Atlanta Speedway 1909

Humbled by a disastrous and tragic opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August 1909 all the stakeholders of the Indianapolis automobile industry turned nervous eyes to a rival two-mile speedway in Atlanta as it prepared to stage its opening event November 9 through 14 of that year. Ernie Moross, director of contests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway rented custom Pullman passenger cars for the special southbound trains.  Aboard were not only the founders of the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also a variety of colleagues associated with track President Carl Fisher's diverse interests including the Prest-O-Lite compressed gas business, his new Empire automobile company and a new airplane manufacturing business - as well as his well-established car dealership, the Fisher Automobile Company.
Despite the uproar over the deaths of five people including two spectators, Indianapolis-area business, and civic leaders knew what was at stake. They all harbored ambitions to surge past Detroit and establish Indianapolis as the automobile manufacturing capital of the country. They believed having the premier auto racing proving ground in their backyard was an ace in their hand. Atlanta loomed as a rival. In those days the ability to claim speed records was just as important to speedways as it was to car manufacturers. Everyone was in awe of the high-banked, concrete paved Brooklands closed-circuit track in England which had opened in 1907 and had already asserted itself as the fastest purpose-built speedway in the world. The Atlanta Speedway had only completed construction weeks prior and also wanted to claim the distinction of fastest venue in the world.
This series of articles (pardon the reproduction quality but the microfilm copy was poor in many cases) from the Indianapolis News and the Indianapolis Star is evidence of the level of interest in this Atlanta Speedway race meet. The first of these is in attachment VCRNews101909 which is a brief article focused on the entry of the Indianapolis-based National and Marmon factory teams entering Atlanta's November 9-13 race meet immediately following that year's Vanderbilt Cup.
The Atlanta track is described as two miles long, making comparisons to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway inevitable. The price tag on constructing the Georgia clay surface track was a reported $300,000. Track officials were offering a $10,000 trophy for their event. This was compared favorably to the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy
Regarded by "experts of high art" as the most magnificent automobile trophy ever designed, it was a reported six feet in height and made of solid silver. Ornate sculpture depicted a mythological god of speed running away with a Greek goddess. The fascination with Greek and Roman mythology and antiquity was common during this era of American culture.
The god was winged and the goddess held "leaves of victory" in one hand and a gold automobile in the other. Around the base of the trophy, there were images depicting an auto race with the seals of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.
AtlantaNews103009, published in the News on October 30, 1909. This article focuses on the race teams preparing to move from Long Island, New York - where they had just taken part in the Vanderbilt Cup that day - to Atlanta. The Marmon, National and Marion teams of Indianapolis are specifically mentioned.
Also noted in this article are the cars and drivers that had been entered up to that time, including the number of events they planned to participate in:

Other manufacturers indicated an interest in competing but driver names were not supplied:

The article offers an interesting insight in that the engine Aitken used in his National for the Vanderbilt Cup had been salvaged from the car caught up in the savage accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that took the lives of two spectators as well as mechanic Claude Kellum.
Check out the artist's rendering of the facility in the attachment AtlantaNews110409 (Indianapolis News, November 4, 1909) for an idea of the track's configuration. An article also published in the November 4, 1909, Indianapolis News (attachment AtlantaNews110409i) notes the special Pullman train cars mentioned above and the level of interest of Indianapolis representatives. Another important point is that the Marmon stock car Ray Harroun piloted was the same machine he drove to victory in the Wheatley Sweepstakes (a support race for the Vanderbilt Cup Race on the same course) just a week earlier. Note attachment AtlantaHarrounNews111609 that contains an image from the November 16, 1909, Indianapolis News along with additional information.
The article in attachment AtlantaNews110609 - originally published in the November 6, 1909, Indianapolis News - underscores the fact that the big gathering in Atlanta was more than a race meet but an automobile show as well. This provided all the more reason for Indianapolis to be interested due to the significant manufacturing presence in the city. The November 11, 1909, Indianapolis News article in attachment AtlantaNews111109a reports that Harold O. Smith, president of Premier Motor Manufacturing Company (Indianapolis) expressed the view that the race event competed with the auto show for attendance, the latter suffering.
Opening Day
The opening day of racing was a shot across the bow of the Indianapolis contingent as records set at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August were obliterated. Among the headline garnering drivers were notably Lewis Strang in the 200 HP Fiat and National's Johnny Aitken. Strang busted Barney Oldfield's mile record by a whopping 5.4 seconds and Aitken topped another Oldfield stock car record for 10 miles.
The big event of the day, however, was a 200-mile contest won by Louis Chevrolet. Both an Indianapolis News article (attachment AtlantaNews111009i) and an Indianapolis Star article (attachment Atlanta111009) published November 10 covered the race. It's noteworthy that Chevrolet's engine caught fire in the middle of his run yet the flames, certainly fueled by the massive amounts of oil these cars cast off during races, were extinguished and he was able to drive on to victory. Chevrolet is credited with setting the new American record for 100 miles at one hour, 24 minutes and 8.71 seconds more than seven minutes faster than the previous record set by Aitken in his National at Indianapolis.
The Indianapolis Star piece is relatively brief - notice the dateline is November 8 - and reads much like advertising copy for Buick. It touts the speed, reliability, and value of the Buick by noting its 72 MPH average speed for the race and that it was "the lowest priced-car entered in the event ($1,750 list)."
An excerpt from the article reads:
"This fact remains, though an inexpensive car, the Buick stands alone when it comes to endurance and service. It can maintain a higher rate of speed than any other car on the market which approaches its price, and is well deserving of the name 'the fastest car for its price known to the motoring world."
All of this is especially interesting coming from an Indianapolis publication in that the Buick was manufactured in Detroit while the city of Indianapolis pinned hopes for economic growth on homegrown companies like Marmon, Marion, and National. Still, the article continued on to underscore that its report did not rest on the strength of that single day of racing. Buick success at Indianapolis, the Vanderbilt Cup, the Los Angeles-to-Phoenix race are all recounted. The paper asserts that Buick had won 94 percent of races it completed. Among the other drivers and cars listed as competing in the race are Chalmers-Detroit teammates Lee Lorimer and Joe Matson; Basle in the Renault; Harry Stillman in a Marmon and Louis Disbrow driving for Rainier.
A second Indianapolis Star article published November 10, 1909 (attachment Atlanta111009i) summarized the events of the first day with Chevrolet's 200-mile race victory dominating the headline. Speed records, especially those by Strang and Aitken also were hailed. At the conclusion of the article, a "box score" is presented for a tidy summary of the events that were conducted along with the top finishing drivers, their cars, and speeds.
Chevrolet set new American speed records throughout the contest but the two highlighted were his times for 100 and 200 miles. His 200-mile time of two hours, 46 minutes and 48 seconds annihilated Burman's record from Indianapolis at three hours, 24 minutes and 13.8 seconds. Chevrolet led from the start losing the top spot only when his Buick's engine caught fire. There is no explanation for the blaze but given that it was extinguished and he returned to competition fairly quickly it is probably a safe guess that it was simply an oil fire. This was not uncommon in the day given that all engines lacked effective seals and leaked oil which occasionally burnt when exposed to a spark. Once back on the track Chevrolet quickly caught up with Bert Dingley who had briefly taken the lead in his Chalmers-Detroit.
Marmon's Harry Stillman experienced the biggest incident of the day after driving a spirited race that saw him running second. After 100 miles he was also nearly four minutes under Aitken's American record set in Indianapolis. At 164 miles Stillman's Marmon blew a rear tire on the backstretch and skidded into "the inner gutter" of the track - apparently lined by a six-foot embankment. Stillman was thrown from the car and his riding mechanic, future Indianapolis 500 winner (1912) Joe Dawson, was jostled over to the driver's seat. Dawson applied the brakes and eventually, the car stopped. Neither Stillman nor Dawson was injured.
Only four cars finished the race and the results from the article are provided below. Elapsed time was provided only for the first three:

  • Chevrolet, Buick, 2:46:48
  • Dingley, Chalmers-Detroit, 2:53:33
  • Lorimer, Chalmers-Detroit, 2:55:15
  • Basle, Renault
  • Driver not listed, Rainier
  • Driver not listed, Marmon
  • Cliquot, Renault
  • Aitken, National
  • Tom Kincaid, National

As reported above, the first event of the day was a one-mile time trial "free for all." There were only six entries but three dropped out after hearing Lewis Strang's time in his Fiat. The teams simply thought it pointless to even try. According to this article, Strang's time lowered the 43.1-second mile record Barney Oldfield set at Indianapolis by nearly three seconds - a margin different than reported in the other article summarized above. The 200 HP Fiat he drove was credited with setting a world mile record at Brooklands of 28 seconds at the concrete-paved, high-banked Brooklands track.
A resigned Barney Oldfield was quoted saying, "Strang has the fastest car in the world at present."
Another Oldfield record was smashed in the next event - a ten-mile handicap for stock chassis cars of 451 to 600 cubic inch engines. Johnny Aitken pushed his National to an 8:02.41 time, about 13.5 seconds faster than Oldfield at Indianapolis. There were six cars entered in the race but Strang in a 60 HP Fiat suffered some kind of mechanical issue and retired on the second lap. Another driver referred to only as "Rutherford," also had trouble with his car, a Stearns.
The Nationals of Aitken and Kincade led the entire distance with Aitken prevailing by a small margin of about one-half second. Apperson Jackrabbit driver Alfred Austin finished third with an 8:27.71 pace.
The third event was another stock chassis contest but for smaller bore engines of 161 to 230 cubic inches. Six cars were entered but one, an E.M.F., did not get away until after the race had started. Among those competing were Billy Knipper and Joe Matson in Chalmers-Detroit cars and other lesser known drivers with names like Schroltzer (Fuller), Rodgers (White) and Nelson (Buick). The two Chalmers entries battled throughout the 10-mile race with the Buick in pursuit. In the end, Matson took the measure of Knipper for the win.
The fourth event, a "free-for-all" was all Marmon as Stillman led teammate Harroun to the line after 10 miles. The race was a handicap and while Harroun closed on Stillman - who had a head start - he was unable to pass. Johnny Aitken was third but Oldfield's entry broke down.
Day Two
According to an Indianapolis News article published November 10, 1909 (AtlantaNews111009), cold, misty, foggy weather greeted the racers on the second day but the results were similar with Strang the overwhelming force. The Fiat driver dominated two of the big-bore contests. A motorcycle race was also successfully staged, again a favorable comparison to the troubled August events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The feature event of the day, a 100-mile contest for light stock cars (see attachment Atlanta 111109 for a November 11, 1909, Indianapolis Star story) produced a one-two finish for Chalmers-Detroit team with their star drivers Billy Knipper and Joe Matson finishing in that order. The finish was a heartbreaker for Joe Nelson, Louis Chevrolet's riding mechanic, who had been given a chance to drive for the Buick team. Nelson had led most of the way as he battled the highly regarded Knipper.
Nelson's Buick reportedly exhausted its supply of engine oil and slowed. This is a curious report in that he was able to nurse the car home in third. These early cars carried great quantities of oil and the engines leaked profusely. The article does indicate that the engine was damaged so it is unclear what exactly happened. What is apparent from the report is that Knipper and Matson passed Nelson on the final lap. The only other car running at the end was an E.M.F. entry driven by a man referred to as, "Yerger." There were two more entries in the race but apparently two of them - a second E.M.F. driven by "Jones" and a Fuller with "Schroitzer" and the wheel dropped out of the competition.
After the 100-mile race, Stillman and Dawson appeared for a trial run to test the overnight repairs on their wrecked Marmon. The car was pronounced "speedy as ever."
One of the disappointing stories of the entire meet was that the popular George Robertson was having mechanical problems that prevented him from competing. His Fiat refused to start the previous day and on this, the second day, he continued to struggle as his big entry could not be coaxed into competition in the two "free-for-all" sprint races won by Strang in another Fiat.
Robertson was able to start in a 10-mile stock chassis race for 451 to 600 cubic inch engines. Both he and Strang were driving Fiat "60's." The other entries were Hugh Harding in an Apperson "Jackrabbit" and another driver referred to as "Marquis" was in a Stearns. Strang was forced out of the event for some undisclosed but almost certainly mechanical reason while leading. Harding assumed the lead and emerged the winner with Marquis second. Robertson's Fiat let him down mid-race.
An amateur race produced a thrilling finish as Buick driver William E. Oldknow edged John M. Rutherford in a Stearns by a reported one hundredth of a second. Only one other car was entered, the Chalmers-Detroit driven by Calvin Travis.
As for Strang's victories, the first came in the four-mile "free-for-all" that Robertson failed to start. The other competitors were J. Walter Christie in his Christie, Louis Disbrow in the Rainier and Johnny Aitken in a National. Strang won with Christie and Aitken trailing.
Strang's other triumph was over Oldfield in his "Prince Henry" Benz and Christie who ended up withdrawing from the competition. It was a 10-mile "special" race and according to the report, Strang's Fiat produced 200 HP, a full 50 HP more than either of this competitors. The article reports that after the race Oldfield cabled Germany to order a new 220 HP Benz which may have began his search for the Blitzen Benz.
Day Three
The big event of the third day - as reported in the November 11, 1909, Indianapolis News (AtlantaNews111109) - marked the success of Ray Harroun and his Wheatley Hills-winning Marmon noted above. This was a 120-mile contest for stock chassis cars, but he faced only three other competitors. One was Chevrolet, again in a Buick, and again catching on fire mid-race. This time the end result was not particularly successful although he was blessed to escape both incidents without injury. Johnny Aitken again starred, driving his National Motor Vehicle Company racer to victory in a 20-mile contest and again smashing a Barney Oldfield speed record. This was reported in the November 12, 1909, Indianapolis News (AtlantaNews111209ii).
Indianapolis Star coverage of the third day of racing (attachment Atlanta111209) provides more detail. The 120-mile race started with only four cars - Chevrolet (Buick "30"); Harroun (Marmon "32"); Basle (Renault) and Matson (Chalmers-Detroit). As he did on opening day, Chevrolet dominated in the early going putting Basle and Matson down by a lap by the 10th tour of the course. As on opening day his engine caught fire and this time he lost two laps to Harroun. This was at 25 miles.
He returned to the fray only to see his engine burst into flame again by mile 40. Harroun led Matson by a mile at this point. Matson slowed and slipped steadily behind although holding second place. Chevrolet and Basle trailed. Harroun never stopped and won the race with a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes, 26.4 seconds. Matson was second, Basle third with the Buick trailing. Basle and Chevrolet were a whopping 18 miles in arrears.
Much was made of Aitken's record-setting 20-mile stock chassis race for medium sized engines (301 to 450 cubic inches). Five cars took part in the contest. Aside from Disbrow's Rainier entry the other five cars locked in a tight battle. Aitken battled hard against his National teammate Kincaid as well as Chalmers-Detroit drivers Bert Dingley and Lee Lorimer. Kincaid retired on the 12th mile and Lorimer emerged to challenge Aitken.
Lorimer led briefly but faded, handing victory to Aitken with Stillman taking second for Marmon. Aitken's 16 minute, 42.76 seconds drive bettered Oldfield's old mark for the distance - 16:53.80.
George Robertson finally enjoyed some good luck. After retiring yet again from a 20-mile handicap race which was won by Louis Disbrow in the Rainier he bounced back strong. Described as "The big blonde driver," he started from scratch (no head start) in a 10-mile handicap to drive his Fiat into the lead - passing all drivers who started ahead of him. Aitken was second and Stillman third.
Joe Matson won a two-lap or four-mile light car race in his Chalmers-Detroit. His teammate Knipper was second with Buick's Nelson third. The same drivers and cars that raced in the previous day's amateur competition again gathered for battle. This time Rutherford pushed his Stearns ahead of Oldknow and his Buick. Travis in a Chalmers-Detroit was again third.
Day Four
On the fourth-day driver, H.J. Kilpatrick and riding mechanic escaped injury in perhaps the oddest and most spectacular incident of the entire event when his Pope-Toledo's engine exploded in flames and caught the "asphaltum gum" or tar-like racing surface on fire. This again was probably helped along by literally gallons of oil that had been dumped on the course by these leaking racers. See the November 12, 1909, Indianapolis News article in attachment AtlantaNews111209 for details.
As the race event's fourth day dawned Atlanta Speedway President and Coca-Cola executive Asa Candler must have been pleased and perhaps encouraged news reports on the outstanding condition of the track - a clearly favorable comparison to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that had disintegrated under the pounding of its August race meet. See the November 13, 1909, article in attachment AtlantaNews111309.
George Roberston, the winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup, picked off the fourth day's feature, a 50 miler covered in the November 13, 1909 Indianapolis News article in attachment AtlantaNews111309i. The Indianapolis Star's coverage of the fourth day (attachment Atlanta111309) highlighted Fiat driver George Robertson's record-breaking victory in a 50-mile contest. As was true throughout the meet the number of cars competing - eight - was underwhelming. Still, the entries were quality with drivers of outstanding reputation such as Harroun (Marmon); Strang (Fiat); Aitken (National); Harding (Apperson); Lorimer (Chalmers-Detroit) and Dingley (Chalmers-Detroit).
Strang led from the start, his 200 HP machine reportedly putting an amazing three seconds a mile on second place Robertson in a smaller Fiat. This advantage was destroyed during lap nine when a right rear tire exploded in front of the judge's stand "with a report like artillery." This compelled his retirement from the race as according to the article the car's design prevented rapid tire change.
Tires were frequently a problem in such races and two more erupted as Harding mixed it up with the Chalmers-Detroit drivers Lorimer and Dingley. Although running close together both cars lost tires in separate incidents that confused the reported 18,000 spectators into believing the cars had collided. Stillman capitalized on their misfortune, pushing his Marmon into third, a position he held to the finish. Aitken followed Robertson to give National second place. Robertson's new record was four minutes and seven seconds faster than the old record Aitken had established at Indianapolis in August. That put the record at 40 minutes, 14.2 seconds.
As noted above H.J. Kilpatrick had a big crash in morning practice. His experimental Pope-Toledo was reportedly worth $25,000. The incident delayed the start of the day's races until 1 p.m.
The day opened with what amounted to a 12 lap match race between Chalmers-Detroit teammates Knipper and Matson. Knipper led most of the way, but Matson did pass him briefly twice. Knipper took the win in a close finish.
Next up was a special race for cars that had entered the New York Herald - Atlanta Journal-Constitution tour. Too frequently the practice of journalism in these earlier days omitted the first name of a person. As a result, we get that someone named Stoecker drove a stock Benz to victory in the 20-mile handicap event. His pace produced a slow time of 20 minutes, 36.86 seconds. Stoecker started "at scratch," or last with no head start. He spotted Matheson driver Whalen, who finished second, 55 seconds. The only other car in the race was a Renault with a driver named Shaab.
Johnny Aitken pushed his National to the win in the next competition, a 12-mile stock chassis race. He led the first six miles but gave way to Chalmers-Detroit's Lorimer during the seventh mile only to surge ahead in a thrilling move on the home stretch during the last lap. Dingley (Chalmers-Detroit) was third with Rainier's Disbrow fourth but never competitive. Stillman had his Mamon DNF (did not finish) in the race.
Ray Harroun followed up his previous day's 120-mile race win with victory in a 10-mile handicap. He gave the Chalmers-Detroit duo of Knipper and Matson a 24-second head start but caught up and passed them to win by a reported "fraction of a second."
Robertson picked up a second triumph in three lap stock car race. Using his 60 HP Fiat he steadily drew ahead of his competition to finish a mile ahead of them. Behind him, there was a hard-fought battle for second. Aitken was second with Harding and Disbrow trailing.
A 24-mile amateur race was won by John Rutherford in a Stearns in 20:35.25. The second was J.F. Kiser in a Pope-Hartford a full three minutes behind. William Oldknow's Buick suffered valve trouble on the fourth mile and retired. Calvin Travis' Chalmers-Detroit retired on lap 4. A single lap free-for-all sprint was also staged with Strang the winner followed by Christie and Robertson trailing in that order.
Automobile Show Runs Concurrently
Attachment Atlanta111409 contains an Indianapolis Star article published November 14, 1909, that serves to remind everyone that in addition to a race meet at the Atlanta Speedway a major automobile show was conducted in Atlanta during the same week. This article focuses on the observations of executives from Indianapolis manufacturers. Specifically noted for prominent displays were: Waverley, Marmon, Premier, Overland, Cole and Parry automobile companies.
Herbert Howard Rice and H.H. Kennedy of Waverley were interviewed by the paper. They exhibited the Model 75-C Waverley Brougham, Model 76 Waverley Victoria Phaeton and the Model 74 Waverley Stanhope - all 1910 models. Interestingly, Rice and Kennedy both felt the show and the race meet should not be held concurrently. They believed that the two events contended for the same audience. Maybe they had a point but they were almost certainly biased as their company did not race cars and people excited about speedway performance could be expected to look past the Waverley line.
W.H. Brown, vice president of Overland, was enthusiastic about the event and said,
"The Overland and Marion was well represented and aside from seven machines in the show proper we had five demonstrators on the street with our products. The armory was well decorated and from an exhibit standpoint was fully equal to that of any I ever saw. Every bit of available space was taken in the balcony, on the main floor, in the basement, the annex and even under the stairway."
If Brown had any disappointment it was that the show lacked the sense of national significance experienced in Chicago and New York. He deemed it clearly a regional show.
Max Parry of the Parry Automobile Company said, "Although our exhibit at the Atlanta show was not as auspicious as many of the other manufacturers, we were well re-paid for our efforts. Considering the fact that we have only been in the field three months and in that time have presented a car to the public which will be a competitor against all makes, we were glad of the opportunity of showing to the big field which the South affords the phenomenal growth of our product in such a short period of time."
Howard Marmon commented that the successes of Harroun and Stillman at the concurrent auto race event helped attract interest in his products on exhibit. He said, "After our Marmon 'thirty-two' made a cleaning in several of the big races the public at large was more than anxious to inspect the merits of the machine."
Premier's President H.O. Smith was pleased with how the Atlanta market was developing and the southern automobilist's push for the good roads movement. Said Smith, "It would have been impossible to visit Atlanta during the last week and leave the city without being thoroughly impressed with the deep interest that section is manifesting in the motor car and in the movement of good roads. It is surprising to note how much has been done already in the way of road improvement."
J.M. Clarke of the National Motor Vehicle Company saw great promise in the emerging market of the Southeast and their awareness of his company's offerings. He said, "A matter of much pleasure to the National Motor Vehicle Company was the fact that so many prospective buyers were acquainted with the merits of our cars and this was all the more appreciated by us, as up to the present time the National Motor Vehicle Company has made very little effort to place its cars in the South...the name which the National car has made for itself during the last several years in a large number of contests, races and hill climbs seems to have penetrated through every section of the South and many comments were heard from visitors who stood outside the exhibit."
The Final Day
The final day of the race meet featured a 200-mile stock car race won by Louis Disbrow - see the November 14, 1909, Indianapolis Star article in attachment Atlanta111409iiii. This was Disbrow's big moment during the multi-day event as he had endured performance and reliability challenges with his Rainier machine in several races. He cashed in on the misfortune of George Robertson, another driver who had experienced triumph intermingled with a lot of frustration throughout the week.
Robertson dominated the contest until his Fiat's drive chain broke at 162 miles. He had built up a three lap lead but by the time he resumed the race he had slipped to third place and was four laps down to Disbrow. Charles Basle in the Renault had taken second place. Robertson stormed back into the competition and was soon able to overhaul Basle. Despite being reportedly up to 30 seconds a lap faster than Disbrow he was only able to gain back two laps before the finish.
There were 11 cars in the race but most failed to finish. The finishing order with driver, car and time in terms of hours, minutes and seconds is presented below:

  • Louis Disbrow, Rainier, 2:53:48.32
  • George Robertson, Fiat, 2:57:47.05
  • Charles L. Basle, 2:58:43.95

A fourth finisher was reported but I am incredulous that the report is accurate as it lists someone named "L. Basle" finishing with a time of 3:15:41.87. I am not sure whether this is a typo or a second driver with the last name of "Basle." Ray Harroun was reportedly circulating the track when Disbrow took the flag but was hopelessly behind.
Attrition played a big factor. Bert Dingley's Chalmers-Detroit reportedly threw a wheel but I always wonder in these reports if the writer is actually referring to a tire. Strang endured tire problems which led to his withdrawal at 120 miles. Earlier, at 62 miles, Lorimer in the Chalmers-Detroit, was knocked out of contention with engine problems. Hugh Harding's Apperson failed at the 122nd mile. Louis Chevrolet was in the hunt for 86 miles until his Buick's engine overheated.
There were other events on the closing day, but, as with all the races, the fields of entries were small. The Chalmers-Detroits of Knipper and Matson were the only contenders in a 10-mile stock chassis race, the first contest of the day. Knipper easily pulled away as Matson endured engine trouble. Arthur Chevrolet, Louis' brother, had his turn to score for Buick in a 10-mile handicap race. Chevrolet started from scratch as did Ray Harroun as those two gave a 30-second head start to Charlmers-Detroit drivers Knipper and Matson. Chevrolet won with Harroun second and Knipper third.
An eight-mile handicap race saw Aitken win for National after enjoying a 40.5-second head start on Robertson who started from scratch in a Fiat. Disbrow, who was granted a 70-second head start, finished second.
Arthur Chevrolet scored again in a 12-mile stock chassis race. The event must have been processional in appearance as there was no passing. Behind Chevrolet were Dingley (Chalmers-Detroit), Lorimer (Chalmers-Detroit) and Disbrow (Rainier).
Ray Harroun pushed his Marmon to victory in a six-mile handicap sprint race. Chalmers-Detroit drivers Knipper and Matson finished second and third respectively after receiving a 19-second head start. Arthur Chevrolet was disqualified for jumping the gun.
Since the August race debacle, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway endured a series of false starts by announcing plans to stage various events - a second balloon race, an airplane competition, a 24-hour auto race - and then just as quickly canceling them. The Atlanta race meet effectively threw down the gauntlet to Carl Fisher and his Indianapolis Motor Speedway partners. The record-breaking, injury-free November events must have been a huge challenge to the new Brickyard's ownership. Fisher, intensely competitive, scheduled time trial events on the freshly paved brick track at a most unlikely time of the year - December. Most certainly part of his motivation was to claim back the bragging rights of having the fastest speedway in America.
Attachment NewOrleansNews112009 is a digest article with the heading focused on the upcoming race at New Orleans, but the report is much more about Atlanta. The article was originally published in the November 20, 1909, Indianapolis News.
With respect to New Orleans, the article focuses on Indianapolis factory entries for National teammates Johnny Aitken and Tom Kincaid as well as Ray Harroun and Harry Stillman for Marmon. Note that Stillman is referred to as "Charles," and the only records I have of a Stillman racing for Marmon is Harry. Other drivers mentioned are Barney Oldfield, Lewis Strang, Ben Kirscher, Charles Basle, Maurice Bernin, Tilford Cowell, John Walker and S.L. Peer.
It is particularly interesting to note the track preparations. The running surface was scrapped of top soil to the "buckshot" black loam layer immediately underneath. "Asphaltic" oil was applied with the belief it would eliminate dust.
The next point of this digest concerns plans in Chicago to build a new speedway. David Beecroft, chairman of the Chicago Motor Club at a dinner the club hosted earlier the same week. Beecroft addressed the gathering and discussed both the Chicago plans and the recent Atlanta race meet. He is quoted in the article.
"Atlanta has a magnificent track and at the present time, it is faster than Indianapolis was at the time the meeting was held there last August. It has a track two miles in circumference that cost the southerners only $225,000 as compared with the $600,000 Indianapolis spent on its big two-mile-and-a-half oval. It is made of George gravel, red sand, and oil and so well constructed that after five days of racing it was in as good condition as it was before a car had been run on it. And just think! July 16 they started work on the virgin soil, they put fifty steam shovels at work, they worked big gangs of men and they cut down hills and made a track, all in three months. Their first meet they took in $110,000 at the gate and the attendance ranged from 22,000 to 28,000 a day. Atlanta has only a population of 125,000, and yet it supported motor racing this way. Chicago has a population of three million, and it seems to me that if Atlanta ought to be able to equal it. There's no reason we shouldn't have such a speedway, and it wouldn't surprise me any to see one here. I have talked it over with two or three moneyed men and they say they are ready to invest $250,000 in such a proposition. They have the money and already they have picked out a site. Just where it is I am not at liberty to state, but I am not letting the cat out of the bag by stating that it is on the line of the Chicago & Northwestern and easy of access to Chicago."
This article wraps up with an item on South Bend, Indiana's Studebaker Automobile Company's acquisition of G.W. Hansen's interest in the Georgia Motorcar Company. It is not entirely clear in the article, but I believe this was a distributor. Hayden Eames, general manager of the Studebaker Company was quoted revealing some business performance statistics.
"The south has become of vast performance to us. We consider it one of the richest fields for cultivation in the automobile business. Studebakers will manufacture 42,600 gasoline cars during the next twelve months. In round figures that amounts to $39,000,000, and that is very considerably the largest output of any concern in the world. Over $2,000,000 worth of that product will be distributed from the Atlanta branch."
Back in Indianapolis the Nordyke & Marmon Company displayed the collection of trophies they earned at the big Atlanta race meet. An image of this display case can be found in attachment AtlantaTrophies112709 from the November 27, 1909, Indianapolis News.

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