The great Los Angeles-to-Phoenix off-road race (more commonly known as "The Cactus Derby") was another of the terrific classics from the sport's early days. In its 1914 edition, track racing legend and barnstormer Barney Oldfield entered the same Stutz racer he had piloted to fifth place in that year's Indianapolis 500.
Do you know who Colonel Albert Pope was? You certainly would have if you had been around at the turn of the 20th century.
Pope was a classic specimen of the American work ethic, diving onto the lowest rungs of the Boston-area workforce when his family met financial hardship when he was a teen. When the Civil War erupted, he enlisted in the Union Army and quickly rose through the ranks.
This photo is of 1912 Indianapolis 500 Champion Joe Dawson getting some fresh air on the roof of Methodist Hospital in 1914. It was recorded several weeks after his devastating accident where his Marmon special barrel-rolled during that year's Indianapolis 500.
Advanced historians of American motorsport and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway know that the first motorized competition at the famous track was a motorcycle race. Did you know that the date of the track action was August 14, 1909, and was only one day of a week-long celebration of the two-wheel machines?
Check out this presentation profiling Loni Unser, the latest generation of America's most famous auto racing family, and her efforts to carry that famous name forward to new achievements! Loni is the daughter of five-time Indianapolis 500 veteran Johnny. Her uncle Al Jr. won the Indianapolis 500 twice and her other Indianapolis 500 veteran uncle, Robby, won Pikes Peak nine times and most recently scored a victory in the SVRA's Brickyard Invitational Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am!
There has long been confusion over exactly when the first sanctioning body-endorsed point system for an American auto racing championship was established. In early days, circa 1909, trade publications announced their pick — not unlike the old AP polls in college football or the Time Magazine “person of the year” choice that still exists today.
"Barnstorming," in general, is about theatrical performers or daredevils of one sort or the other traveling to rural areas to stage entertainment, many times with the purpose to thrill. In the early days of the racing cars, a tour of drivers presenting high-speed contests to people, many of whom had never seen an automobile before, was a natural fit.
Many of the barnstormers labeled their rural audiences as "weedbenders," in reference to their farming profession. They probably were a naive lot as they witnessed auto races for the first time.
This editorial cartoon from 1909 appeared on the front page of the Indianapolis News. Taken out of its historical context it may be a little confusing.
Like today, the world was in massive disruption as the industrial age was in full force. People of older generations, who matured from childhood without the advances of machinery powered by engines, were struggling to maintain their position and pride in society.