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Jim Branahan, Fresno Speedway, 1921

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#1 Nanni Dietrich

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Posted 08 March 2023 - 10:28

According to The Wilson Davis Archives, riding mechanic Jim Branahan was fatally injured in an accident at the Fresno Speedway on 01 October 1921 when the car in which he was riding crashed through a fence and impacted the ground below it. He passed away the following day.


On the same day Branahan suffered his accident, two other fatalities happened at the Fresno Speedway, driver Alton Soules and his riding mechanic Harry Barner perished under very similar circumstances.


Confirmation of Jim Branahan's death are unavailable in other sources, including conteporary newspaper articles. Branahan name is not included in the California Death Index.


Another driver was involved in an accident in that same event, Joe Thomas who crashed his Duesenberg during a practice session suffering a badly fractured arm. Thomas survived the accident, he is listed among the contestants of a race at Cotati Speedway, California, twenty days later.


Therefore, there are four different hypothesis to explain who was Jim Branahan:


- Branahan was Thomas' riding mechanic;


- Brahanan's accident took place in another event at the Fresno Speedway that same day. It is worth noting that the Fresno Speedway was the only venue operational in Fresno in 1921.


- Branahan's accident happened on 01 October 1921 but at another track.


- Historian Wilson Davis made a mistake, identifying Harry Barner as Jim Branahan.

Edited by Nanni Dietrich, 08 March 2023 - 10:30.


#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 08 March 2023 - 11:13

Joe Thomas never crashed at Fresno. He was incapacitated because of blood poisoning in his right hand, a condition that had developed during the previous week and that manifested itself during early practice on the Thursday before the race. His (uncrashed and therefore undamaged) car was taken over by retired veteran Earl Cooper, who went on to win the race!


There was another race at Fresno that weekend, an "ancient car race" held on the Friday at the Fairgrounds half-mile drit track, but the name Branahan does not appear on the entry list of owners, drivers and mechanics. The race was won at a speed of 20.57 mph, so it is unlikely that a serious accident took place, and if it did the local papers missed it.


Your final proposition is the most likely explanation.

#3 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 March 2023 - 23:00

There is no way another fatality would not have been noticed, let alone go unreported. Even more so in the same town (Fresno), let alone the same track. The local Fresno paper has nothing. That is sufficient proof.


Jim Branahan was proven as an error some time ago. There is no James Branahan in the California Death Records for 1921.


There was a John Bresnahan that was a riding mechanic. He was Gaston Chevrolet's riding mechanic, and the sole survivor of the crash between Chevrolet and Eddie O'Donnell at the Los Angeles Motor Speedway in November 1920.