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.
In 1909 Barney Oldfield bought in big time to the promise of Arthur C. Newby's National Motor Vehicle Company by purchasing a National "Six" stock car modified for racing. He made it his own by painting the cowling with the stars and stripes of the American flag and dubbing it, "Old Glory."
Not unlike presenting a pace car to the winner of the Indianapolis 500, in 1909 one of the Hoosier capital city's largest auto manufacturers promised a "gold plated" passenger car to the driver setting the fastest time for a mile run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That company was Overland, and the car was a 1910 Overland Model 38.
Of all things, a passenger balloon race. The national championship, no less. The reality is, almost without exception "fans" of the the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are all about the Indianapolis 500. There have been times in recent decades when people with little interest in the classic "500" came to the Speedway to witness their preferred branch of motorsport, either NASCAR or Formula One.
Erwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker was the only competitor to take part in both the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August 1909 and an Indianapolis 500.
The story goes that late in life at a banquet Henry Ford said to Barney Oldfield, "We made each other." To that, Oldfield reportedly said, "Yeah, well I did a hell of a lot better job than you did."
Oldfield had fallen victim to the games of Wall Street largely responsible for the Great Depression and his considerable lifetime savings were destroyed. Ford suffered, too, but the momentum of the powerful company he had built through delivering a quality product for the everyday person had preserved his wealth and influence.
Sometimes articles that seem innocuous or obscure contain bits of information that shed tremendous light on historical facts and serve to flesh out the story obfuscated by decades of dust. Dig into this one for some good insights into a trio of guys who were influencers in their age and anonymous today.
Their names? Frank Hower, Walter Hempel and Homer George.