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American racing 1894 to 1920


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#51 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 20:52

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-24) The question of whether relief or substitute drivers were to receive Championship points or not, first reared its head at the very second AAA National Championship contest, i.e. the Indianapolis 300 (30 May 1916). Rickenbacker, in a Maxwell, led the first nine laps, but retired after just 9 circuits with a broken steering knuckle. Later Eddie relieved teammate Pete Henderson (1895-1940) for laps 52-120. The Henderson/Rickenbacker Maxwell came home in 6th. Was Eddie to get points for his relief work? One would have thought that AAA Contest Board would have resolved this vexing question before it actually arose, but apparently not. Everything was "ad hoc" and improvised. The upshot was that Rickenbacker received no points at all and Henderson got a grand total of 22.

The most successful American make of racing car in 1915 was the Stutz. At the 1915 Indianapolis 500 Stutz provided the fastest qualifier, i.e., Howard Wilcox (1889-1923), at 98.90 mph. The Stutz team even led laps 2-32; circuits 2-6 with Wilcox and laps 7-32 with Gil Anderson. A broken valve spring soon hampered Wilcox's speed and prevented a possible win for him. At the finish the three car Stutz team placed 3rd (Anderson), 4th (Cooper), and 7th (Wilcox), but all three were out sped by the 1914 French Grand Prix cars of DePalma (Mercedes) and Resta (Peugeot). The 1915 "White Squadron" Stutz's however won big in two races at Elgin (Aug. 20-21) with Earl Cooper (1886-1965) and Gil Anderson (1880-1935); and at the Sheepshead Bay 350 (Oct. 9) with Gil Anderson. But Harry Stutz withdrew his team after the 1915 season, although he allowed Earl Cooper to retain and buy his regular team car.

For the year 1916 four major new teams emerged, i.e. Crawford, Frontenac, Hudson, and Premier. The Crawford Automobile Company, located in Hagerstown, MD, financed the Crawford three car team. Billy Chandler (1890-1924) was lured away from the Duesenberg team proper, and Billy with the help of driver Dave Lewis (1881-1928), put the new Crawford racers together. The Crawford cars utilized the now familiar Duesenberg walking beam four cylinder motors and even the Crawford's frames were very close to Duesenberg practice. The three new Frontenacs were the product of Louis Chevrolet and were, in this instance, built in Detroit in a shop located on Grand River avenue. At first, in 1916, only a lone Hudson appeared piloted by Ira Vail (1893-1979) but by the end of 1916, Ira was joined by two more Hudson racers. These Hudsons were powered by the newly introduced (16 Jan. 1916) Hudson "Super Six" L head motor, now modified and souped up a bit for racing purposes. The Premiers were commissioned by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and were constructed by the Premier Motor Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis and were basically copies of the very successful Peugeot EX5 model. The Crawford, Frontenac, and Premiers made their first appearances at Indianapolis (30 May 1916) while Vail's Hudson first ran at Sheepshead Bay on 13 May 1916.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had its own racing team or teams in 1916. Fearing that there might not be enough entries for a 1916 Memorial Day race the IMS officials, Allison and Fisher, took action in late 1915. The dearth of cars was threatened by the U.S. auto manufacturers withdrawing from the sport and, because of the Great War (1914-1918), the Europeans could no longer construct cars and send over teams. The Maxwell Motor Corporation of Detroit withdrew from racing after one of their drivers, William "Billy" Carlson (1889-1915), was killed at Tacoma on 4 July 1915. The IMS, on September 9, purchased the four Maxwell racing cars designed by Ray Harroun (1879-1968), made Eddie Rickenbacker the manager of the new team, and further raced them under Prest-O-Lite aegis but still as "Maxwells". In early September 1915 the IMS imported two 1914 EX5 Peugeots from France and then promptly had the local Premier company build three more copies. This gave the Speedway seven cars, all of which, were numbered among the twenty-one, 1916 Memorial Day starters. This comprised exactly 1/3 of the entire field of 21 and this was the least number of starters ever for the big Indianapolis classic.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 November 2011 - 21:12.


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#52 jimmyc

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 15:19

For the Stuz's it was more a case of being out-tired rather than outsped. The combination of several extra pitstops and tire conservation while running, likely cost them the race.

#53 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 13:08

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-25) Eventually, in 1916, there were 15 AAA Championship point races with the last three being staged in California, i.e. two at the 8.4 mile Santa Monica road course (Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize) and the third at the "old" Ascot dirt one mile oval. The 1916 season turned out to be a battle between two EX5 Peugeots, one in the hands of Johnny Aitken sponsored by the IMS team and other, driven by Dario Resta and sponsored by Alphonse Kauffman, the New York Peugeot Import Company agent. Going into the last three races the AAA point standings (top five) were; (1.) Aitken, 3440; (2.) Resta, 3200; (3.) Rickenbacker, 2210; (4.) DePalma, 1790; and (5.) D'Alene, 1120 (Source, DETROIT NEWS, 7 Nov. 1916, page 15). Aitken, be it noted, was the first man ever to lead an Indianapolis 500, when he led the entire pack for laps 1-4, in 1911, piloting an Indianapolis built National. DePalma and D'Alene did not enter any of the three California events. Rickenbacker's contract with the Maxwell "Prest-O-Lite" team expired on 31 Oct. 1916 and Eddie quickly signed an agreement with millionaire William Walker Weightman III, to manage William's new two car Duesenberg team and to drive in the three remaining California AAA point races for him.

These are the 15 AAA National Championship contests for 1916 and their winners:

1. May 13 Sheepshead Bay NY 150, Rickenbacker, Eddie, Maxwell, 96.23 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

2. May 30 Indianapolis IN 300, Resta, Dario, Peugeot, 83.99 mph BR 301 cubic inch limit

3. June 11 Chicago IL 300, Resta, Dario, Peugeot, 98.70 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

4. June 24 Des Moines IO 150, DePalma, Ra[ph, Mercedes, 93.16 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

5. July 4, Minneapolis MN 150, DePalma, Ralph, Mercedes, 91.08 mph C 301 cubic inch limit

6. July 14, Omaha NE 150, Resta, Dario, Peugeot, 99.02 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

7. Aug. 5 Tacoma WA 288, Rickenbacker, Eddie, Maxwell, 85.75 mph B 450 cubic inch limit

8. Sept. 4 Cincinnati OH 300, Aitken, Johnny, Peugeot, 97.06 B 301 cubic inch limit

9. Sept. 9 Indianapolis IN 100, Aitken, Johnny, Peugeot, 89.44 mph BR 301 cubic inch limit

10. Sept 30 Sheepshead Bay NY, 250, Aitken, Johnny, Peugeot, 104.83 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

11. Oct. 14 Chicago IN 250, Resta, Dario, Peugeot, 103.99 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

12. Oct. 28 Sheepshead Bay NY 100, Aitken, Johnny, Peugeot, 105.95 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

13. Nov. 16 Santa Monica CA 294, Resta, Dario, Peugeot, 86.98 mph R (Vanderbilt Cup) 600 cubic inch limit

14. Nov. 18 Santa Monica CA 403.2, Wilcox, Howard/Aitken, Johnny, Peugeot, 85.59 mph R (American Grand Prize) FFA

15. Nov. 30 Ascot CA 150, Rickenbacker, Eddie, Duesenberg, 67.54 mph D 301 cubic inch limit

Four more important events, but of non-Championship ranking, staged in 1916 were:

1. March 5 Ascot, CA 100, Pullen, Eddie, Mercer, 68.1 mph D FFA

2. April 8 Corona, CA 300, O'Donnell, Eddie, Duesenberg, 85.6 mph R FFA

3. April 16 Ascot, CA 150, O'Donnell, Eddie, Duesenberg, 65.4 mph D FFA

4. Dec. 12 Uniontown, PA 112.5, Chevrolet, Louis, Frontenac, 90.67 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

The Vanderbilt Cup and American Grand Prize classics were, in 1916, the only road races still on the AAA schedule. The AAA clearly had now moved almost exclusively into a "speedway" era, with nine of its fifteen points events, being contested on the new board tracks. It should certainly be mentioned as a general trend, that the length of the road circuits raced on gradually, but slowly, tended to be whittled down and shortened both here and in Europe. The first "road circuit" proper was that used for the 1903 Gordon Bennett race, at 51 7/8 miles a lap (!), as has already been mentioned. The 1904 Vanderbilt Cup race used a circuit of 30.24 miles, down to just 14.3 miles for the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup, and further downsized to 8.4 miles by 1916, the Cup's last year. The ACA's Grand Prize underwent a similar metamorphosis. The 1908 American Grand Prize had a lap size of 25.13 miles, while the 1916 Prize was ranked at 8.417 miles per circuit. In 1915, among the seven major AAA road circuits used, the largest was located at Elgin, IL, measuring 8.3 miles a lap.

During the period of the extremely long length circuits, and in the more expensive grandstands, sometimes a bugler would be stationed for the spectators, to sound a signal that a car or cars were approaching. In any case there were very good reasons for the downsizing of the road racing circuits. Among them were cost savings over the track maintenance, added safety for both the drivers and spectators, better crowd control, the prevention of gate crashing, the added frequency of the fans seeing the competitors, and the cars being now in closer and closer proximity to each other. The new oval speedways, i.e., Indianapolis in 1909; Playa del Ray in 1910; Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Sheepshead Bay in 1915, solved to a great extent all these vexing problems. The board tracks of Cincinnati and Uniontown were added to the list in 1916.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 January 2010 - 20:42.


#54 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 16:33

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-26) The Indianapolis Motor Speedway sent their two 1914 EX5 type Peugeots to California for drivers Johnny Aitken and Howard Wilcox's use but didn't enter their Maxwell or Premier cars. Aitken, in a tight points battle with Resta, and with a real chance to win the 1916 AAA National Driving Title, was entered in both the Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize contests but Wilcox was registered only for the American Grand Prize. Resta was present with his 1916 Memorial Day Indianapolis winning type EX5 Peugeot which was being both overhauled and housed at Harry Miller's shop. Earl Cooper had his 1915 Stutz racer on hand for all three of the remaining AAA point races. Other potent teams present were Weightman's two 16 valve Duesenbergs for himself and Rickenbacker; a Hudson three car team with the pilots being A. H. Patterson, Clyde Rhoades, and Ira Vail; and a three car Mercer entry for Eddie Pullen, Grover Ruckstell, and Ira Vail. No Frontenac cars built by Louis Chevrolet were present. If a driver could win all three of the California races he could collect a total of 2600 points; i.e., 900 for the Vanderbilt Cup; 1000 for the Grand Prize; and 700 for the Ascot 200 dirt track race. Rickenbacker still had a mathematical chance to win the 1916 AAA Title but it was generally agreed that the real struggle was going to be between Aitken and Resta. However on 12 Nov. 1916 it was announced that the Ascot 200 would be reduced down to 150 miles, but 700 points would still be awarded the winner.

The last important 200 mile dirt oval race on a one mile track had occurred at Columbus, Ohio, on 4 July 1913, and was won by Ralph Mulford in a Mason with a 59.4 mph average. Their wouldn't be another 200 mile AAA dirt track event of importance on a one mile oval until the 1948 Milwaukee 200 of 29 August, won by Myron Fohr (1912-1994) with some relief help from Tony Bettenhausen at 86.73 mph.

An unusual aspect of both the Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize contests was that although cars with motors up to 600 cubic inches were allowed, only drivers piloting machines using engines of 301 cubic inches or less would be awarded AAA Championship points. The Vanderbilt Cup (16 Nov. 1916) proved unfortunate for Aitken as he was forced out after 19 laps with a broken valve, while Resta sped to victory, adding 900 points to his total. Rickenbacker gained nothing as well, being retired after just six laps with a stripped gearbox. The new AAA standings now showed Resta in first with 4100, Aitken 2nd with 3440, and Rickenbacker 3rd with 2210. Everything now seemed to depend on the outcome of the American Grand Prix race. But in the Grand Prize (18 Nov. 1916) Aitken's luck was even worst than in the Vanderbilt Cup as his Peugeot went out on the first lap with piston failure. The IMS team manager soon called Wilcox in, on lap 9, with the idea of replacing Wilcox with Aitken. It was all a desperate attempt by the team manager to keep Aitken's AAA Title hopes alive. Wilcox did not want to relinguished his twin EX5 model Peugeot to Aitken and went back out. Then after 20 circuits Wilcox was called in again and this time Aitken took over the car. Aitken responded by winning the American Grand Prize as a relief pilot, driving laps 21-48. But the substitution ploy, Aitken for Wilcox, failed completely as the AAA refused to give Aitken any points at all. Nor did Resta or Rickenbacker gain any AAA points in the Grand Prize. Wilcox however, as the starting driver, was awarded 438 points for the 20 laps he drove in the winning Peugeot. Resta retired at 19 laps with ignition failure and Rickenbacker was out after 27 circuits with, again, a stripped gearbox. With only the Ascot 150 left in the season the AAA point standings (top three) were Resta, 4100; Aitken, 3440; and Rickenbacker, 2210.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 July 2009 - 19:05.


#55 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 18:06

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-27) Aiken could still win the AAA Title but he had to win at Ascot and Resta simultaneously would also have to fail to gain additional points above 40, to his already existent total of 4100, in the same Ascot contest. But neither Aiken or Resta were any too keen to run in the arduous and long distance 150 miler on the one mile dirt Ascot horse track. So on 20 Nov. 1916 Aiken unexpectedly announced that he would not be a contestant in the Ascot 150 and thus he conceded the 1916 AAA Driving Title to Resta. Immediately and on November 20 also, the IMS team, i.e., Aitken, Wilcox, and manager James Ashbury Allison (1872-1928) with their two EX5 Peugeots, boarded a train east, back to Indianapolis. As the Title was now his, Resta too, declined to run in the upcoming Ascot 150.

In this manner the race for the 1916 AAA Driving Title ended, "not with a bang but a whimper." In the Ascot 150 itself, held on 30 Nov. 1916, Rickenbacker proved triumphant in one of William Weighman's 16 valve Duesenbergs by averaging 67.54 mph against eleven other starters. Earl Cooper, it should be noted, had a remarkable run in the last three Californian AAA point races, by placing 2nd in all three, using his reliable 1915 No.8 Stutz.

Anyway the official 1916 AAA Championship season was now over. The top ten AAA driver placements were; 1. Dario Resta-4100; 2. Johnny Aitken-3440; 3. Eddie Rickenbacker-2910; 4. Ralph DePalma-1790; 5. Earl Cooper-1405; 6. Wilbur D'Alene-1120; 7. Tommy Milton-690; 8. Pete Henderson-667; 9. Frank Gavin-645; and 10. Ralph Mulford-620. Resta got a cash prize of $13,500 for winning the 1916 AAA Title, donated jointly by the B.F. Goodrich Tire Company and the Bosch Magneto Company. The American automobile journal MOTOR AGE, for the first time since 1909, now ceased to nominate the U.S. season's automobile racing Champion. It was a truely remarkable year with European built 1914 Grand Prix cars winning 12 of the 15 AAA point contests; Peugeot won 10 with their EX5 model and Mercedes 2. Eddie Rickenbacker was the winning pilot in all three of the races won by an American made vehicle; twice with a Maxwell and once with a Duesenberg.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 July 2009 - 19:06.


#56 john glenn printz

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 13:57

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-28) DARIO RESTA (1884-1924). There was perhaps little in Dario Resta's previous European racing accomplishments 1907-1914, to presage his overwhelming and tremendous successes in the United States during the 1915 and 1916 AAA seasons. Resta, who was Anglo-Italian, was born in Livorno (Milan), Italy on 17 Aug. 1884, but was raised in England. Dario began his racing career in 1907 at Brooklands, (Weybridge, Surrey) England. 1907 was the first year for the famous Brooklands 2.75 mile specially build concrete speed oval. In 1908 Resta was selected by the English Austin team to run in the 1908 French Grand Prix held at Dieppe on July 7. Resta, who was still running at the finish, placed 19th among the 48 starters, but was more than two hours behind the victorious Mercedes driven by Christian Lautenschlager (1877-1954). For 1912, 1913, and 1914, Resta drove for Louis Coatalen (1879-1962) on the Sunbeam team in the big French races, although in 1912 Dario ran in the "Coupe de l'Auto" voiturette division, i.e. 3 litre limit, rather than in the big Grand Prix classification proper. Here Resta placed 4th overall (!) and 1st in the voiturette class. In 1913 and 1914 Dario placed 6th and 5th respectively in the French Grand Prix, then unquestionably the most important automobile race in the world.

The 1914 French Grand Prix has often been referred to as "the greatest motor race of all time" and Dario finished 5th in it behind, 1. Lautenschlager (Mercedes), 2. Louis Wagner (Mercedes), 3. Otto Salzer (Mercedes), and 4. Jules Goux (Peugeot), among the 37 starters. Resta also kept active in 1912 to 1914 by running in many other races and speed trials held in England and France.

In late 1914 Resta was in the U.S. as an agent for Sunbeam automobiles where he met Alphonse G. Kaufman, a New York importer of Peugeot cars. With Resta's vast previous racing experience in Europe, Kaufman hired Dario to pilot his 1913 Grand Prix Peugeot EX3, just formerly in the hands of Eddie Rickenbacker. The team manager was Arthur Hill and the Peugeot was then being overhauled in Los Angeles, at Harry Miller's shop. In late February and early March 1915, Resta proceeded to win his first two American starts, the American Grand Prize (February 27) and the Vanderbilt Cup (March 6) no less, using Kaufman's EX3 Peugeot.

For the 1915 Indianapolis 500 (May 31), Resta switched to a newer 1914 EX5 Grand Prix type Peugeot also owned by Kaufman, and which Dario used subsequently thereafter in both 1915 and 1916. At Indy in 1915, Dario placed 2nd behind only DePalma's 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes and led laps 1, 33-61 & 128-134; but a bit later Resta won the inaugural event, a 500 miler, at the new Maywood (Chicago) 2 mile board speedway on June 26 by averaging 97.582 mph. In 1915 Resta won two more board track contests, both 100 milers, at Maywood (August 7) and Sheephead Bay (November 2). For 1916 Dario continued his U.S. dominance, by winning five major races, including the Memorial Day Indianapolis 300 (May 30). The other four were 1. Chicago 300 (June 11), 2. Omaha 150 (July 15), 3. Chicago 250 (October 14), and lastly the 4. Vanderbilt Cup 294.595 staged at Santa Monica (November 16). What a spectacular two years it had been for Resta, who also in 1916, won the first official AAA National United States Driving Title!

Edited by john glenn printz, 23 September 2010 - 11:55.


#57 McLarenFormula1

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 14:54

I realize I'm not an oft-contributor to this site and I also realize that this is slightly off-topic, but I'm doing a report about auto racing being a reflection of pre-World War I nationalistic pride and international tension. Does anyone know of any good websites or resources which examine racing in Europe from 1894 to before the first Great War?

#58 john glenn printz

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 20:30

To Mr. Hans Etzrodt, Mr. Ozolins, and Mr. Capps. With regard to your collective comments and observations, on this thread of September 2006, consult our belated (to be sure) and further remarks on the thread "The years 1894 to 1897". Respectfully Yours and Thank You for your Interest-McMaken/Printz

#59 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 16:00

The first U.S. oval track events took place in early September 1896 at Narragansett Park, Rhode Island. They consisted of three 5 mile sprint events. The first two were won by Andrew Lawrence Riker (1862-1930) in an electric car of his own design, and the third race was won by an electric also, dubbed the "Electrobat".


I keep coming back to this event as what should really be considered as the first automobile race in the true sense of the concept -- head-to-head competition on the track or circuit beginning with a massed start.

Interesting that this model was so slow to be adopted in Europe, events using massed starts not being an accepted practice until well into the late-1920's.

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#60 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 14:58

While perusing "A Review of the 1909 Contest Season" by M. Worth Colwell in the 29 December 1909 issue, pp. 791-793, of "The Horseless Age," I found nary a word of a national championship...

#61 john glenn printz

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 19:51

U.S. 1894-1920. (cont.-29) THE FIRST RACE AT UNIONTOWN (DECEMBER 2, 1916). There is one last item for 1916, i.e. the inauguration of the 1 1/8 mile Uniontown board speedway on 2 Dec. 1916. The track was built by Jack Prince who had already constructed Playa del Ray in 1910, and Omaha and Des Moines in 1915. Uniontown was largely the promotion of Charles W. Johnson, a local Uniontown automobile dealer. Uniontown's first race was a 112.5 miler (100 laps) but the event did not have an AAA National Championship ranking. There were 15 entries and 13 actual starters. Crawford, Premier, and Olsen two car teams were present as well as Louis Chevrolet in a Frontenac and Ralph De Palma in his Mercedes. The contest was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving Day (30 Nov. 1916) but was rained out, so instead it was staged on 2 Dec. 1916.

In the race itself veteran Hughie Hughes (1886-1916), in a Hoskins Special, crashed into the outer guard rail on lap 65. This accident occurred because Hughes was trying to avoid hitting Jim Meyer in his slow moving Pugh Special. Hughes parked his Hoskins racer against the inner rail and then walked over to the press stand. Not long after, while Hughes was talking to his car owner J. E. Hoskins, Frank Galvin lost control of his Premier, possibly due to a blowout on his right rear tire, and plowed directly into where the hapless Hughes was standing. Hughes was instantly killed among the wooden press stand's broken timbers and splinters. A dozen persons on the press stand were knocked down and the most seriously injured was L. Herbert Smith, a Pittsburgh newspaper man. Meanwhile Galvin's Premier had overturned and skidded further down the track.

Here is what J. E. Hoskins had to say, "I own my life to Hughie. Standing near the press box I was was warmly grasping him by the hand when with a warning twitch of his wrist I glanced around and saw the Galvin car bearing down upon us. I threw myself flat on the ground and was struck by pieces of wreckage. After it was over I found myself twenty feet from the car. Hughes had been knocked fifteen feet past me and was breathing his last. Had it not been for the timely warning of Hughes I would have been a victim, as I was nearer the machine than he was." (Source: CHICAGO TRIBUNE 3 Dec. 1916, Sect. I, page 3). Mr. Hoskins' middle initial is variously given in the 1916 newspapers as "C", "E", and "H".

It was soon discovered that Galvin's mechanic, Gaston Weigel was dead, and Galvin himself had fatal injuries with a fractured skull. Galvin expired in the Uniontown hospital the next day. The race itself was not stopped and the finish (top three) was (1.) Louis Chevrolet (Frontenac); (2.) Dave Lewis (Premier); and (3.) Ralph DePalma (Mercedes). Hughes had led the first 32 laps. The Uniontown victory marked the first major win for the new Frontenac design which had been introduced at Indianapolis in May 1916. It was probably too, De Palma's last ride in the 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes.

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 September 2010 - 13:19.


#62 fines

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 13:57

Originally posted by john glenn printz
It was probably too, De Palma's last ride in the 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes.

Ralph de Palma, that is! His brother John raced the car at the 1920 Beverly Hills races, and probably thereafter in IMCA events.

#63 john glenn printz

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 14:54

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.


#64 john glenn printz

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 20:18

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-31) The most important motor race in 1917, worldwide, was the May 30, Cincinnati 250 held in subsitution for the Indianapolis 500 which had been cancelled in late March 1917. Against 27 other starters Louis Chevrolet won at an average speed of 102.181 mph in a Frontenac. Louis' younger brother Gaston placed 3rd in another Frontenac, while Ira Vail was 2nd in a Hudson "Super" six.

Later in the year (i.e. September 22) at Sheepshead Bay, New York, Louis Chevrolet won again in an important 100 miler at an 110.396 mph pace. The field had a total of 18 starters. Most observers for 1917 regarded Louis Chevrolet as the outstanding pilot for the year, but there was no official AAA title that year or even an unofficial driving reckoning given in 1917 itself.

THE YEAR 1918. AN INTERREGUM AAA SEASON. With the real threat of the AAA's complete withdrawal from racing in 1918, Charles W. Johnson, the manager of the Uniontown Speedway, in October 1917 went ahead to organize a new syndicate of track and speedway owners, to stage races on their own and without any AAA participation. Johnson's new sanctioning body was named the National Grand Circuit of American Speedways. On 24 Nov. 1917 the AAA Contest Board stated that it would sanction no further races during the duration of the war, but the AAA was suddenly forced to reverse itself by Johnson's actions or face the dire consequence of losing all control over the entire U.S. automobile racing scene. So AAA sanctioned automobile racing continued for the year 1918 (!) but very few, just six in all, important contests were staged that year and by the autumn of 1918 the AAA was again talking seriously of halting all race sanctions until the World War was over. The AAA Contest Board was just about to do that in late 1918 when the Great War unexpectedly ended on 11 Nov. 1918! However the AAA did not resume its National Championship speed title until the year 1920 and thus the three year period of 1917 to 1919 form a decided break or first "interregum" to the AAA series. The second AAA "interregum" was 1942-1945, i.e. the interruption caused by the U.S.' participation in the second World War.

The major 1918 U.S. automobile races and their winners were:

1. June 1 Sheepshead Bay 100, DePalma, Ralph, Packard, 102.0 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

2. June 22 Chicago 100, Chevrolet, Louis, Frontenac, 107.9 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

3. July 4 Cincinnati 100, DePalma, Ralph, Packard, 105.25 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

4. July 4 Tacoma 75, Hearne, Eddie, Duesenberg, 94.20 mph B 450 cubic inch limit

5. July 18 Uniontown 112.5, Chevrolet, Louis, Frontenac, 95.03 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

6. Sept. 2 Uniontown 112.5, Mulford, Ralph, Frontenac, 96.17 mph B 301 cubic inch limit

Dario Resta, who had been so triumphant in 1915 and 1916, was not a factor at all in 1917. Dario and Alphonse Kaufman, owner of a 1914 EX5 type Grand Prix Peugeot, could not agree or come to contract terms; and Mrs. Resta, a sister of the late Spencer Wishart, feared for Dario's very life. Spencer Wishart (1889-1914) had been killed in the 22 Aug. 1914 running of 301.32 mile Elgin road race. Resta and Miss Wishart had married in early 1915.

Resta made only one start in 1917, i.e. at Sheepshead Bay on September 22, where he drove a Frontenac car. Resta finished 18th, dead last, and completed only 8 laps before a camshaft housing broke.

In mid-1917 Harry A. Miller built or completed two 289 cubic inch racing cars, one of which was Barney Oldfield's famous "Golden Submarine" with the enclosed body and the other example went to driver A. A. Cadwell. Except for the body styles the two machines were identical and were the first two complete Miller racing cars ever built. The Oldfield machine first ran at Chicago on 16 June 1917 and the Cadwell car at Minneapolis on 14 July 1917. I suspect, and this idea has never been suggested before, that the Oldfield and Cadwell Millers of 1917 were nothing more than the two former uncompleted 1915/1916 "Bob Burman" machines, now finally finished with a new and fresh influx of cold cash from Barney Oldfield and A. A. Cadwell.

Miller also in late 1916 and 1917 sold a few copies of his new single cam , 289 cubic inch racing engine to those who needed a motor only. These included Tom Alley (1889-1953), Louis C. Erbes (and installed into the ex-Bob Burman 1913 Grand Prix EX3 Peugeot), Hugo W. Ogren of Chicago, IL, and Barney Oldfield for his 1914 Grand Prix Type S Delage. Both of the 1917 Miller cars competed at Indianapolis in 1919 and neither fared well, but they were the very first Millers to actually run in an Indianapolis 500. Of the 33 starters in 1919, the Oldfield entry finished 33rd and ran only eight laps before a rocker arm broke. The machine's pilot in this case was Roscoe Sarles (1892-1922). Omar Toft (1886-1921) had the ex-A. A. Cadwell car. Toft went 44 laps before a connecting rod snapped, placing him in the 28th finishing position. The best placement for a Miller 289 cubic inch motor however was 5th by Tom Alley in a chassis of his own construction.

Edited by john glenn printz, 03 August 2012 - 20:23.


#65 gerrit stevens

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 07:28

From the 1916 AAA National Championship I have received from the late Phil Harms a complete statistical analysis in PDF format (22 pages). Not only points tables, mileage tables, complete results but especially an extencive overview of results per driver.
69 drivers were effectively driving in one or more championship races. Eddie Rickenbacker the only one to drive all events.
Most of this can also be found on
http://www.motorspor...year.asp?Y=1916
or
http://www.champcarstats.com/

If someone is interested in this document, just write and I will send it.

Gerrit Stevens (gerstenat@hetnet.nl)

#66 gerrit stevens

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 08:11

Originally posted by Hans Etzrodt
The November 2 CHICAGO TIMES HERALD race was postponed to November 28, 1895 because insufficient entries were received. But spectators were expexted to assemble and an Exhibition Run was held instead on November 2 to please the spectators. The course went over a 92-mile stretch from Chicago to Waukegan and back. From the two cars at the start, Oscar Mueller (Benz) was the only car to finish the Exhibition Run after 8h44m actual running time and received the $500.00 prize. This event was not a race.

[a foot note: the Nov 2 event had originally been planned to take place in August 1895 but because only one car was ready, a Haynes-Apperson, the race was postponed to November 2.]


The November 28 event was the first American automobile race because the November 2 event was an Exhibition Run.


I have different distances
Chicago Times Exhibition Run (Chicago-Waukegan-Chicago) 2 November 1895
A Record of Motor Racing (Gerald Rose) : 94 miles
American Automobile Racing (Albert Bochroch) : 92 miles

Chicago Times Herald Contest (Chicago-Evanston-Chicago) 28 November 1895
Rose: 54 miles
Bochroch: 52,4 (appendix) or 54,36 miles (page 16)

New York Cosmopolitan Road Race (New York-Ardsley Country Club) 30 May 1896
Rose: ca. 60 miles
Bochroch: 15 miles (appendix) or 30 miles (p. 16).

The race was "won" by J. Frank Duryea in 7 hours and 13 minutes. He was the only finisher.
There were 30 entries. Rose gives 7 starters and Bochroch 6.
According to the time driven I would say the distance was about 60 miles, but still no exact figure
and who were the other competitors

Gerrit Stevens

#67 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 06:41

Chicago Times Exhibition Run (Chicago-Waukegan-Chicago) 2 November 1895
A Record of Motor Racing [1909] (Gerald Rose) : ........ 94 miles
American Automobile Racing [1974] (Albert Bochroch) : 92 miles
Auto Racing Winners List [1948] (Betts Brothers) : ..... 92 miles
Great Auto Races [1975] (Peter Helck) : ................... 92 miles

Chicago Times Herald Contest (Chicago-Evanston-Chicago) 28 November 1895
Rose: 54 miles
Bochroch: 52,4 (appendix) or 54,36 miles (page 16)
Betts: .... 52.4 miles
Helck: .... 52.4 miles

New York Cosmopolitan Road Race (New York-Ardsley Country Club) 30 May 1896
Rose: ca. 60 miles
Bochroch: 15 miles (appendix) or 30 miles (p. 16).
Betts: .... 15 miles

#68 john glenn printz

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 16:10

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-32) The five major AAA contests staged in 1918 were (1.) Sheepshead Bay 100, June 1; (2.) Chicago 100, June 22; (3.) Cinncinnati 100, July 4; (4.) Uniontown 112.5, July 18; and the (5.) Uniontown 112.5, September 2.

In early 1918 there was briefly tried a new and novel format for the first three of these five races. Here the competing pilots were all given "handicaps" to make everything more even and equal among all the starters! Louis Chevrolet was given no handicap at the 1 June 1918 Sheepshead Bay 100, so he must have been considered by the AAA, the top driver for 1917, i.e. a sort of belated and unofficial honour. Some newsmen had hailed Louis as the 1917 U.S. Speedway Champion for 1917, including even Barney Oldfield himself (Source: MANITOBA FREE PRESS, November 17, 1917, page 16). Barney had a newspaper automobile "question and answer" column running in some U.S. dailies during 1917, which was probably largely ghost written.

In these three "handicap" contests of 1918 the competitors were, at the races' start, seemingly (?) dispatched at intervals, according to their handicap rankings, rather than starting all the cars at once in a pack, as was usual for AAA speedway events. This was different from, starting everyone at once, and later substrating everyone's handicap from their total elasped time for the 100 miles, which might have been more logical, easier, and less confusing.

The handicaps assigned and given at the 1 June 1918 Sheepshead Bay 100 were as follows, with only Louis Chevrolet starting at scratch (Source: AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRIES, 30 May 1918, page 1068); i.e. driver, car, and handicap;

(1.) Louis Chevrolet, Frontenac, Scratched; (2.) Ralph De Palma, Packard, 1:01; (3.) Dario Resta, Resta Special, 2:02; (4.) Ralph Mulford, Frontenac, 2:05; (5.) Barney Oldfield, Golden Submarine, 2:10; (6.) Eddie Hearne, Duesenberg, 2:12; (7.) Tommy Milton, Duesenberg, 2:15; (8.) Ira Vail, Hudson, 2:21; (9.) Omar Toft, Miller Special, 2:35; (10.) Nicholas Dwick, Delage, 2:50; (11.) J. J. Meyer, Delage, 3:00; (12.) Denny Hickey, Hotchkiss, 3:10; (13.) I. P. Fetterman, Peerless, 4:00; (14.) Percy Ford, (not listed), 5:00; (15.) Rudolph Wehr, Wehr Special, 6:00; and (16.) William Vetere, Duesenberg, 6:00.

If indeed the cars were dispatched (my evidence is very slight but favorable to the hypothesis), I would guess that they were sent into competition in reverse order, i.e., Wehr and Vetere moved out first, followed by Ford one minute later, then Fetterman after the passing of another minute, etc. Finally Louis Chevrolet, six minutes after Wehr and Vetere had been dispatched, was released to chase and pursue all the others. But the whole matter here, about how these three 1918 handicap 100 milers were actually conducted and staged, is presently obscure.

These three 1918 handicap 100 mile races proved to be a nightmare to keep track of during their actual running and to finally score, which led to many disputes as to the actual order of the finish.

At the conclusion of the 1 June 1918 Sheepshead Bay 100, the finishing order (top four) was announced as (1.) Tommy Milton; (2.) Barney Oldfield; (3.) Ira Vail; and (4.) Ralph De Palma. Immediately after the race De Palma protested. Ralph insisted that he had twice lapped Oldfield and should have been given second place at the very least.

The next day, on June 2, the race order was revised to (1.) De Palma; (2.) Milton; (3.) Oldfield; (4.) Hearne; (5.) Hickey; (6.) Vail; (7.) Toft; and (8.) L. Chevrolet.

The handicaps given varied for the three races. For instance at the 22 June 1918 Chicago 100 the handicaps were (Source: CHICAGO TRIBUNE, June 19, 1918, page 10); (1.) Ralph DePalma, Packard, Scratched; (2.) Louis Chevrolet, Frontenac, 15 seconds; (3.) Ralph Mulford, Frontenac, 20 sec.; (4.) Dario Resta, Resta Special, 30; (5.) Barney Oldfield, Oldfield Special, 40; (6.) Arthur Duray, Frontenac, 45; (8.) Tommy Milton, Duesenberg, 50; (9.) Eddie Hearne, Duesenberg, 50; (10.) "Red" McCarty, Hoskins, 60; (11.) Omar Toft, Miller Special, 65; (12.) Dan W. Hickey, Hudson, 70; (13.) Ira Vail, Hudson, 75; (14.) "Red" Fetterman, Peerless, 80; (15.) De Lloyd Thompson, Delage, 85; (16.) not listed, Delage, 85; (17.) Percy Ford, Duesenberg, 90; (18.) Harry Rosengreen, Ostewig, 90; and (19.) Al Cotey, Ogren, 90.

And at the third 1918 100 mile handicap, i.e. Cincinnati, the listing was (Source: DETROIT NEWS, July 4, 1918, page 19); (1.) Louis Chevrolet, Frontenac, Scratch; (2.) Ralph DePalma, Packard, Scratch; (3.) Ralph Mulford, Frontenac, 15 seconds; (4.) Dario Resta, Resta, 25 sec.; (5.) Barney Oldfield, Golden Submarine, 30; (6.) Tom Milton, Duesenberg, 40; (7.) Arthur Duray, Frontenac, 50; (8.) Omar Toft, Miller, 65; (9.) Ira Vail, Hudson, 70; (10.) Denny Hickey, Hudson, 75; (11.) Red Fetterman, Peerless, 80; (12.) N. Zwick, Delage, 80; (13.) Jim Meyer, Delage, 80; (14.) Milt McBride, Duesenberg, 90; (15.) Fred McCarthy, Hoskins, 90; (16.) Andy Burt, Hudson, 90; (17.) D. Thompson, Duesenberg, 90; and (18.) A. E. Cotey, Orgrens, 90.

After the running of the 4 July 1918 Cincinnati 100 handicap won by De Palma in a Packard at 105.25 mph, the AAA abandoned this format for all its major races and never reverted back to it again.

The most important race meet held in the western U.S. in 1918, was at Tacoma on 4 July 1918. Three separate contests were staged, i.e. a 25 miler, a 50 miler, and a 75 mile race. Cliff Durant, in a 1915 type Stutz, won the 25 and 50 mile events and was 2nd to Eddie Hearne in the 75. For his overall effort here Durant was proclaimed the "Pacific Coast" champion by the Californian press and newsmen. It should pointed out however that only five competitors in all, including Durant, took part in this invitational meet. The five were (1.) Earl Cooper, Stutz; (2.) Cliff Durant, Stutz; (3.) Eddie Hearne, Duesenberg; (4.) Dave Lewis, Duesenberg; and (5.) Eddie Pullen, Mercer.

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 September 2010 - 13:26.


#69 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 16:51

Thanks to Mark Dill for this bit of information from the 24 May 1905, Vol. 15 No. 21, issue of "The Horseless Age," page 594:

National Racing Circuit Established
The racing board of the A.A.A. has decided that there shall be a national circuit to determine the American championhip at large, and probably amateur and open championships at all distances under the standard weight classifications. The track motor car championship of 1905 will be decided by a point score. In order to become eligible for this championship series an entrant must obligate himself to compete at all circuit meets as long as his point score places him in first or second position in the championship table. There will be added to the cost of a regular sanction $25, and the entire amount obtained in this manner will be expended in the form of a special trophy, to go to the owner of the car scoring the greatest number of points during the circuit. The free for all championship race will be open to cars of all recognized types and weights, with the first prize not less than $150, in cash or plate, at the option of the winner. The distance of the race will not be less than 5 nor more than 10 miles. The winning car will be credited in the point scoring with four points, the seconds with two points and the third with one point.

The circuit dates as at present arranged as follows:
June 10, Morris Park, Now York city; June 16, 17, Hartford, Conn., Hartford Autombile Club; June 21, Baltimore, Md., Automobile Club of Maryland; June 24, Philadelphia, Automobile Club of Philadelphia; June 28, 29, Pittsburg, Pittsburg Automobile Club; July 3, 4, American Automobile Association Meet, Morris Park, N.Y.; July 22, Empire City Track, Yonkers, N.Y.; August 1, 2, Grand Rapids, Mich.; August 4, 5, Detroit, Mich., Motor Club of Detroit; August 11, 12, Cleveland, Cleveland Automobile Club; August 18, 19, Buffalo, Buffalo Automobile Club; September 4, Boston, Mass., Automobile Club; September 9, Providence, R.I., Automobile Club; September 23, Morris Park, New York city; September 29, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Spetember 30, Empire City Track, Yonkers, N.Y.

#70 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 14:13

A close second or third re-reading of an article, "National Racing Circuit Established," on page 594 in the 24 May 1905 issue of The Horseless Age, caused several alarm bells to go off in my head. This is an article provided by Mark Dill on his Web site, The First Super Speedway, found at http://www.firstsupe....com/index.html

Initially, I could not put my finger on what bothered me. However, it soon became evident that it was this sentence that was bothering me:

"In order to become eligible for this for this championship an entrant must obligate himself to compete at all circuit meets as long as his point score places him in the first or second position in the championship table."

At first, I thought it was the stipulation to compete in all the events if in the first ot second position in the championship. Then it slowly dawned on me that the word that kept registering was "entrant." This is bacause later in the same paragraph there appears this very revealing sentence:

"The winning car will be credited in the point scoring with four points, the second with two points and the third with one point."

It seems quite possible -- and logical -- that the "track motor car championship" was exactly as stated -- for the car and its entrant, not the driver. Considering this championship from that perspective place an entirely new set of factors in place as well as helping to explain any lack of mention of Barney Oldfield as the first national champion. The first AAA national champion was an entrant, it would seem, and not a driver.

Given the general loathing that the AAA Racing Board and Oldfield had for each other, that Oldfield would not have trumpeted such an achievement has long baffled a several of us kicking over the rocks and peering under them trying to make some sense of this championship. Given that he was, perhaps, never the champion for that season it now makes sense. In turn, this now seems to validate any claims for 1916 as being the first season for a championship for drivers.

This is being presented as a theory at the moment since I have not yet had the time to go back and pore through the other articles I have available. It just occurred to me, in other words.

#71 john glenn printz

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Posted 06 July 2007 - 19:14

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-33) THE PROBLEM OF THE MINNEAPOLIS 50 MILE RACE WINNER ON JULY 14, 1917. If the 1918 season has the anomaly of the three "handicap" races then 1917 has a unique "odd duck" enigma of its own, i.e. who is the actual and official AAA winner of the 50 miler staged at the Minneapolis concrete two mile oval on 14 July 1917. In the McMaken/Printz AAA listing (both in 1981 and 1985) we reported Reeves Dutton (1887-1988) as the victor. In this instance we have been copied and followed by no one, as everyone surmizes that we have confused Earl Cooper's riding mechanic (Dutton) for the driver (Cooper)! But this is not the case at all. Dutton, possibly, may have taken over the driving duties on the No. 5 Stutz, because Cooper himself suddenly and unexpectedly took sick and could not drive.

Nine contemporary sources, out of the ten that we have been able to find, list Dutton as the winner of the 50 mile Minneapolis event. These nine sources are as follows; (1.) ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 15 July, page 6; (2.) CHICAGO DAILY NEWS, 15 July, p. 1; (3.) LA CROSSE TRIBUNE, July 15, p. 1; (4.) DETROIT FREE PRESS, 15 July, p. 15; (5.) FORT WAYNE JOURNAL-GAZETTE, 15 July, p. 1; (6.) LINCOLN STAR, 15 July, p. 1; (7.) MINNEAPOLIS JOURNAL, 15 July, p. 1.; these seven are all newspaper references. In addition two motor journals, i.e. (8.) AUTOMOBILE AND AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRIES, 19 July, p. 127; and (9.) MOTOR AGE, 19 July, pages 20-2; also assign the winning of the 50 miler to Reeves Dutton. The only contemporary source, of which we are aware, that does not list Dutton as the winner, is the ST. PAUL SUNDAY DISPATCH, 15 July, pages 1 & 4, which makes Earl Cooper (1886-1965) the winner in the 50 and as taking 3rd in the 100 miler.

(Mr. James O'Keefe in the 1980's, sent me the MINNEAPOLIS JOURNAL and the ST. PAUL SUNDAY DISPATCH reports, which are quite lengthly, and I wish to acknowledge his gift here.)

Again Ken and myself challenged the traditional wisdom in our two lists; which hitherto everywhere else had assigned Earl Cooper as the victor in the 50 miler. Compare with Russ Catin's HISTORY, in SPEED AGE, August 1955, pages 40, 46, & 48. Back in 1980, with much discussion and soul searching, we decided to assign the win here to Dutton, on the basis of the contemporary newspaper-journal reports. Reeves Dutton, who was still alive in 1982, maintained that he was indeed the victor in the 14 July 1917 Minneapolis 50, when two investigators (i.e. Bob Russo & Deke Houlgate) questioned him about it that year. What Mr. Dutton's testimony is worth is hard to say. Almost anyone would like, I think, to be accredited with a victory in a major motorcar race.

Unfortunately the contemporary evidence on the 50 and 100 mile races at Minneapolis on July 14 is not uniform. The ST. PAUL DISPATCH has Earl Cooper in both events, while the two journal articles mentioned above, state that Dutton drove the Stutz in both contests. Everywhere else here, Cooper is given credit for placing 3rd in the 100 and Dutton as the winner of the 50. In two additional sources, (i.e. DETROIT NEWS, July 15, Sports, p. 1 and the LOS ANGELES TIMES, July 15, Part VI, p. 1), Cooper is placed 3rd in the 100 miler but no mention is made of the 50, at all. So take your pick.

The reportage of the Minneapolis 50 and 100 mile events is indicative of the general decline in coverage of major U.S. races in the daily newspapers and automobile journals. After 1916 the U.S. public's interest in automobile racing, except for the Indianapolis 500, greatly lessoned. Reports about racing were then relegated to being very, very minor entries in the U.S. sport pages; and it has persisted to the present day. Large scale "open wheel" automobile racing in the U.S. would not become one of major sports like baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, and now presently, NASCAR.

In the absence of any official or surviving 1917 AAA "on the scene" reports, or any 1917 AAA Contest Board Bulletins, a decision on who the winner of the Minneapolis 50 actually is; is admittedly somewhat of a guess. All the official AAA "on the site" race records before the 1931 season have seemingly disappeared. The best guess here, by my partner Ken McMaken, is that the Contest Board threw them out in the late 1930's. Russ Catlin certainly made claims that he had rescued in the late 1940's the bulk of the AAA Contest Board race records and documents 1902 to 1931 then marked for destruction, but after over half a century of researching the history of the AAA Contest Board, I have yet to meet anyone who ever saw Catlin's 1902-1930 AAA archive. Indeed, again, the whole situation is a mystery. Although the actual winner of the 1911 Indianapolis 500 is unknown, we do know who the AAA declared the actual winner (i.e. Harroun/Patschke), but in the case of the 14 July 1917 Minneapolis 50, we do not even know that.

Edited by john glenn printz, 06 October 2011 - 15:00.


#72 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 14:53

I found the following in an article by J.L. Beardsley, "The Peerless Peugeots," which appeared in the the April 1952 issue of Speed Age:

"Earl Cooper rode to the National Championship in the Stutz version of the multiple valve, high efficiency motor; and Motor Age awarded the 1915 Champion Car unofficial title to Stutz on its performance in open competition, exclusive of match races." Page 72.

"The sensation of the Midwest in 1914 he [Bob Burman] broke dozens of track and six world records before capacity crowds at St. Louis, Peoria and Springfield, in addition to winning the 100-mile national championship race at Kalamazoo, Mich., in world record time." Page 73.


Then, in the June 1952 issue of Speed Age, there is an article, "Barney Was A Bell Hop," by Russ Catlin with this information:

"Still, it is the championship events that count and they never run over the spurt [sic] distance. Oldfield's championship standing for each of his recognized years follows:

Year  Position	  Points

1902  Fifth		 20

1903  First		 276

1904  Sixth		 308.6

1905  Seventh	   244.6

1906  Unplaced

1907  Unplaced

1908  Unplaced

1909  Unplaced

1910  Unplaced

1911  Unplaced

1912  Forty-third   25

1913  Eighth		520

1914  Fourth		990

1915  Seventh	   1375

1916  Twenty-eighth 80

1917  Thirty-sixth  5

1918  Seventeenth   15

"But while the point values and methods of awarding them changed through the years, one measurement did not. That was, and is the competition records." Page 47.

#73 john glenn printz

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 15:39

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-34) WORLD WAR I, RALPH DEPALMA, AND PACKARD. Ralph DePalma (1882-1956) is usually considered to be America's greatest racing driver before 1925. Ralph began his automobile racing career at Briarcliff, New York, on 19 April 1908, driving an Allen-Kingston car. Before that DePalma had raced bicycles and motorcycles. Later DePalma was nominated to drive on the Fiat team in the inaugural American Grand Prize (26 Oct. 1908) where he recorded the fastest lap in the event. During 1909 and 1910 DePalma continued to pilot Fiats. For 1911 Ralph was mostly with the Simplex team and took 6th place in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 using a car of that make. In November 1911 DePalma began driving a 1911 racing type Mercedes owned by Edward J. Schroeder, a New Jersey lamp manufacturer. DePalma had some big and important wins in this Mercedes, dubbed the "Grey Ghost", including two Vanderbilt Cups (1912 & 1914) and the two Elgin road races for 1912. It was in this Grey Ghost car also that DePalma led 196 laps in the 1912 Indianapolis event, only to have the Mercedes fail with a broken piston two laps from the end. Thus Ralph placed 11th among the 24 original starters. For the 1913 season Ralph joined the Mercer team but then quit Mercer on January 24, 1914 in a dispute about their hiring of Barney Oldfield without his consultation. For early 1914 DePalma acquired a 1913 six cylinder factory Mercedes racer which he entered at Indianapolis but this car proved unraceable and had to be withdrawn because of excessive vibration. This was the last Mercedes racing car built using chain drive and had been designed in 1913 for use in the Sarth race in France (5 Aug. 1913), won by Paul Bablot (1873-1932) in a Delage. Ralph had also taken part in the French Grand Prix races of 1912 (Fiat) and 1914 (Vauxhall).

For all these services to the Mercedes' marque, DePalma was awarded one of the victorious 1914 Grand Prix type Mercedes vehicles which had taken a one-two-three car sweep in the French Grand Prix (4 July 1914) at Lyon, for his use in the more important U.S. races. Ralph was instantly successful, using this new car owned by Elwood C. Patterson a Chicago publisher, for he swept both the Elgin races staged on 21 Aug. 1914 and 22 Aug. 1914. Later with this Mercedes Ralph captured the 1915 Indianapolis 500 on May 31, setting a new record of 89.84 mph for the entire 500 miles. As soon as DePalma's new 1914 Mercedes arrived in the U.S., the Packard Motor Car Company located in Detroit, wanted to take a close look at its powerplant. It was known that the advanced, lightweigh, and high performace Mercedes aero-engines and the motors contained in their 1914 Grand Prix cars, were very closely tied together in both their design and construction details. And so in December 1914, DePalma and his Mercedes, spent a whole month in Detroit at the Packard plant. Then the DePalma-Packard connection went even further, and by July 1915 Ralph was hired and was working in the Packard engineering department as an engineer! The 1914 DePalma/Patterson Mercedes had been rebuilt and refurbished at the Packard plant for the Indianapolis race of 1915 and in February 1916 Packard built two new duplicate motors for the car, for Ralph's use.

At the Packard plant, DePalma worked alongside engineer Jesse G. Vincent (1880-1962). Vincent had been with the Burroughs Adding Machine Company from 1903-1910, then joined the Hudson Motor Car Company (1910-1912), and finally joined the Packard Motor Car Company as its chief engineer in 1912. All these companies were then located in Detroit. In 1914 Jesse was assigned the task by the Packard management to investigate and study aircraft engines. In this new endeavour Vincent was given the total resources of the Packard firm. In mid-1914, after DePalma took delivery on his new 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes, Vincent probably contacted Ralph and told him that the Packard factory was at his total disposal. It was too good a deal for DePalma to pass up.

Although at the very beginning of World War I (July/August 1914) aircraft were not important, but both their use and value continually increased as the Great War (1914-18) dragged on. The U.S. War Department itself may have had an influence on Packard's interest in DePalma's German 1914 Grand Prix machine. In any case the Packard Motor Car Company offered DePalma free help, both to rebuild and refurbish his new Mercedes car in their Detroit factory; while, of course, Vincent and the Packard engineers minutely inspected the entire inner workings of the advanced 4 cylinder Mercedes racing engine.

When World War I first broke out President Wilson (1856-1924) advised all Americans to remain strictly neutral. However as time passed the situation became changed and the U.S. became generally more and more anti-German. The burning of Louvain on 31 Aug. 1914, the sinking of the passenger liner LUSITANIA on 7 May 1915 with the loss of 128 U.S. citizens, the influence of British war propaganda, American business interests, U.S. loans to England and France, German sabotage in the U.S., the Arthur Zimmermann telegram of 16 Jan. 1917, and the resumption of German submarine warfare in February 1917, greatly altered the situation. All this activity gradually favoured a U.S. alliance with Great Britain, France, and Russia against the German empire and the Kaiser, William II (1859-1941). Already by late 1915 DePalma began hearing whispers and complaints about his use of a German constructed racer. The problem became worst and DePalma, and the car's actual owner E. C. Patterson, decided to withdraw the car from competition in late 1916. The last actual appearance of it, with Ralph at the wheel, occurred at Uniontown on 2 Dec. 1916. That left DePalma without anything to drive temporarily.

Addendum of October 30, 2010: In a new 2010 book THE BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN PROSPERITY by Clyde Prestowitz dealing with the U.S. ecomonic decline, on page 68, I came across the following relevant paragraph to our topic (!), quote, "Aircraft and aviation was another area of shifting leadership. Although the airplane had been invented in the United States, its further development had taken place much more rapidly in Europe under the direction of government-sponsored institutes. The outbreak of the war demonstrated dramatically and concretely that European and particularly German aviation was far in advance of America's. In response, the 1915 U.S. Navy appropriations bill established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which became a key driver of U.S. aeropace technology, eventually morphing into today's NASA. The army also placed orders for aircraft that resulted in U.S. production increasing from a few hundred planes annually before the war to 14,000 in 1918."

Edited by john glenn printz, 20 January 2011 - 13:52.


#74 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 July 2007 - 16:57

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-35) In early 1916 DePalma seems to have had his irons in different fires. It was announced that a DePalma Manufacturing Company was then formed in Detroit, with a capitalization of $100,000. (Sources: DETROIT FREE PRESS, 25 Feb. 1916, page 8; LOS ANGELES TIMES, 2 Mar., part III, p. 6; and DETROIT NEWS, 12 Mar. 1916, sports, p. 10). The new firm was to build aviation motors of DePalma's own design, and high performace airplanes, automobiles, and motorboats. Ralph had returned his 1915 Stutz to the Stutz firm, which he had also used during the 1915 season on the dirt oval tracks and as a backup car to his 1914 Mercedes. Ralph had won the 28 Aug. 1915 Kalamazoo 100 with this Stutz.The immediate aims of the DePalma Manfacturing Company however were to produce a duplicate Mercedes copy as a new backup car and to support DePalma's upcoming 1916 racing campaign. During 1916 Ralph won just two major events, i.e. the 24 June Des Moines 150 and the 4 July Minneapolis 150, both with the original 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes.

The new firm was financed by the three Book brothers of Detroit, sons of James Burgess Book (1843-1916), a wealthy physician and doctor who had gotten rich with his investments and real estate deals. His three sons, James Burgess Book, Jr. (b. 1890); Francis "Frank" Palms Book (b. 1893); and Herbert Vivian Book (b. 1895), all became rich financiers. The DePalma Manufacturing Company officials were Frank Book as President, H.V. Book as Secretary and Treasurer, and DePalma himself as Vice-President and General Manager. These three Book brothers are the very same brothers who developed Washington Boulevard in downtown Detroit. They erected the Book Building there in 1917, the Book-Cadillac hotel in 1924, and the Book Tower in 1926. At 37 stories the Book Tower was the tallest structure in Detroit when first completed. The Book-Cadillac was long Detroit's most expensive, luxurious, plush, and swankiest hotel.

Clarles Lytle of Sharon, PA (d. 2 Feb. 1978), the famous collector of racing photographs, once told me, "DePalma finally got a bee in his bonnet that he was more an engineer, than a race car pilot proper, and this did Ralph's driving and racing career no good at all." The DePalma Manufacturing venture was the first manifestation of DePalma' new mania, which would end with the Packard racing team's effort at Indy in 1923. It is not clear what happened with regard to the DePalma Manufacturing Company or when Ralph severed his relationship with the Books, but at some point a replica or "second' 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes was constructed. Eddie Rickenbacker was to have driven this copy Mercedes at Cincinnati on 30 May 1917 but at the last minute Eddie decided instead to enlist in the U.S. Army. The Greek George Buzane (1887-1919) took over the car and piloted it at Cincinnati (30 May 1917) and at Chicago (16 June 1917).This Mercedes copy was also entered by Frank P. Book at Indianapolis in 1919 and was then driven by Charles H. Kirkpatrick (1894-1975). By 1917 the DePalma Manufacturing Company was exclusively engaged in work for the war, but DePalma himself soon had another important opportunity in early 1917 with the Packard Motor Car Company.

Packard had been testing some of their new aviation engines by running them in a automobile racing chassis, which was a lot safer than testing them in an actual airplane. In early 1917 Packard decided to return to "big-time" racing by supplying DePalma with a 299 cubic inch V12 racing car. This would be Packard's first real effort in racing since their "Grey Wolf" machine took a 4th at the Vanderbilt Cup on 8 Oct. 1904. There could be nothing more patriotic than DePalma running a Packard on the AAA circuit. And so DePalma first appeared with the new V12 Packard racer on 10 May 1917 at Uniontown for the 112.5 mile contest. This V12 Packard would be Ralph's mainstay during the 1917, 1918, and 1919 AAA seasons. With it DePalma won two 100 milers in 1918, i.e., Sheepshead Bay on June 1 and Cincinnati on July 4. At Indianapolis in 1919, DePalma led laps 1-65 and 75-102 in it but minor mechanical aliments intervened, and Ralph could place no higher than 6th. DePalma 's last appearance with this Packard V12 was at Cincinnati on 12 Oct. 1919. Packard also prepared a Land Speed Record car for Ralph. It was powered by a 905 cubic inch V12 and on 12 Feb. 1919 at Daytona Beach, the combination set a new world Land Speed Record of 149.875 mph. For the 1920 and 1921 AAA seasons Ralph would drive the Ballot cars from France.

#75 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 19:32

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-36) By late 1914 the Packard Motor Car Company had decided to fully and seriously investigate the production of engines for aircraft. And also in late 1915 or early 1916 Packard had introduced its once famous V12 or Twin-Six model, the world's first 12 cylinder production passenger car. The Twin-Six was of very advanced design for its time and even the last Czar of Russia, Nicolaus II (1868-1918), owned one. Jesse G. Vincent is credited with its design. After Packard built some 4 cylinder engines patterned directly from DePalma's 1914 Mercedes racing car motor, Vincent had started adopting the Mercedes integral cylinder construction and the camshaft/valve configuration into a high performance V12 aircraft motor.

The U.S. declared war on Germany in April 1917. In June of the same year Congress appropriated $640,000,000 to built an air fleet. In a May 1918 newspaper source it is stated that before the $640,000,000 appropriation, the engineers of the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit began experimental work in an attempt to tranform their "twin-six" automobile engine into an aviation motor. They planned to incorporate in it many of the features of the Mercedes, the type more generally used by the German aviation engine manufacturers. Packard eventually built a V12 aviation motor which stood tests entirely satisfactory to them.

On March 12, 1918 Emlen S. Hare, a president at Packard Motor, said (quote), "I am now at liberty to mention one instance-and there are many-showing the unselfishness of business where the best interests of our Government are at stake. The Liberty aviation motor is the outcome of three years of Packard work and some half million Packard money, and yet we withdrew our name from this motor and, with all designs, gave it over to our Government because they felt this would be best for the furtherance of their war plans. You men who understand the value of advertising know just how great this sacrifice was. You can readily imagine what it would have meant to us if the most successful aviation motor was blazoned all over this country and Europe as a Packard 'Twin-Six'."

Then, of course, there is the famous story of how Elbert J. Hall and Jesse Vincent designed the well known "Liberty" V12 aircraft engine in just two weeks while holed up at the Willard Hotel located in Washington, D.C., in late May 1917. The Liberty had a piston displacement of 1,649 cubic inches and was rated at 425 horsepower. Although the Liberty was highly touted as a supreme example of American genius, ingenuity, and U.S. engineering skill, a great deal of its design was a direct copy of DePalma's 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes motor. Naturally nothing was ever mentioned, in this context, of either Ralph DePalma or his 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes car, but there is an intimate connection between the 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes, Ralph DePalma, the Packard Motor Car Company, Jesse Vincent, and the Liberty V12 aircraft engine.

In either April or early May 1918 Senator Gilbert Monell Hitchcock (1859-1934) of Nebraska said that the Aircraft Board was responsible for a story that the Liberty motor was a magic creation by a few geniuses who shut themselves up in a Washington hotel and in five or six days of isolation invented and perfected the motor. Really they did no such thing, said Hitchcock, and he declared that the members of the Aircraft Board (quote), "Played a gigantic confidence game upon the whole country in the creation of the Liberty motor." Hitchcock added (quote), "The Liberty motor is the Packard motor, which it took the Packard Motor Car Company three years to develop, with such additions as were put into it by Mr. Hall of California."

Although 20,458 Liberty aircraft engines were eventually made, the design was hardly operational when World War I ended on 11 Nov. 1918. Most of them became nothing more than war surplus items after 1918. The firms enlisted for its manufacture during the war were Ford, General Motors (Cadillac division), Lincoln, and Packard. The U.S. War Department signed all the government contracts with these four manufactuers during September to December 1917. Despite all the initial and attendant hype the Liberty V12 suffered constant design changes and various teething problems right up to mid-July 1918; and the Great War ended before the Liberty motor had made any contribution at all.

The Lincoln Motor Company, under Henry M. Leland (1843-1932) and his son Wilfred (1869-1958), was first incorporated on 29 Aug. 1917 solely to manufacture the Liberty engine. When the war ended on 11 Nov. 1918, there was no further need for aircraft engines of any sort and the Lincoln plant was then converted and switched over to manufacture the new Lincoln motorcar, which first appeared in late 1920. The Lincoln Motor Company was soon in financial difficulties and Henry Ford purchased the company on 4 Feb. 1922, thereby adding a line of luxury cars to his previous sole mass production of Model T Fords.

The Liberty engine did play a part in the quest for the Land Speed Record during 1928 and 1929. Three of them powered a four ton monster of a vehicle called the Triplex owned by sportsman J. M. White of Philadelphia, PA. On 22 April 1928, Ray Keech (1900-1929) set a new Land Speed Record of 207.552 mph in White's Triplex at Daytona Beach. Keech held the record until Henry Segrave (1896-1930) upped the mark to 231.446 mph, again at Daytona, on 11 March 1929 with his Napier powered "Golden Arrow".

In early 1929 White brought the Triplex back to Daytona to maintain and sustain the Land Speed Record for the U.S. This time White employed the 42 year old amature driver, Lee Bible, as his pilot. Bible had worked on the Triplex as a mechanic during 1927 and 1928 when Keech had been the driver. On 14 March 1929 Bible lost control of the car on a run and the huge Triplex overturned and rolled. The ugly 36 cylinder monstrosity was completely destroyed and Bible himself was killed along with a newsreel cameraman, Charles Traub.

Edited by john glenn printz, 21 January 2011 - 15:14.


#76 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 17:52

Addendum: A 1905 AAA Track Championship
Ken McMaken and Allan Brown have found contemporary 1905 data indicating that the AAA had National Track Championship in 1905 based on a point system. Barney Oldfield was the winner. All the races however were of the short sprint variety. The top four placements were:
1. Oldfield, Barney Peerless 26 3. Webb, Jay White 10
2. Chevrolet, Louis Fiat 13 4. Burman, Bob Peerless 6

This 1905 AAA Title seems to be an isolated instance and nothing for other years has been found. Russ Catlin seems to not have known of it as he had nominated Victory Hémery as the 1905 National Champion.


John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken, “The U.S. National Championship Driving Title,” p. 267, in Jan Shaffer, editor, CART News Media Guide 1985, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Championship Auto Racing Teams, 1985.

I have not been able to discover the reference which lists the final points total listed. Anyone have a clue where this could be found? Thanks.

#77 fines

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 16:42

Speaking of the De Palma Manufacturing Co., Gary Doyle in his excellent De Palma bio has a picture of de Palma with a DO engine of monobloc (?) construction, identified as the end product of this particular enterprise. Anyone with more info on this? Was this the engine that was installed in the Detroit Special? Obviously, something entirely different from the Mercedes engine which it was said to have copied!!!

#78 john glenn printz

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Posted 17 September 2007 - 19:07

U.S. 1894-1920 (cont.-37) During the war years of 1917 and 1918 the big board speedways of Chicago, Sheepshead Bay, and Uniontown had race meets which staged a series of short distance sprints, and sometimes with very few cars at hand. DePalma, when present with his V12 Packard, usually prevailed. These short mileage events were of no great significance but helped to fill up the 1917 and 1918 AAA schedule.

DARIO RESTA'S DECLINE 1917-1919. Dario Resta's fortunes were in rapid decline. After mostly sitting out the 1917 AAA season Dario returned in 1918. His former boss, the Peugeot Automobile Racing Company, filed suit against him in the supreme court of the state of New York for money owed them by Resta and stated that he had failed to live up to his contract. (Source: SYRACUSE HERALD, 30 Sept. 1917, page 8). For the 1918 campaign Resta built his own car, i.e. the Resta Special, using a Peugeot chassis now installed with a motor of Resta's own construction and design. Dario's new vehicle was put together during late 1917 and early 1918. This new hybrid first appeared at Sheepshead Bay on 1 June 1918 in the Harkness 100 mile handicap. The Resta Special was fast but had no reliability. Resta, it is stated, had invested $15,000 in the project and even claimed his new engine might have war time possibilities. Dario, like Fred and Augie Duesenberg, Harry A. Miller, and the Packard Motor Car Company, was eyeing and trying to land lucrative money making war contracts for manufacturing high performance, low weight aviation engines.

On the eve of the of the Chicago Derby 100 mile handicap contest (22 June, 1918) Resta had this to say, "The Liberty motor is unquestionably the motor for universal use in aeroplanes. This motor I have here is of the aviation type and is the one I will use in the Derby here June 22. The motors used in the areoplanes constructed by the allies were all developed on the speedways. The Peugeot, Sunbeam, F.I.A.T., and Hispana-Suiza engines were adopted for aerial use because of the manner in which they stood up under automobile racing conditions."

"Our own Liberty motor found its origin on the speedways. And to Ralph De Palma, my bitterest racing rival, should go the credit for its development. This game driver, who last year won the championship of America showed what he could do with a motor of the aviation type when he drove one to a world's record of 633 miles in six hours." (Source of quote: MANITOBA FREE PRESS, 22 June 1918, page 14).

And Eddie Rickenbacker echoed some of this, after three had died during the running of the 1919 Indianapolis 500, "And looking back for a moment to the recent days of the war, what do you suppose would have been the position of allied aircraft manufactures but for the experience of racing? Every engine that went into an allied airplane from the English Sunbeam through the Hispano-Suiza and Fiat to the American Liberty, incorporated principles developed in the field of automobile racing, and which, without racing, could not have been developed in time to be of service. True, we are not supposed to have wars any more, but as long as the possibility is present, it will not do to ignore automobile racing as a factor in determining the safety of the nation."

"Summing up the case of automobile racing, I would say that it is indispensable to modern progress, at least as far as events like Indianapolis races and the French Grand Prix contests are concerned, where new ideas and theories of the most prominent builders of both the new and old continents are tested in actual competition." (Source: LA CROSSE TRIBUNE AND LEADER PRESS, 22 June 1919, page 18).

The following notice appeared in the 16 Sept 1918 WATERLOO EVENING TIMES page 3, "Richard Kennerdell, chairman of the contest board of the American Automobile association, now believes that automobile racing has played a very important part in this war. When America entered the great world's war, the A.A.A. withdrew from racing control, but reconsidered the action. The chairman now feels that the development of the American aviation motors will come quicker thru experience made on speedways and circular tracks than in any other way. The chairman feels that the sport is closely allied with airplane motor developments and that the success of the Liberty motor is due to the racing and in record trials by Ralph De Palma and Earl Cooper..."

The views here of Resta, DePalma, and Kennerdell are all probably gross exaggerations but there was undoubtedly some kind of symbiosis and interaction between racing car motors and aviation engines during the period 1912 to 1918.

During 1918 Resta entered four major events; (1) Sheepshead Bay 100 (June 1), (2) Chicago 100 (June 22), (3) Cincinnati 100 (July 4), and (4) Uniontown 112.5 (Sept. 2); and two sprint meets held at (1) Chicago (July 28) and (2) Sheepshead Bay (Aug. 17). In the four big races Resta did not finish in the first three contests and at Uniontown he did not start. However at Chicago on 22 June, Resta won a 10 mile dash preceeding the main 100 mile event. Resta also won a one lap 2 mile sprint and was 2nd in a 20 miler both at Chicago on July 28, while at Sheepshead Bay (Aug. 17) Dario in the five contests had four 2nds and one 3rd. DePalma, in the V12 Packard, won all five. But be it noted, none of these five Sheepshead Bay August 17 sprint races had more than four starters.

In 1919 the Resta Special appeared at just two race meets, i.e. the Sheepshead Bay sprints on June 14 and at the 40, 60, and 80 milers run at Tacoma on July 4. At Sheepshead Bay he placed 3rd in a preliminary 10 miler and at Tacoma he was dead last in all three races which had only five contestants each. These were Resta's only U.S. appearances for 1919 and the end of the Resta Special. The Resta Special had not been entered at Indianapolis in 1919 because Dario was slated to pilot one of Louis Coatalen's two Sunbeams, which were both withdrawn on May 24 because of illegal oversized motors. After the 4 July 1919 Tacoma events Resta would not start another race in the U.S. until Cliff Durant hired him to run a Miller at Beverly Hills on 25 Feburary 1923, where he placed 8th. Dario's last and only other American start was at Indianapolis in 1923 on the Ralph DePalma/Jesse Vincent three car Packard team. Resta at Indy was out after 88 laps with a blown head gasket, to finish 14th overall. The old 1915-1916 Resta magic was now long gone and the 1923 Indianapolis 500 was also the end of Packard in automobile racing.

Edited by john glenn printz, 27 September 2010 - 15:20.


#79 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 17:40

ON 1905, 1916, AND 1920 AGAIN. THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY (DALI) AND THE REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST (PROUST). I am not aware of any mention, in any printed source 1906-1984, of the 1905 AAA Championship won by Oldfield. The McMaken/Printz notice of it in the 1985 CART Media Guide being apparently the first since 1905! Thus the 1905 Championship AAA season was obviously stillborn. It will be interesting to see if anyone can ferret out any notice of it between the years 1905 and 1985.

It was from solely Ken M. McMaken that I became aware of it. I double checked the matter in 1984-1985 and soon found many references to it in the 1905 newspapers and motor journals. As always, Ken was quite correct.

In two editions (1961 and 2002) of BARNEY OLDFIELD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AMERICA'S LEGENDARY SPEED KING, Mr. William F. Nolan, is unaware of it. The 2nd edition is a vastly improved book but Mr. Nolan is still not cognizant either that the 1909-1915 and 1917-1919 AAA Titles are completely bogus, having been fooled by Russ Catlin's SPEED AGE 1909-1917 AAA History, in this regard.

Gary D. Doyle, in his admirable RALPH DE PALMA: GENTLEMENT CHAMPION (2005), is the first historian ever to write a narrative history of U.S. automobile racing with the correct realization that 1916 was the inaugural season for the AAA National Championship Racing Title. I notice too that in Donald Davidson's and Rick Shaffer's excellent AUTOCOURSE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 (2006) on page 41 they assert (quote), "there being no official points champion until 1916" and on page 53 they hint and/or state that Milton was not the 1920 AAA National Driving Champion. According to Davidson/Shaffer, whenever anyone claimed that Milton was the 1920 AAA Driving Champion in his actual presence, Milton would reply, "That is very kind of you, but I have a metal on which is engraved 'second.''' And so the process of demythologizing both destroys the beloved and closely held legends, and restores a more real past.

Mr. Nolan has also written, by the way, excellent studies about writer Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) who is one of my favorite authors.

Edited by john glenn printz, 19 January 2011 - 14:41.


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#80 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 19:08

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-38) DELLOYD THOMPSON (d. 1949). One pilot that ran in three events only during 1918 was DeLloyd "Dutch" Thompson or David Lloyd Thompson (1888-1949). He appeared at Chicago (June 22) with a Delage but did not start. After that Thompson ran at the Cincinnati 100 (July 4) and at the two Uniontown 112.5 milers staged on June 18 and Sept. 2. DeLloyd, using a Duesenberg, placed 7th in all three races.

At the time Thompson was a famous stunt aviator and is said in 1918 to have held the world's record of 54 consecutive loops in a flying machine. (Sources: FORT WAYNE JOURNAL-GAZETTE, 22 June 1918, page 15; and RACINE JOURNAL TRIBUNE, 21 June 1918, page 9). Thompson began flying in 1910, and competed in the Gordon Bennett aeroplane races held at Chicago, IL on 9 Sept. 1912, using a Newport monoplane. The overall winner was the Frenchman, Jules Vedrines (1881-1919), using a Deperdussin monoplane. Gordon Bennett, Jr. sponsored aviation, ballon, and yatching contests, as well as automobile races. The Gordon Bennett ballon contests have continued on, even to the present day!

Thompson started doing aerial stunt exhibitions in 1913 and in 1914 he set a new altitute record of 15,000 feet, thereby breaking Lincoln Beachey's (1887-1915) previous record of 11,260 feet made at Chicago IL in 1913. In July 1915 Thompson gave a stunt exhibition at the inaugural ceremonies of the Des Moines 1 mile board track. Probably just idle curiosity led Thompson into automobile racing briefly during 1918.

Colonel Roscoe Turner (1895-1970), a famous American flyer during the 1930's, had this to say in 1949 (quote), "If it hadn't been for Dutch Thompson, I'd never have flown an airplane. The Speed King of the Air was the first flier I ever knew. I had seen aviators fly numerous times, but Dutch was the first flier I ever met and got to know well. Before I met Dutch I had decided to be a race-car driver, but he convinced me that I should learn to fly." (Source: CHARLEROI MAIL, 2 July 1949, page 6),

BARNEY OLDFIELD (1878-1946). On 4 Sept. 1918 Barney Oldfield was suspended by the AAA for the last and final time. On this occasion the suspension would not have any real consequences as Barney was retiring at the end of year. Oldfield had been the most famous and active U.S. automobile "Speed King" from 1903 to 1918, but his vast fame greatly outdid his actual accomplishments and achievements. During the period 1902 to 1907 Barney did not compete in any major races, i.e., Oldfield had no Gordon Bennett, Vanderbilt Cup, or French Grand Prix starts. Barney's 1902-1907 exploits were all wholely minor league stuff (mostly very short sprints) and were highly insignificant even in the U.S. itself. And much of Oldfield's doings were fakeroo, staged, and pre-arranged, but it was a living and made him famous. It was an activity then known as barnstorming or hippodroming and had elements of the fake circus sideshow. In fact, Barney's first major participation, in an important contest, occurred at Briarcliff, NY on 24 April 1908.

Beginning with 1909 Oldfield entered into select "big-time" AAA contests. And during 1916-1918 Barney was part of the AAA's premier racing circuit. In July 1915 Oldfield was given, by Dave Joyce, a Chicago sportman, a Type S 1914 Grand Prix Delage and Barney ran this car from August 1915 to May 1917. Later, in May 1917, the original Delage engine was replaced by a 289 cu. in. Miller 4. In this guise Cliff Durant finished 3rd with it at Chicago in the 250 miler staged on 16 June 1917. (Source for the Delage then being Miller powered, OAKLAND TRIBUNE 1 July 1917, page 36.) And later on 3 Sept. 1917, Frank Elliott won the 112.5 mile contest at Uniontown in this same Miller/Delage hybrid. This was the first Miller powered vehicle to win a major U.S. race.

In mid-1917 Oldfield purchased the first complete racing car, i.e. the Golden Submarine, constructed by Harry A. Miller. It was uniquely equipped with an all enclosed body. The car made its first appearance at Chicago on 16 June 1917, but didn't fare well in the more important 1917 AAA contests. On 15 Aug. 1917 Oldfield crashed the "Sub" at Springfield, IL The car overturned and burst into flame. Barney escaped, but once having been partly trapped inside, Barney no longer looked upon the fully enclosed bodywork with the same past enthusiasm. For the 1918 season this Miller had its odd egg shaped enclosed body rudely cut off and now was just another race car.

With the ex-Sub now defrocked and/or stripped of most of its former outer vestments, it and Oldfield did rather well in 1918. In the three 1918 "handicap" 100 milers, they placed 3rd at Sheepshead Bay (June 1), 5th at Chicago (June 22), and 4th at Cincinnati (July 4). In addition, they finished 6th at the 112.5 mile Uniontown contest held on July 18. After 1918 Barney quit driving but he continued to enter his 1917 ex-Sub Miller in AAA races during both 1919 and 1920, it now being piloted at first by Roscoe Sarles and later Waldo Stein.

Then, of course, there is Barney's Land Speed Record of 16 March 1910, set in a 200 horsepower Blitzen Benz with a clocking of 131.724 mph at Daytona (Ormond) Beach. Charles Lytle of Sharon, PA told me once that he had wondered all his life if just two or perhaps three Blitzen Benz's had been built, "I know for certain that two were made, but I think there may have been a third car, later cannibalized for parts." Soon Barney was parading a telegram of congratulations for his new world speed record in the German build Benz, from the German Kaiser himself no less (!), William II (1859-1941), but some regard this communiique as a fake. Who really knows? It was in 1910 also, on Oct. 25, that Oldfield defeated the great black world's heavyweight boxing Champion, Jack Johnson (1878-1946), in a speed matchup. Whoever won two, of three five mile heats on the Sheepshead Bay horse track, would take all. Barney, with his great dirt track experience and savvy, had no trouble in beating Johnson in the first two heats thus ending the contest. For planning this unauthorized foray, Oldfield and his manager William H. "Bill" Pickens, had already been suspended by the AAA Contest Board and its Chairman, Samuel M. Butler, on 13 Oct. 1910; but it all added up to great press! (Source: GETTYSBURG TIMES, 13 Oct, 1910, page 2.)

Edited by john glenn printz, 23 September 2010 - 16:49.


#81 john glenn printz

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 13:19

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-39) Oldfield started in three U.S. Grand Prizes (1912, 1914, & 1915), in two Vanderbilt Cups (1914 & 1915); and in two Indianapolis Memorial Day classics (1914 & 1916). Barney's best placements were 2nd in the Vanderbilt Cup of 26 Feb. 1914 using a Mercer and 4th in the Grand Prize run on 5 Oct. 1912, using the giant type S74 Fiat. Oldfield placed 5th both times in his two Memorial Day Indy starts. In 1914 he was the first American, with some relief help from Gil Anderson, with also the first U.S. built car (Stutz), to finish. Barney was behind Rene Thomas (Delage) in 1st; Arthur Duray (Peugeot) in 2nd, Albert Guyot (Delage) in 3rd; and Jules Goux (Peugeot) in 4th. It was a complete French rout of the Americans.

Could Oldfield have won the 1914 Indianapois 500 if the French teams (Delage and Peugeot) and the foreign drivers had not come over? That is a tantalizing question but, of course, nobody really knows. On 17 March 1915 Barney using a Maxwell won the Venice 301.2 mile road race with 17 other competitors. It was Oldfield's, believe it or not, only major race win unless one adds his victory in the Tucson 103.1 road race, also in a Maxwell, held on 20 March 1915. These then are Barney's most notable achievements and there is nothing here to be ashamed of, but they hardly justify his past and vast reputation.

I just can't number Oldfield among the truely great or top chauffeurs of motorsport. What about David Bruce-Brown (1887-1912), for instance? Who remembers him? Bruce-Bruce, in his short career won two American Grand Prizes (1910 & 1911), took 3rd place in the first 1911 Indianapolis 500, and led many laps in the 1912 French Grand Prix while posting the fastest lap. In fact, Bruce-Brown was also the overall leader at the end of the first day's running. And how can Oldfield's various shenanigans over the years be compared with the likes of the two time winners of the French Grand Prix, i.e., Christian Lautenschlager for Mercedes in 1908 & 1914, Felice Nazzaro for Fiat in 1907 & 1922, and Georges Boillot for Peugeot in 1912 & 1913?

Oldfield always seemed to me to be an irritant gadfly who is always hovering inevitably in most group photographs of AAA race officials and/or prominent drivers. My partner, Ken M. McMaken, rates Barney a lot higher than I do, but admittedly Oldfield is a very hard man to judge and correctly size up. But Oldfield nevertheless will certainly always be a big item in early automobile racing Americana.

On 30 Sept. 1918 the AAA Contest Board suspended all further race sanctions until the end of World War I. This action was taken at the request of the U.S. War Fuel Administion, to save gasoline and because all qualified mechanics were needed for the war effort. AAA sanctions previously given before September 30th, which were all minor events still to be staged after the Sept. 30th date, would however continue to be honored. Such events were scheduled at Trenton, NJ; Danbury, CT; Los Angeles, CA; Tueson, AZ; and Phoenix, AZ. (Source: MOTOR AGE; 3 Oct. 1918, page 13).

World War I ended technically on 11 Nov. 1918, somewhat unexpectedly to most, although much more trouble and/or fighting still occurred in Germany (i.e., mostly civil war), Greece, Poland, Russia,Turkey and the Levant, after November 11 1918. The AAA Contest Board had now to quickly change gears again and ready itself for the very near and upcoming 1919 racing season.

#82 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 18:53

RE: Barney Oldfield

The question of how does Barney Oldfield's reputation seem to outweigh his racing record is one that often seems central to the discussion of this often baffling personality. There is always the possibility -- or its inevitability as some would put it -- of "Presentism" when everconsidering, evaluating, appraising or what-have-you with the likes of someone such as Oldfield. I don't think that is necessarily the case in this this instance. However, it is readily apparent that even six decades after his death that Oldfield can still stir things up.

While the pat answer is that Barney Oldfield and his management created "Barney Oldfield, The Larger Than Life Figure," that also obscures the reality that at some basic, even fundamental, level, Oldfield helped create much of the following for American automobile racing during its days of infancy. That it is Oldfield who plucks the "mystic chords of memory" of this period has been -- and apparently still is -- a source of frustration or difficulty for many. It is not difficult to see their point. As Mr. Printz points out, Oldfield's record scarcely seems to very stellar, particularly compared to some of his contemporaries.

However, it is difficult to ignore the popularity that Oldfield seems to have enjoyed during his era -- and after. For whatever reasons,they are many and varied, of course, Oldfield did capture the imagination of his generation. Whether or not that was -- or is -- warranted is a question difficult to answer at times.

If one simply goes to the scorecard, then Oldfield clearlywould seem to come up short -- which is what Mr. Printz suggests.

On the other hand, we seem to have a lack of knowlwdge on the part of many as to the racing scene of that era which muddies the water somewhat. It is easy to see why it can be both frustrating and baffling to see Oldfield still remembered while David Bruce-Brown, as just one example, is largely forgotten outside a very small circle, even within the motor racing history community.

I would suggest that should one view things using a lens containing a prism that separates drivers out into categories such as "truly great" or "great" or any other superlatives one cares to use, then Oldfield inevitably ranks low in the spectrum. That is understanding, particularly in light of the statistics cited. On the other hand, if one takes a wider view of things and places "Oldfield's various shenanigans" into a broader context, one can see that Oldfield did play a role, often as the best-known name within -- the public face of -- American automobile racing.

These are simply my thoughts on Barney Oldfield, someone whom I obviously have some thoughts on concerning his role or place within the realm of American racing.

A small note regarding the 1905 "AAA National Motor Car Championship." To state that the "...1905 Championship AAA season was obviously stillborn," is not accurate. The early events were covered quite well in the contemporary press. However, after the accidents of July and August, which resulted in fatalities and serious injuries at meetings hosting Championship events, there seems to be a definite cooling of enthusiasm on the part of the AAA and others for the Championship. The Championship seems to have completed the season in obscurity, there being no public fanfare or recognition of Oldfield's feat that can be found. In the aftermath of the season, there are a number of stories citing the dangers of racing, both track racing and road racing -- the latter of which the ACA had abandoned after the Staten Island accident in May 1902.

Once more, just some thoughts on a topic.

#83 Darren Galpin

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 07:26

In the 1910s Oldfield didn't really race as such, but instead took increasingly more powerful cars to race meets to go after track records. Although he didn't compete against others, it was his use as a draw for spectators which helped to drive US racing at the time. People came to see him because of his reputation, which helped the promoters stage other races. It also gave others something to beat - could they beat the time on a given circuit of the great Oldfield? If you could, then your reputation was made locally. It seems to have become a badge of honour for a track to have had a record attempt by Oldfield - it aided recognition. As the 1910s passed, the mantle passed on to Bob Burman. It isn't necessarily their exploits over their entire career that they are remembered for - it is their fame and their effect on the national consciousness. If Oldfield hadn't toured around the US setting fast times, would there have been so much early racing? With less early racing, where would we be today? Oldfield might not have been a great racer for most of his career, but he was an enabler of history.

#84 robert dick

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 09:15

Starter Fred Wagner in 1914:
"Barney Oldfield's confidence is another variety of egotism. He is the most supremely confident driver I ever have known. He has absolute faith in his ability to win. I don't mean that he is swell-headed. He is anything but that. If Oldfield wrote the books on the races in which he is entered, he would make himself an odds-on favorite although his car might not be as fast or as dependable as those of his competitors. Back in the golden days when Barney was making a reputation for himself he ran away from challengers who apparently were just as expert and experienced as he and had the advantage in cars. I remember when the Renault makers imported a foreign star to clean Barney up and arranged for a series of match races at the Empire City track. Barney swept the card. He was unbeatable and I believe his confidence was a potent factor in his success."

The magazine Motor Age in 1914, after Oldfield's performance at Santa Monica where Harry Stutz "admired his cool and daring driving" :
"Oldfield used to drive for money only and keeping one eye on the box office blinded him," said one critic. "Now Oldfield has the money and he is driving for reputation just as would a wealthy young chap like Bragg or Wishart. And he has been a different man since he took this position. Since he ran fourth in the Grand Prize at Milwaukee he has realized what it is to drive more for sport than for the coin. His work at Santa Monica last year and this, at Corona and in the desert road race, shows that he has it in him."


As far as I'm concerned, I'm a great fan of Barney Olfield - as was my friend Fernand Gabriel :cool: .

#85 fines

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 19:54

Oldfield!

When I was very young (and already a motorhead), I got a present once which was a small mirror with a period Coca-Cola ad showing an old race car (the reason surely I got it in the first place), and the legend: "You know me, Barney Oldfield!"

Well, if one thing's for certain I didn't know him even though I already knew everything about Lauda, Stewart, Clark and maybe even Fangio. Neither is it likely the donor of the present had ever heard of him, and that's something he had (and still has) in common with close to 80 million other Germans, and probably ten times as many Europeans. But I was intrigued.

Over time, as my interest took me ever farther into the past of our sport, the name "Barney Oldfield" kept rummaging around at the back of my mind, but to my mild astonishment, I failed to find mention of his name in the winners lists of all the famous races, even the Indy 500, Grand Prize or Vanderbilt Cup, to say nothing of European events. Until, much to my disappointment, I found out about two fifth place finishes at Indy and a runner-up at the Vanderbilt - not the sort of thing I had expected!

For, to tell you the truth, the magic of the name had me already enamoured, and I was sort of "rooting" for him as I was finding more and more info about the races of "his" period. It is difficult to explain, and perhaps it's just down to an old and somewhat riddled childhood memory, but he had certainly become a racing hero of mine, and stayed so even when I learned more and more facts (and apocrypha!) of his life.

Oldfield!

Now who was he? Certainly a showman, that's for sure! And a good driver, too, no question. Was he a great driver? I'd say yes, and that for more than one reason. For one thing, it is easy to forget, especially for us Europeans, that Motor Racing in the USofA, or shall we say "Autoracing", has taken a somewhat different route through history than in the rest of the world, and part of this different heritage is Barney Oldfield.

Like everywhere else, racing had its roots with the rich "society kids" and their Automobile Clubs also in America, but here something unique developed in parallel with the "regular" racing: the fairgrounds circuit! Instead of clubs doing the promoting and organising of road races close to major population centers, mostly on the east coast, crafty (and sometimes shady) individuals found out they could make money by promoting racing as a fairground attraction to the country folk all over the American midwest!

Mind you, Oldfield wasn't the first nor was he the only one to blaze the trail, but he was certainly the most prolific, the most entertaining, the most successful, the most famous, and the most "wonderful" of them all. Names such as Webb Jay, Ralph Hamlin or Earl Kiser are today but a memory for a very few experts, but Oldfield was a star of his time, and a househeld name for decades. His fame was enduring and all-embracing, it profited his managers Ernie Moross and Bill Pickens, his business enterprises (Oldfield Tires) and the products he endorsed, and even the slogans he used became legends ("Firestone, my only life insurance").

Oldfield!

How does he compare with other drivers? He was a prolific winner, there's no doubt, even if those races were mostly short fairground races. But so are the races today of the "World of Outlaws" circuit, the most successful of the American Sprint Car microcosmos. And here's the crux of the matter, what is great in the USofA, and what is great anywhere else? Sure, the Indy 500 is a universal milestone in everyone's racing career, and especially for Americans. But drivers like Johnny Mais, Sig Haugdahl, Chet Gardner, Billy Winn, Gus Schrader, Emory Collins, Jimmie Wilburn, Tommy Hinnershitz, Jan Opperman, Rick Ferkel, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Chuck Gurney, Jack Hewitt, etc. etc. are legends of their time even without, or with minimal Indy 500 experience. Are they "great" drivers? I'd say yes! In the tradition of Barney Oldfield, the "master driver", are they truely great racing drivers. The world outside of the USofA may care or not, but they are!

#86 john glenn printz

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Posted 23 November 2007 - 20:31

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-40) JOHNNY AITKEN (1885-1918). Johnny D. Aitken died on 15 Oct. 1918 from pneumonia following an attack of "Spanish" influenza. Johnny's death was part of the then world wide 1918-19 flu epidemic which killed between 50 to 100 million persons and which swept over all continents. More people died in 1918-19 than possibly in the horrific medieval "Black Death" of the mid-14th century. 17 million may have died just in India alone. Although called the Spanish flu there is no reason to believe that this virus attack on the human race started in Spain.

After the 1916 AAA season, when Johnny quit driving race cars, and during both 1917 and 1918, Aitken worked in a new machine shop owned and started by James A. Allison, which was located near or actually on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The shop was then very busy because of the heavy influx of war work. As a youth Aitken had served an apprenticeship in a machine shop while working beside his father. Later Aitken joined the National Motor Vehicle Company (founded in 1900), which was located in Indianapolis. In 1905 Aitken had his first experience in automobile racing when he helped prepare National cars for a 24 hour contest staged on 14 Nov. 1905 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. A National won, piloted by F. W. "Jap" Clemens and Charles Merz. They covered 1094.75 miles in the 24 hour period for an average of 45.7 mph.

When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway first open its gates in August 1909, the National firm started entering cars in the various Indy contests from 1909 to 1912, and Aitken was now one of the team drivers. For example, in the 300 mile "stock chassis" Wheeler Schebler Trophy race of 21 Aug. 1909, Johnny led the first 40 laps before being eliminated because of a cracked cylinder. This event was halted at 245 miles because the track surface had broken up and disintegrated. Three persons had already been killed, when Merz's National lost a front right tire (lap 71) and then crashed through a fence and into a group of spectators. The three dead were Merz's riding mechanic (Claude Kellum) and two spectators (Ora Jolleffe and James West). Before that, on 19 Aug. 1909, William A. Bourque and his mechanian, Harry Holcomb in a Knox, had been killed in a 250 miler. All these deaths resulted in the 2 1/2 mile rectangular track's surface being paved entirely with bricks. This process began in September 1909.

In 1910 Aitken placed 3rd in the Indianapolis 200 mile Wheeler Schebler Trophy race held on September 5, finished 3rd in the year's Vanderbilt Cup run on Oct. 1, and won a 202.5 mile road race at Fairmount Park (Philadephia) on 8 Oct. 1910. This was the class divison race for 301 to 450 cubic inches, non-stock, and had a total of 8 starters, of which only 4 were still running at the end. All the various racing car classifications had here been thrown in together (i.e., compare with "cont-9" above).

In the first Indianapolis 500 (30 May 1911) Johnny led laps 1-4 and 73-74 but retired after a connecting rod let go at 125 laps. Here Aitken placed 27th among the 40 starters. Johnny's only starts in 1911 occurred at Indianapolis and Elgin. At Elgin (25 Aug.) Johnny placed dead last, i.e. 10th, after cracking a cylinder with just two circuits completed in this 36 lap test. After 1911 Aitken retired from driving but helped prepare the National cars as team manager, for the upcoming 1912 Indianapolis 500, which was won by Joe Dawson and Don Herr in a National. Dawson led only the last two circuits, i.e., 199 and 200. The National firm itself withdrew from all racing on 17 June 1912 in the wake of their big Indianapolis win.

At Indianapolis in 1913 Aitken befriended the Peugeot team from France, which consisted of drivers Jules Goux and Paul Zuccarelli. Peugeot had decided to enter cars in the U.S. event largely through the agency of the American, Charles W. Sedwick. Thus the Peugeot firm brought over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway two type L76 ex-1912 Grand Prix machines. Aitken gave friendly data and imput on how to drive on the tricky and peculiar 2 1/2 mile track, for in the then current French Grand Prix events run on very large circuits, the competing vehicles were seldom in very close proximity to each other. Goux and Zuccarelli were at first uneasy about this aspect of the Indy track, which was of course the usual situation at the Speedway.

As it turned out Aitken became Goux's pit manager during the running of the 1913 "500", and Goux went on to win without any relief, the first man ever to do so, at an average speed of 75.933 mph. Goux's No. 16 Peugeot was credited with leading circuits 4-14, 56-95, 103-124, and 136-200. Zuccarelli was eliminated after just 22 circuits with main engine bearing failure. The whole Peugeot crew was greatly appreciative of the help and hospitality they had received from the Americans. Apparently the National Motor Vehicle Company had opened their entire plant facilities and resources for the use of the two Peugeot entries. Goux declared that the whole Peugeot team (quote), "had been treated like kings." (Source:INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3 June 1913, page 7). The English Sunbeam team, by way of Albert Guyot and Robert Crossman, was also very pleased with the treatment accorded them by Hoosier hospitality. (Source: INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1 June 1913, page 24). Guyot, in a Sunbeam, wound up 4th overall in the big race, behind Jules Goux (Peugeot) 1st; Spencer Wishart (Mercer) 2nd; and Charles Merz (Stutz) 3rd.

After the race both of these L76 Peugeots were sold to Americans. Goux's machine was purchased by Ralph Mulford (1884-1973) and Zuccarelli's went to the 21 year old Long Island NY millionaire, Armour Ferguson.

Edited by john glenn printz, 01 October 2010 - 13:24.


#87 dilettante

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 12:24

Hi,
Thank you for this interesting story!

May I suggest that Bourque's riding mechanic was Harry Holcomb and not "Holcome"?

As well, one of the spectator killed seems to be Howard H. Jolliff instead of "Ora Jolleffe"?
(for him it's complicated, for example "The New York Times", august 22, 1909, give three differents names!).

(excuse me for my so-so english... :| )

#88 Allen Brown

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 14:49

Originally posted by dilettante
(excuse me for my so-so english... :| )

You are excused. Anyone who quotes "The New York Times", august 22, 1909, in their debut quote is very welcome here.

#89 dilettante

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 15:19

Thank you Allen for your welcome (and your web site too :up: )
So, am'I right with the name of this two guys ?
In this web site we can read "Howard H. Jolliff" and I see that in "The Indianapolis Star" (08/22/1909) they call him "Homer H. Jolliff"...? :drunk: (title : "Three Lives Pay Price For Closing Auto Races").
Well, may be it is no so important...

#90 fines

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 20:19

For what it's worth, I have seen Holcome, Holcomb and Holcombe! Take your pick...

As for the spectators, I am of the opinion that they deserve to remain anonymous!!!

#91 dilettante

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 20:44

Thank you Michael

Originally posted by fines
For what it's worth, I have seen Holcome, Holcomb and Holcombe! Take your pick...

Ok... :stoned:

Originally posted by fines
As for the spectators, I am of the opinion that they deserve to remain anonymous!!!

Right, it's a contingency :)

Sorry for disturbance...
Jyl

#92 john glenn printz

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Posted 30 November 2007 - 20:56

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-41) In November 1913 Aitken reported that Jules Goux and Georges Boillot would compete in the upcoming 1914 500 mile race using Peugeots. Zuccarelli could not return because he had been killed at Amiens testing the new EX3 1913 Peugeot Grand Prix design on 20 June 1913, built for the upcoming French Grand Prix, run on 12 July 1913. In this event Boillot placed 1st and Goux was 2nd, in the EX3 model Peugeots. By late 1913 Johnny was the head of the National Motor Vehicle Company's experimental division. On 14 May 1914 Goux and Boillot arrived at the Speedway, with their mechanics Bebin and Provost, after having visited Niagara Falls. They had brought over two 1913 type EX3 ex-Grand Prix Peugeots with a piston displacement of 345 cubic inches and were anxious to meet up with Aitken. In addition a third driver, Arthur Duray (1881-1954), had entered a 3 litre (i.e. 183 cu. in.), coupe de l'auto class Peugeot, owned by Mr. Jacques Mennier, the Swiss chocolate king. During the pre-race period both Boillot and Goux were in constant consulations with Aitken.

The official Peugeot team had the fastest two cars of the entire field and posted the two fastest qualifying times among the actual 30 starters. Boillot had 99.86 mph and Goux was in at 98.20 mph. Boillot had wanted to post a genuine 100 mph but couldn't quite attain it. Goux had used Firestones in 1913 to win but the Peugeot team were now bound by a firm contract to use British built Dunlop tires in the 1914 500 mile chase; however now the Dunlops were proving to be quite unsatisfactory at constant and sustained high speed in the practice sessions. The Peugeot tire problem was disclosed in the INDIANAPOLIS STAR of 20 May 1914 on page 7. Still, Boillot and Goux went into the contest as the two pre-race favorites.

During the race both Boillot and Goux were hampered by constant tire problems, i.e. mostly the tires wore out much too quickly. Goux, for instance, had eleven right rear tire changes and could place only 4th in the final result. Boillot went out after 148 laps completed, with a broken frame caused initially by a blown tire. Boillot was hit on the right shoulder by the tire and a $500 scarf pin was knocked from his tie and lost. The Peugeot was turned half way around and almost overturned. Boillot knew the tire was dangerous from heavy wear, but chanced getting a few more laps out of it, with the resultant dire results. Georges, after the accident, cursed the Dunlops.

Also from France had come the Delage team with their 1913, 380 cu. in. Grand Prix cars, in the hands of Rene Thomas (1886-1975) and Albert Guyot (1882-1947). They placed 1st (Thomas) and 3rd (Guyot) overall, with Duray's small 183 cu. in. Peugeot wedged in between them, to take 2nd! Duray had actually led laps 30-66 and 76-115, while Thomas was in front for circuits 13-29 and 116-200. Thomas' average for the full 500 miles was a new record, i.e. 82.474 mph. Duray's Peugeot had the smallest piston displacement of all the starters, while six Case engined machines had the full limit of 449 cubic inches! The 1914 Indy was run under a 450 cu. in. limit. The cubic inch limits for the Indianapolis 500 from 1911 to 1920 were; 600 in 1911-12; 450 in 1913-14; 300 for 1915-19, and 183 in 1920. It all cases here, the stock, semi-stock, and thoroughbred type cars were all thrown in together. (Compare with cont.-9 and 10 above.)

(EXCURSUS: RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, AND/OR, DUNLOP'S GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AT INDIANAPOLIS (I.E.,1914-1964). On the Golden Jubilee (i.e. May 30, 1964) of the 1914 Indianapolis Dunlop Peugeot failure, with again the two fastest cars entered, and even to the same exact day date (i.e. May 30th again!); the two car Ford/Lotus team went into the 1964 Indianapolis 500 as the heavy pre-race favorites with ace drivers Jimmy Clark (1936-1968) and Dan Gurney (1931-still alive). Clark posted the fastest time in the qualifications at 158.820 mph and started in the pole position. Both Ford/Lotus' were put out of the running early, i.e. Clark at 47 laps and Gurney at 110, because their Dunlop tires had started coming apart. It was exactly 50 years between these two similar incidents! For the McMaken/Printz account of the 1964 Dunlop Indy fiasco see the OFFICIAL PPG INDY CAR WORLD SERIES ANNUAL 1984, pages 102-104.)

(P.S. I cannot forbare to mention that I shook hands with Rene Thomas at Indianapois during the rain delay in 1973, just outside the Speedway Motel. 1973 was the first time Rene had been back to the Speedway since running there in 1921.The next Indy winner (i.e., in 1925) that I ever got to talk to was Peter DePaolo (1898-1980), who started his racing career in 1920, as the riding mechanic for his uncle Ralph DePalma at the new Los Angeles Speedway, in its inaurgural 250 mile race run on February 28.)

In mid-1914 Aitken travelled to France and visited both the Delage and Peugeot factories and was stationed in the Peugeot pits during the running of the 4 July 1914, French Grand Prix. Boillot led circuits 6-17 in this 467.6 mile, 20 lap race before dropping to 2nd place on 18 and 19. Then Boillot went out on the very last circuit with his car in shambles and was a non-finisher. This gave the Mercedes team a one-two-three finish with Christian Lautenschager 1st, Louis Wagner 2nd, and Otto Salzer (1874-1944) 3rd. Jules Goux, however, managed to place 4th for the Peugeot team. World War I broke out on 28 July 1914 and by early August 1914, Boillot, Goux, Rene Thomas, and Jean Chassagne were all in the French army, with Boillot being the chauffeur for General Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre (1852-1931), who was the hero of the French victory at the river Marne in September 1914.This victory saved Paris from German occupation during World War I. Later Boillot himself, attaching himself to the French flying corps, died in aerial combat at Verdun-sur-Meuse on 21 April 1916.

Aitken had this to say about the outbreak of the war, "In Paris everyone is ready to fight, not just to fight anyone, but only the Germans. Waiters, hotel clerks, taxi drivers, have all deserted their trades to join the colors. When one sees the Belgian soldiers it is easy to realize why they put up such a stubborn resistance. All of them are big, strong, husky men, regular giants." (Source: MANITOBA MORNING FREE PRESS, 22 Aug. 1914, page 25.). While in France Johnny had spent considerable time with Mr. and Mrs. Carl G. Fisher before all three left Paris on 1 Aug. 1914, on the last train before the railroads were taken over by the French government. They then crossed to London and by the liberal use of gold coin obtained passages on the liner "Laurentic", a White Star line boat destined for Montreal, Quebec. A British war vessel accompanied them for over 200 miles.

The ill fated liner "Titanic", I might add, sunk on 14-15 April 1912 on its maiden voyage, was also a White Star passenger liner.

All three were back in Indianapolis by Sept, 5, 1914. Fisher, the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was quoted thusly, "We were just six hours ahead of the war net. We had some trouble getting away, but it pales into insignificance when compared with the difficulties others are having. There must be at least 100,000 Americans trying to get home. We were at Le Mans when the war cloud broke, prepared to watch the running of the little grand prix. We lost no time in hurring to England, whence we sailed on the Laurantic."

"As to what effect this will have on the next 500 mile race, it is hard to say. However, I look for the war to be over by that time. There will be enough of the foreign cars to insure European representation, while I look for more American cars than ever." (Source: SAN ANTONIO LIGHT, Sept. 6, 1914, page 10).

Both of the 1913 EX3 Peugeots, used by Boillot and Goux at Indy in 1914, remained in the U. S. One was sold to Bob Burman's sponsor, Louis C. Erbes, and the other car seems to have been retained by the official New York Peugeot import agent, Alphonse G. Kaufman. Both of these EX3 models would play a part in the rise of Harry A. Miller, during 1915, as an engine builder. (See cont.-15, 16 and 17 above).

Edited by john glenn printz, 13 October 2009 - 14:15.


#93 john glenn printz

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 20:49

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-42) In January 1915 at the New York auto show, it was rumored that the Peugeot Company in Paris was again enlisting the Indianapolis National factory and Johnny Aitken for assistance in their 1915 entry in the impending Indianapolis 500. But Aitken, who had managed the Peugeot pits at Indy in both 1913 and 1914, returned now in 1915 to a driving relief role for the Stutz team consisting of Gil Anderson, Earl Cooper, and Howard Wilcox. Indeed Aitken relieved both Anderson and Cooper at Indianapolis (May 31), Anderson at Chicago (June 26), and Cooper at Minneapolis (Sept. 4).

In August 1915 James A. Allison bought two 1914 Grand Prix type EX5 Peugeots, which soon became known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Peugeots. One 1914 EX5 model Peugeot had already been imported to the U.S., under Alphone Kaufmann's aegis, for Dario Resta's use at Indianapolis in May 1915. The Peugeot company entered also two more cars, of the Coupe de l'Auto or Voiturette (i.e. 3 litre) class, at the 1915 500. These were probably the 1914 cars built for the Coupe de l'Auto race fixed for August 23 1914, but of which race, was never actually held because of the outbreak of the World War. (Consult Kent Karslake's RACING VOITURETTES, 1950, pages 231-232).This is the "little grand prix" referred to by Carl Fisher in the quote directly above (i.e. cont.-41).

It seems that originally Resta was to have driven in the 1915 500 for the Sunbeam team. In any case it was Resta's first trip to the big Indiana raceway and Dario had this to say about the track, "A bully track, the banking is not quite as steep as Brooklands, of course, yet it is ample, and affords opportunity for some spectacular driving. I think I shall make very good time on it." (Source: WATERLOO TIMES-TRIBUNE, 5 May 1915, page 12). The two "baby" Peugeots were eventually assigned to George C. Babcock and Frank Galvin. Galvin on May 8 crashed his in practice, after a right rear tire let go, and neither he nor his Peugeot made the race day lineup. Galvin is described in the contemporary press as an ex-bike racer who had competed in 47 international marathon six-day bicycle contests. Frank was of Scotch parentage but was now a naturalized German citizen. Galvin expressed a desire to fight in the Kaiser's army if he returned to Germany. Gavin met his ultimate Nemesis at Uniontown on 2 Dec. 1916. (See cont.-29).

In 1915 Resta acquitted himself well in the 500 itself, leading laps 1, 33-61, and 128-134, and finished 2nd to Ralph DePalma's 1914 Mercedes in 1st. Babcock went 117 laps before being put by a broken cylinder, to place 17th. Bob Burman, with his EX3 Peugeot, now equipped with the replica Peugeot motor built by Harry A. Miller, was 6th. (Compare with cont.-16 & 17).

The two Speedway Peugeots first outings were at Sheepshead Bay in the inaugural 350 mile Vincent Astor Cup (Oct. 9) contest and a 100 mile invitational race (Nov. 2) dubbed the Harkness Gold Cup Trophy race. Johnny Aitken and Ralph Mulford were the pilots in both events using the Speedway's two Peugeots, but neither finished in either race. Resta in 1915, using Kaufmann's EX5, won 1. the inaugural Chicago 500 (June 26); 2. the Chicago 100 (Aug. 7); and 3. the Sheepshead Bay 100 (Nov. 2).

In 1916 Aitken with his Speedway owned EX5, and Resta with his Kaufmann owned EX5, battled all season for the right to win the very first AAA National Championship Driving Title. Aitken won at 1. the Cininnati 300 (Sept. 4); 2. the Indianapolis 100 (Sept. 9); 3. the Sheepshead Bay 250 (Sept. 30); 4. the Sheepshead Bay 100 (Oct. 28); and 5. in a winning relief role for Howard Wilcox at the Santa Monica 403.2 (Nov. 18). in the Grand Prize. The well known story of Richard Kennerdell's early vacillation as to whether Aitken would get Championship points in a relief role for Wilcox in the Grand Prize contest, is confirmed by the INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 26 Nov. 1916, Sports Section, page 4. (See cont.-26). Aitken ended his race driving career after the Santa Monica 1916 Grand Prize.

Resta in 1916 won at 1. the Indianapolis 300 (May 30); 2. the Chicago 300 (June 10); 3. the Omaha 150 (July 15); 4. the Chicago 250 (Oct. 14); and the 5. Santa Monica 294 (Nov. 18) Vanderbilt Cup. The two 1914 EX5 type Peugeots would eventually put Resta in 1st, and Aitken in 2nd, in the final AAA National Championship point standings for 1916.

After the Grand Prize event of 18 Nov. 1916 and the cancellation of the 1917 Indianapolis 500 on 23 March 1917, the two Speedway EX5's were put in storage and not retrieved until they were prepared for the running of the 1919 Indianapolis 500. The two Speedway EX5's were then driven by Howard Wilcox and Jules Goux. In that event they placed 1st (Wilcox) and 3rd (Goux), with a refurbished 1915 Stutz owned by Cliff Durant in between them, for 2nd (Eddie Hearne).

#94 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 20:17

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-43) For what it is worth, there being no official AAA Driving Title for either 1917 or 1918, the contemporary newsmen, press, and sports journalists generally regarded Louis Chevrolet (Frontenac) and Ralph DePalma (Packard) as the U.S. speed champions for 1917 and 1918 respectively.

On 9 Dec. 1918 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that a 500 mile race would be staged on 30 May 1919. The last 500 mile event held at Indianapolis was in 1915, as the 1916 Memorial Day event had been a scheduled 300 miler. However on 12 Dec. 1918 the Speedway altered the 500 mile race date to May 31 1919. The reason being that Memorial Day itself was much more important and solemn than usual now, because of the U.S. war dead from the Great War (1914-1918). The Speedway management thus thought it would be more appropiate to run the event one day after the traditional Memorial Day date. In a wave of victorious patriotism the 1919 500 was called the "Liberty Sweepstakes".

Although precise figures are impossible the U.S. persons killed in World War I (which numbered c. 126,000) was just a large drop in the bucket compared to some other nations, i.e. Germany 1,774,000; Russia 1,700,000; France 1,358,000; Austria-Hungary 1,200,000; British Empire 908,000; Italy 650,000; Romania 336,000 and Turkey 325,000. The grand total, with all nations included, was something like 8,538,00 killed, which did not include prisoners and those missing. If everyone is so included then the total was nearer 16,200,000; but no prominent U.S. automobile racing personal were its victims and Eddie Rickenbacker even came out of it famous, as a genuine American war hero. Eddie had 26 kills, to make him the leading U.S. air ace.

Memorial or Decoration Day, originally May 30, was instituted in 1868 to commemorate and honor the Union dead in the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). The southern states soon started similar memorials for the Confederate dead, but used different dates from that of May 30. After the first World War, by gradual cumulative extension, the dead from the Spanish-American war (1898), World War I (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), the Korean (1950-53), and Vietnam (1965-75) conflicts were also included. In more recent times the Memorial day date of May 30 has also been changed because this holiday is added to a Saturday and Sunday, to make it a three day holiday weekend. The Indianapolis 500, the most important automobile race held in the U.S. beginning in 1913 (i.e. there was no Grand Prize or Vanderbilt Cup races staged in 1913), has been usually run on Memorial Day itself and/or directly linked up with the Memorial Day weekend in late May. Generally and presently, Memorial Day now remembers and honors all the deceased from all U.S. wars and would include as well the Revolutionary war (1775-83), the war of 1812 (1812-14), and the Mexican war (1846-48).

#95 helioseism

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 05:10

Just discovered a relevant web site that I have not seen mentioned on TNF yet. The subject is the National Motor Vehicle Company, which flourished in Indiana 1900-1924. There is a lot of content on these pages, such as legible high-resolution scans of contemporary literature. There is a large racing section with images, race reports, etc.

Sorry if this is common knowledge.

Link to top index

Link to racing section

#96 robert dick

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 10:41

Originally posted by helioseism
... There is a lot of content on these pages...

Thanks for the link. :cool:

#97 fines

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 19:25

Seconded! :cool: :cool:

#98 dilettante

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 01:38

:up: Thanks a lot "helioseism"!

#99 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 12:36

A question for Mr. Printz -- and by extension Mr. McMaken and others:

I am sure this has been asked before -- of so, I deeply apologize and plead forgiveness for an increasingly fuzzy memory at times, but what plans have you made for the placement of your research materials for use by scholars, racing historians, in the future?

I have no clue as to what has happened to the Phil Harms material, although I would imagine that his son and/or Harold Osmer have them. Likewise, Bob Russo's daughter was trying to find home for whatever materials he had, and I have not heard what, if anything, happened with that effort.

At some point, whatever I have that the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) at Watkins Glen wishes to place in their archives is theirs. It might not be much, but if it helps someone in the course of their research, then it has served its purpose.

Although this has been mentioned in the past, we really need to make the materials we have discovered available for those who will be following us, to enable them to build and expand on our efforts. In the realm of American racing history, there is still so much to do. Indeed, where to even begin at times is the question.

Thanks,

Don

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#100 john glenn printz

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 17:57

U.S. Racing 1894-1920 (cont.-44) THE TWIN CITY AND PROVIDENCE SPEEDWAYS. In 1915, five new board ovals made their appearance, i.e. (1.) the 2 mile Chicago-Maywood; (2.) the 1 1/4 mile Omaha; (3.) the 2 mile Tacoma; (4.) the 1 mile Des Moines; and (5.) the 2 mile Brooklyn, NY-Sheepshead Bay. 1915 is usually considered the real beginning of the board track era (1915-1931). It is true that the one mile Playa Del Ray Motordrome located at Los Angeles, CA (1910-1913) and a 1/2 mile board oval at Oakland, CA (1911-1912) were the first board tracks built for automobile racing; but the Playa Del Ray Motordrome was a bit of a freak, being in the shape of a perfect circle, and the 1/2 mile Oakland oval was of just minor importance.

It should not be forgotten however that two new and perhaps more permanent surfaced ovals also made their debuts in 1915. These were (1.) the 2 mile concrete Twin City Motor Speedway (Fort Snelling, MN), and (2.) the 1 mile paved asphalt Narragansett Park Speedway of Providence, RI. The Twin City Motor Speedway was constructed by six western sportsmen, of which Frank H. Wheeler (1865-1921), its new President, was the most prominent. Wheeler had been one of the four original founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 and in 1905 he and George M. Schebler had established the Wheeler-Schebler Company to manufacture carburetors. Their plant was located on Shelby street in Indianapolis. Both Wheeler and Schebler had made a fortune. At its height the Wheeler-Schebler Company had over 900 employees.

The new Twin City Motor Speedway which was suppose to be, when completed, the fastest track in the world, was built for almost $1,000,000, and covered an area of 342 1/2 acres. Its seating capacity was given as 71,616. Its inaugural race was a 500 miler, using a 300 cubic inch limit, run on 4 Sept. 1915, with 14 starters. The track offered a whopping $50,000 total purse with $20,000 going to the winner.

The two car Stutz team finished one-two, with Earl Cooper (1886-1965) winning and Gil Anderson (1880-1935) second. Cooper won by a mere half car length, i.e. by less than a second. Both Cooper and Anderson had had relief pilots, i.e. Johnny Aitken (1885-1918) and Tom Rooney (1881-1939) respectively. The newly laid track surface was described as "wavy" and as very "rough". The speeds being obtained were very disappointing. Dario Resta qualified the fastest at 102.5 mph in a 1913 Grand Prix Peugeot, while Cooper/Aitken with the Stutz, averaged 86.3 mph for the win.

The actual attendance was a mere 30,000. The new Twin City management has expected 150,000. All in all this concrete speedway was a disappointment. A later 100 miler, to be staged in mid September, was cancelled on 11 Sept. 1915. The new track was in deep trouble and was soon known as "Wheeler's Folly".

The Twin City track had big plans for 1916, with events to be held on May 31, July 4 (a 300 miler), and another third meet in the fall. The May 31 races were for Minnesota owned vehicles only, and the 1916 ticket prices were to be greatly lowered from those of 1915.

On 14 April 1916 Frank Wheeler resigned as the President of the Twin City track after a bill for $24,334.36 for attorney fees was presented to him. The NEVADA STATE JOURNAL for April 4 1916, page 2, states (quote), "The legal service for which the fees are sought involve the settlement of numerous claims against the Twin City speedway for labor and material supplied for its construction."

On July 4, 1916 the Twin City Motor Speedway staged a 150 mile AAA National Championship contest. Ralph DePalma, in his 1914 Grand Prix Mercedes was the victor with a 91.074 mph average. There had been again, just 14 starters. Comments from the LOS ANGELES TIMES, July 5, 1916, section III, page 1, are illuminating (quote);

"The start of the race was delayed two hours while speedway promotors, drivers and officials of the American Automobile Association held several hurried conferences regarding prize money."

"At the hour set for the race the drivers announced they would not start until the $20,000 prize fund had been placed with association officials or other adequate guarantee provided."

"Finally $5000 in cash was raised, a check for $12,000 given and an order for speedway bonds to the extent of $100,000 issued as a guarantee for the check."

"The gate receipts were said to be small."

On July 6 (Source: LOS ANGELES TIMES, section III, page 1) it was reported that the Twin City track would be placed in receivership. J.F. Sperry, the speedway manager, had this to say (quote); "I am broke flat; I never was so broke in my life, and I am looking for a job," said Sperry when the officials called on him to see what he was going to do about putting up $8800 prize money due the drivers in the sole race pulled off yesterday.

"A receivership seems to be the only course." said W.C. Barnes official representative of the A.A.A. at yesterday's races.

Sperry further said, "That shows where I am, my business is in a receiver's hands." After the meeting Mr. Sperry furnished Mr. Hoskins with an estimate list of Speedway liabilities. He said that between $18,000 and $20,000 is due Mrs Sperry for money advanced; $14,000 due J.H. Robbins of Minneapolis for crushed stone, there is a floating debt of approximately $11,000 and the interest on the $350,000 bonds, due in about four months will be $21,000.

Sperry said the Speedway had cost $857,000, leaving an equity of about $500,000 above the $350,000 in bonds.

It was reported on March 5, 1917 that this Minneapolis/Saint Paul speedway was auctioned off by order of the Hennepin county district court to the Minneapolis Trust Company, the only bidder, for $250,000. Under the court's order, holders of $350,000 worth of bonds against the property are given a year in which to redeem it.

On 14 July 1917 the Twin City track tried again and for the very last time. This race meet was promoted by the drivers. Only 8000 people showed up and it was thought that had better publicity been given, the attendance would have been better. The day's two races lacked $750 of the paying expenses, so no money was ever given to the day's two winners. The day's activities became known as "Vail's Folly". Ira Vail won the 100 miler in a Hudson at 96.28 mph average, while Reeves Dutton drove Earl Cooper's 1915 Stutz in the 50 mile test, to win by posting a 97.27 mph average.

The track was always very rough and had not been properly engineered and constructed. It was built without a proper foundation to maintain the cement surface in alignment, which gave the speedway a wavy face that made it a man killer. The 14 July 1917 events proved to be the last racing date here and all three race meets staged suffered from an acute lack of attendance. The concrete paving itself is said to have been finally broken up and removed in 1932.

Edited by john glenn printz, 18 November 2011 - 18:00.