This is the story of the unsung heroes of the Indianapolis 500; men who drove relief for the winning car. Setting aside co-winners Mauri Rose (1941) and Joe Boyer (1924), four men contributed to Indy 500 victory in relative anonymity. Most interesting of these was perhaps Howdy Wilcox, who won the race for himself in 1919.
The National Motor Vehicle Company, the Indianapolis automobile manufacturer headed Arthur C. Newby, one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's four founders, had an awesome race team in 1910. Three young stars headed by the more established Johnny Aitken had proven their prowess in running with the best of 'em.
The New York newspapermen dubbed Joe Dawson "The Indiana Whirlwind" after the 21-year-old stormed to the front of the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup with something less than 50 miles remaining to the finish. His primary rival was the deliberate tactician Harry Grant back to defend his title of the previous year with his awe-inspiring "Black Beast" ALCO racer.
According to the local newspapers 60,000 people attended the first Memorial Day of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 1910. Understanding the context of history is central to enjoying it and imagining the experience of all those wonderful souls of the day.
On Saturday April 30, 2016 (yesterday, as this is written) I was the featured guest on the "Hoosier History Live!" radio show. My job was to talk early Indiana-born race drivers entered in the first few Indianapolis 500s as well as the races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 and 1910 that preceded the inaugural "500" in 1911.
Virtually forgotten, Ernie Moross was indisputably one of the more ingenious creative promotive minds in auto racing during the early years of the 20th century. No surprise, America's first auto racing superstar, the attention-seeking Barney Oldfield, hired Moross in 1905 to help ballyhoo his infamous barnstorming tours into the American hinterlands.
Tom Kincaid won the 100-mile Prest-O-Lite Trophy race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 1910. The event saw only seven starters as the field was decimated not by mechanical maladies or a failure to attract interest but by official edict.
There's not a lot known about driver and businessman Frank Fox but let me tell you what I have uncovered. Fox was the only driver to start both the May 1910 race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - and, a year later, the Indianapolis 500 - with a prosthetic leg.
In May 1910 21-year-old Charlie Merz grappled with some pretty gruesome demons who wanted to squelch the passion out of his life. What should he have done to prevent the deaths of three other people? Why was he still alive?
Bob Burman was one of the great American talents of the Heroic Age. By 1913 he had firmly established himself among the sport's brightest lights. All eyes were on him headed into an Indianapolis 500 that had at last the international participation Indianapolis Motor Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher and his partners had coveted from the get-go.