prix vehicle and placed 2nd at Indy and won the inaugural Chicago board oval contest, a 500 miler, on June 26, by averaging 97.5 mph. 1916 witnessed Resta winning at Indianapolis (May 30) and gaining a second victory in the Vanderbilt Cup (November 16). In addition, for the year 1916, Dario won the very first AAA National Championship U.S. Driving Title with 5 wins among the total of 15 events. The AAA driving title continued until 1956 when it was transformed into the USAC National Championship title, but Resta was the only non U.S. citizen ever to win the AAA title.

After 1916 Dario's racing fortunes quickly faded. During 1917 he was mostly inactive but for 1918 and 1919 he tried to develope his own racing motor. It was installed into a Peugeot chassis, i.e. the Resta Special, but the engine was never competitive and was inclined to come apart under stress. After running his "Resta Special" at the Tacoma races of July 19, 1919, Dario retired from all racing in the U.S. until early 1923.

Cliff Durant added Resta to his multi car team for the February 1923 running of the Beverly Hills 250. The local press responded well by giving Dario a lot of attention and much favorable copy on his return to competition in America, but it all proved a bust. Dario did not fare well at Beverly Hills and placed only 10th in the race, among the 15 starters. Resta's next U.S. start was at Indianapolis in May, where he joined up with Joe Boyer and Ralph DePalma on the Packard team. This was Dario's third race here on Memorial Day. In 1915 he placed 2nd to DePalma (Mercedes) and won in 1916. In the 1923 "500" none of the three Packard entries got to the halfway mark, as all three retired with mechanical problems. At 80 laps Resta was in 10th place but went out at 88 circuits with a blown gasket. Resta ultimately was placed 14th overall. The Packards had obviously needed more testing. The 1923 Indy race ended Resta's new world "comeback" and would remain his last competitive appearance in the U.S.

During 1924 Resta was a member of the Sunbeam Grand Prix team. The year's French Grand Prix was held on August 3 at Lyon with a total distance of 503.3 miles. The three Sunbeams placed 5th (Henry Seagrave); 10th (Resta); and 13th (Kenelm Lee Guiness) out with engine failure. Giuseppe Campari (1892-1933) was the victor in an Alfa Romeo P2 at an average of 70.957 mph. Then Resta returned to Brooklands for the record attempt and died on the circuit where he had began his racing career initially, back in 1907.

After Altoona, the 1924 AAA Championship Trail moved to the New York State Fairgrounds located at Syracuse, for a 150 mile dirt track race scheduled for September 15. The event was only the second AAA Championship ranked dirt race ever staged in the then six year old history of the AAA National Driving Title. The first had been the last AAA Championship race held in 1916, i.e. the Ascot 150 (November 30) which was won by Eddie Rickenbaker (Duesenberg) at an average speed of 67.54 mph. Syracuse attracted 11 entries, mostly among the AAA board track regulars, who were not generally use to running on dirt. An exception among the entrants was Ira Vail, a dirt track specialist, who entered his own Miller. Milton, who had won an AAA non-Championship 100 miler here in mid-September 1923 was also very adept on dirt, having served his racing apprenticeship running on such tracks during his IMCA days before joining the AAA in 1916. Cooper was there also with his Studebaker (Miller) No. 8. The Duesenberg team was present with three cars chauffeured by Ansterberg, DePaolo, and Shafer.

Edited by john glenn printz, 07 September 2011 - 20:04.


#46 john glenn printz

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 14:13

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS 1928 (cont.-20) The event saw Harry Hartz lead laps 1-2 and 4, and Shafer all the rest. At 50 miles Shafer had almost a full lap on Milton in 2nd, while Murphy ran 3rd. On circuit 84 Milton hit the fence when a steering gear gave way and his Miller overturned, but Tommy emerged unhurt. At 100 miles Shafer had increased his leadership to almost 2 laps over Murphy in 2nd, but then Murphy began a sensational speed show for the next 20 laps which narrowed the gap between himself and Shafer to just a single lap. By lap 135 Murphy was 3/4's of mile behind Shafer, but then he lost control of his Miller on lap 139 and clipped the inside fence. The car spun around three times and crashed into the fence, ripping out 70 feet of railing. The Miller did not overturn but in its motion sideways picked up the wooden side rails so that they penetrated the hood and body of the vehicle. The end of one of the rails struck Murphy in the chest. An ambulance reached an unconscious Murphy and took him to the St. Joseph's Hospital six miles away. Still unconscious, Jimmy was quickly placed on an operating table and immediate preparations were begun to try and save him when his life flickered out. In just 15 days three Indianapolis winners, i.e. Resta 1916, Murphy 1922, and Boyer 1924, had lost their lives in violent race related crashes.

Just five cars were running at the Syracuse finish. The final results (top five) were; 1. Shafer (Duesenberg) 1:54:25.20 or 78.658 mph; 2. Hill (Miller); 3. DePaolo (Duesenberg); 4. Comer (Miller); and 5. Cooper (Miller). The winner drove the entire 150 miles without a stop. Shafer was overlooked in the pre-race track predictions and prognostications, with his running among the likes of Cooper, Hartz, Milton, Murphy, and Vail. But Shafer's many years of competition on dirt ovals gave him an edge here. Murphy obtained no Championship points at Syracuse and his total for the year would now, of course, remain at a static 1595, but Cooper added 30 more to his total. After Syracuse the top five drivers in the AAA Championship point chase read; 1. Murphy 1595; 2. Cooper 680; 3. Comer 580; 4. Fengler 563, and 5. Corum 570.

After his death the mechanic Riley Brett was immediately put in charge of Murphy's remains. Accompanying Jimmy's body by train back to Los Angeles with Brett, were also Comer, DePaolo, Hartz, Hill, McDonough, and Shafer, but not Cooper or Milton. Cooper and Milton remained behind in Syracuse to wind up Jimmy's affairs and to ship Murphy's wrecked Miller back to L. A. Among the non-driver AAA personal who came back with Murphy were Reeves Dutton, Waldo Stein, George Stiel, Fred Wagner, and Ed Wintergast. Murphy's body was shipped from Syracuse on September 17 and arrived in Los Angeles on September 19. A delegation from the Knights of Columbus met the drivers and AAA officials from Syracuse at the Los Angeles railroad station. Murphy never married and had no immediate family. The funeral arrangements were made by his uncle, Judge Martin O'Donnel of Vernon, CA. The value of Murphy's estate was revealed on September 24 when his aunt, Mary O'Donnel, filed the legal papers. Jimmy's estate was worth $87,564 and partly consisted of L. A. real estate holdings, securities, two racing cars, one passenger car, and one airplane.

JIMMY MURPHY. James "Jimmy" Anthony Murphy (1894-1924) was and is one of the greatest U.S. drivers, as he and Tommy Milton dominated the American AAA racing scene in the early 1920s. Murphy's career as a driver was short, covering only six years, i.e. 1919 to 1924. Murphy was the sole pilot to win both the French Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 during the 1913-1926 era, when simultaneously, the French Grand Prix was Europe's most important motor race and the Indianapolis 500 was the U.S.' foremost event. Such stellar international drivers as G. Bolliot, Boyer, DePalma, Goux, Lautenschlager, Resta, R. Thomas, or Wagner were never able to duplicate Murphy's unique achievement.

Murphy became an orphan when both his parents were killed in the San Francisco earthquake of April 1906. After that he was raised by an uncle, Judge M. Y. O'Donnell of Vernon, CA. Murphy somehow became attached to the Duesenberg racing team in 1916 and acted in the capacity of an all-round helper, grease monkey, and riding mechanic during 1916 to mid-1919. Among the Duesenberg pilots Jimmy rode with were Weighmann, O'Donnell, and Milton. During the war years, 1917 and 1918, Jimmy was employed by the Duesenberg factory, working with airplane motors. In 1919 Murphy rode with O'Donnell at Indy (May 31) and with Milton at Elgin (August 23).

However by 1919 Murphy's ambition was to became a driver in his own right. Milton had befriended Murphy and under Milton's tuterage Jimmy was entered on a Duesenberg team car for the Uniontown 225, to be held on September 1, 1919. Murphy's debut went awry when, during practice, he hit the outside railing and wrecked his car. In the race itself Milton was involved in a fiery accident and was badly burned. With Tommy still in the hospital, Murphy was allowed to start a Duesenberg in the Cincinnati 250 of October 12, 1919. The car's engine soon turned sour and Jimmy finished 11th (out 61 laps) in a starting field of 16. During November 10 to 21, 1919 the Duesenberg team drivers Milton, Murphy, O'Donnell, and Dave Lewis, set a large number of new AAA non-competitive speed records at Sheepshead Bay using the new eight cylinder cars exclusively.

1920 quickly established Murphy as an AAA superstar. The AAA National Driving Title was revived in 1920 and the first of the year's five Championship contests was the big 250 mile inaugual race run on February 28, at the just newly built Los Angeles Speedway (Beverly Hills). The winner was Murphy with an average speed of 103.2 mph. Jimmy's rookie year at Indianapolis was 1920 where he placed 4th behind 1. G. Chevrolet (Frontenac); 2. Rene Thomas (Ballot); and 3. his teammate and mentor Milton (Duesenberg). Murphy made his debut on a dirt surfaced track at Syracuse on September 18. In the 50 mile main event the results were 1. DePalma (Ballot, 73.43 mph); 2. Murphy (Duesenberg); 3. Vail (Frontenac); 4. Hill (Frontenac), and 5. G. Chevrolet (Frontenac).

Jimmy added another major AAA race win to his resume by taking the inaugural contest, a 200 miler, staged at Fresno on October 2. The race however was not included in the 1920 AAA Championship series. Murphy was among the four pilots who still had a mathematical chance, going into the very last 1920 Championship event, to win the AAA National Driving Title. The AAA rankings before the running of the Beverly Hills 250 of November 25, were 1. G. Chevrolet-1030; 2. Milton-930; 3. Murphy-805; and 4. DePalma-605. Although Chevrolet, Milton, and DePalma scored no points in the race, Murphy's 4th place finish gave him only 80 more points, bringing his total to 885, which was not enough to move up or pass either Chevrolet and Milton.

The 1921 AAA Championship season consisted of 20 separate events, of which ten were either 25 or 50 mile sprint races, all held at Beverly Hills on February 27 and April 10. Murphy won just four Championship contests all year: a 25 miler on February 27; 25 and 50 mile races on April 10; and the last Championship race of the year, the San Carlos 250 on December 11. But all of this was of only minor importance compared to his winning of the 321.78 mile French Grand Prix at LeMans on July 25, 1921. This was the first French Grand Prix staged since July 4, 1914, where the Mercedes team finish one-two-three with Lautenschlager, Wagner, and Salzer. Here Goux was 4th (Peugeot) and Resta 5th (Sunbeam).

The Duesenberg team sent four cars to France with two Americans, Joe Boyer and Jimmy Murphy, nominated as their designated U.S. pilots. August Duesenberg accompanied the cars to France, but Fred Duesenberg remained in the U.S. Monsieur Ernest Ballot himself was quite shocked when he saw Augie working on the vehicles as a mechanic, and further by Augie climbing under the cars to adjust something, and by his getting his hands dirty! On July 15, while practising, Murphy crashed his Duesenberg when an escaped horse from an adjoining field stopped in the middle of the roadway. To avoid hitting the horse, Jimmy swerved sharply, and the car then skidded into a ditch. Murphy suffered a bad bruise or two but emerged unhurt from this mishap. Not so fortunate was the Frenchman, Louis Inghibert, who was then riding with Murphy, as Louis broke three ribs. Inghibert had put up some of the Duesenberg entry fee and had been nominated as one of the two French drivers on the team, but his injuries now eliminated him as a possible starter. His Duesenberg car was now taken over by the amateur French sportsman Andre Dubonnet (1887-1980). Inghibert, by the way, was at Indianapolis in 1921,
hoping to get into the 500 but was not able to secure a car.

The 1921 French Grand Prix had 13 starters. The main opposition to the four Duesenbergs (i.e. Boyer, Dubonnet, Guyot, Murphy) was provided mostly by the Ballot and Sunbeam teams. Murphy was the victor with a time of 4:07:11.4 (78.105 mph) followed by 2. DePalma (Ballot) 4:22:10.6; 3. Goux (Ballot); 4. Dubonnet (Duesenberg); and 5. A. Boillot (Sunbeam). Another genuine Grand Prix win on European soil by a U.S. born pilot, would not occur until Phil Hill (1927-2008) won at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix on September 6, 1960 in a Ferrari Dino 246.

Early in 1921 the organizers of the French Grand Prix, the Automobile Club of France, expected between 20 to 30 actual starters. Peugeot would enter four cars. For 1920 Peugeot had built three new 3-litre three cam cars for Indianapolis (A. Boillot, Goux, & Wilcox), but the new design was a fiasco. Peugeot plans for 1921 were to upgrade their 1920 vehicles with new motors and to enter two cars at Indianapolis and four vehicles in the French Grand Prix. The three cam engines were scrapped for 1921. Before the Indianapolis event Wilcox had been named as a possible pilot for Peugeot's upcoming French Grand Prix effort. The two 1921 Indianapolis Peugeots were piloted by Chassagne and Wilcox, but totally failed in the race. With their 1921 racing prospects in complete disarray Peugeot did not enter the 1921 revival of the French Grand Prix and instead withdrew from racing entirely.

This was the end of Peugeot's involvement in major international motor racing until 1994 when they began suppying racing engines to the McLaren Grand Prix team. On March 15 Fiat entered three cars for pilots Pietro Bordino (1887-1928) , Ferdinando Minola (1884-1940) , and Louis Wagner (1882-1960). The Fiat team never arrived at the LeMans site and on July 16 all three cars were officially withdrawn. In America there were tentative plans in early 1921 to send over a Duesenberg team, as well as two of Louis Chevrolet's Frontenacs, but the Frontenac idea died quickly. Other entries were possibly expected from Bugatti, Gregoire, Renault, and Mathis. On July 17 seven English cars were withdrawn, but some of these were later reinstated at the last minute. More than 2 1/2 years after the World War I Armistice Day (i.e. November 11, 1918), most of the European Grand Prix teams seemingly were still not prepared or ready to race.

The first Duesenberg passenger cars rolled off the assembly line in late May/early June 1921 and the two Duesenberg brothers were heavily involved with their new automobile firm and venture. The initiative to send a Duesenberg team to France did not originate from the Duesenberg Motor Company or from Fred or Augie. All the expenses for the team's trip to Europe and its entry fees came from private subscription. Albert Champion, Richard Kennerdell, and even Barney Oldfield were behind this project. Among those involved Albert Champion, the sparkplug ace, was the undoubted main kingpin. With the Duesenberg brothers' main attention now diverted to the automobile business proper in mid-1921, instead of racing, the Duesenberg racing cars were now leased out to select drivers and later even sold outright to some of them. Murphy went this whole route and eventually purchased his French Grand Prix winning Duesenberg and raced it in late 1921 and early 1922.

During 1921 Harry Miller was tying to build a new double overhead cam straight 8 motor to challenge the then dominant Ballot and Duesenberg 8s. Miller worked in conjunction with drivers Elliott, Milton, and Vail on this project. Milton gave this new motor its first win at Tacoma on July 4, 1921. By the end of the 1921 AAA season it was obvious that Miller's new motor was superior to all the other 183 engines. Although Murphy, and his mechanic, Ernest "Ernie" Olson, had contributed nothing to either its design or development, they somehow obtained a copy of it in early 1922. After winning the Fresno 150 run on April 27, 1922 in the Duesenberg, Murphy and Olson replaced the Duesenberg 8 motor in it, with the Miller 183 unit. This created a Miller/Duesenberg hybrid, soon christened the Murphy Special. It is rumored, but quite unprovable, that Fred Duesenberg regarded Murphy's action here as disloyal. However Jimmy and Olson had made the right decision and had done the right thing.

At its first race meet, i.e. Cotati (Santa Rosa) on May 7, 1922, the Miller/Duesenberg won a 100 miler with a record average of 115.339 mph. Murphy led every lap in it but the first. After that it was to Indianapolis where Murphy won the pole position (100.5 mph) and then in the race led laps 1-74 and 122-200. At the finish Murphy and his Miller/Duesenberg No. 35 were almost three minutes ahead of Hartz (Duesenberg) in 2nd. Hearne (Ballot) was 3rd and DePalma (Duesenberg) 4th. It marked the first occasion when the 500 race winner started on the pole. The Miller 8 engine had been in short suppy at Indianapolis in 1922 as only as Durant, Elliott, Milton, and Murphy had them. Ernie Olson (who I actually talked to) always said that his rides with Murphy at LeMans in 1921 and at Indy in 1922, were the two greatest moments in his life.

After Indianapolis, Jimmy won the next two AAA Championship contests, i.e. the Uniontown 225 (June 19) and the Tacoma 250 (July 4). At Cotati (August 6) Jimmy was forced to retire in the 50 miler because of a stripped tire, while in the 100 mile event he placed 3rd. At the big inaugural Kansas City 300 (September 17) the Murphy Special was wrecked, so at the next race, the Fresno 150 (October 1) Murphy had to borrow a car. Meanwhile Cliff Durant was busy putting together his new six Miller car Durant super team and Murphy was enlisted to become it's team captain. It seem to be best option to Jimmy at the time and in mid-October 1922 he signed on. The immediate result was that Murphy won the Beverly Hills 250 (December 3), the last AAA Championship race for 1922, in a Durant Special No. 1 at a 114.604 mph clip.

With all the money, testing, imput, and experience that Milton, Elliott, and Vail put into the new Miller straight 8 183 motor during 1921, it was ironic that they had little success to shout about for themselves using it, in 1922. For it was Jimmy Murphy who truely reaped the benefit from all their efforts. Milton had just three big wins using the design, i.e. the 1921 Tacoma 250 (July 4), the 1922 Beverly Hills 250 (March 5), and the 1922 Kansas City 300 (September 17). And Elliott won both the 50 and 100 mile races staged at Cotati on August 8, 1922, but that was about it. Murphy however won the 1922 AAA Driving Title going away. The final top five and their point totals were 1. Murphy 3420; 2. Milton 1910; 3. Hartz 1788; 4. Elliott 875; and 5. Hill 459.

Murphy drove for the Durant team in all his AAA Championship starts during 1923. Jimmy won the first two 1923 Championship contests, i.e. the Beverly Hills 250 (Feb. 25) and the Fresno 150 (April 26). At Indianapolis (May 30) Jimmy was among the leaders all day, leading circuits 1-2, 6, 11-25, 28-29, and 37, and placed 3rd overall, in what had been a very exhausting day for Murphy. It was noted that the new 122 Millers were ill handling and wore their pilots out. The top AAA point totals after Indianapolis were 1. Murphy 1070; 2. Milton 800; 3. Hartz 520; 4. Hill 350; 5. Hearne 302; and 6. DePalma 140.

On May 31 it was announced that Murphy would travel to Europe to compete in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 9. Jimmy's teammates were to be Argentinean Martin De Alsaga (1901-1982) and Count Louis Zborowski (1895-1924). All three would be driving special two seat 122 cubic inch Millers. Zborowski was the builder/owner of the famous "Chitty Bang Bang" vehicles of which there was four total. The 1923 Indianapolis race was the first AAA Championship event run under the new 122 cubic inch limit and single seat cars were now perfectly legal. From France, Pierre De Viscaya of Spain (1894-1933), decided to enter five Type 30 Bugattis and enlisted four other amateur pilots, i.e. Bertrand De Cystria (1893-1943), De Alsaga, Raoul Riganati (1893-1976), and Zborowski, to fill out his team. They all had high hopes, but none of them had ever been to the Speedway before, and they were all to be quickly disillusioned. Their five Bugatti cars arrived at the Speedway on May 13.

All the Bugatti chauffeurs got worried as soon as they spotted all the new Millers and Packards; and the practice speeds of the U.S. built equipment did nothing to dispel their initial impressions. The time trials had the fastest Millers at 108.17 mph (Milton), 104.05 mph (Murphy), and 103.70 mph (Hartz); while the fastest Packard was 100.42 mph (DePalma). In contrast the quickest Bugatti was Riganati's at 95.30 mph. De Alsaga said (quote), "I do not have the words to express what I think. I would not come to America with these Bugatti cars if I had known how wonderful is the American racing car." Major Olive Gallup, the chief mechanic of the Bugatti squad said, "Since we have seen your wonderful American racing cars we are looking about a bit for some stray horses to put under our bonnets, don't'cher know?". Zborowski was so taken by the Millers that he spent half his time in the Durant garages! "The most beautiful cars we have ever seen!", said both De Cystria and Zborowski. When asked about his Bugatti two days before the 500 Alsaga replied, "Terrible! I wish I could drive an American car."

Zborowski had already signed a contract with Harry Miller before May 23, for Miller to construct a special car for the upcoming Italian Grand Prix, to be run on September 9. In the 500 itself the five Bugattis fared poorly. De Alsaga was the first man out of the race with only six circuits completed, before a con rod broke. He placed 24th. Three other of the Bugattis retired: Riganti (fuel tank leak, 19 laps); Zborowski (broken con rod, 41 laps); and De Viscaya (broken con rod, 166 laps). Only De Cystria's car went the full distance, to finish 9th. Meanwhile four newly built 122 Millers filled the top four finishing positions: i.e. 1. Milton/Wilcox; 2. Hartz; 3. Murphy, and 4. Hearne/Cooper. The winning Miller averaged 90.95 mph, while De Cystria's Bugatti race speed was just 77.84 mph. At the end De Cystria was 57 minutes behind the winning time of 5:29:50.17. The highest placement a Bugatti car had attained during the race was 5th (De Cystria) at the 375 mile mark.

By June 1, De Alsaga had also ordered a new Miller for the Italian Grand Prix, and Jimmy Murphy was now added to the effort as well with a third Miller. All three of these 122 Grand Prix Millers had to be two seaters as the Grand Prix rules still required a riding mechanic. It was noticed too, that this was the first occasion ever, where foreigners had ordered the construction of Grand Prix cars in the U.S.! In order to compete in Europe, Murphy had to miss two AAA Championship events by necessity. These were the Altoona 250 (Sept. 4), and the Fresno 150 (Sept. 29). Jimmy had set sail for Europe on July 24 using the Cunarder ship Aguitania. With him were Ernie Olson and Riley Brett. Screen star Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926) was also on board. Because of Murphy's impending non-appearance at Altoona in September, the AAA Contest Board saw fit on August 23 to dock all of Jimmy's accumulated point total of 1070, gained during 1923. The disqualification notice was signed by Arthur H. Means, Secretary of the AAA Contest Board. The complete effacement of Jimmy's point total of 1070 put the top three AAA ranking drivers as 1. Hearne 802, 2. Milton 800, and 3. Hartz 520.

The 1923 Italian Grand Prix had a total of 14 cars and Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) himself was the race starter. The teams present were Benz, Fiat, Miller, Rolland-Picain, and Voisin. The Benz vehicles (Tropfenwagen) were rear engined, the first ever in Grand Prix racing. The Alfa Romeo entries were withdrawn after Ugo Sivocci (1885-1923) was killed in practice on September 3 in a type P1 Alfa. It was Sivocci who had introduced Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988) to motor racing in 1919. Pietro Bordino (Fiat) led the first 48 laps before he was forced to quit from pure exhaustion. Pietro had begun the event with a badly bruised right arm, which he had obtained from a practice crash, when riding with pilot Enrico Giaccone (Fiat) on August 27. The wreck was caused by a broken rear axle and Giaccone himself was killed. The Fiats were all type 805, had Roots superchargers, and were clearly the class of the field. Murphy in his Miller stayed with them, to the half way mark, and then lost ground.

The victor in this 80 lap, 497.12 mile contest was Carlo Salamano (1890-1969) who averaged 91.037 mph, followed by Felice Nazzaro. Fiats placed 1st and 2nd, while Murphy was 3rd. Ferdinando Minoia (1884-1940) and Franz Horner took 4th and 5th in their Benz vehicles and De Alsaga in his Miller was 6th, but 10 laps behind the winner Salamano at the end. Zborowski, with the third Miller, had retired after 15 laps with lubrication problems. Fiats led every lap and this was the first Grand Prix to be won with a supercharged car. Both Harry Miller and Murphy must have been severly disappointed in the final results, but Miller tried to put the best light on the subject by saying (quote), "Considering the fact that the track was a strange one and that two drivers, Murphy and Alsaga, were pitted against the best that the foreign nations could bring out, I think that third and fifth places were mighty good for our American cars."

Murphy and Olson on September 29 from Havre, France, took the ship La France back to New York City and arrived in the U.S. on October 6. On August 27 at Altoona some AAA drivers voiced their opposition to the Contest Board's elimination of Murphy's 1923 Championship point total and hoped to rescind somehow that decision. The fans too were upset about the matter. The AAA rule under which Jimmy had been caught had been first adopted for the 1923 season and read, "The five drivers leading must appear at subsequent championship events unless excused by the contest board for reasons which preclude the possibility of starting. Such reasons must be in every instance be substantiated by a certificate from a technical representative of the contest board, a reputable physician, lawyer. etc. The penalty for infraction of this condition shall be the loss of accumulated points."

The following petition had been sent to the Contest Board on August 27:

"August 27, 1923. Contest Board. American Automobile Association. New York. N.Y.

Our attention has been drawn to announcements in the daily press that your honorable body has deprived Jimmy Murphy of his points which he won up to the time of his departure for Europe. Since we are annually favored with visits from foreign drivers in our annual event at Indianpolis, we feel honored to have Mr. Murphy return this visit by his presence in Europe. We, the undersigned, would therefore petition your honorable body to restore to Mr. Murphy the points which he has earned so far this season. With the hope that you will grant this petition.

HARRY HARTZ, FRANK ELLIOTT, LEON DURAY, L. L. CORUM, EARL COOPER, B. R. DUTTON, EDDIE HEARNE, FRED COMER, JERRY WONDERLICH, O. P. HAIBE, BENNETT HILL, TOMMY MILTON."

On October 16, Murphy had his points restored by the Chairman of the AAA Contest Board, Joseph Mack of Detroit. The penalty was removed in response to numerous requests from drivers, fans, and various speedway managers. Mack had become the Chairman in late August 1923, in place of William Schimpf. Mack's tenor as Chairman was less than a year and in March 1924 Richard Kennerdell replaced Mack and returned for a second time as the Chairman. While Jimmy was in Europe the old veteran "Grandpa" Eddie Hearne had taken over the National Championship point leadership and Eddie now had 1262 points after a 3rd at the Fresno 150 on Sept. 29. The AAA point standings behind Eddie after Oct. 16 were: 2. Murphy 1070, 3. Hartz 835, 4. Milton 810, and 5. Hill 350. With two big 250 mile Championship races left (Kansas City and Beverly Hills), Murphy could still win the 1923 AAA Title, with his 1070 point total now again intact.

Hearne (1887-1955) had been racing in the big U.S. motor races since the 1908 season. His first major race was a 196 mile light car event run at Savannah, GA on November 25, 1908. The contest had 14 starters and Hearne placed 4th overall in a 18 horsepower Buick. During the years 1909-1912 Hearne drove mostly Benz and Fiat machinery. Eddie's first major win was in a 200 mile "free for all" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 3, 1910. Here he used a 120 horsepower Benz and averaged 75.03 mph. Hearne, with a Fiat, was among the 40 starters at the inaugural 1911 Indianapolis 500 where he wound up 21st, but was still running. Later in 1911 Hearne won at Cincinnati (Sept. 9) in a 200 mile road race using a Fiat and at the ACA's 411.36 mile American Grand Prize (Nov. 30) at Savannah, placed 2nd in a Benz to Bruce Brown's Fiat. Hearne was also a competitor at Indianapolis in 1912 piloting a Case (placed 20th, out at 55 laps, burnt engine bearing). He would not return to the Speedway until 1919. The 1912-1914 seasons saw Eddie slacken his activities and he ran in very few events. During most of 1914-1915 Hearne entered non-AAA outlaw races and went barnstorming in behalf of the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, located in Racine, WI. The Case company built passenger cars during the period 1910 to 1927.

A rival and irritant racing organization to the AAA, with regard to dirt track racing, was the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) formed in Chicago, IL on May 29, 1915. George W. Dickinson, the manager of the Michigan State Fair, was elected the first President of the IMCA. In mid June 1915 Hearne along with 16 other drivers were suspended by the AAA for participating in unsanctioned races. Among these pilots were Arthur Chevrolet, Louis Disbrow, William Endicott, Hughie Hughes, and John Raimey. In 1916, when the AAA initiated its new National Championship Driving Title, Hearne was not involved in any way and did not run in any of the season's 15 AAA point awarding contests. Instead Hearne ran as a big star in the IMCA circuit under the direction of J. Alex Sloan. The other 1916 IMCA "stars" then included George Clark, Louis Disbrow, Bill Endicott, Fred Horey, and John Raimey.

Hearne returned to the AAA ranks in 1917 and drove Duesenbergs. During 1917 Hearne won the 168.75 miler held at Uniontown on Oct. 29 at 93.75 mph and closed out the season by taking a 50 mile dirt race at Ascot, CA on November 29 with a 71.58 mph average. In 1918 Hearne drove both Duesenbergs and Frontenacs. His best 1918 results were 4th in the Sheepshead Bay 100 (June 1) and 3rd in the Uniontown 112.5 (July 18), using Duesenbergs. Eddie had a good AAA season in 1919 when he drove for Cliff Durant in one of Durant's two reconditioned and revamped 1915 Stutz's. Although Hearne won no major events during 1919 he did place 2nd to Durant himself at the 250 mile Santa Monica road race (March 15) and finished 2nd in the Indianapolis 500 (May 31) without any relief whatsoever. Indianapolis, it should be remembered, was the most important motor race staged anywhere in the world in 1919. At the three short milage contests held at Tacoma on July 19 Hearne placed 4th (40 miler), 3rd (60 miler), and 2nd (80 miler). There were however only five starters in each race. And on November 8 at Phoenix AZ, Hearne set a new world's record for 100 miles on a flat 1 mile dirt track of 1:29:09 (67.30 mph). This beat Tom Alley's old mark of 1:31:30 (65.57 mph) recorded at Hamline, MN on October 24, 1914 in a Duesenberg. The finish, top three, at Phoenix were 1. Hearne (Stutz), 2. Sarles (Frontenac), and 3. Durant (Stutz).

The U.S. motor journal MOTOR AGE (i.e. Dec. 25, 1919 issue, pages 7-15 & 34) was impressed by it all and named Eddie as the U.S. Championship pilot for 1919, an opinion generally acknowledged and shared by the rest of the U.S. press. The AAA Contest Board had suspended its National Driving Title for 1917, 1918, and 1919 because of the U.S.' involvement in the World War. Chairman Kennerdell, who had begun the AAA title in 1916, reactivated it beginning in 1920. MOTOR AGE during 1909 to 1915 use to nominate the U.S. Champion Driver annually before the AAA had an official National Title in 1916. After taking 2nd at Indianapolis in 1919, Eddie took 3rd there in 1922 (Ballot) with no relief, and 4th in 1923 (Miller) with relief from Cooper for circuits 88-200. Hearne's final standings in the offically revived AAA Driving Title were 9th in 1920, 3rd in 1921, and 6th in 1922.

During 1920 Eddie piloted one of Durant's 1915 Stutz's at the Beverly Hills opener (Feb. 28), and at Indianapolis drove a Duesenberg for the Duesenberg brothers. This vehicle, No. 31, consisted of a 1919 chassis newly fitted with a 183 straight 8 motor. Hearne placed 6th with no relief and averaged 80.15 mph. After Indy, Eddie had a 183 Duesenberg 8 to race under the sponsorship of the ReVere Motor Car Corporation, located in Logansport, IL. The car ran as the Revere Special and sported a ReVere shaped radiator. With it he took 3rd at Tacoma (July 5), DNS at Elgin (Aug. 29), and at Beverly Hills (Nov. 25) gained another 3rd. In the 1920 non-Championship AAA contests he did not enter at Uniontown (June 19), but placed 3rd at Uniontown (Sept. 6), and 7th at Fresno (Oct. 2) in it. The more sporty ReVere motor cars were powered by the 4 cylinder, high powered, Rochester-Duesenberg engines and the Hearne connection was just advertising for the firm. The ReVere car was manufactured from 1917 to 1926.

Eddie stayed with ReVere as his backer until September 1921 when he switched over to Disteel. Now his Duesenberg was raced as the Disteel-Duesenberg. The name Disteel referred to an all steel made automobile wheel, which was entirely spokeless and had no wire in its design, a novelty in the U.S. at the time. The Disteel had been introduced in 1918 for normal passenger car use and was manufactured by the Detroit Pressed Steel Company, located on Michigan Avenue and Cabot. In 1921 the company had Hearne, among others as Tom Alley in a Frontenac, use them on their AAA Championship racing cars. Other drivers tried them out in 1922, but it didn't last, and everyone soon reverted back to the normal and previous spoked type. The use of the Disteel wheels on expensive U.S. passenger cars seems to have been a brief fad for a time, in the early 1920s.

Eddie had his very first AAA Championship wins in 1921, using the Disteel-Duesenberg. Here he won the Cotati 150 (Aug. 14) and the Beverly Hills 250 (Nov. 29). During 1922 Eddie continued to use the Disteel-Duesenberg until the Los Angeles 250 (Dec. 3), except at Indianapolis where he had a Ballot, but had very little success with the Disteel Duesy. After Hearne elected to run a Ballot at Indianapolis, his Disteel-Duesenberg was assigned to Ira Vail, who ran it in the race. Eddie took a 3rd at Cotati (Aug. 6) in the 50 miler, and earlier, in the Beverly Hills 250 (March 5) placed 5th. After having chauffeured Ballot, Benz, Case, Duesenberg, Fiat, Frontenac, and Stutz machines, Hearne finally got to pilot a Miller vehicle in late 1922, when he joined up with the new Durant team in September. Miller cars had been in rather short supply until Cliff Durant ordered six 183's for use in late 1922 and early 1923. At least six entirely new Miller 122's also were built for the upcoming 1923 Indianapolis 500. 11 of the 24 starters at Indy in 1923 were Millers and rather suddenly the Miller make had become the dominant marque in AAA National Championship racing. It was a revolution of sorts and it would continue for another decade until Miller himself went bankrupt in mid-1933.

In late 1923 Hearne found himself in serious contention for the national AAA driving crown. He had already won the Kansas City 250 (July 4) and the Altoona 200 (September 4). Only five cars were still running at the finish of the Kansas City event but Eddie won by eight laps over its 2nd place finisher, Earl Cooper. At Kansas City in July, Hearne's victory moved him into 2nd place in the AAA standings, while at Altoona (Sept.) he took over the overall point leadership. Harlan Fengler won at Kansas City (Oct. 10) while Hearne took 2nd, half a lap over Murphy in 3rd. Jimmy however had been hampered by tire problems in the early going. The points were now 1522 for Hearne and 1110 for Murphy. So the 1923 AAA Championship, now just between Hearne and Murphy, would be decided at Beverly Hills, the next and last Championship race for the year, on Nov. 29, 1923. Since September 1922, Hearne and Murphy, had been teammates on the Durant team.

At Los Angeles, Bennett Hill won at an average of 112.42 mph, Hearne finished 2nd and Murphy 3rd. So Murphy had to be satisfied with 2nd position in the final 1923 AAA Championship standings. The event was also the last time Murphy drove for the Cliff Durant. Jimmy would become his own car owner in 1924 and race as an independant, all apparently while in very close cahoots with Harry A. Miller. Already in early December 1923 Murphy and Miller were named together as officials in a firm called the Star Transmission Corporation. The new transmission device was the brainstorm of C. M. Stevens who had also designed the famous Ruckstell axle for Ford Model T's. The Ruckstell referred to here was the ex-driver, Glover Edwin Ruckstell (1891-1963), who had raced Mercers in some important U.S. races during 1914-1916.

The final AAA point standings for 1923 were (top six): 1. Hearne 1882, 2 Murphy 1350; 3. Hill 955, 4. Hartz 820, 5. Milton 810, and 6. Fengler 750. Murphy's trip to Europe probably cost him the 1923 AAA crown (who can really say?), but Hearne certainly just didn't back into his 1923 AAA Title win either. Eddie Hearne was always a wealthy man, being the heir of a western U. S. silver mine forture.

PHIL "RED" SHAFER: THE WINNER AT SYRACUSE IN 1924. In 1924 Phil "Red" Shafer (1891-1971) hailed from Fort Worth, Texas where his racing on the dirt tracks earned him the sobriquet of the "Texas Terror". For a decade Phil had toured the Texas Fair circuit. In 1909 he found employment at the Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company of Salt Lake City UT, which was an agent of Buick automobiles. In 1910 Shafer went back to his old home in Des Moines and entered the garage business. Phil's first race occurred in 1911 on dirt, using a modified Ford. During 1914, 1915 and 1916, Phil resided in Des Moines IA and used a Chevrolet Special as his racing mount. From his Des Moines base camp he raced in the states of Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan. Later he moved to the Long Star state and was deemed the dirt racing Champion of the State of Texas.

In the early 1920s Shafer's occupation was that of a manager Fort Worth automobile accessory jobbing house. In 1920 Shafer purchased a Duesenberg which he raced as a private entry. Up to September 1925 Shafer mostly raced Duesenbergs. Shafer's first contact with the AAA's National Championship division was when he acted as a relief driver for the Duesenberg team at Indianapolis in both 1922 and 1923. His first actual start in an AAA Championship race and, also at the same time, on a board speedway, was at the Beverly Hills 250 staged on November 29, 1923. Until his win here at Syracuse, Phil's highest placement in an AAA Championship contest was 4th at Altoona on September 1, 1924, just two weeks before.

END OF THE 1924 AAA SEASON. After the death of Murphy on September 15, the 1924 AAA Championship series had just three contests remaining, i.e., a 150 miler at Fresno and two 250 milers slated to be staged on two newly Jack Prince constructed 1 1/4 mile board tracks located at Charlotte, NC and Culver City, CA. The question was now whether Murphy could hang on and still win the 1924 AAA Title posthumously with his already accumulated 1595 points, or whether someone else might get lucky, catch up, and surpass him.

Edited by john glenn printz, 13 October 2011 - 19:07.


#47 Lemnpiper

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 02:15



Hi folks ,


L L Corum often is viewed as one of the "lesser" winners of the 500 but it seems his performance in 1924 race before he was relieved was pretty good andin fact seems to indicate he did earn his share of that win.


Paul

#48 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 17:25

Syracuse attracted 11 entries, mostly among the AAA board track regulars, who were not generally use to running on dirt. An exception among the entrants was Ira Vail, a dirt track specialist, who entered his own Miller. Milton, who had won an AAA non-Championship 100 miler here in mid-September 1923 was also very adept on dirt, having served his racing apprenticeship running on such tracks during his IMCA days before joining the AAA in 1916. Cooper was there also with his Studebaker (Miller) No. 8. The Duesenberg team was present with three cars chauffeured by Ansterberg, DePaolo, and Shafer.


It should, perhaps, be noted that Ernie Ansterburg failed to make the start due to an infectious wound in his foot, and was replaced by New York dirt track star Norm Batten, who even started from pole position in his National Championship début, though the grid was not based on practice or qualifying times. Batten had successfully driven a Duesenberg 8-cylinder car in the Northeast for about two or three years, the car being described as the ex-Milton LSR car - perhaps its engine was one of the two 300 CID units used for the record attempts. The performance at Syracuse, where he retired late in the race while holding down third place behind Shafer and Murphy, earned him a job as relief driver on the Duesenberg team for the next Indy 500, and Batten excelled again by finishing 8th after driving the last 65 laps for Pete Kreis, and also having a stint in Pete de Paolo's winning car. This led to his engagement in Tommy Milton's team, for whom he drove another LSR car, the 3-litre Miller monoposto, in dirt track events and one of the 2-litre cars on the board tracks. In 1926, he apparently purchased the ex-Antoine Mourre Miller from Harry Hartz and did very well as a private entrant, later with one of the "Locomobile Junior 8 Specials" until his untimely death in a marine disaster in late 1928 (to bring this thread, momentarily at least, back to its starting point ;)).

Another Milton protégé, Ralph Hepburn, by the way did very well in the motorcycle races at the 1924 New York State Fair, winning the 5-mile side-car events in record time, and finishing second in an 8-mile heat and the 20-mile main event for singles. Having already twice driven for Milton in AAA National Championship events in 1923 and early '24, "Hep" would change over to the four-wheeled sport for good in 1925, and rejoin Milton's stable in 1926 to replace Batten, now on his own. Hepburn's career effectively lasted until New Years Day of 1932, by which time he was the most experienced AAA National Championship racing driver still active, with more than two dozen races to his name, when he was very seriously injured in an accident at the Oakland Speedway in California. After a lengthy convalescence, he finally returned to race only at the Indy 500 for another decade, before tragically perishing during practice for the 1948 event when substituting for another veteran, Cliff Bergere.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 16 July 2011 - 17:28.


#49 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 17:41

Hi folks ,


L L Corum often is viewed as one of the "lesser" winners of the 500 but it seems his performance in 1924 race before he was relieved was pretty good andin fact seems to indicate he did earn his share of that win.


Paul


Corum probably drove the race of his lifetime at Indy in 1924, but was not likely to have won without the help of Joe Boyer. In fact, looking at his other results over the years, his 1924 Indy performance stands out as his one major achievement in motor racing, his fifth place finish in 1923 notwithstanding, it being more the result of attrition amongst the faster competition than outright driving brilliance on his part - he finished more than half an hour behind the winner that day! That being said, he was certainly a good driver, but not a champion, nor even a winner at this rarefied level.

#50 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 14:18

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS 1928 (cont.-21) At Fresno, Cooper made the event a runaway and won by two laps over Bennett Hill in 2nd. Earl also set a new Fresno track speed record for 150 miles, by posting a time of 1:25:09.06 (105.68 mph), thereby eclipsing Hill's old mark of 1:26:45.15 set on September 30, 1922, in a Miller 183. This was Cooper's first Championship victory, since his win here in another 150, on October 1, 1922 using a Duesenberg. It was noticed that the Fresno oval was dried out, in poor condition, with flying splinters and withering planks being great hazards to both the cars and drivers. By his win here Cooper gained another 300 points on Murphy's total. The 1924 AAA point standings now read: 1. Murphy 1595, 2. Cooper 980, 3. Comer 630, 4. Hill 574, 5. Corum 570, 6. Fengler 567, and 7. Milton 461. Now only Cooper and Comer had a mathematical chance of overtaking Murphy's Championship point lead.

Between the Fresno 150 and the Charlotte 250 word had come from Europe that Count Louis Zborowski had been fatally injured in the Italian Grand Prix (October 19) staged at Monza. Earlier in the year Zborowski had run his Miller 122 in the French Grand Prix (August 3) to no great effect. The car retired after 17 circuits with a broken axle in a 35 lap race won by Giuseppe Campari (1892-1933) using a P2 Alfa Romeo. A short time later Louis joined the official factory Mercedes Grand Prix team and made his first start for the Stuttgart located firm, at the Italian Grand Prix. In the race Zborowski's Mercedes left the track at high speed in the Lesmo turn and flipped over twice on lap 44. The accident was caused by brake failure. Zborowski sustained a broken neck, while the mechanic Martin, was only slightly injured. The 80 lap contest was won by Antonio Ascari (1888-1925) in a P2 Alfa at an average speed of 98.738 mph.

Count Louis Zborowski (1895-1924) is often hailed as a Polish Count. This however is quite untrue. Louis' father, Count William Eliot Morris Zborowski (1858-1903), was born in Elizabethtown, NJ. He, in turn, was the son of Martin Zabriskiei (name later anglicized to Zborowski) who was a Polish emigrant to the United States. Martin prospered by farming in the U.S. and became a millionaire. Eliot Zborowski later moved to England, built a large estate called Melton Mowbray, and became a naturalized British subject. Eliot owned property and had business interests in, England, France, and the U.S. The "Count" and nobility business might have been largely fake, but the family certainly had money. His son Louis was born on February 20, 1895 at Mayfair, London in England.

Eliot Zborowski was also an early pioneer and enthusiast for automobiling. He placed 4th overall in the 615.4 mile Paris-Vienna race staged on June 26-28, 1902, using a 40 horsepower Mercedes. Eliot was killed in the Nice-La Turbie (southern France) hill climb on April 1, 1903, now using a 60 horsepower Mercedes. Eliot Zborowski had already been nominated on behalf of Great Britain to drive in the upcoming 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup race, by Selwyn Francis Edge's (1868-1940) three car Napier team. Zborowski's vacant seat was now taken by Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910), of later Rolls-Royce fame. On the death of his mother, Madame de Stuers (1853-1911), Louis Zborowski inherited the entire family fortune. Thus both the father Eliot and the son Louis were killed in competitive motor sport. A more famous example of the same thing was the death of Antonio Ascari (1888-1925) in the French Grand Prix, and later his son Alberto Ascari (1918-1955), was killed while testing a new Ferrari at Monza, Italy.

After Fresno 150 the drivers, crews, and cars took a special express fruit train on October 3 headed east, to the new 1 1/4 mile Charlotte bowl, still being worked on by its constructor Jack Prince. The work was to be finished on October 7 and it was expected that the cars from Fresno would arrive on October 10. Immediately on their arrival, test runs with the cars would begin. The Charlotte Speedway, constructed at a cost of $300,000, was hailed as being the fastest oval in the world with its two 840 feet straightawys and its 40 degree banked turns. Already on September 30, Richard Kennerdell had announced that a minimum speed of 110 mph would be required to qualify. The qualifications were set for October 23. A crowd of perhaps as high as 75,000 was expected for the inaugural Charlotte 250, scheduled for October 25.

On October 16, in his very first try on the Charlotte bowl, Ernie Ansterburg, skidded coming off the back turn, his Duesenberg then headed towards the end of the grandstand, and crashed into the outside steel guard rail. Ernie was tossed out of the car, went over the rail and landed 38 yards from the car and at the edge of the grandstand. His Duesenberg then crossed the track and flipped over. Ansterburg was very badly smashed up and died on his way to the hospital. Twenty feet of the steel guard rail had been leveled. Peter DePaolo recalled in his 1935 book WALL SMACKER, how he was having a haircut in town at the Charlotte Hotel, when a newsboy ran by yelling that a driver had been killed on the new Charlotte track. DePaolo, who knew Ernie was slated to take practice-test runs that afternoon, thought that it was probably Ansterburg his Duesenberg teammate, who had been killed, and DePaolo's surmise proved correct.

Ernest "Ernie" Putnam Ansterburg (often spelled Ansterberg) was born in Concord, Mi in 1891. The first instances, where I can pick him up, is during 1915, 1916, and 1917 at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Here Ernie competed in the annual "Ford Championship Trophy" contest restricted to just amateur drivers and Model T Ford motors. These Ford races however were only 10 miles in length. Ernie won the event in both 1915 and 1916, but in 1917 he had magneto trouble and retired. Then Ernie disappears until 1919. Perhaps he was in the army during this gap in his history. In 1919 and 1920 he rode with Joe Boyer at Indianapolis in Frontenacs and in the 1921 and 1922 Indy contests he sat next to Roscoe Sarles in Duesenbergs. Ansterburg was a entrant as a driver in 1920 for the Uniontown 225 (June 19) in a Frontenac and placed 9th, but finished dead last among the cars still running.

Ernie is stated to have been a master mechanic and gained employment, as such, on the Duesenberg racing team, c. late 1920 or early 1921. For 1923 at Indianapolis he was hired as a possible relief pilot for the Packard team and in fact relieved Resta for circuits 71-80. Earlier he had helped Ralph DePalma put these cars together. Probably Ansterburg wanted to drive, but had no actual starts in big league AAA racing after his run at Uniontown in June 1920 until the Beverly Hills 250 of November 29, 1923. So it was with possible high elation for Ernie when he found himself nominated as the third Duesenberg team pilot, next to Boyer and Shafer, in late January 1924. Now he was going to run the entire 1924 AAA Championship season.

Ansterburg however had little real success during 1924. In the Beverly Hills 250 (February 24) he finished 12th and completed only a 149 laps. Obviously he had had car problems. For the year's Indianapolis 500 he was entered on a blown Duesenberg and started 10th qualifing at 99.40 mph but crashed on the backstraight on the very first lap with the car overturning. Ernie was unhurt and later took over Joe Boyer's ailing No. 9 Duesenberg and drove it for circuits 93-158. This machine was then turned over to Thane Houser (1891-1967) who piloted it for circuits 159-175, before he hit the wall in turn one which put the Duesy out. At the Altoona 250 (June 14) Ernie was 10th being flagged off after 188 laps completed, and at the Kansas City 250 (July 4), cut down to 150 miles because the track deteriorated, he retired at lap 59 with motor problems.

Ansterburg's brief moment of glory occurred on August 27, 1924, while in preparation for the Altoona 250 slated for September 1. Ernie on August 27 day sped around the Tipton, PA 1 1/4 mile oval in 35.4 seconds or at 125.7 mph. This was a new and official AAA record for the 122 class cars, running on an oval. The fastest lap ever attained at Indianapolis at the time was 109.45 mph, set by Milton in a HCS Miller 122 on May 26, 1923. Milton's 1923 clocking at Indy was not bettered there in 1924, where Murphy provided the fastest qualifier with a four lap average of 108.037 mph.

Ernie missed the dirt Syracuse 150 (Sept. 15), but at the Fresno 150 (Oct. 2) he placed 6th overall, his best placement for the year. Next came his first ride on the new 1 1/4 Charlotte bowl. Reeves Dutton, who carefully inspected the smashed Duesenberg said, "I examined the wrecked car and could not discover anything that could have caused Ansterberg trouble; the differential had not locked and the steering seemed to be working perfectly. It is possible that Ansterberg in feeling out the track, allowed his car to drop too low while coming of the turn in the straightaway, when his front left wheel hit the apron and deflected the car towards the rail. Such a situation will result every time the left front wheel hits the level while traveling at high speed. In trying to straighten out his car it skidded like a thunderbolt into the rail. That is the only explanation I can offer."

The body of Ansterburg was shipped to Concord, MI where the funeral service was conducted by the Masonic order, of which Ernie was a member. In the final 1924 AAA National Championship rankings Ansterburg was 18th with a total of 25 points. Ansterburg had tried, but died. The Duesenberg team had now lost two of its official pilots in little more than six weeks.

Edited by john glenn printz, 18 October 2011 - 18:27.