Ernie Moross

Ernie Moross (I wrote the Wikipedia entry on him) was a great personality of the early days of American auto racing. Like many of the first drivers, he was a competitor in the popular sport of bicycle racing in the 1890's. Instead of transitioning to driving automobiles, Moross began to promote motor racing. He became affiliated with Barney Oldfield when the latter joined Peerless to race the Green Dragon in 1904.
 
Ernie later established the Moross Amuesment Company and went barnstorming with Oldfield. Derided by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and competitors who complied with their rules, Moross and Oldfield were seen as hucksters running staged races. Harsh, but the assessment had a measure of validity. Nonetheless, Oldfield-Moross combination was successful and made both men wealthy until they lost most of their financial holdings late in life during the Great Depression.
 
Moross' success with Oldfield caught the eye of Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Carl Fisher, who hired the Michigan native to become director of Speedway contests. Essentially, Ernie was the track's general manager and helped lead the Speedway during its construction, the 1909 Ballloon National Championship Balloon Race, the August 1909 motorcycle and auto races, as well as the 1909 December speed trials, the May 1910 race meet, the June Aviation Show and the July 1910 race meet. Among Moross' creative brainstorms was the obstacle course utilizing wooden ramps at the May 1910 races. Check out my articles on the first Speedway motorcycle races and the very busy year the Speedway had in 1910.
 
It's unclear why Moross left the Speedway, but the changes management was making at the time clearly did not suit his style. The plethora of events Moross was producing were not yielding the financial results Speedway management desired. The move to stage a single race, the Indianapolis 500, offered little for the creative, active mind of Ernie Moross, who left to campaign a team of Benz racers with driver Bob Burman. Moross continued to campagin Benz racers through 1914, also working the driver Teddy Tetzlaff.
 
After Moross retired from auto racing his life continued on an odd, tumultuous trajectory. He ran for a Michigan state senate seat as a communist and lost. An activist, he and his wife once protested the cost of licensing fees for automobiles by locking themselves in their car after it was possessed by the local government. Devestated by the Great Depression, late in life he turned to prospecting for gold in the Nevada desert. Ernie Moross died penniless in Long Beach, California on April 4, 1949 at age 75.

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