U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-30) THE "INTERREGUM" YEARS OF 1917, 1918, AND 1919. THE YEAR 1917, AN "INTERREGUM" AAA SEASON. The official AAA 1916 National Championship, using a point system to determine the final driver rankings, had been a success and a similar format was to be used in 1917. However for 1917 each separate track could run only one National Championship race, which had not been the case in 1916. Before mid-May 1917 eight AAA Championship contests had been announced. These being;
(1.) Indianapolis, May 30; (2.) Chicago, June 9; (3.) Omaha, July 4; (4.) Des Moines, July 14; (5.) Tacoma, July 28; (6.) Cincinnati, Sept. 3; (7.) Providence, Sept. 15; and (8.) Sheepshead Bay, Sept. 29.
No race distances were announced but the 1917 Indianapolis Memorial Day race had been definitely been restored back to its traditional 500 mile format. James Allison made this announcement in Chicago at an AAA Championship testimonial dinner staged on February 1, 1917 by the Chicago Automobile Club. At the same ceremony, C. C. Vinningham, representing the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, stated that the Hudson firm would contest the 1917 AAA season with a five car effort, using Ralph Mulford as its leader pilot. Ira Vail would be on the team as well and Arthur Hill would be the team manager. By May 6, Billy Chandler (1890-1924), Jack Gable, and Ralph Kriplen were added as drivers to the Hudson team. Kriplen had been with Duesenberg as a mechanic and came to Hudson team directly from working on Commodore James A. Pugh's once famous speed boat, Disturber VII.
But before any of the 1917 AAA National Championship events were actually staged, the AAA Contest Board cancelled the entire 1917 Championship season, on 18 May 1917, because of World War I. The Indianapolis 500 had already long been deleted or voided out, on 23 March 1917, by its track owners even before the U.S.' official entry (16 April 1917) into World War I. James A. Allison had made the official announcement of the cancellation of the 500. James said (quote), "Sport has no right in the minds of Americans when their country needs their attention. Racing means the taking away from the government services of skilled mechanics whose services can be used by the government to better advantage than by a speedway as a means of entertainment. Many materials used in racing will become absolute necessities in case of war".
Both the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) have always been extremely patriotic organizations and have wished to stop all racing activity in a time of major war.
The major 1917 U.S. automobile races and their winners were:
1. March 4 Ascot 100, Cooper, Earl, Stutz, 68.35 mph D FFA
2. May 10 Uniontown 112.5, Taylor, William, Stutz, 89.25 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
3. May 30 Cincinnati 250, Chevrolet, Louis, Frontenac, 102.18 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
4. June 16 Chicago 250, Cooper, Earl, Stutz, 103.15 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
5. July 4 Omaha 150, Mulford, Ralph, Hudson, 101.40 mph B 301 cubic inch limit MSB
6. July 4, Omaha 50, Lewis, Dave, Duesenberg/Hoskins, 102.85 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
7. July 14 Minneapolis 50, Dutton, Reeves, Stutz, 97.27 mph C 301 cubic inch limit
8. July 14 Minneapolis 100, Vail, Ira, Hudson, 96.28 mph C 301 cubic inch limit MSB
9. Sept. 3 Tacoma 100, Cooper, Earl, Stutz, 92.99 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
10. Sept. 3 Chicago 50, DePalma, Ralph, Packard, 106.50 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
11. Sept. 3 Chicago 100, Chevrolet, Louis, Frontenac, 106.20 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
12. Sept. 3 Uniontown 112.5, Elliott, Frank, Miller/Delage, 90.70 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
13. Sept 15 Providence 100, Milton, Tommy, Duesenberg, 70.84 mph C 301 cubic inch limit
14. Sept. 22 Sheepshead Bay 100, Chevrolet, Louis, 110.40 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
15. Oct. 13 Chicago 50, Mulford, Ralph, Frontenac, 105.56 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
16. Oct. 13, Chicago 50, Henderson, Pete, Duesenberg, 109.62 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
17. Oct. 29 Uniontown 168.5, Hearne, Eddie, Duesenberg, 93.75 mph B 301 cubic inch limit
18. Nov. 29 Ascot 50 , Hearne, Eddie, Duesenberg, 71.25 mph D FFA
The 1917 AAA season was still an active and full year despite the cancellations of the U.S. AAA National Driving Title, the Indianapolis 500, and America's entry into World War I. The two biggest 1917 races were the Cincinnati 250 (May 30) and the Chicago 250 (June 16). Both events had a 27 starting car lineup.
During 1917-1919 the Class "E", i.e., 301 cubic inch limit, became the standard for all the AAA "big-time" racing contests. There were no road races in 1917 or 1918; and for 1919 only two, i.e. Santa Monica (15 March 1919) and at Elgin (23 Aug. 1919). Five U.S. makes were predominant during 1917-1919. These were Duesenberg, Frontenac, Hudson, Packard, and Stutz. Stutz had entered racing in 1911, Duesenberg in 1914, and Frontenac and Hudson in 1916. The first complete Miller cars appeared in 1917, with two examples. Packard was active with Ralph DePalma using a V12 motor during 1917-1919 and the French straight 8 Ballot first came in, at Indianapolis, during May 1919. Harry C. Stutz himself had quit racing after the 1915 season but three of his 1915 racing machines continued to be used by their now private owners, Earl Cooper and Cliff Durant. Durant eventually had two of these 1915 Stutz machines, but Cliff raced them under the names of "Chevrolet" and "Durant". In 1919 both Ballot and Duesenberg, at Indianapolis, introduced the straight 8 type engine into U.S. speedway racing. The straight 8 type would dominate U.S. speedway racing from 1922 to 1933, until the rise of the 4 cylinder Miller derived, Offenhauser, in the mid-1930's.
The AAA itself wanted to halt all automobile racing activities during the whole duration of the war but the racing fraternity (manufacturers, car owners, drivers, and mechanics), and the various speedway/track owners and investors certainly, did not want to stop, and sail off to the dangerous conflagration in Europe. Among the active drivers only Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973) and Art Klein (1889-1955) seemingly obeyed the call. The track owners did not desire that their financial investments, put mostly into the new board tracks, would give no return at all and be totally idle, because of a possibly endless war.
The years 1917-1919, with all European motor racing suspended since August 1914, gave a welcome breathing space to the American based racing car constructors (i.e., the two Duesenbergs, Louis Chevrolet, and Harry A. Miller), to perchance catch up with the clearly superior Old World speed engineering and technical finesse. The foreign cars which had the most influence on the engine design were, of course, the great Peugeot racing vehicles of 1912-1914, which had been designed by Ernest Henry (1885-1950) with the help and imput of ideas and the experience of drivers Georges Boillot (1884-1916), Paul Zuccarelli (1886-1913), and Jules Goux (1885-1965), i.e. the group named affectionately or perhaps in derision, the "Charlatans". Henry also designed the fast straight 8 Ballot racers of 1919-1922.
Edited by john glenn printz, 06 August 2012 - 17:35.