Barney Oldfield is a kind of Davy Crockett of the 20th Century. Born in a log cabin in 1878, Oldfield was part of a generation growing up in the new industrial age. A risk taker fascinated with bicycles and automobiles, Barney understood the working class because he was one of them. This was essential to his marketplace success combining motor sport and entertainment. Simplistic analysis derides him as a huckster barnstormer with limited talent. While his performance record falls short of his chief rival and the giant talent of the day, Ralph DePalma, Oldfield was a top challenger of the times. Some career highlights:

  • Held every mile track record from one to 50 miles in 1904.
  • Won the first AAA national points championship in 1905.
  • Won the 1914 LA to Phoenix Cactus Derby.
  • Finished second to DePalma in the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup.
  • Brought Indianapolis-built Stutz racer home fifth as the highest finishing American entry in the 1914 Indy 500.
  • Won four races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Barney was the only major figure in the sport to continue to race from 1902 through World War I. He not only survived, but prospered. Much of this material came from Barney's scrapbook, which was not well organized. I will continue to sort through the content for better presentation. As a point of interest, the only biography on Barney Oldfield is William Nolan's "Barney Oldfield, The Life and Times of America's Speed King," available at Brown Fox Books.

This collection of original articles covering auto racing events and the personalities that participated in them is the heart of this site. I have scanned hundreds of first-hand accounts of these races and have grown to appreciate the care and even artistry with which these reports were prepared. Typical contemporary auto racing books about this period just flat out fail to communicate the color and detail of the times. These stories told by people who saw everything themselves are the real deal. This is the closest thing to a time machine and it will take you hours to pour through the vast volume of material. I will continually add to this collection.

This collection of articles on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway focuses on the fascinating era from 1909 through 1920. There is a special focus on the events occurring prior to the first Indianapolis 500. There are lots of fascinating elements of this, such as the Aviation Week from June 1910, which featured the Wright Brothers and their star pilot Walter Brookins. I also have included articles on Speedway founder Carl Fisher, who enjoyed some success as a race driver in the early 1900's. Note the article on Fisher at Zanesville. This is when in 1903 his teammate, Earl Kiser, was involved in a spectacular accident that killed several spectators. Another fascinating topic is the little known 1916 Harvest Classic, which Fisher organized to generate revenue for the Speedway before shutting it down for the duration of World War I. Finally, note the article on Jake DeRosier, the motorcycle champion injured in the first motorized competition at the Speedway, the August 1909 motorcycle race.

The first big auto races were in Europe, starting with the great city-to-city events such as Paris to Bordeaux and the tragic Paris to Madrid race in 1903. The James Gordon Bennett Cup race emerged as the biggest race in the world in 1904, but was quickly usurped by the advent of the French Grand Prix in 1906. In the United States the Vanderbilt Cup and later, the Grand Prize emerged as major events, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators. The early road races were exactly that - races on public roads. This created a host of issues most notably protecting spectators from themselves as they strayed onto the racing surface of courses covering 20 miles or more. The races attracting tremendous interest with throngs numbering well over 100,000 people in some cases. This not only reflected the tremendous interest in the still-new automobiles and the daredevil drivers but also because the access was free of charge - there was simply no way to capture revenue from something that people obviously valued. The advent of enclosed purpose-built speedways like the Indianapolis Motor Speedways and the board tracks helped usher in the demise of this early form of road racing. While road racing in the form of dedicated circuits or heavily protected metropolitan street races continue today this style of racing has yet to attain the popularity in America that oval track racing has.

The following are samples of articles I have written for event programs, magazines and Web sites. Many come from Indianapolis Motor Speedway programs, the best publications in motor sports - probably in any sport. If you have an interest in me writing for you, please contact me through this site.