1910 AAA National Championships Coverage

This attachment contains an article by C.E. Shuart that originally appeared in the May 31, 1910, Indianapolis Star. The article ran in support of the May 1910 race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The May 1910 race meet weekend included "national championships," a newly-announced distinction by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for select race meets. Car manufacturers were keen to make a great showing. Check out other articles that provide additional summaries of the results of the races staged May 27 and May 28 elsewhere on First Super Speedway
Another article, written by H.G. Deupree, was published on the same day in the same newspaper and reported on the same events can be found elsewhere on First Super Speedway. Also, check out these other relevant articles:

The attached article is a meaty gem of coverage of the final day - May 30 - of the race meet. The big moments of the meet came with Barney Oldfield setting new American closed circuit (referred to as "track" records in the day) speed records and Ray Harroun's triumph in the important Remy Brassard and Trophy for small bore (231-300 cubic inch) stock cars. Harroun drove a stock Marmon "32." The eight national championship five to ten-mile sprint races are discussed only briefly. There is also good detail on the scariest incident of the day, Ray Harroun's narrow escape in a third turn accident that nearly destroyed his Wheeler-Schebler Trophy winner Marmon Wasp. That's the same car that won the first Indianapolis 500 a year later.
Enjoy this excerpt describing Harroun's accident: "While working out his fast Marmon Wasp Harroun went through an experience that astounded those who saw him, and in a dash into the wall tore up the yellow car, but escaped unscathed. A front tire blew out and left the speeding machine's pilot at the mercy of uncertain traveling. Unable to hold the machine in its course, Harroun stuck gamely to it and finally brought it to a stop after it had straddled the retaining wall at the backstretch for a distance of 110 feet, and plunged through the cement barrier, tearing out a four-foot section."
The article (written by journalist C.E. Shuart who later served as Joe Dawson's manager) kicks off with a very useful callout providing interesting statistics on attendance. Monday, May 31 was the Memorial Day Holiday and as a result, perhaps, attracted far and away the largest crowd of reportedly 60,000 people. Interestingly, that number is in the range of what the Speedway attains currently for its NASCAR "Brickyard 400" race in July. It is easily three times the true number the track attained when they hosted the MotoGP motorcycle race.  
Consider that U.S. census information indicates that Indianapolis population In 1910 was 233,650 people and in 2015 it was 820,445. Also, given the transportation infrastructure of the day and the fact that automobiles were far less common per capita a turnout of 60,000 is very impressive. On Friday the number was estimated at 15,000 with 25,000 for Saturday. That gave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a three-day gate of about 100,000.
This information at the front of the article also discusses the estimated transportation choices of the spectators. Approximately 10,000 people arrived by automobile (with an estimated 2,500 cars parked inside the grounds on Monday). Another 2,000 used the interurban electric rail with 19,000 choosing to ride on railroad trains. A miscellaneous category referred to as "other means of travel" is credited with delivering 20,000. This was probably primarily horse-drawn carriages or people riding individual horses. Some could have walked but others almost certainly used bicycles and motorcycles.
Before we leave the topic of attendance let's note that the article asserts that even the Kentucky Derby had never seen such a crowd. While the article does not mention this allow me to point out that many road races of the day attracted more people, sometimes claiming upwards of 250,000 - such as at the Vanderbilt Cup. Keep in mind, though, that all but a fraction of these people simply lined public roads, never purchasing tickets.
The event drew well outside Indianapolis. St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and smaller towns around Indiana were reportedly well represented by their citizens.
Check out this excerpt from the article. It's beautifully written: "No classics of the turf or track have created more enthusiasm than did the flying steel steeds as they sped on their way yesterday. Bleachers and stands were filled to the rails, the auto parkway was covered with machines and thousands stood at the trackside behind the protecting wall and fence and gazed at the deeds of noted pilots as they sent their mounts around the big course in quest of the coveted prizes offered. Standing in their automobiles, seated on every available place the big Speedway plant affords, grouped together in the track enclosures with ropes as limit lines and squads of armed militiamen standing nearby to see that none of the more imprudent should venture too near the bricked way over which the speedmakers were tearing, spectators paid the best testimonial to the popularity of motor racing as a sport that ever has been recorded in this country. Intense in their attention, their eyes riveted to the fast moving group of men and mechanical bodies as they sped round and round the paved course, the spectators gave vent to their enthusiasm in resounding cheers that deadened even the sound of the humming, barking motors as they made their onslaught on time."        
The article reports that the star drivers of the meet were Ray Harroun (Marmon 32); Barney Oldfield (Blitzen Benz and Knox); Louis Chevrolet (Buick Model "Ten") and Johnny Aitken (National). Harroun won the feature event, the Remy Brassard, and Trophy 50-mile contest. He set a new national "track record" time of 41 minutes, 42.33 seconds. Oldfield also won applause when he broke national track records for one kilometer (21.45 seconds) and the mile at 35.06 seconds. Both previous marks for the distances were also held by Oldfield at 23.7 seconds at Playa Del Rey and 35.06 seconds at a dirt track near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Oldfield reportedly expressed the opinion that he could go faster still.
Harroun was recognized for his Wheeler-Schebler Trophy victory of Saturday on Monday afternoon. Frank Wheeler, one of the four founders of the Speedway and the president of the Wheeler-Schebler Carburetor Company, presented him with a check for $1,000. He drove a Marmon in front of a stage as part of the ceremony but due to the accident earlier in the day, he could not use the Marmon Wasp.
This is speculation but I think it likely the Wasp would have been entered in a free-for-all race later during the day but again the accident prevented its participation. Caleb Bragg in his privately-owned Fiat got the better of Ben Kerscher in the aging Darracq that won the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup. Barney Oldfield purchased the Darracq and campaigned it with Kerscher driving in his barnstorming tours at horse tracks across the country.
Note that the article reports that the Darracq was green. In one race it lost a tire which bounced over the retaining wall in turn one.
As for the national championships, the article provides highlights. Buick superstars Louis Chevrolet and Bob Burman finished one-two in the 161 to 230 cubic inch class. Chevrolet also broke the class record in his performance. Burman had an unfortunate failure in the ten-mile free-for-all when apparently he engaged a gear too abruptly and sheared a pin in the gear case of his big Buick "100."
The article provides an interesting description of how teams "broke down" their trackside garages at the end of the meet. Many cars were driven to town and loaded onto trains. Supplies were stored and shipped. Within hours the Speedway was quiet.
The well-organized Buick team of manager Dr. Wadsworth Warren tore down and directed assets in different directions. Four cars were sent to an Eastern hill climb for Bob Burman's use. Others wee sent to the factory in Flint, Michigan. Chevrolet and Burman were returning to the factory before heading East for other contests. Chevrolet was entered in a hill climb at Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. This would have been the famous Giant's Despair Hill Climb which was conducted on June 14 and won by Ralph DePalma that year.
A box score supported the article. It provided data about records set during the meet. For readability and relevant links I have replicated it here:
New Records Made at Monday's Race
Marmon "Thirty-Two." (231 to 300 Cubic Inch Class)

  • Five Miles, Dawson. Time: 4:04.13. Lowering mark of 4:48 set by Strang in Buick at Atlanta last fall by 43.87 seconds.
  • Twenty-Five Miles, Harroun. Time, 21:48.9. Lowering mark of 23:20.1 made by Strang in Buick at Atlanta by 2 minutes 31.2 seconds.
  • Thirty Miles, Harroun. Time, 26:06.11. Lowering mark of 26:54.43 made by Harroun in Marmon at Atlanta by 48.32 seconds.
  • Forty Miles, Harroun. Time, 34:25.4. Lowering mark of 35:49.32 made by Harroun in Marmon at Atlanta by 23.92 seconds.
  • Fifty Miles, Harroun. Time, 42:03.33. Lowering mark of 44:48.98 made by Harroun in Marmon at Atlanta by 2 minutes 17.65 seconds. Average miles per hour, 71.33.

Buick "Ten" (161 to 230 Cubic Inch Class)

National "Forty" (301 to 450 Cubic Inch Class)

  • Ten Miles, Aitken. Time, 7:57.1. Lowering the previous mark of 8:08.03 made by Aitken in National on Saturday, which in turn had lowered mark set by Aitken in National on Friday, by 10.93 seconds.

Benz (200 Horse Power) Free-for-all American Speedway records.

  • One Kilometer (1,093.61 yards), Barney Oldfield. Time, :21.45. Lowering the previous mark of 23.51 made at Los Angeles by Oldfield in same Benz by 2.06 seconds. Average miles per hour, 105.
  • One Mile, Barney Oldfield. Time, :35.6. Lowering mark of 36.22 made by Oldfield in same Benz at Los Angeles by .12 second. Average miles per hour, 101.1.

Knox "Sixty." (451 to 600 Cubic Inch Class)

  • Five Miles, Barney Oldfield. Time, 4:01.3. Lowering the previous mark of 4:03.44 made by Oldfield in Knox on Saturday by 2.14 seconds.
IMScoverage053110.pdf1.96 MB