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1946 AAA Big Car Season


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#51 ensign14

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Posted 09 May 2017 - 21:21

I wonder whether an of the family of, say, Bob Patriguin or Melvin Swartzlander will ever rock up here on a google search to find their relative is as much a point scorer as AJ Foyt.



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#52 Michael Ferner

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Posted 10 May 2017 - 18:34

Looking at my latest post, I have to say I'm very disappointed, disheartened even by the number and extent of discrepancies and inconsistencies we appear to have to deal with here. A thorough and detailed analysis, as originally planned, may be capable of solving the problem with scores like that of Hank Rogers (+ 29) or Ed Zimmerman (- 20), but there's simply no way to "repair" the scores of Bill Holland (- 77.6), Joie Chitwood (- 81.5) or Earl Johns (+ 81.5) unless I made some pretty basic mistakes in calculating those totals (which is still possible, mind you) - those deviations are simply way too big to be the result of missing heat finishes and/or wrong race distances! I really had high hopes of matching the published point standings more or less to perfection, but I do no longer. I suppose it is possible, that at least Chitwood's score is explainable by a mistake in allocating the points correctly for the shared drive at Indy, but all reports I've seen have him stopping only once on lap 52, and the available leaderboard information (which is hardly exhaustive, admittedly) does not seem to allow for something else to have happened to make a different score feasible. Other than that, I can only think of mistakes in adding up the points, maybe only a typo that was never detected, or mixing up lines in long rows of figures, I don't know.

That, and a number of other inconsistencies which I will try to list in a later post, have led me to some very fundamental questions about the whole procedure, not only for the 1946 AAA National Championship, but in general, some of which have already briefly surfaced during the discussion about the 1939 AIACR European Championship, as some of you may recall. The most basic question is: How do we, as fans, followers of the sport, as information seekers, record keepers, or even as historians, how do we deal with inconsistencies in the historical record, or even plainly obvious mistakes in the way that rules and regulations were administered in the (sometimes very distant) past? Is information from "official sources" cast in stone? What makes a source "official"? In the light of some recent discussions I had on another site with a number of posters there, these questions are very much relevant even today, and I don't think there will be an easy answer.

I can't even begin to guess how often I was rebuked when, in good faith and with the best of intentions, I provided information from my own research in an attempt "to set the record straight", when someone would point out that such and such a book, or even "the official website of the IMS" stated this or that instead - one poster even went so far to say that "it's their race", meaning the Speedway, "so it's up to them to say what is right, and what is wrong", as if anybody could actually own their history (shades of totalitarian governments here)!! There was also once a long thread, polling the opinion of the posters regarding whether one or the other website should be made "the official Indy car racing website" - there clearly appears to be a common feeling amongst a great number of fans that it should be possible to find the absolute truth about racing history, preferably in one single source. Childish though it may seem, but I think it's a widespread phenomenon.

But then, what exactly is "official information" at all? In the 1939 thread, somebody expressed his opinion that there could have been no Champion proper because the AIACR, as the awarding authority, did not have an opportunity to meet and declare the results of the Championship, while somebody else opined that everybody who knew the rules and the results could make a valid call. I tend to underwrite the second opinion here - after all, who of us has ever seen official documentation of the fact that, say, Giuseppe Farina won the 1950 World Drivers Championship? Or the 1950 British Grand Prix, for that matter? What if, and this is now intended purely as an intellectual exercise, what if somebody located the timing report of the 1950 British GP and detected an unquestionable error - say, Farina completing two laps in less than two minutes - and presented those with additional insight from period reports which suggested that his pit stop took much longer than those of the other Alfas, so that the obvious conclusion must be that Farina actually completed one lap less than Fagioli and Parnell, and thus received the chequered flag in error - what should be the consequences for us, as fans, followers of the sport, as information seekers, record keepers, or even as historians?

However, the view that "everybody who knows the rules and results can make a call" has its own flaws: wouldn't we need "official documentation" of these rules and results to make that call? And even if we're in posession of these vaunted documents, what if our documentation is not complete? Who can say with authority that rules written in March are still valid in November? What about protests, followed by appeals and counter appeals - some take months to reach a final (?) decision! This clearly represents a dilemma, and to me the only solution appears to be to trust period reports, warts and all, in the absence of official documents. And we haven't yet touched upon the "official tampering of records" - amongst the official AAA files I have been investigating in the past few weeks, there were several lengthy and detailed points tables for the years 1911, 1912 and so on, which we already know to have been mere fabrications. How can I trust any other information from the same source?

Another intellectual exercise: suppose, someone retrieves an official FIA communiqué, tabulating the points for a season in the distant past, and it includes a very obvious miscalculation, resulting in a wrong ranking, perhaps even a wrong champion being declared - not in F1, but in, say, the Historic Truck Championship of the Middle East or some other obscure series were it could conceivably have escaped the attention of the great unwashed - or, maybe the scoring method was rather complicated to follow back in the day. Suppose further, that someone is going to chronicle the history of that very championship, how do we expect him to deal with that situation? Especially in the light of the fact, that nobody else appears to be aware of this communiqué. Of course, we would want him to publish his findings, wouldn't we? How about the person who was declared champion back in the day, and is now about to be found out as runner-up? Do we perhaps have to respect his feelings? Or is the truth more important than that? Maybe there will be opposition from his rabid supporters? Maybe the real champion is no longer alive, too. Cui bono?

Edited by Michael Ferner, 10 May 2017 - 20:54.


#53 DCapps

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 02:47

Michael,

 

This is exactly the sort of thing that professional (code for trained) historians deal with all the time. This is the sort of world we inhabit. We ask questions, we research, we analyze material, we then construct interpretations, and then do it all over all again. And again. And again. And again....

 

Because so few professional historians have bothered with the history of automotive competition or have encountered very cool receptions, if not outright hostility in more than a few instances, the history of motor sport tends to be, as we like to parse it in professional language, a ****ing disaster.

 

The vast majority of the "auto racing historians" -- "official" or otherwise -- working at places such as INDYCAR or wherever couldn't spell "history" if you spotted them all the consonants and the vowels.

 

Plus, their inept, bumbling approach has largely turned "motor sport history" into a self-licking ice cream cone...

 

You, Michael, and a precious few others -- such as the late John Glenn Printz, for instance -- are tackling some of the issues of motor sport history by asking questions and finding that simply leads to more questions, which leads to more questions and no end of frustration and yet more questions.

 

Welcome to History.

 

You are going a good job.

 

Carry on and expect for there to be simply more headaches and more questions, more research, more analyses, and more interpretations as you go forth.

 

(Michael -- There was a reason that I was trying to so things for 1946 in a narrative format rather than reducing everything to numbers and data because I think that without the narrative, the context, it is simply data.)

 

Don



#54 Michael Ferner

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 08:56

Yeah, I think I get it by now :lol: a ****ing disaster, indeed!

Actually, your last sentence really woke me up - I was a bit tired last night when I wrote the above, both literally and figuratively. But the important word here is "data". So much of what people usually connect with history in motor sports really is just data. The fans looking for "official" information from "official" websites, they want reliable data. And why not, after all this is a sport, measured in seconds, laps, miles per hours, championship points... even dollars! It's all good to write about cultural relevance, segregation, women drivers and so on, but a sports historian has to provide data, too. I still recall how I started out as a callow youth, collecting "mere data", calculating championship points on a sheet of paper, and wondering why the newspaper on monday morning printed a different score. It's what the sport, what all sports are about, fundamentally. Nothing wrong with that, in my humble opinion.

I told you I couldn't wait to "tell the story", the big narration, and that still holds true, but I feel I need to get all my data ducks in a row to really get going. It's important to get the facts right, and that includes the figures, in sports history more than anything else. The casual fan will, in all probability, not be interested in much more than that, and that's okay with me. Chacun à son goût, as the Frenchman says. Perhaps we should try not to alienate those too much, because some of them, like me, may develop an interest that will, eventually, go deeper.  ;)

Edited by Michael Ferner, 11 May 2017 - 09:03.


#55 DCapps

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Posted 12 May 2017 - 13:38

The advent of "Cliometrics" in the history profession really became pronounced during the 1970s, although it certainly had been there for ages before that. As someone with a background in data processing -- computers -- during the early 70s, I was very comfortable with dealing with data and developing databases for application during the analysis we applied to our questions and the subsequent research. "If It's Not A Number, It's Not Important," was the sampler that hung on the office wall of one of the professors I first worked for doing this sort of work. Content analysis, developing relational databases (not fun at all back then), and simply crunching/processing data was what we grad students started doing in those days. I will skip the Long Story regarding all this within the profession, but we always attempted to tie our data to the narrative and the development our our interpretations. Of course, in some areas the data itself simply became the point of the exercise: race results and so forth in the case of motor sport. The appearance of the Personal Computer, the availability of spreadsheets/databases for personal use (Lotus 1-2-3, dBase, etc.), ARPANet becoming the Internet, then the World Wide Web, all teamed up to shift the focus away from the narrative, pretty much reducing most of it all regarding motor sport to simply factoids, data, and trivia.

 

A bit of an exaggeration to some degree regarding the reduction to just factoids, data, and trivia, but much as the phonograph record reduced the ability to reproduce sound to simply a matter of a (very) few minutes, so we could also suggest that the shift to data and away from narrative has certainly affected how motor sport is considered.



#56 Jim Thurman

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Posted 16 May 2017 - 17:17

Well written Michael  :up:

 

While there's plenty of room for academic and serious historic discussion of topics that heretofore haven't been handled in such a manner, I second Michael that there is absolutely nothing wrong with basic information, or more importantly, accurate basic information. And what Michael speaks of is why there's no need to upbraid or berate those only seeking that level. I've written before that could be driving away the very folks that could otherwise be interested or attracted, thereby defeating the purpose.

 

This is the disconnect, the not seeing the forest for the trees that I write of from time to time. Since I finally have some time free, perhaps I can now get around to replying to Michael's other post to this thread as well (stay tuned).



#57 Jim Thurman

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Posted 16 May 2017 - 18:27

About that other forum...

 

The most basic question is: How do we, as fans, followers of the sport, as information seekers, record keepers, or even as historians, how do we deal with inconsistencies in the historical record, or even plainly obvious mistakes in the way that rules and regulations were administered in the (sometimes very distant) past? Is information from "official sources" cast in stone? What makes a source "official"? In the light of some recent discussions I had on another site with a number of posters there, these questions are very much relevant even today, and I don't think there will be an easy answer.

I can't even begin to guess how often I was rebuked when, in good faith and with the best of intentions, I provided information from my own research in an attempt "to set the record straight", when someone would point out that such and such a book, or even "the official website of the IMS" stated this or that instead - one poster even went so far to say that "it's their race", meaning the Speedway, "so it's up to them to say what is right, and what is wrong", as if anybody could actually own their history (shades of totalitarian governments here)!! There was also once a long thread, polling the opinion of the posters regarding whether one or the other website should be made "the official Indy car racing website" - there clearly appears to be a common feeling amongst a great number of fans that it should be possible to find the absolute truth about racing history, preferably in one single source. Childish though it may seem, but I think it's a widespread phenomenon.

 

Michael, all of this post was extremely well written, but I've chosen to focus on one aspect. I read the recent exchange you write of. First, the attitude of "it's in a book, so it must be true" or "it's on this website, so it must be true" is difficult, if not impossible, to pry away from some folks. They hold these errors to be self-evident. This is particularly true with the myths and tall tales they've grown up with and had repeated over the years. Every time those folks see one of these in print, it reinforces their belief that it is irrefutabely true. While there are some there that we've awakened, others remain blissful. And they probably will continue to do so until they see it in print (though they might simply shake their fists while screaming "revisionism!!!", but more on that in the more pertinent thread)

 

On to the specifics of the "it's their race." That's a little more complicated. That the '500' has had its own set of distinct rules which don't always follow what was the norm means this isn't an altogether inaccurate statement. That the father of the person who posted that reply is the one who compiled the data, meant he viewed you as questioning or even correcting his dear, departed father. This meant it was taken personally. It led to a rather harsh reply on his part before he actually apologized and then agreed with you. Unfortunately, you responded rudely to him when he was simply voicing his agreement with you, but I see how that can happen at that place. There is an Indiana (IMS/500) uber alles mentality with it's inherent provincialism which also leads to some of the issues.

 

That forum comes off as the chippiest damned place on Earth. Many there have long running arguments, battles and feuds over seemingly any and every thing. Even the most innocuous comment can be viewed as taking a side or push some button we're unaware of. Factor in some there wanting to "tweak the brains" by throwing their virtual spitwads at us, hoping to get a reaction (and then reacting badly when we do respond in kind) and it's easy to fall into their chippiness. Perhaps I should write, it's hard not to fall into their chippiness.



#58 Jim Thurman

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Posted 16 May 2017 - 18:34

One final point about that forum, which is more apt for the Revisionism thread. Sadly, I believe much of this mindset comes down to political stripes. I believe I'm safe in assuming that some of the more antagonistic posters towards us view us as "elites." The term has become a bad word to folks of a certain stripe. Don is an intellectual, college educated, so he's "an elite." You're a damn foreigner and I'm from California (which, to some of them, is far worse than being a damn foreigner and automatically labels me as the opposite of them). We already have three strikes against us to some there  :lol: So, when any of us step in and tell them that something they've long held true is simply incorrect, the negative usage of "revisionism" comes instantly to their minds, replete with shaking fists and screams of protest.

 

EDITED: due to clunky wording.


Edited by Jim Thurman, 17 May 2017 - 16:17.


#59 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 May 2017 - 19:40

:lol: I'm sure you're correct there, but I wouldn't want to raise that issue with the folks over there... oh, my! :eek: Talk about tripping landmines!! :lol:

Reminds me, being the ornery contrarian that I am (I can't help it  ;)), I need to change my tag line over there to: Proud to be a Furriner!! :rotfl:

On to the specifics of the "it's their race." That's a little more complicated. That the '500' has had its own set of distinct rules which don't always follow what was the norm means this isn't an altogether inaccurate statement. That the father of the person who posted that reply is the one who compiled the data, meant he viewed you as questioning or even correcting his dear, departed father. This meant it was taken personally. It led to a rather harsh reply on his part before he actually apologized and then agreed with you. Unfortunately, you responded rudely to him when he was simply voicing his agreement with you, but I see how that can happen at that place. There is an Indiana (IMS/500) uber alles mentality with it's inherent provincialism which also leads to some of the issues.


:lol: Yes, "Indiana (IMS/500) uber alles", that's perfect! :lol:

However, the issue of the "it's their race" argument wasn't so much the specific way and rules of the IMS (and you're absolutely correct, there), but about information that came from books and websites carrying the "The Official IMS (uber alles) Logo", and the heresy of questioning same. Yes, I recall the guy whose father had been responsible for the Indy Star (I think) record book, but I forgot the details of the conversation. All I remember is that I wrote: "So your father was wrong, big deal", do you think that was rude? I still don't feel so, though. Maybe he should be seeing a shrink if he can't stand the thought that his father was not 100 % perfect, I don't know. It's no reason to get hot about.

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#60 Jim Thurman

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 17:58

:lol: Yes, "Indiana (IMS/500) uber alles", that's perfect! :lol:

However, the issue of the "it's their race" argument wasn't so much the specific way and rules of the IMS (and you're absolutely correct, there), but about information that came from books and websites carrying the "The Official IMS (uber alles) Logo", and the heresy of questioning same. Yes, I recall the guy whose father had been responsible for the Indy Star (I think) record book, but I forgot the details of the conversation. All I remember is that I wrote: "So your father was wrong, big deal", do you think that was rude? I still don't feel so, though. Maybe he should be seeing a shrink if he can't stand the thought that his father was not 100 % perfect, I don't know. It's no reason to get hot about.

 

Heresy is a perfect description of the type of reaction we get when debunking one of their long held myths. Some react harshly to what they view as calling their Uncle Earl "a liar." Since that seems to be a trigger point, what you wrote so well about the failings of memory (http://forums.autosp...14#entry7894777 ) might be useful there. If you don't mind, I'd like to post that link over there. It's bound to come up again  :)

 

I don't recall (and couldn't find) any reference you made about the fellow's father :confused: (which truly would have sent it nuclear), I was referring to your reply of "And your point is?..." after he'd apologized and come to agree with you. But, that's neither here nor there, I was simply citing it as an example of how easy it is to fall into the chippiness that pervades there.



#61 Michael Ferner

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Posted 23 May 2017 - 18:16

Also, there are no results for Winchester May 26, and the payoff sheet is rather "erratic": several payoff positions are missing, and some of those listed do not agree with the entry blank info nor the info from newspaper reports. Shackleford is listed with a qualifying time, but crossed out, and does not appear to have received any money, whereas all newspaper reports list him as winning a heat and running strongly in the feature. Maybe he was disqualified? Yet, there's no hint in the official report from the race, which meticulously lists all fees collected from the drivers, car owners, mechanics and the promoter, rates the "policing" of the race as "OK" and reports the "accidents" as "none", without further remarks. In short, a headache.


I think I have found an explanation for this: Shackleford raced the Bowles/Offenhauser out of Cincinnati here, and that is the only AAA appearance of the car all year. There is evidence that this car had a 255 cubic inch engine, way over the halfmile limit of 210. Perhaps it was allowed to race in view of the short field, but excluded from the official results and payoff - the promoter would've seen to it, that it received a copius appearance deal instead!

A similar thing appears to have happened at Dayton, July 21: one newspaper had Carl Scarborough finish first ahead of Connor, only to have been disqualified. In the AAA files, he's listed with a time trial, but not in the payoffs, just like Shackleford at Winchester. Scarborough's car, on this occasion, was the Christie/Miller originally out of Milwaukee, a well known IMCA car prewar. It had run with a 206 or 208 cubic inch engine a couple of times before, but here at Dayton it was listed as a 255, and finished out the season in IMCA again.

Pragmatism is the keyword here.

#62 DCapps

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Posted 27 May 2017 - 23:00

One final point about that forum, which is more apt for the Revisionism thread. Sadly, I believe much of this mindset comes down to political stripes. I believe I'm safe in assuming that some of the more antagonistic posters towards us view us as "elites." The term has become a bad word to folks of a certain stripe. Don is an intellectual, college educated, so he's "an elite." You're a damn foreigner and I'm from California (which, to some of them, is far worse than being a damn foreigner and automatically labels me as the opposite of them). We already have three strikes against us to some there  :lol: So, when any of us step in and tell them that something they've long held true is simply incorrect, the negative usage of "revisionism" comes instantly to their minds, replete with shaking fists and screams of protest.

 

EDITED: due to clunky wording.

 

Oh, my goodness! That is certainly the lowest of low blows within the so-called "auto racing history" community....



#63 Michael Ferner

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 23:03

Looking at my latest post, I have to say I'm very disappointed, disheartened even by the number and extent of discrepancies and inconsistencies we appear to have to deal with here. A thorough and detailed analysis, as originally planned, may be capable of solving the problem with scores like that of Hank Rogers (+ 29) or Ed Zimmerman (- 20), but there's simply no way to "repair" the scores of Bill Holland (- 77.6), Joie Chitwood (- 81.5) or Earl Johns (+ 81.5) unless I made some pretty basic mistakes in calculating those totals (which is still possible, mind you) - those deviations are simply way too big to be the result of missing heat finishes and/or wrong race distances! I really had high hopes of matching the published point standings more or less to perfection, but I do no longer. I suppose it is possible, that at least Chitwood's score is explainable by a mistake in allocating the points correctly for the shared drive at Indy, but all reports I've seen have him stopping only once on lap 52, and the available leaderboard information (which is hardly exhaustive, admittedly) does not seem to allow for something else to have happened to make a different score feasible. Other than that, I can only think of mistakes in adding up the points, maybe only a typo that was never detected, or mixing up lines in long rows of figures, I don't know.


Without access to intermediate standings, I had very little (as in ZERO) hope to make much progress on the points front, but today I had good luck, and located a newspaper with a points standing from June 28, 1946 (The Morning Call, Allentown/PA), listing over sixty drivers with a minimum score of ten points. Haven't yet had time to fully investigate, but checking a few salient figures I find that, so far at least, my scores for Holland and Johns e.g. are still correct. Chitwood, on the other hand, is more than 100 points off, which must mean that his Indianapolis score was not correct. Will have to mull over this for a while, but maybe there is still something to be learned from the points contest. I am thinking of the Thompson Opener here, and also the scores of drivers who were subsequently stripped of their points, like Wilbert, Fred Carpenter or Bud Rose.

#64 Jim Thurman

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 16:45

Michael, I had wondered about either ineligible cars or drivers being stripped of points causing the inconsistencies in the standings. When Greg Fielden attempted to reconstruct NASCAR points from the 1950s for his books, he kept running into unexplained gaps and would finally find a reference to the driver being stripped of points.

 

So, I suppose I should have mentioned that to you as a possibility, but didn't want to spoil your research efforts   ;)



#65 Jim Thurman

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 17:07

Oh, my goodness! That is certainly the lowest of low blows within the so-called "auto racing history" community....

 

These people are hardly "auto racing historians", even of the most amateur stripe. I don't think many (if any) there would describe themselves as such. They are "enthusiasts" or "fans." I don't use that term perjoratively, because there's nothing in itself wrong with that.

 

But, keep in mind, there are those who start as "enthusiasts" or "fans" who have a keen interest to learn and who aren't beholden to solely what they see in print. Michael and myself both started out that way. Those are the folks who should be encouraged, rather than berated. Not everyone who passes along what they believe to be a fact is some sort of monster. They are simply unwittingly complicit and should have that calmly explained to them and not be excoriated, drawn and quartered. Now, if they defend the indefensible and keep it up, that's another matter :)  

 

I've yet to see any actual or self-described "auto racing historians" behaving recklessly other than one at Facebook, who has since passed away. Facebook seems to have taken over from that other forum as the home of tall tales and poor memories.


Edited by Jim Thurman, 01 June 2017 - 16:56.


#66 Michael Ferner

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 18:17

WALDO?

#67 Jim Thurman

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 20:07

WALDO?

 

Correct answer. The other things on Facebook are simply folks posting linking to Champcarstats.com or some other website, or just the random, off-the-cuff wild*** remarks that used to be so common at that other forum. As the aging process takes its toll on more of these folks, the tales are getting wilder all the time.



#68 Jim Thurman

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 21:42

To give an example of some of the reminisces I've run across on Facebook, one on midget racing at Los Angeles' Gilmore Stadium where a poster referred to "the one-armed black driver Joe Garson"  :eek:  (if this keeps up, we'll have armless, and then armless and legless drivers)

 

One other point about that other forum. There are some there who like to have sport with knowledgeable folk, hoping to get a rise out of them. But, the main thing is that many there simply love to argue. It's a full-time avocation for some there. I sometimes wonder if some of them even believe some of the "facts" or are simply doing it just for the sake of arguing. As I've written, at times it's like a barroom brawl.



#69 Michael Ferner

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 15:27

Whilst browsing randomly through some AAA Contest Board documents (as you do), I found a few items of interest that seem contradictionary, on the surface at the very least: one was a terse statement in the "Minutes of the Contest Board Annual Meeting" of December 13, 1946, reading:
 

The 1946 point system was discussed. On motion by Mr. Schipper * and seconded by Mr. Mehan ** it was decided that in 1947 we return to the same point system as was in use prior to the war; ie, sectional and national standing.


* J. Edward "Ed" Schipper of Detroit, AAA Contest Board member since 1937, and Zone Supervisor for Michigan since 1939
** John H. "Jack" Mehan of Chicago, CB member since '37 and Chief Steward for the first three post-WW2 Indy 500s, also one of only two two contributors to the 1946 National Championship Prize Fund (!)

Also, in the "Official Bulletin" of the CB dated December 18, 1946, under the heading "Point System":
 

(...) it was the consensus of opinion that the combined point standing is no longer necessary nor desirable. The Board, therefore, voted to revert to the point system used prior to the war which provides for Sectional Championship as well as National Championship. Points earned in all National Championship programs appear in the National Championship point standing only, etc.


All very well, and the way we have already learned to understand the situation. However, less than half a year later, another CB Bulletin tabulated the "AAA National Drivers Point Standing as of May 1, 1947" detailing, lo and behold, the combined standings and points of all drivers in the first six Eastern and one Midwestern event held so far! Only three drivers had scored in both circuits so far, namely Spider Webb of California, Johnny Shackleford of Ohio and Carl Ott of Kentucky, the former two figuring prominently in the top ten as a consequence, and no National event had been held so far, but this clearly looks like the peron who compiled these things didn't get the message! As far as I can make out, this was the last time this ever happened, as a subsequent bulletin contained "Point Standings as of May 16, 1947 Eastern Circuit" - it's interesting nonetheless.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 09 July 2019 - 16:37.


#70 Michael Ferner

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Posted 14 June 2019 - 15:01

Without access to intermediate standings, I had very little (as in ZERO) hope to make much progress on the points front, but today I had good luck, and located a newspaper with a points standing from June 28, 1946 (The Morning Call, Allentown/PA), listing over sixty drivers with a minimum score of ten points. Haven't yet had time to fully investigate, but checking a few salient figures I find that, so far at least, my scores for Holland and Johns e.g. are still correct. Chitwood, on the other hand, is more than 100 points off, which must mean that his Indianapolis score was not correct. Will have to mull over this for a while, but maybe there is still something to be learned from the points contest. I am thinking of the Thompson Opener here, and also the scores of drivers who were subsequently stripped of their points, like Wilbert, Fred Carpenter or Bud Rose.


After finding seven more intermediate point standings, I decided that it was time to (quite literally) pick up this thread again. For the record, these published standings are the basis for this survey:

- 42 drivers with 10 points or more as of May 30, excluding Indianapolis (meaning 8 events in total) - unfortunately, I can't now find the exact source for this, as it's been in my files for over ten years; I think it was NSSN and cited on this very forum

- 41 drivers with 16 points or more as of June 9, excluding Thompson and Winchester meetings of that date (11 events) - source: The Paterson (NJ) Morning Call of June 14, 1946, p28

- 62 drivers with 10 points or more as of June 16 (14 events) - source: The Morning Call of Allentown (PA) of June 28, 1946, p24

- 20 drivers with 102 points or more as of July 7 (24 events) - source: The Paterson (NJ) Morning Call of July 18, 1946, p19

- 12 drivers with 200 points or more as of July 7 (24 events) - source: The Indianapolis (IN) Star of July 21, 1946, p37

- 25 drivers with 106 points or more as of August 11 (37 events) - source: The Paterson (NJ) Morning Call of August 22, 1946, p19

- 15 drivers with 200 points or more as of September 8, excluding the protested Atlanta Labor Day meet (51 events) - source: Paterson (NJ) Evening News of September 17, 1946, p18

- 24 drivers with 217 points or more as of October 6, excluding Atlanta (67 events) - source: The Paterson (NJ) Morning Call of October 17, 1946, p21

- 27 drivers with 200 points or more as of October 19, excluding Atlanta (71 events) - source: The Paterson (NJ) Morning Call of october 29, 1946, p11

- 62 drivers with 50 points or more as of October 19, excluding Atlanta (71 events) - source: Automotive Digest of November 1946

- final standings of 63 drivers with 52 points or more, and final ranking of 26 more drivers, as discussed earlier in this thread (see post #50)


Feeding these standings and the relevant race results into my pre-prepared data base sheet, looking at it and at various AAA bulletins, sanction reports, pay-off sheets, point distributions and newspaper reports, checking lap counts and race distances, winning times and average speeds, recalculating them where necessary, carefully checking for possible mistakes, inconsistencies, omissions or possibly unrecorded later revisions for the best part of this week now, all I can say is... I NEED A BREAK!!

But, it is not all bad, as I made progress, real progress: most of the major points inconsistencies are now solved, or at the very least explainable, leaving just a fair number of "bread crumbs" that need to be dissolved, one way or another - very minor stuff, mostly, a couple points here, half a dozen there, some of them maybe just "honest mistakes" in attributing points, or slight miscalculations that went undetected at the time. Given a few more hours of work on the project, many of them will just disappear, I'm sure, and I will definitely be able to produce a more-or-less accurate points table in the near future.

For the moment, though, I will focus on a few salient findings of this recent analysis:

- at the September 29 meeting on the one-mile track at Trenton/NJ, points were actually allocated on the basis of a half-mile track meeting - quite astonishingly, this major mistake (cutting the score for each driver basically in half, though not exactly because the points structure is not linear) was not detected at the time, and never corrected! Eliminating this error from the points table would result in a very few changes, mostly farther down the ranking - the most prominent would be Hank Rogers displacing George Connor from 12th position, and Ottis Stine displacing Mauri Rose from 25th.

- once the Trenton error was detected, a couple of other issues became immediately evident: for one thing, the score of Bill Holland was now exactly 100 points off, meaning that he was credited with an extra 100 points through an apparent miscalculation - or maybe (just maybe) he had a benevolent friend back at AAA HQ??? Seriously, though, the error made no difference at all to his intermediate or final ranking, happening at some point between September 8 and October 6 when he had already moved past Jimmy Jackson into fourth overall position. For the record, he was listed with 801.6 points on September 8, scored 35 on the 15th, 15 on the 22nd, 28 on the 23rd, 28 on the 28th, 24 instead of 48 at that Trenton meeting, 56 on October 5th and 28 on the 6th, adding up to 1015.6 points, yet he was listed with 1115.6 in the relevant October ranking, and from there the error was perpetuated.

- the correction of the Trenton score also made Joie Chitwood's points perfectly consistent from June through October, pinpointing to Indianapolis as the only possible source for error (we already expected as much, see my earlier post #52 from 2017). Here, he was evidently credited with 235 points, that is driving 94 laps in the fifth place car, when all available sources show him relinquishing the steering wheel on lap 52, and not re-entering the race later on. It's also possible that he actually drove 54 laps and, like Holland, was given a "grant" of 100 points, I suppose. Why was this error never detected? Perhaps nobody really cared, given that Chitwood was already semi-retired as a driver, and concentrating on his fledgling stunt driver business instead - he made only sporadic appearances during the rest of the season. Also, although high in points throughout the year, he was not really in a position to challenge for the outright championship, which is all that really mattered to anyone, it seems. Correcting this error would drop Chitwood behind Rex Mays in the final ranking, a position he would (quite ironically) regain upon correction of the Trenton half-mile score!

- which leaves the Earl Johns problem: he is regularly listed on the early season intermediate standings until July, when he is 19th with 102.6 points, then disappears from the rankings until October even though he "should" be listed, given the points he'd earned so far. When he reappears on the standings, he's about 65 points short (give or take a few) from my own calculations. To me, it seems that he fell foul of "outlaw activity", although I don't have any firm proof for that. I have him, however, listed as an entrant for a Penn-Jersey Racing Association meeting at Alcyon Speedway on July 27, but he did not show in the results, and for what it's worth, the winner of that very event was Paul Becker, who is listed as a AAA points scorer, albeit later in the year (October). It's possible, I suppose, that Johns was found out racing for an independent club in June, and that the infraction was not detected until July, at which point he had to forfeit the 65 points he had scored up until June 2 (or, perhaps 75 points scored up until June 9?), and start all over again at zero - this would have been the standard procedure in such a case, according to AAA statutes, although the meting out of punishment in "outlaw matters" is a highly complicated, and apparently quite inconsistent affair!

- which brings us neatly to Bill Sheffler, who's on and off the standings in a most confusing way: not listed in both June rankings and in July, "on" in August and September, "off" again in the first October listing but "on" the second, and "off" the final ranking again in November! Yes, Sheffler was a very prominent regular at independent meetings of the American Racing Association in California from early August onwards, scoring a couple wins along the way, so he's liable for losing his points on an "outlaw" charge, but that doesn't explain his earlier absence from the standings. In fact, this apparent confusion was due to an altogether different problem: an old AAA rule, going back to at least 1933 *, stipulated that points could only be awarded to a competitor still running at the finish of a race, and only "if more than 75 % of the distance is completed" - Sheffler had been a dozen laps shy of this requirement at Indy! However, in the wake of the Atlanta Labor Day disaster, this very rule was found to be encouraging the practice of "walking wounded", a major contributing factor to the accident that killed George Robson and George Barringer, and seriously injured Billy Devore who had been attempting to "nurse" his car to a "finish" under the 75 % rule. As a consequence, the rule was scrapped, and replaced by a new one which would award points to any competitor having completed the required distance, whether still running or not, and incidentally reducing this minimum distance to 50 %. Apparently, someone at HQ now began applying this new rule retrospectively, until someone other, in the typically bureaucratic fashion of the AAA, probably pointed out that rules are rules, and that no one could be expected to abide by rules that did not exist at the time yet, which is a fair point if you think about it. Anyway, it's my explanation of this apparent brouhaha.

* For example, this rule was explicitly mentioned in the "AAA Official Bulletin Vol. VIII - Bul. 1" of May 25, 1933

- and finally, some words about deceased drivers, vanishing from the records. This is a long-running issue, not only with the AAA, but with virtually all racing clubs active during the twenties, thirties and forties. The most confusing issue is that some drivers do disappear from the point standings, but others don't - the final ranking still lists Robson and Barringer, but not Bus Wilbert and Bumpy Bumpus. Then again, the September 8 listing does very prominently omit George Robson, and shows Emil Andres in second place instead! In the same vein, both Bumpus and Wilbert are missing from the standings as of the day of their respective deaths, June 16 and August 11. In the case of Wilbert, however, he was eventually found out to have gone "outlaw" during the summer months, so he would have had to forfeit his points anyway. It is not inconceivable that the same happened to Bumpus, also, so who's to say?


And, harking back to that earlier discussion about "official records" and their shortcomings, what am I going to do with those mistakes and errors I found out? I suppose it's easy enough to dock those 100 points from Holland's score, since they do no harm to anyone, and benefit nobody. A simple typo gone wild, nothing else. A bit more difficult with Chitwood, but it's an error all right, so it should be pointed out, and why not correct it, then? And the Trenton score? Shouldn't we do Rogers and Stine the justice of gaining the points and championship position they deserve? Opinions appreciated!

#71 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 08:28

While we're waiting for the expert opinions to flood in (the silence so far is deafening!), what about a little fun with factoids?

I count a total of 378 races in this 1946 AAA Big Car season, that's main events, heat races, semis, consies, pursuit and match races, non-championship events - well, and one hill climb thrown in for good measure. Overall race distance for those 378 chequered flags is 3,355 miles. 73 drivers shared those 378 wins as follows (winning miles in brackets):

Ted Horn 50 (424.5)
Bill Holland 46 (306)
Walt Ader 28 (156.5)
Joie Chitwood 23 (161)
George Robson 17 (639)
Tommy Hinnershitz 16 (90)
Earl Johns 13 (59)
Hank Rogers 11 (58)
Elbert Booker 10 (65)
Bus Wilbert 9 (69)
Johnny Shackleford 8 (71)
Ottis Stine 8 (41)
Tommy Mattson 7 (33.5)
Oscar Ridlon 6 (38.5)
Lee Wallard 6 (32)
Spider Webb 6 (27.5)
Rex Mays 5 (310)
Red Byron 5 (27)
Al Fleming 5 (23.5)
Dutch Culp 5 (23)
Ed Zimmerman 5 (21)
Jimmy Gibbons 4 (22)
Eddie Zalucki 4 (15.5)
George Connor 3 (115)
Joe Verebly 3 (22)
Lucky Lux 3 (22)
Charley van Acker 3 (20)
Warren Bates 3 (18)
Walt Brown 3 (17)
Duke Nalon 3 (16)
Ed Terry 3 (16)
Emil Andres 3 (15)
Fred Carpenter 3 (13)
Eddie Casterline 3 (13)
Danny Goss 3 (12)
Hal Robson 2 (30)
Jimmie Wilburn 2 (28)
Buddie Rusch 2 (9)
Earl Horne 2 (8)
Mark Light 2 (8)
Red Redmond 2 (7)
Larry Smith 2 (6)
Tony Bettenhausen 1 (100)
Bumpy Bumpus 1 (15)
Lou Unser 1 (12.5)
Duke Dinsmore 1 (8)
Herschel Buchanan 1 (8)
Jack Etheridge 1 (6)
Buddy Shuman 1 (6)
Paul Becker 1 (5)
Johnny Carpenter 1 (5)
George Cavanna 1 (5)
Bob Cooney 1 (5)
Clay Corbitt 1 (5)
Johnnie Crone 1 (5)
Len Fanelli 1 (5)
Johnny Favinger 1 (5)
Amos Hill 1 (5)
Len Koenig 1 (5)
Pete McKeone 1 (5)
Bud Rose 1 (5)
Jim Brubaker 1 (4)
Jack Hudson 1 (4)
Ed Kulp 1 (4)
Peewee Southcott 1 (4)
Billy Devore 1 (2.5)
Johnnie Matera 1 (2.5)
Milt Fankhauser 1 (2)
Eddie Gallione 1 (2)
Jimmy Goodwin 1 (2)
Carl Ott 1 (2)
Joe Taggart 1 (1)
Gene Trinque 1 (1)

#72 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 08:34

... ordered by mileage:

George Robson 17 (639)
Ted Horn 50 (424.5)
Rex Mays 5 (310)
Bill Holland 46 (306)
Joie Chitwood 23 (161)
Walt Ader 28 (156.5)
George Connor 3 (115)
Tony Bettenhausen 1 (100)
Tommy Hinnershitz 16 (90)
Johnny Shackleford 8 (71)
Bus Wilbert 9 (69)
Elbert Booker 10 (65)
Earl Johns 13 (59)
Hank Rogers 11 (58)
Ottis Stine 8 (41)
Oscar Ridlon 6 (38.5)
Tommy Mattson 7 (33.5)
Lee Wallard 6 (32)
Hal Robson 2 (30)
Jimmie Wilburn 2 (28)
Spider Webb 6 (27.5)
Red Byron 5 (27)
Al Fleming 5 (23.5)
Dutch Culp 5 (23)
Jimmy Gibbons 4 (22)
Joe Verebly 3 (22)
Lucky Lux 3 (22)
Ed Zimmerman 5 (21)
Charley van Acker 3 (20)
Warren Bates 3 (18)
Walt Brown 3 (17)
Duke Nalon 3 (16)
Ed Terry 3 (16)
Eddie Zalucki 4 (15.5)
Emil Andres 3 (15)
Bumpy Bumpus 1 (15)
Fred Carpenter 3 (13)
Eddie Casterline 3 (13)
Lou Unser 1 (12.5)
Danny Goss 3 (12)
Buddie Rusch 2 (9)
Earl Horne 2 (8)
Mark Light 2 (8)
Duke Dinsmore 1 (8)
Herschel Buchanan 1 (8)
Red Redmond 2 (7)
Larry Smith 2 (6)
Jack Etheridge 1 (6)
Buddy Shuman 1 (6)
Paul Becker 1 (5)
Johnny Carpenter 1 (5)
George Cavanna 1 (5)
Bob Cooney 1 (5)
Clay Corbitt 1 (5)
Johnnie Crone 1 (5)
Len Fanelli 1 (5)
Johnny Favinger 1 (5)
Amos Hill 1 (5)
Len Koenig 1 (5)
Pete McKeone 1 (5)
Bud Rose 1 (5)
Jim Brubaker 1 (4)
Jack Hudson 1 (4)
Ed Kulp 1 (4)
Peewee Southcott 1 (4)
Billy Devore 1 (2.5)
Johnnie Matera 1 (2.5)
Milt Fankhauser 1 (2)
Eddie Gallione 1 (2)
Jimmy Goodwin 1 (2)
Carl Ott 1 (2)
Joe Taggart 1 (1)
Gene Trinque 1 (1)

#73 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 08:40

... and something a bit more sophisticated, 146 drivers with at least one top three finish, ordered by a little improvised "point system" (4 for every mile won, 2 for seconds and one for third):

Ted Horn (3041) 50 (424.5) 17 (336) 10 (671)
George Robson (2841.5) 17 (639) 5 (134) 2 (17.5)
Bill Holland (1792.5) 46 (306) 29 (194.5) 11 (179.5)
Rex Mays (1256) 5 (310) 1 (8) - -
Walt Ader (1143.5) 28 (156.5) 14 (159.5) 20 (198.5)
Jimmy Jackson (1000) - - 1 (500) - -
Tommy Hinnershitz (982.5) 16 (90) 32 (240) 16 (142.5)
Joie Chitwood (852) 23 (161) 8 (85) 3 (38)
George Connor (475) 3 (115) 1 (5) 1 (5)
Johnny Shackleford (465) 8 (71) 10 (71.5) 5 (38)
Hank Rogers (456) 11 (58) 17 (88.5) 8 (47)
Emil Andres (425) 3 (15) 3 (32.5) 3 (300)
Tony Bettenhausen (400) 1 (100) - - - -
Earl Johns (390) 13 (59) 10 (46) 13 (62)
Bus Wilbert (345) 9 (69) 4 (27) 2 (15)
Lee Wallard (340.5) 6 (32) 13 (74.5) 9 (63.5)
Elbert Booker (320) 10 (65) 2 (12.5) 4 (35)
Red Byron (301) 5 (27) 11 (72.5) 6 (48)
Tommy Mattson (292) 7 (33.5) 11 (61) 6 (36)
Eddie Zalucki (269) 4 (15.5) 7 (73) 9 (61)
Ottis Stine (253) 8 (41) 5 (25) 7 (39)
Ed Zimmerman (232) 5 (21) 10 (51) 11 (46)
Duke Dinsmore (229) 1 (8) 7 (38.5) 4 (120)
Al Fleming (216) 5 (23.5) 6 (35) 10 (52)
Mauri Rose (210) - - 2 (105) - -
Steve Truchan (200) - - 1 (100) - -
Danny Goss (196) 3 (12) 11 (53) 6 (42)
Warren Bates (178) 3 (18) 8 (38.5) 6 (29)
Spider Webb (165) 6 (27.5) 2 (15) 3 (25)
Oscar Ridlon (164) 6 (38.5) 1 (5) - -
Walt Brown (163) 3 (17) 3 (17) 7 (61)
Charley van Acker (151) 3 (20) 5 (23) 1 (25)
Hal Robson (150) 2 (30) 3 (12.5) 1 (5)
Joe Verebly (149) 3 (22) 4 (21.5) 3 (18)
Lucky Lux (149) 3 (22) 4 (23) 3 (15)
Dutch Culp (134) 5 (23) 2 (8) 7 (26)
Jimmy Gibbons (129) 4 (22) 2 (9) 5 (23)
Fred Carpenter (124) 3 (13) 4 (19) 5 (34)
Mark Light (123) 2 (8) 8 (39) 3 (13)
Larry Smith (121.5) 2 (6) 5 (22) 10 (53.5)
Jimmie Wilburn (112) 2 (28) - - - -
Bob Cooney (99) 1 (5) 3 (16) 6 (47)
Eddie Casterline (98.5) 3 (13) 2 (16) 2 (14.5)
Duke Nalon (98) 3 (16) 2 (17) - -
Buddy Shuman (90) 1 (6) 2 (11) 6 (44)
Buddie Rusch (89) 2 (9) 5 (26.5) - -
Red Redmond (85) 2 (7) 5 (24) 2 (9)
Ed Terry (75) 3 (16) - - 3 (11)
Johnnie Matera (71) 1 (2.5) 3 (28) 1 (5)
Bumpy Bumpus (70) 1 (15) 1 (5) - -
Earl Horne (69) 2 (8) 1 (5) 7 (27)
Milt Fankhauser (60) 1 (2) 3 (19) 3 (14)
Buster Warke (60) - - 3 (25) 2 (10)
George Cavanna (52) 1 (5) 1 (2) 5 (28)
Lou Unser (50) 1 (12.5) - - - -
Orville Epperley (45) - - 3 (15) 3 (15)
Herman Owens (44) - - 4 (14.5) 3 (15)
Carl Ott (40) 1 (2) 2 (13) 1 (6)
Bud Rose (40) 1 (5) - - 3 (20)
Bob Chronister (40) - - 1 (3) 7 (34)
Norm Houser (40) - - 2 (15) 2 (10)
George Rutty (40) - - 2 (10) 4 (20)
Clay Corbitt (38) 1 (5) 1 (5) 2 (8)
Peewee Southcott (33.5) 1 (4) 1 (5) 2 (7.5)
Herschel Buchanan (32) 1 (8) - - - -
Jack Etheridge (32) 1 (6) - - 1 (8)
Len Koenig (32) 1 (5) 2 (4) 1 (4)
Jimmy Fearick (30) - - 1 (5) 3 (20)
Joe Martin (30) - - 1 (8) 2 (14)
Johnny Favinger (29) 1 (5) - - 2 (9)
Hank Gritzbach (29) - - 3 (10) 2 (9)
Mike Bailey (26) - - 2 (13) - -
Charlie Breslin (26) - - 1 (5) 2 (16)
Jim Brubaker (25) 1 (4) - - 2 (9)
Eddie Edwards (25) - - 1 (5) 4 (15)
George Hammond (25) - - 1 (12.5) - -
Verden Morelock (24) - - 1 (8) 1 (8)
Jimmy Goodwin (23) 1 (2) 1 (5) 1 (5)
Paul Becker (20) 1 (5) - - - -
Johnny Carpenter (20) 1 (5) - - - -
Johnnie Crone (20) 1 (5) - - - -
Len Fanelli (20) 1 (5) - - - -
Amos Hill (20) 1 (5) - - - -
Pete McKeone (20) 1 (5) - - - -
Len Duncan (20) - - 1 (5) 2 (10)
Ducky Pehlman (18) - - 1 (5) 1 (8)
Stan Jones (17) - - - - 3 (17)
Jack Hudson (16) 1 (4) - - - -
Ed Kulp (16) 1 (4) - - - -
Les Adair (16) - - 1 (8) - -
Charlie Miller (16) - - 1 (8) - -
Billy Devore (15) 1 (2.5) - - 1 (5)
D. C. Russell (14) - - - - 2 (14)
Walt Walker (13) - - 1 (2.5) 1 (8)
Walt Killinger (12.5) - - - - 1 (12.5)
Mike Salay (12.5) - - 1 (5) 1 (2.5)
Gene Trinque (12) 1 (1) 1 (4) - -
Lou Heller (12) - - 1 (4) 1 (4)
Jimmy Little (12) - - 1 (5) 1 (2)
Ed Sample (12) - - 1 (6) - -
Jim Schumacher (12) - - 1 (4) 1 (4)
Joe Langley (10) - - - - 2 (10)
Bob Patriguin (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Dewey Ploppert (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Bill Randall (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Chick Smith (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Henry Steiger (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Charlie Szekendy (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Dee Toran (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Arthur York (10) - - 1 (5) - -
Mark Sooy (9) - - - - 2 (9)
Eddie Gallione (8) 1 (2) - - - -
Al Baker (8) - - 1 (4) - -
Tommy Charles (8) - - 1 (4) - -
Howie Hagelin (8) - - 1 (4) - -
J. A. Kennedy (8) - - - - 1 (8)
Carl Scarborough (8) - - 1 (4) - -
Henry Weavil (8) - - 1 (4) - -
Jakie Holland (7.5) - - - - 2 (7.5)
Joe Baker (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Paul Eldridge (5) - - - - 1 (5)
George Fabyan (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Tommy Gulliver (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Vince Haan (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Paul Handshew (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Cliff Hemingway (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Bud Johnson (5) - - - - 1 (5)
George Lynch (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Chuck McNeal (5) - - - - 1 (5)
George Metzler (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Harry Robtoy (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Sandy Sanford (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Bob Simpson (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Steve Yanigan (5) - - - - 1 (5)
Joe Taggart (4) 1 (1) - - - -
Ernie Gesell (4) - - - - 1 (4)
J. Grubbs (4) - - - - 1 (4)
Fred Lauty (4) - - - - 1 (4)
Vic Nauman (4) - - - - 1 (4)
Fred Reid (4) - - - - 1 (4)
Leonard Shaw (4) - - - - 1 (4)
Tom Sternad (4) - - - - 1 (4)
Sammy Swartz (4) - - - - 1 (4)
George Bouley (2) - - - - 1 (2)
Al Gaumond (2) - - 1 (1) - -
Don King (1) - - - - 1 (1)

#74 DCapps

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 14:58

Michael,

 

During my various looks at the 1946 AAA season, I noted a number of the issues that you mention -- certainly nowhere close to as many as you have pointed out!

 

My thought in many cases was that I was either obviously missing some information or that the information being offered was incomplete, perhaps muddled or even erroneous.

 

One thought that I had was that there was perhaps more lurking in the file cabinets than has been made available. Possible, but I am also curious about board minutes being another factor. The public affairs releases finding their ways into the newspapers was another thought, something that you seem to have addressed quite well.

 

The separate events in the sanction folders being reflected in the payout sheets was another thing that I considered, there being a few puzzles there that you definitely have zeroed in on, the Trenton race being one that slipped by me for a long time, before I noticed it.

 

If nothing else, this analysis of yours does the inevitable: it raises even more questions.

 

As always, excellent work.

 

Don



#75 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 17:38

Back on Track in the US - An Introduction

The revival of motor racing in Europe was nothing short of miraculous, with a major motor race meeting taking place in Paris within four months of Germany's surrender. While painfully slow preparations were under way for the Paris event, culminating in a publicity stunt performed by a prewar racing car on the proposed circuit and adjoining boulevards on August 4, the United States of America were still involved in a war dragging on in the Pacific Theater, but only two days later a big mushroom of smoke over Hiroshima in Western Japan signalled a change of fortunes, and within ten more days Japan effectively surrendered. Even before the surrender was formally signed on September 2, a week before the Paris races, Big cars were racing again at the Champaign Valley Fairgrounds in Essex Junction near Burlington (Vermont) on August 26*, and weekly Midget racing had commenced at West Haven Speedway in Savin Rock (Connecticut) on August 30** - motor racing in the US was back on track with a bang!

* Ted Horn won from Lee Wallard and Milt Marion
** Bill Schindler won from Chet Gibbons - West Haven alone ran at least six weekly shows through October 4, other Eastern tracks were open until November, while some Texas and California tracks ran all through winter

19450825-ad.jpg

+ This ad appeared on the front page of The Burlington Free Press on August 25, along with world news and pictures of US President Truman, General de Gaulle of France and the Manchurian Emperor Pu Yi - of the 14 advertized cars, by the way, only six appeared and only five actually raced

It is hardly surprising to find the US much faster out of the blocks than Europe in postwar motor racing matters, given that the North American continent had seen hardly any war action at all during those destructive years, but its economy was seriously "under the weather" after a massive effort to end nearly four years of all-out war on multiple fronts. Although gasoline rationing was lifted on August 18 already, other vital items such as lubricants or tyres were only slowly becoming available again, making it fairly difficult for owners and mechanics to get their cars back in shape after more than three years of negligence. The biggest difference, however, between Europe and the US was the openly professional manner in which motor racing was and always had been conducted in America: Here were men at work, eager to make a living by going racing. This not only applied to the drivers, but also mechanics, builders, promoters, a whole industry in fact.

19450827-Horn.jpg

+ Horn and Wallard, visibly happy to be back in business - the caption contains a typical newspaper inaccurcy, in that Wallard had won back in 1938, not 1941 when Bill Holland had been victorious

Another boon was the availability of the fairgrounds tracks for motor racing. Back in 1942, when the US Office of Defense Transportation (a temporary war agency) had issued a ban on professional sporting events effective as of August 1 of that year, lobbying by certain sports associations had resulted in exemption from this ban, not including, however, all forms of motor racing, which as a result were banned altogether from that date onwards for exactly three years and two weeks, except for a very brief spell in 1944. Horse racing, on the other hand, was amongst those sports which continued more or less unabated, thereby (quite ironically) providing well-cared-for facilities when motor racing resumed in 1945! Those fairground tracks supplied the bulk of venues for a late-summer and fall circuit of auto races that, in the Eastern part of the US at least, rivalled any other year in activity. Within a very few weeks, it was as if there had never been any ban!

The crowds were certainly appreciative of the motor racing comeback, and flooded to the tracks in exorbitant numbers: the fairgrounds track at Flemington (New Jersey) sold 32,052 tickets for its Labor Day show, and six days later the Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg (Pennsylvania) opened to a record attendance of 34,209, only to be rained out before the feature event. Later that month, the New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Trenton played to an unofficial 52,000 crowd, and the (half-mile!) Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania allegedly to 70,000!! Whatever the true numbers, all over the country spectators were happy to make do with relatively short fields and a high mortality rate amongst the cars - at some of those early meetings, a handful of cars in running condition at the end of an afternoon of racing was considered quite a success!

(t. b. c.)

#76 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 18:22

Michael: I understood that there was a partial lifting of the ban on November 1st 1944, but only for the smallest bike-engined midget racers and not using gasoline or any sort of rationed rubber. Your text suggests that might have only been a temporary measure and the ban was reimposed?



#77 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 19:41

Yep, the ban was reimposed after just one single race at the Indianapolis Speedrome (a second was rained out the following day). I have no direct source for the "roll back", other than a 2005 book saying "after two weeks", but there are newspaper articles in January of 1945 about Bill White seeking permission to stage Midget races at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and the ODT denying.


EDIT And I believe the ban lifted November 8 (not 1)

Edited by Michael Ferner, 16 June 2019 - 19:43.


#78 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 20:14

Ah, I actually had the 8th as the date - confused it with August 1st 1942. :blush:



#79 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 20:32

Oh, BTW, I've also seen mention of a July 4th 1945 midget race meeting at Riverview Park Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa.

 

ETA: it was covered in a thread at the Yahoo Racing History group.



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#80 Jim Thurman

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 18:19

For the moment, though, I will focus on a few salient findings of this recent analysis:

- at the September 29 meeting on the one-mile track at Trenton/NJ, points were actually allocated on the basis of a half-mile track meeting - quite astonishingly, this major mistake (cutting the score for each driver basically in half, though not exactly because the points structure is not linear) was not detected at the time, and never corrected! Eliminating this error from the points table would result in a very few changes, mostly farther down the ranking - the most prominent would be Hank Rogers displacing George Connor from 12th position, and Ottis Stine displacing Mauri Rose from 25th.

And, harking back to that earlier discussion about "official records" and their shortcomings, what am I going to do with those mistakes and errors I found out? I suppose it's easy enough to dock those 100 points from Holland's score, since they do no harm to anyone, and benefit nobody. A simple typo gone wild, nothing else. A bit more difficult with Chitwood, but it's an error all right, so it should be pointed out, and why not correct it, then? And the Trenton score? Shouldn't we do Rogers and Stine the justice of gaining the points and championship position they deserve? Opinions appreciated!

 

Michael, do we know for certain that Trenton was "a mistake"? Is there a possibility that the purse led to points being distributed as if a half-mile track meeting? As you've noted, there are plenty of inconsistencies in how the Contest Board did things, so how do we know that half-mile points weren't given - rightfully or wrongfully - for Trenton?  :confused:



#81 Michael Ferner

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Posted 17 June 2019 - 19:37

The purse on the pay-out sheet is exactly as advertized on the entry blank, and in that identical to the two earlier Trenton races. I just went back to the original documents, and saw that the number of laps and finishing times on the "Form 4A - Summary of Results" are the same as in period newspapers (i.e. 8-lap heats and 20-lap main), but the AAA rep (whose name I can just now not decipher) wrote in the wrong figures in the points column! So, they just took these numbers from this form at HQ, and updated the season's standings! On my own spreadsheet, I had calculated the points myself, and it took me some time to find that the amounts that were missing from my season's total were pretty much identical with half the score at this Trenton race, but this here is interesting, if that's the way it was done. Although it means I will have to go through all these documents again, and see what points were awarded by the local rep :( More work, and still so little time....

#82 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 07:00

I had some thoughts tonight, and a fresh look at it this morning. The filled-in points in the results form are a different handwriting, different pen even, so it's clear it wasn't the local AAA rep who made the mistake, but someone at HQ after the sanction report was send in. This makes more sense, in that a mistake like that would not likely have happened with a person present at the big track, but someone in Washington may have remembered Trenton as a half-mile track (which it was before the war), and made a careless (if understandable) mistake. The worrying thing is, that there obviously was no auditing at all of the points allocation process!

So, this then, are the officially allocated points, which brings us back to the original question: How do we, as fans, followers of the sport, as information seekers, record keepers, or even as historians, how do we deal with inconsistencies in the historical record, or even plainly obvious mistakes in the way that rules and regulations were administered in the (sometimes very distant) past? This is no trivial question, and I'm somewhat disappointed at the lack of input here from the regulars - we who we are fans, followers of the sport, information seekers, record keepers, or even historians!

Countless times have I seen official race speed or lap speed averages corrected because they were evidently wrong in the official sources, and usually the discrepancy is not even mentioned - I have done that myself, too, no sweat. I have also included deceased drivers in year-end point standings, who were deleted from the official records for reason that are no longer valid, and I know I'm not the only one to have done so, and I always thought that it was the right thing to do - morally, ethically or whatever you want to call it.

It's not unknown for authors to "correct" points tables, either - Buzz Rose did it in his books with the 1946 results, writing that the "AAA failed to correct the score for the Atlanta Labor Day race" which was called four laps before the end. Only, they didn't "correct the score" either for a number of other races that were called early, in 1946 alone! Phil Harms "corrected" a lot of National Championship points tables! Jim is certainly right, in that we have to ask (the right!) questions in every single case, but what if there are no reasonable doubts? Why should we then not correct a simple arithmetic mistake in the points allocated to Bill Holland, which had aboslutely zero consequences for the championship standings at any point in time? But if we do, does that not oblige us to correct all other mistakes we can find, too?

And it can get really tricky, mind you! I shudder at the thought, but the 1937 Eastern AAA Championship, for example, was decided by a single point, with third place another three or four points behind - the difference between first and second in one of several hundreds of short heat races! I'm still a long way from calculating the points myself, but when I finally do, what will I find out????

Edited by Michael Ferner, 18 June 2019 - 08:10.


#83 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 07:38

To be fair, Michael, I think we're all pretty much in the dark on this one and just 'watching the show'. You're seemingly the only person who has all the source material - primary and secondary - at his disposal, so we're reliant on you to interpret and expose it. I have an interest in the 1946 AAA title, although coming at it from a different angle, and I suspect that in the past - like the pre-WW2 European Championships - people have looked at it and realised that there's 'something not quite right' but - due to lack of time, sources or resources - put it into the 'too difficult' pile. So 'not quite right' becomes the un-footnoted* accepted story and is repeated ad infinitum. ("History repeats itself. Historians repeat each other" - Philip Guedalla.)

 

[*Un-footnoted; the unfortunate propensity of authors to not admit they didn't pursue a line of inquiry - for whatever reason - and leave an unsubstantiated statement to be interpreted as 'fact' without explaining.]



#84 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 08:16

Thank you, Richard. You're quite right there in that most of you probably can't follow all of the detail, but the questions are universal. Some of them emerged already during the 1939 European Championship discussions, if you recall.

As for my interpretation and exposure, here’s where I stand at the moment:

- Bill Holland: correct the mistake in all relevant standings, and make a note in the year-end standings explaining the mistake.
- Joie Chitwood: undecided, leaning towards correcting.
- Trenton: undecided.
- Earl Johns: needs more research.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 18 June 2019 - 08:38.


#85 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 08:37

Oh, indeed. I'm still occasionally worrying away at the 1939 EC - the odd press item still surfaces from time to time and I still live in hope!



#86 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 09:23

On second thoughts, I lean towards keeping Chitwood's score as is, merely annotating it wherever necessary (which is a drag!). One needs to be consistent, and there are lots of instances like that in over a hundred years of championships with points - how can one be expected to correct them all? Same goes probably for Trenton, too. Hmm. :well:

#87 DCapps

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 14:19

Giving credit where great credit is due, Michael has taken this challenge of sorting out the anomalies and conundrums of a single, challenging season, 1946, and correctly used it as a means to attempt to bend the discussion back to one of the persistent issues in dealing with motor sport history: How do we, as fans, followers of the sport, as information seekers, record keepers, or even as historians, how do we deal with inconsistencies in the historical record, or even plainly obvious mistakes in the way that rules and regulations were administered in the (sometimes very distant) past?

 

I can only speak as an historian, of course, but one of the roles that historians tend to accept, even if a tad gingerly in many cases, is that of offering to others the fruits of their research and analysis. This oftentimes involves dealing with exactly what Michael is expressing his concerns about: errors or omissions or interpretations of information such as scoring or results and so forth.

 

As for my interpretation and exposure, here’s where I stand at the moment:

- Bill Holland: correct the mistake in all relevant standings, and make a note in the year-end standings explaining the mistake.
- Joie Chitwood: undecided, leaning towards correcting.
- Trenton: undecided.
- Earl Johns: needs more research.

 

In my opinion, Michael is certainly approaching this in the way that I think makes sense. Taking the time to consider the various aspects of these issues and then weigh the analysis tends to lead one to being able to lay out the context of the issue and its possible nuances. In this case, I think that it becomes clear that there were certainly errors, clerical and informational, if you will, that can be addressed. I have no doubt that whatever Michael decides, it will be based upon the sort of analysis that he can support and provide to others.

 

When I first began looking at this information, the sanction reports from the Contest Board for 1946, I was simply trying to sort out the broad outlines of a season that was more or less an enigma to many of us. It tended to present a number of issues the more one looked and pondered, of course. That Michael has taken to a plane of analysis far more intense that I ever intended is, to be honest, quite heartening.

 

To circle back to a possible response to Michael's query: Historians lay out those "inconsistencies in the historical record, or even plainly obvious mistakes in the way that rules and regulations were administered in the (sometimes very distant) past," and present them as part of the, yes, historical record. The past is not sacrosanct, if you will. Errors of omission and commission do occur, particularly the former in matters of clerical work and records-keeping. That relatively little attention in motor sport history tends to be devoted to the organizations and their archival practices is scarcely a surprise. That much of the archival material is either incomplete or is now deemed proprietary is a related issue. Think of what it would be like if we only had what appeared in NSSN, ISN or the local newspapers to go by?

 

As an aside, Michael's work on this season suggests that he might be answering his own question....

 

Again, excellent work laying out the issues and the process. This is the sort of work that too often goes unnoticed and certainly unappreciated.

 

Don



#88 ensign14

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 15:00

There is one other point that it all raises - what might be termed the metahistorical point of the AAA's treatment.  Evidently the AAA was not overly bothered about getting the national standings 100% correct so long as they got the top part more or less right.  That in turn helps to understand the importance, or reception, of the national standings.  Nobody (I assume!) seemed to be that bothered about their exact points totals.  I bet the prize money was the thing...

 

But then is it ahistorical to correct the standings?  If someone found an obscure rule in 1964 that meant you don't take the "best of" points if it changes the world champion, does one then go back and give Graham Hill the world title, even though nobody accepted he won it at the time?

And is this more a problem for American history?  Leaving aside the Haresnapisms, there seems to be a thing in the US of declaring ex post facto champions in things like college gridiron.  I don't think that's something that happens here - nobody retrospectively awards a county championship for 1870 based on first-class results, or a Football League for 1872.



#89 Geoff E

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 21:00

I don't think that's something that happens here - nobody retrospectively awards a county championship for 1870 based on first-class results, 

 

You choose an interesting example.  The County Championship seems to have been, at that time, a matter of opinion(s).  The point at which at which titles were "awarded" may have been a while after the event.

 

https://en.wikipedia...official_titles



#90 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 21:45

And on that subject, the ACF retrospectively adopted the 1946 Coupe de l'Equipe as an official French Drivers' Championship (it helped that the paper had used the same scoring system as the ACF had used in 1939). The Swiss Automobil Revue calculated their own European Championship in 1946 as well - again using the same system. Raymond Sommer won them both.



#91 Michael Ferner

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 09:06

Thanks for your thoughts, gents.

Don, thanks for your encouraging words. Yes, of course, real historians don’t sweat over these issues, it’s their bread and butter. But we’ve had these discussions before, I’m not really aspiring to scientific writing – my aim is somewhat more in the direction of journalistic historiography; I’ve praised the Mike Lang Grand Prix! books before, also the Autocourse yearbooks, something like that. In a nutshell, I want to answer more questions than I create, provide “reliable data”, hence my fretting over these things.

Ensign, I’m not sure the AAA “was not overly bothered about getting things 100 % right”, when you’ve seen their press bulletins and yearbooks, listing point standings for hundreds of Big car and Midget drivers as well as owners. The problem, as I see it, was that it was probably just one man doing these calculations, and keeping score for hundreds of drivers is no trivial matter – I can attest to that, as a youngster I tried to keep points for the European Rally Championship once, using pen and paper: a nightmare! Obviously, a second person auditing those standings would have helped a great deal, but judging by the mistakes that slipped through, that apparently did not happen – a real shame.

As for the competitors, I’m sure you’re right, and that purse money was all that mattered, but then again, perhaps not: most of the money a driver or owner earned in those days came from guarantees (show-up money), which was often based on point standings! The big difficulty for the competitors was to keep score – I know of one example, 1936 if memory serves me, when Frank Bailey (I think) protested that he should have taken the championship lead after one particular race, and the AAA checked the numbers, and agreed! Usually, I think it would’ve been too difficult and bothersome for drivers or owners to keep even only their own score, so they had to trust the Contest Board to do it right; in this one case, however, the AAA had drummed up interest by highlighting the close points race in the press, and then made a blunder of it – Bailey probably noticed only because of the press reports!

Richard, that’s very interesting! I do recall reading in a German sports encyclopedia of the seventies, about Sommer being the 1946 European Champion, and I think Stuck was mentioned in same as the 1934 Champion – so, that’s where it all came from!

#92 Jim Thurman

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Posted 22 June 2019 - 17:26

Michael, when running across these errors, they must be corrected. All of them! Whether they make any difference or not. Whether it changes the championship significantly, or not. It's your duty to note them. The best that can be done is to use asterisks and footnotes, acknowledging the errors and correcting them for posterity. I know this seems to upset Don greatly   ;) , as it is a compromise, but it is the best that can be done as far as the statistical record. 

 

I know your eyes glaze over when I mention ball sports, but there is much that can be learned of their historical research groups and how they've managed similar issues. There are cases where researchers have pored over official documents and newspapers and run into many of these sort of errors and discrepancies for baseball and football (gridiron). Although I haven't read about specific examples of it for other sports, I imagine the same has happened with statistical records in other sports as well.

 

ensign, I was going to write that the part of it that became "particularly American" was in cases where there was not a formal champion decided on the field (most notably collegiate football, which as noted, probably inspired the AAA as far as the retroactive championships). But, then the County Championship situation was pointed out, so that proves that it isn't just an American thing   ;)  For some reason, whenever there isn't a formal championship, some feel tempted to assign one, by whatever means possible.



#93 Vitesse2

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Posted 22 June 2019 - 17:59

The situation in cricket is nothing compared to Rugby Union, Jim. There wasn't an official national league until 1987, when the authorities finally realised that 'shamateurism' and 'boot money' had to stop and decreed that players could be officially paid for playing.

 

Before that there were various 'pennants' and 'merit tables' maintained by regional and national newspapers, although there was an official merit table system between 1984/5 and 1986/7.

 

This just covers the situation in England: https://en.wikipedia...by_union_system There are similar parallel stories for Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France. The Sunday Telegraph also published Welsh and Scottish merit tables. And Anglo/Welsh and Anglo/Scottish ones!

 

"Confused? You will be!" as they used to tell us at the start of every episode of 'Soap'.



#94 Michael Ferner

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 08:56

Thanks for your input, Jim. Yes, the mistakes must be pointed out, footnotes and all, but correcting them is another matter, entirely, isn't it? Take that 1937 scenario I described in an earlier post, what if I now find out that Frankie Bailey or Bob Sall had actually scored more points than Champion Frank Beeder, correcting that mistake would mean changing history, wouldn't it? I'm not for that. Besides, there are too many unknown variables in the mix before you can make that call. These things need to be pointed out, no doubt, but you have to be very thorough to make that call, and that takes up a lot of time which could perhaps be better used in other areas of research. It's not like I desperately needeed yet another problem to mull over... :well:  ;)

About those stick'n'ball sports, yes, I can be be dismissive, can't I? :D But it's all in good fun, the thing I really despise is people who take for granted that other people are interested in the sport they like most, like Fußball here in Germany - I'm sure it's the same over in the States with baseball, they ask your opinion about last night's game and you don't have a clue what they're talking about! (As an aside, I had to do some baseball "research" for one of my next posts about the 1946 season, Portland Beavers... I guess you know why  ;)) But I take your point, I guess there's really something to be learned here. Retroactive statistics is one thing, but correcting errors in official statistics something else. It would be good to have input from someone with knowledge in this field, here!

#95 DCapps

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 16:22

Michael & Others,

 

One of the obligations of an historian, whatever his/her status in the field, is to present research findings -- those seriously pesky, often uncomfortable things called facts -- that might possibly challenge the accepted interpretations and/or facts of a case.

 

If that leads to correcting an error, especially factual one, which in turn could/might/should alter either how we interpret that past case or providing the basis for suggesting that errors were made, so be it.

 

If the research is solid and the facts what they are, then while we cannot change the past, whatever may have occurred, we can point this out and the offer what it should have been.

 

This is not being counterfactual, of course, given that it is the facts in the case suggesting that errors were made and, for whatever the reasons, accepted at the time; we cannot turn the clock back and reset things as they were happening.

 

However, we can accept that an error or set of errors occurred and provide the information for what should have happened, rather than what did.

 

Needless to say, of course, that this is not as easy as it seems; that there are often (if not inevitably) ambiguities and nuances and gaps and so forth in our research and subsequent analysis must be factored into our conclusions and factored into our interpretations.

 

Therefore, laying all this out, such as might be the case regarding Bailey, Sall, and Beeder, or any number of other possible cases, should be done of there is a good and sufficient basis to do so.

 

As we are constantly reminded, researching and writing about the past is one thing, doing so as an historian is another thing altogether. Neither is easy and both have their own challenges and both, despite what some may think, overlap a great deal. It is what and how one does with the material that makes the difference.

 

And, spoiler alert, academic historians don't always do better than those outside the academe, especially in fields where there is little academic -- note that I did not write scholarly -- interest, such as motor sport history. But, progress is slowly being made.

 

Good work is good work. Period.



#96 ensign14

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 16:53

Thanks for your input, Jim. Yes, the mistakes must be pointed out, footnotes and all, but correcting them is another matter, entirely, isn't it? Take that 1937 scenario I described in an earlier post, what if I now find out that Frankie Bailey or Bob Sall had actually scored more points than Champion Frank Beeder, correcting that mistake would mean changing history, wouldn't it?

 

I've got a sort of analogy in pop music.  Not quite the same thing, but quite vexing.

 

There was no single national pop chart in Britain until early 1969.  The first sales chart was that produced by the New Musical Express in 1952.  Other music magazines started to produce their own from 1955 onwards.  In the 1960s there were sometimes five or six charts of varying accuracy.

 

The BBC, for Top Of The Pops and its radio charts, did not compile its own chart.  Instead it averaged out the published charts.  So if a song was no. 1 in three charts and no. 2 in two others, the Beeb added up the positions, and got the total 7.  Another song might be no. 2 in three charts and no. 1 in the other two; that adds up to 8.  Go on down the chart, and arrange them in reverse order (a la 1930s European Championship).  Hey presto, a rough and ready overall listing.

 

But you will not see this in the standard reference works.  Because there was a problem in 1968.  A weird mathematical fluke saw a three-way tie at no. 1.  (You can see it wouldn't be that hard to have a joint no. 1, especially when there was an even number of charts counting.)  The BBC thought this was too farcical and arranged with a market research company, and a trade magazine, to have a single chart.

 

That trade magazine was Record Retailer.  And now, when you see any reference work with charts in the 1960s in it, the charts will be Record Retailer's charts.  Not the one on Top Of The Pops.  And, because Record Retailer was not a readily available magazine, not the charts most people would have seen in shops (those would have been the NME's or Melody Maker's).

 

The importance of this being that most people look up The Beatles' first no. 1 single and see it is "Can't Buy Me Love".  But "Please Please Me" was number 1 in every single 1960s chart - NME, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, Disc & Music Echo, and, obviously, the BBC's averaged chart - except for Record Retailer. 

 

So...is it re-writing history to say "Please Please Me" was The Beatles' first number 1?  No.  Because you ask nearly anyone in the back end of February 1963 what the no. 1 single was, and they'd say "Please Please Me".  It was in the charts in the NME and Melody Maker, the ones put up in Woolies or Smiths, the one the BBC played.  It's re-writing history to say it only got to no. 2.

 

But because ever since 1976 the world has been conditioned to seeing the Record Retailer chart as the "official" charts of the 1960s - ahistorically - it would seem to be rewriting history to put things right.

 

There are other more egregious errors in the record as a result (the most startling being "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown" being denied no. 1 by Nancy Sinatra in Record Retailer - almost certainly because they got the alphabetical order wrong) and at some point I intend to blog it all. 

 

But...as of now History as Dictated is "Please Please Me", one of the most exciting, iconic, and breathtaking singles released hitherto, was not a no. 1 because of an Australian yodeller.
 



#97 Michael Ferner

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 21:12

Let's get on with the narrative...

Introduction (2)

Note the legend "Sponsored [i.e. sanctioned] by Consolidated States Racing Association" in the ad for the Essex Junction races - the CSRA had been formed as the Central States Racing Association* in 1935 by Dayton (Ohio) publicist Norm Witte, and the physician Dr. J. K. Bailey. Witte and Bailey were in the right place at the right time, there was money in the bank (Dr. Bailey was an investor in the newly built Dayton Speedway in town, which became the association's home track), and the group prospered and grew into the third biggest auto racing club of the United States in no time at all: by 1940, it held roughly two to three dozen meetings a year, mostly on dedicated speedways in Ohio, Indiana, and a few neighbouring states. For comparison, the American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioned about two to three times as many race dates, most of them at County Fairs on the Eastern seaboard, while the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) sponsored between 50 and 100 meetings per year (exact numbers are difficult to find for this period in the club's history), virtually all of them at State and County Fairs in the Corn Belt, west of the Mississippi. Of course, all of this was always in a state of flux, and subject to the shifting of tectonic plates - case in point, the period between the summer of 1940 and the spring of 1946, roughly the first half of the forties, which could be termed "The War of the Associations".

* the Consolidated tag was added in 1939 for the increasing number of promotions east of the Appalachians

1933-Witte-Norm.jpg

+ Norm Witte in 1933

The first gunshots in this war were fired during late July, and it was a sort of friendly fire at that: CSRA promoter Frank Funk declared his defection from the club's ranks! Now, Funk was not just any CSRA promoter - starting out as a simple farmer in Winchester (Indiana), he had turned his farming property into an amusement park called "Funk's Lake" in 1905, and in 1918 opened a half-mile dirt track there under the name of "Funk's Speedway" - today, as "Winchester Speedway", it is the second oldest track in the world that was purposely built for automobile and motorcycle racing. After two years of contracting with outside promoters for the races, Funk finally found out that to do it right, he had to do it himself, and over the next two decades, he expanded this line of business to promote auto racing at other Indiana tracks such as Huntington, Jungle Park and Fort Wayne, then Greenville and Cincinnati-Hamilton in neighbouring Ohio. He was a member of the CSRA Board of Directors since the club's inception, and in 1939, he even purchased Dayton Speedway, and now the club faced not only the loss of more than half of its race dates, but also the excruciating embarrassment of losing its own home track into the bargain!

Perhaps it's a good idea to point out here that in all of the history that will now unfold - like in most walks of life in the real world - there are neither heroes nor villains at work, just a bunch of people trying to make a living by pursuing their own ideas and dreams, and that conflicts arise by sheer necessity when people with strong convictions clash. Funk, for example, didn't think he was getting good value out of his CSRA membership, which had a great deal to do with one particular driver (of whom more in the next chapter) dominating all of the races, and the car count suffering as a consequence. The CSRA had attempted to deal with the problem in early 1940 by restricting engine capacity, and had since already modified the rules during the season, but all to no avail. Funk's idea was now to "open up the field", and to this end he made a "deal with the devil", the IMCA!

This club had been founded in 1915 with the express notion of providing entertainment at the many fair dates that sought contracts for auto racing, and with its chief promoter Alex Sloan of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), it provided just that. This was not motor sport in its strictest sense, but "Show Biz Auto Racing", a term coined by the IMCA itself, allegedly. In practice, this meant that the promoter owned all the racing cars and contracted drivers for the races, who had to obey instructions for fear of losing their jobs. By and by, the racers themselves saw to it that competition entered the equation, and by the time Alex Sloan died in March of 1937, the writing was on the wall for the "old style" IMCA, but it would still take decades for the club to shake off its past entirely. In the years before WW2, one of the remaining peculiarities of the IMCA was that all promotional contracts were signed under the name of the Racing Corporation of America, headed by John Sloan, son of Alex! Thus, Frank Funk now had to deal with Sloan junior for races on the tracks that he owned himself, a particularly unsatisfactory situation that wasn't likely to last long.

The second skirmish of war took place almost entirely hidden from public view, and had its roots far back in the past: the Nassau County Fairgrounds in Mineola on Long Island (New York) was a AAA venue for Big car racing since way back in 1922, when the most prominent promoter in the area was one Horace P. Murphy of Syracuse (New York). When Murphy died unexpectedly in January of 1927 (he was just 45 years old), it was the catalyst for ex-IMCA promoter Ralph Hankinson (of Kansas) to join the AAA ranks, and also for Ira Vail (of New York) to quit driving and become a race promoter. During his life time, Murphy had conducted races at two dozen different venues for the AAA, and now the two newcomers practically tripped over each other trying to secure contracts, as a result of which there was no love lost between Hankinson and Vail, a fact well known in racing circles. They also operated on decidedly different principles: schooled by Alex Sloan back in his IMCA days, Hankinson tried to keep a loyal following amongst competitors by paying more or less generous sums of guarantee (i.e. appearance) money to support his huge circuit, while Vail believed in the power of the purse to produce entries for a much smaller number of events.

To illustrate this tug of war, the Mineola Fair races switched from Murphy (1922 - '26) to Hankinson (1927 - '30), then to Vail (1931 & '32), back to Hankinson (1933) and again to Vail (1934 - '39). Because of the nearby Metropolitan area of New York City, these races usually attracted five-figure crowds, going up as high as 40,000, so the competition was understandable. Hankinson finally managed to barge his way back into business at Mineola by promoting "still dates" (i.e. non-Fair races at a Fairgrounds track) for the Nassau County Police Benevolent Fund in 1936, and continued to do so through 1939, the year Vail scheduled Midgets at the Fair instead of Big cars for the first time - this was probably an idea of the Fair management, who could see Midgets packing the house all over Long Island, seven nights a week! Only problem was, Vail had never promoted a Midget race in all of his life, so he contacted Walter Stebbins of New York City, who ran the "doodlebugs" every Wednesday and Saturday at the neighbouring Cedarhurst Speedway, for help in contracting owners and drivers. This, however, backfired badly in 1940, when a number of Eastern AAA drivers, owners and promoters formed the American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC). Stebbins was a member of this breakaway group, in fact, he promoted the very first race meeting of this now historic club on May 15, at Cedarhurst. When it was time to book auto racing for the 1940 Mineola Fair, the board went directly to Stebbins, and contracted for ARDC Midgets - fair game in the dog-eat-dog world of auto racing promotion!

On the other hand, the running of an independent race at the track automatically disqualified the Mineola Fairgounds as a AAA venue, which was bad news for Ralph Hankinson, who had scheduled his Police Benefit still date for the very next Saturday. Not that he was forced to go home, twiddling his thumbs, for he had another race booked in North Carolina on the same day, but Hankinson chose to go to Long Island instead, and promote a Midget race that was quickly scheduled to replace the AAA Big cars, and which was formally promoted by Stebbins, under ARDC sanction! This was probably a favour returned by Stebbins, after Hankinson had let Stebbins run a Midget programme for the Police Benevolent Fund at Roosevelt Raceway the year before, but even so, it was strictly against AAA rules, and after reviewing the matter during its annual Fall session in mid November, the Contest Board duly announced the suspension of the Mineola track, along with the imposition of a fine of USD 500 against Hankinson, and a temporary suspension until said fine was paid in full. Nothing much unusual about this, as the same bulletin contained notice of almost identical suspensions and fines against the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and National Champion driver Rex Mays - normally, these things played themselves out way under the radar of public interest, so it's no surprise to find the whole affair going to sleep for the time being.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, another simmering conflict boiled over: favouritism had always been a bugbear of the IMCA, but under the the autocratic regime of Alex Sloan, nobody had dared to vent his frustration - many within the organisation actually saw a father figure in him. John Sloan, however, had neither the authority nor the charisma of his old man, and the minions soon began muttering their discontent, which can become the basis of powerful alliances if heard by the right people. Two such men with ambitions were Gaylord White, the son of the president of the South Dakota State fair, and Al Sweeney, long-time IMCA official and right-hand man for the late Alex Sloan, who combined forces as the National Speedways, Inc. (NSI) and applied for a promoter's licence at the annual IMCA Board of Directors meeting in Chicago, December 3. There was a third man in the mix, too, a "silent partner", whose identity hadn't been revealed yet.

Four days before the Chicago meeting, the CSRA convened in Dayton for their annual session of the Competition Committee, and if the objective was to lure Frank Funk (who was not present) back into the fold, it could hardly have gone worse: the meeting was fraught with endless discussions about engine displacement, and after no fewer than four proposals for new limits had been voted down, a compromise decision was made to return to the early 1940 rules, which had been abandoned only a few months ago - it was obvious that the club was in deep troubles. During the following week, leading up to the IMCA convention, the social pages of the Chicago newspapers mentioned one Norman Witte of Dayton, along with one Howard Clark of Richmond (Indiana) registering at the Stevens Hotel in the Windy City - Clark just happened to be another CSRA "foot soldier" - did they know something we don't?

The annual IMCA conference, then, went its usual listless way, with the directors (all of them Fair executives, with no experience of and probably little real interest in auto racing) "approving" a number of bogus "world dirt track records", yada yada, and "acknowledging receipt of the petition" by the NSI for a promotional licence, which was then formally denied - no explanations, probably not even much of a discussion. No sooner was the meeting over, however, then Sweeney and White revealed their "silent partner" to be Emory Collins, the "crown prince" of IMCA racing, and announced a link-up with the CSRA - bull's eye! It's questionable whether the IMCA board even realized the enormity of their error of judgement, for without the lifeline they had just thrown for the CSRA, that club had had virtually no future to speak of, but this was finally the beginning of the end of the Système Sloan in general, and of John Sloan in particular, as we will see. For Norm Witte, it was a chance to "get even" with the IMCA, and a welcome reversal of fortunes - but, he wasn't out of the woods yet!

The first bomb to detonate in the new year was launched by Frank Funk, when he announced on March 8 that he would move his entire circuit, consisting of four tracks in Indiana and Ohio, to the AAA in 1941. Funk was not a man to roll a dice when it came to business matters, and he had spent the winter talking to car owners and drivers, with the result that 90 % of the competitors, who had finished in the top ten in CSRA points the last four years, followed him - he had even engineered a general pardon by the AAA for their "unsanctioned activity" - but for the NSI deal, the CSRA was now effectively dead! For the AAA, on the other hand, this was a major feather in their war bonnet, for it boosted their Midwestern Circuit from a paltry three races in 1940, to an impressive twenty dates in '41. It also paved the way for the final twist in this remarkable chain of events, to unfold within the next five weeks.

In early April, Ralph Hankinson began promoting his first meeting of the new year at Reading (Pennsylvania) on the 20th, by announcing the incoming entries in the local press, and drumming up general interest in this traditional season opener, the "Eastern Inaugural" - business as usual. The part that was not in the news, and can only be reconstructed by means of conjecture, is that he probably applied for a sanction, and was in return reminded by the AAA of the outstanding fine, which he continued to ignore. Hankinson was certainly not above using his power and influence to get his way, and he must have thought that the AAA would eventually relent, given that his circuit comprised roughly half of what the AAA had to offer in the East. But he wasn't reckoning with the newly found resolve of the Contest Board, buoyed by the deal with Funk: on the morning of April 12, eight days before the scheduled races, the AAA issued a press release, stating its refusal to sanction any of Hankinson's race dates!

It's a matter of regret that the AAA never saw fit to employ a PR department, because that was the last issue of news on this matter coming from the Contest Board, and public opinion was soon dominated by a staccato of news coming from the publicity conscious Hankinson and his staff, which has misled many authors as to the peculiarities of the conflict, and its true consequences (the quite popular view that Hankinson had left the AAA willingly to find a better future with the CSRA does not really hold up). Within hours of the AAA anouncement, Hankinson shot back and asserted his intention to "bolt" the AAA, and to make his events "open to the world". In the same press release, the Reading Fair management backed him up by withdrawing all applications for AAA sanction, while "a Hankinson aide" was quoted as saying that the group would seek approval by "other automobile racing bodies", but had not yet decided which one - mention was made not only of the CSRA, but also of "the Auto Racing Association, Penn-Jersey and Atlantic States" - this statement makes it very clear, that Hankinson was actually caught off-guard, and by surprise!

And really, he didn't have much choice either, as it's doubtful whether ARA or the Atlantic States/Atlantic Motor Racing Association still existed in any meaningful way, at the time. Of these small, local associations, only the Penn-Jersey club had a definite presence during the 1941 racing season, although whether it could have digested the Hankinson interests without imploding is yet another matter, entirely. No, it had to be the CSRA, and Norm Witte duly came to the rescue on Monday, after "Hankinson spent all day Sunday in conference with officials of several sanctioning bodies". Now, Witte was able to announce 125 racing dates, and while that number was probably a bit fanciful, the CSRA was without doubt the new number one sanctioning club in the USofA - who would've thought only six months earlier?

Number one it may have been in numbers, but in actual fact, the 1941 CSRA season was something of a shambles. The Hankinson PR machinery kept blurting out its Brave New World stance, predicting record attendances and car counts, but the reality was rather bleak, with generally poor fields and attendances until a presumably very expensive deal with Ted Horn saved it from becoming a veritable disaster. The clever driver from California, who had relocated to New Jersey several years earlier, realized that the clouds of (world) war were gathering on the horizon, and took a gamble by accepting an offer from Hankinson to field a team of four cars, which he surreptitiously purchased during the spring season, still racing on the AAA circuit. By July, rumours about a withdrawal of the AAA in the case of a war effort by the United States made the rounds, and Horn made the switch to Hankinson and the CSRA in time for the Fair season, which his team of cars dominated at will - judging by period accounts, those races were no more exciting than it sounds. And that was just the Eastern side of the story.

Meanwhile, way out in the Midwest, Emory Collins and the Sweeney/White combo conducted their races in the best IMCA tradition, complete with phoney track records, staged finishes and the lot, just shy of hippodroming*. The fields were short and of poor quality, but since the venues were all in former IMCA territory, the crowds got exactly what they were used to, so no problems there. But to accomodate Collins and his oversize Offenhauser engine, Witte had to waive the hard-won compromise over engine displacement, and chose to look the other way as regards the obvious "show biz" tactics. He was less lenient when the actual championship leader and defending CSRA Champion, Jimmie Wilburn began "guesting" in IMCA events on a regular basis, and suspended him in late summer, which opened up the points race for Collins and Horn to contest the title, which they did without ever meeting one another on track! A real mess, in short.

* the "IMCA way" of doing things during this period was not the classical hippodroming of yore, but more like clandestine sandbagging - as an example, the NSI races at the North Iowa Fair in Mason City on August 31 attracted a dozen entries of enormously varying quality, with a spread of more than thirteen seconds in qualifying (on a half-mile track!) almost evenly spaced out. During the races, two of the four fastest cars conked out early, yet every single contest was "a thriller", decided "in the final few inches" - some of the boys must've been lifting their right foot, either in qualifying or the races!

19460831-Mason-City.jpg

+ Check out the time trial and race finishing times - you don't even need a calculator to see who was loafing all day!

(t. b. c.)

Edited by Michael Ferner, 29 June 2019 - 13:38.


#98 Michael Ferner

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Posted 29 June 2019 - 13:42

Introduction (3)

The AAA didn't exactly come out of this conflict smelling of roses, but it also wasn't half as bad as some authors would have you believe. In the end, the Eastern Circuit was made up of thirty race meetings still, which is a very good number for any organization without access to the business volume of Hankinson, or John Sloan for that matter. Add to that the twenty Midwestern dates, and it comes out as only a slightly sub-standard season in sheer numbers, according to AAA benchmarks. On the positive side, the Contest Board had shown itself to be level with the application of its own rules, and that can't have escaped the attention of its loyal promoters, which is usually good for morale - it's quite difficult to shake the suspicion that it was Ira Vail who reminded them of that very fact in the first place! Be that as it may, it's perfectly possible that factions within the AAA were not overly saddened to see the power-conscious Hankinson gone.

As for the competitive depth of the fields, critics like to point out that Ted Horn (1938 & '39 Midwestern AAA Champion) took former AAA stars like Bob Sall (1933 Eastern & 1936 Southeastern Champion) and Tommy Hinnershitz (Eastern runner-up in 1936 & '38) with him to drive his team cars in Hankinson's CSRA events*, while Joie Chitwood (1939 & '40 Eastern Champion) joined them about a month later with the potent (Fred) Peters/Offenhauser, but that's about it, and the average Joe Punter would've been hard pressed to name any other drivers on the Hankinson tour, while the AAA still had Bill Holland, Tony Willman, Duke Nalon, Mark Light, Everett Saylor, Vic Nauman, Buddie Rusch, Walt Brown, Johnny Ulesky and Lee Wallard, to name just those with multiple wins on the circuit prior to 1941, while the new blood imported by Frank Funk included names like Elbert Booker, Spider Webb or Duke Dinsmore, who would occasionally compete in the East, too, to say nothing of Indy 500 regulars such as Rex Mays, Mauri Rose, George Connor or Emil Andres, always apt to show up at one of the "bullrings" to teach the new boys a thing or two, or rising stars up from the Midget ranks like Tony Bettenhausen and Paul Russo. In this respect, the AAA was still easily number one, no contest.

* the fourth car was driven by the up-and-coming Charles "Rex" Records of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

1938-Ted-Horn.jpg

+ Ted Horn in 1938 with the ex-Haskell Blauvelt chassis from 1932, now fitted with a brand new Offenhauser engine, and showing off its Montgomery Ward "Riverside" knobby tyres - later that year, the car would run as the "Riverside Special", Ted's first sponsorship deal


Ted Horn had been right, however, in that there was no short term future with the AAA, and his gamble paid off just handsomely: within three weeks of the nation's entry into WW2, Eddie Rickenbacker, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), announced on December 29 that the famous 500 mile race would be "suspended for the duration of the war", which was really no surprise given Rickenbacker's background as a WW1 "hero". Furthermore, as Chairman of the Contest Board of the AAA, Rickenbacker also started at once to poll members of the board as to whether or not AAA racing should be abandoned altogether, and after much deliberation, a decision to follow suit was finally reached on February 23 in 1942. A few AAA promoters, most notably Frank Funk and the Indianapolis Automobile Racing Association (IARA) led by Lou Moore, planned to go ahead with events run "in the spirit" of AAA sanctioned racing, but only about a handful did actually go ahead, or ended up with support by one of the few small independent clubs still in action, like the Mid-West Dirt Track Racing Association (MDTRA).

By the time of the AAA decision, the IMCA had already opened its season with three race dates at the Florida State Fair, to be followed by a traditionally very long lull in activity until the Fair season kicked in in earnest during August, with just the occasional still date in between - no one within this club dared to hope for much more than a very truncated season, and in fact only two or three more programmes were run before the ODT ban took care of the situation. All of which left the CSRA as the only major player in town, and if the 1942 season played out even more chaotic than the previous one, this time it was hardly the fault of the club itself: drivers, mechanics and officials were being drafted at a prodigious rate, cars broke down and couldn't be repaired with the available material and mechanics, while here and there local politicians opposed the racing with patriotic remarks about "this utterly silly waste of rubber and fuel". Finally, the ODT stepped in, first with an announcement on July 3 that called for a stop of all racing activity within one week, then granting an extension till the end of the month five days later.

While the whole world was now at war, the "War of the Associations" came to a grinding halt, temporarily at least. It was clear, however, that this was merely a ceasefire, not the end of hostilities. An interesting parallel occurs, in that it has always been runoured that the United States provoked their entry into WW2, in order to take control of a conflict that was hurting their interests in many ways. Likewise, it has been supposed that the AAA actually lobbied the ODT to impose the motor racing ban, to avoid unsanctioned racing taking the upper hand! Maybe, maybe not, but who knows - it certainly seems possible. For Ralph Hankinson, however, the war was over quicker than anticipated: not three weeks after the beginning of the ODT ban, the man who was affectionately called "Pappy" by many in the business, dropped dead from a heart attack on August 19. With that, the scene now shifts from open warfare in the fields to clandestine negotiations in backrooms, where men with aspirations started jostling for pole position in the fight to fill the vacuum left by the old master.

During his lifetime, "Pappy" had already started to involve his son, Ralph Jordan ("Buddy") Hankinson in business matters, but now Junior was in the armed forces, and in any way much too young and inexperienced to run a company of that size. Still, his mother Josephine Hankinson announced on December 5, that Hankinson Speedways, the operating firm of her late husband, would resume its business as soon as the ban was lifted, with her son as an executive trainee, and under the direction of the existing staff, naming Jim Malone, Bill Breitenstein, Russ Moyer, Charley Williams, Arthur Hall, George Kinum and Marc Donnelly. Except for the latter, who was an attorney in New Jersey, those six men were generally regarded as the "inner circle" of the Hankinson organization, and pretty much in order of their respective standing within the company. Who would be taking the chequered flag, once the war was over?

It was Bill Breitenstein who took an early lead, a former journalist originally from Iowa, and an expert publicist in many fields, and many areas of the country. While patiently waiting out the war time ban, he freelanced as a general sports writer and PR man for fair associations and an aircraft corporation, interspersed by more or less regular visits to the Hankinsons to discuss future business opportunities. During one of those trips in October of 1944, Breitenstein suddenly fell ill, and died on the 18th of that month in the very same hotel in which the older Hankinson had died 26 months previously. Back to Square One? Actually... no! Square Zero, more like it, since the business prospects of Hankinson Speedways had suddenly taken a sharp dip. How come?

Meet Sam Nunis, then, a former racing driver from North Carolina, whose love for the sport kept him in racing when his driving talent wouldn't support him any longer. In 1932, he made the switch from the cockpit of his Fronty-Ford* to race promoting, doing business as Pyramid Speedways between upstate New York and the Carolinas, then acted as team manager for Eastern AAA Champion Bob Sall's new racing outfit for a couple of years before taking on the odd job with Hankinson Speedways as a track announcer, press agent, "exploitation manager" and what-have-you. For a time, it looked as if Nunis might join Hankinson's "inner sanctum", but then a new career opportunity presented itself: back in 1913, the iconic Montgomery Ward mail order and department store retailer had begun selling tyres under the brand name "Riverside", and by the thirties, dirt track racers had found out that a recently introduced tractor tyre (known as "knobby" within the industry) was perfectly suited for racing at the fairgrounds. Montgomery Ward took this opportunity to start an advertizing campaign with a motor racing theme, and by 1937 was directly sponsoring IMCA stars Gus Schrader and Emory Collins, to be followed by Dave Champeau and AAA's Ted Horn in 1938, then Joie Chitwood, Jimmie Wilburn, Tony Willman, Emil Andres and many more in 1939 and the following years.

* Nunis made a short comeback in the late thirties, racing stock cars

1934-Nunis-Sall-Mc-Dowell.jpg

+ Sam Nunis (on the left) in early 1934, looking over Bob Sall's new McDowell engine, together with the reigning Eastern AAA Champion. Sall looks worried, as well he should be - reliabilty problems with the freshly imported powerplant from California cost him his chance to repeat as Champion

Also beginning in 1939, Montgomery Ward sponsored the trophy for the AAA Eastern Championship, and Nunis was employed as the "official voice" of Riverside, announcing at tracks all over the Eastern circuit, and thus no longer as a Hankinson employee. That also gave him a chance to resurrect Pyramid Speedways for a time, although he didn't land much business before the ODT ban. And without racing, there wasn't much future in the Riverside assignment, either, so he began casting around for job opportunities even before the deadline, announcing rodeos way out in Utah during July. Hankinson's death and the subsequent jostling for position inside the old company, however, changed all that, although he certainly didn't want no part in it. For one thing, he was smart enough to know that he didn't stand a chance, competing with the "inner circle", but having spent enough time in and around Hankinson Speedways, he also knew the true key to the Hankinson empire - he didn't really need the corporate shell!

The key to it all was sitting in an office on the 10th floor of 10 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, a five-minute walk from Times Square: George Hamid. Born in the Lebanon and orphaned early in life, he came to the USofA as a teenager after touring Europe as a member of an acrobatic troupe, supporting the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. In America, the entrepreneurial Hamid soon developed into a star act on his own, and entered the booking business on the side, providing circus shows, vaudeville acts, rides and concession stands for the many state and county fairs in the US. Over the years, his agency grew in leaps and bounds, making Hamid a respected businessman, and very rich. How he met Ralph Hankinson is not recorded, but it was very probably Hamid who sought out the contact, for he was always interested in expanding his business, keen on trying out new acts and well known for personally supervising them until they were sure to succeed. For the 1924 Fair season, he was now selling not only "The Verdel Bros.", "The Mendozas", "The Bellclaire Bros.", "The Fearless Flyers" and "The Dave Costello Co.", but also auto and motorcycle racing as well as auto polo to many fairs on the eastern seabord, promoted by Hankinson and personally supervised by Hamid, who acted as referee and judge for several years at the races.

 

It is inconceivable that Breitenstein, Malone and co. didn't know about the Hamid connection, but they must have believed that Hankinson Speedways had a firm contract for the available business. Nunis, however, who very probably knew Hamid personally from back in his active racing days, went straight to the New York offices to offer his services. Granted, he hadn't been no great shakes as a race promoter so far, but he was a very public figure in the East: he knew everybody in the racing business, and everybody knew him, but most of all, he was willing to climb a mountain. Hamid was always prepared to lent a sympathetic ear to someone who was prepared to work hard for his goals, like he had done himself, and Nunis must've fit the bill perfectly. He set out to use his contacts immediately by purchasing the Gasoline Alley Tavern in Paterson (New Jersey), which had been opened by former racing driver and 1936 AAA Eastern Champion Frankie Bailey in early 1940. Located smack in the middle of an industrial estate containing garages and lock-ups of dozens of racing car owners, it was the perfect place to feel the pulse of the racing community, a natural watering hole! In November of 1943, he brought all
interested parties together at the tavern for a meeting to "discuss and formulate plans for post-war auto racing" - chances are, Breitenstein didn't even realize how he was left behind in the dust!

 

(t. b. c.)


Edited by Michael Ferner, 21 July 2019 - 15:03.


#99 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 20:11

Introduction (4) - Driver Statistics

The following table lists all drivers active in 1946 AAA Big car racing, containing Driver Name; Age as of January 1, 1946; State; Hometown in 1946; Year of first Big car entry (year of first AAA Big car entry); Total number of entries as of January 1, 1946 (total number of AAA entries); Number of wins in AAA (mileage); Seconds in AAA (mileage); Thirds in AAA (mileage), etc. While the top three finishing positions in AAA main events should be more than 95 % complete and correct, the lesser finishing positions and the number of overall and AAA entries are not definite numbers due to limitations in research, but should give a good idea about the relative experience of the driver in question. Keep in mind, though, that the figures for better known drivers are generally more accurate than those for lesser known ones, since info on famous drivers is much easier to come by. Age may be approximate only, too. State listed is the one in which the relevant driver grew up and started his racing career.

DriversE.jpg


(t. b. c.)

Edited by Michael Ferner, 07 July 2019 - 19:55.


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#100 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 20:25

Foreplay - The "Mike Benton Sweepstakes"

Mitchell McIver Benton was an Atlanta (Georgia) businessman, running an elevator company, but in his "second life" he was known simply as "Mike" Benton, and he was the jack-of-all-trades in all of Atlanta's business and social life, especially during the 21 years when he was the president of the Southeastern Fair Association (1932 - 1953). As such, he was the gatekeeper for the big 1-mile dirt oval out in Lakewood Park, South Atlanta, and the person Sam Nunis negotiated and signed the contracts with on March 16, for the races with which he planned to open his long campaign on the Eastern seabord. Nunis was only to happy to continue a Hankinson tradition by calling the event the "Eastern (Speed) Inaugural", but here in the South, the name of the donor of the trophy had more impact, and so the main race eventually became known under the name of the socialite who paid for that very trophy: the "Mike Benton Trophy Sweepstakes". All of which wasn't very unusual, but the big legend on the entry blank, reading "INVITATION PROGRAM -- NO POINTS TO BE AWARDED", was! What it meant was that this was not going to be a "formula event", open only to cars conforming to the usual specifications, but a "free-for-all" - Formula Libre, in other words. Together with the amnesty for all previous "outlaw" activity, this was an opportunity for virtually everyone in the sport to make his acquaintance with the way the AAA ran its business, as a sort of "grand gesture", but essentially, it was all a ploy to reach out to one man in particular: Jimmie Wilburn.

1946-Mike-Benton.jpg

+ Mike Benton in 1946

Wilburn was born in late 1908 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he raced motor cycles for a while, but wasn't going nowhere in particular. In 1934, his older brother (by two years) Chester "Wimpy" Wilburn, a professional baseball player in the minor leagues since 1929, was "farmed out" to a club in Portland (Oregon), and Jimmie decided to follow him there to try and find his luck. What he did find was Gresham Speed Bowl, a half-mile dirt track on the Eastside of town where Big cars ran every other Sunday, and it sure as hell changed his life! During that summer, Wilburn began competing at Gresham and other area tracks, and was soon winning "class B" events for cars with production engines, then in April of 1935 took his "class B" car home third in a "class A" field, attracting the attention of Glenn Shaw of Seattle (Washington) who owned a "class A" car with a state-of-the-art DOHC Dreyer engine. Wilburn won first time out in his new mount, his first of many, many main events in a Sprint car, and then proceeded to haul in the famous Mel Kenealy, imported from Southern California where he had been AAA Pacific Coast Champion six years earlier, and a former Indy 500 driver to boot, who had been leading the local independent championship since early May. In September, when Kenealy blew the Marine Miller engine in his car, Wilburn took the championship lead and went on to win the title by winning the final race three weeks later.

For the next three years, Wilburn won everything there was to win in the Pacific Northwest, and also on a trip to Southern California during the winter of 1936/'37 - he needed a new challenge. So it came that, in the spring of 1938 he packed up his things and moved to Indianapolis, where he would make his home the next fifteen years. There, he was hired by veteran car owner Ralph Morgan, whose former drivers included Indy 500 money winner Harry McQuinn and Red Campbell, who'd won the 1936 CSRA Championship in Morgan's Marine Miller-engined car. That same car, built in 1934, was to be Wilburn's weapon for the 1938 CSRA season, and Jimmie won with it in depressing regularity - depressing, that is for his fellow competitors, most of whom had never heard of that fellow from the "left coast" before! By the end of the year, he was as well known in the Midwest as he had been in the Northwest, and CSRA Champion as well, so Morgan began building a new car for him, with a spanking new Offenhauser engine. That new car and Wilburn were so dominant in 1939 that the CSRA outlawed it for 1940, at which Wilburn and Morgan took their old car out of storage and continued winning with it until the CSRA relented and readmitted the new one! Meanwhile, Wilburn was getting bored with winning CSRA races left and right, and purchased an oversize Offy to go and compete on the IMCA circuit against the similar cars of Emory Collins and Gus Schrader, returning to win CSRA races just often enough to clinch his third championship in a row.

At that point, even Morgan had had enough of all this drama, and sold his equipment to Wilburn*, who was fully intent on continuing his association jumping in 1941, winning in both until the CSRA board cried enough, once again - only this time, they disqualified the driver instead of the car, claiming he'd failed to honour a CSRA commitment at the North Iowa Fair and showed up at an IMCA race instead, which was true enough - the IMCA race in question happened to be their flagship event at the Minneosta State Fair, an event so big that even a blind CSRA officer could not have failed to spot his presence there, so one can argue that it was just Wilburn's way of saying "screw you!" He saw out his season with the IMCA, getting cross with Schrader in the process, and was back with the CSRA once more in early 1942 for a few races, interspersed with sidesteps left and right into minor league events, usually under cries of protest from fellow competitiors over copious engine capacity, a formula he continued once racing resumed in 1945.

* the older car went to Morgan's former driver, Joie Chitwood, who quickly sold it on to Ted Horn

IMG

That, in a nutshell, was Jimmie Wilburn - never short of a controversy, but a prolific winner and immensely popular with the fans. There's no question that he had made a lot of money in racing, more perhaps than anyone else outside of Speedway (Indiana), but at the same time he'd made a habit of avoiding to run against the best men in the business on even terms - his special Offenhauser engine with a five-inch crank and an oversize block had no peer outside of the IMCA, where the ageing Schrader and Collins were of little concern. Somehow or other, he'd always managed to bully his entry into smaller events, where promoters were usually more than happy to advertize his presence, ignoring the protests of the other competitors, but there was no way the AAA would go for that, and he hadn't raced with that association since the spring of 1938, when he had finished fifth in a strong field at Phoenix (Arizona), shortly before the move to Indianapolis. And, well, yes, there certainly was that big speedway in his elected hometown, were the purse was fatter than at all the dirt tracks in the world combined - that was the bait that was dangling in front of his nose when he signed the entry form for Lakewood! And in order to get Wilburn's signature on that dotted line, the AAA had to waive its capacity limits, so that Jimmie could have a look-see without investing in new hardware - politics!

(t. b. c.)

Edited by Michael Ferner, 04 July 2019 - 08:23.