Big Plans for First IMS Auto Races - 1909

The article in attachment IMSprizes062609 was first published in the June 26, 1909 Indianapolis Star and does a great job promoting the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway which was under construction at the time. It esepcially focused on the upcoming auto races and made the following points:

  • In another champion driver endorsement following Barney Oldfield's praise for the track, famed 24-hour race champion Guy Vaughn, who drove for Allen Kingston Company at the time, pronounced the track had "no equal on Earth." The paper reported that Vaughn held the world's speed records for 300 to 600 miles and that he was the first to be presented with an "IMS Team Sweater," a gift from the track to all drivers that entered their first race meet.
  • The Speedway tested a lighting system the previous night and pronounced it a success. These were undoubtedly Prest-O-Lite gas burners as were used in the 1905 24 hour record run at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. One burner is said to have cast bright illumination for 20 feet and with 1,000 of them stationed about the course track officials believed they could conduct night races.
  • As noted in an earlier article (this is an attachment to the discussion of construction) original plans had called for garages to be built at the inside perimeter of the course. Teams would then stop for service at their specific garages. The article reports that interest in pit stops at the Cobe Trophy earlier that month had compelled track management to re-think this approach and create a pit lane for entertainment of spectators.
  • Also relevant to the Cobe Trophy held on public roads in and around Crown Point, Indiana the Speedway's proximity to Indianapolis and its superior hotel capacity and amenities such as bars and restaurants is discussed. Crown Point would never again host a major auto race and the Cobe Trophy moved to the Speedway in 1910.
  • The financial value of awards and trophies was touted with an estimate of $20,000 in trophies up for grabs. At the top of the list was the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy, a silver Tiffany masterpiece that quickly went on display downtown at the Fisher Automobile Company.
  • The article also announces that the American Automobile Association (AAA) had agreed to sanction the race meet - an important endorsement that would assist in attracting an expected 40+ entries.

The article also includes interesting auto racing information unrelated to the Speedway that underscores Henry Ford's decision to return to racing which was big news that month. Cecil Gibson, who owned the Indianapolis Ford dealership Gibson Auto Company, is quoted in reference to a Seattle-to-New York transcontinental race going on at the time. A Ford had won the first leg of New York-to-Seattle. Note that Ford is referred to as "Dr. Ford" which is interesting because he never attended college.
A second article in attachment IMSNews070209 is included here because it discusses the Speedway's facilities. The main point of the article, which was published in the July 2, 1909 Indianapolis News, was that as AAA sanction had been granted was that manufacturer interest in the first races at the track was significant. In this context the construction of garages was particularly important. 
Before we get into that, note that the newspaper, albeit with a local bias, had already declared the track "famous" and "the greatest race course in the world." I also want to note something with respect to the lexicon of the era when the author, whose byline is "Carburetor," refers to "training quarters" in reference to garage space.
The article reports that two of the largest garages were already complete and were designed for 12 cars each. Apparently there were 10 smaller garages capable of accommodate three cars each ready for teams. Speedway Contest Director Ernie Moross is quoted.
"As soon as these garages are filled," Moross said. "We will add others so that every team wishing space will be carefully provided for."
Other information about the Speedway's facilities are described.

  • Grandstand seating for 25,000.
  • Grounds capacity for 200,000.
  • Parking for 15,000 automobiles.
  • Ten thousand Hitching "rings" for carriages.
  • A restaurant, plus "eating quarters" in each grandstand.
  • Separate gates for 50 cent admission and $1.00 admission.

I want to flag something so you can easily compare other sources with respect to the facility during this nascent state. In some cases there are apparent discrepencies such as reports that there were 3,000 hitching posts in other sources but then in this article, as noted above, that there were 10,000 "hitchng rings." It may be, and maybe even likely, that there was more that one ring per post. It's hard to know, so that is speculation. I just don't want you to jump to the conclusion that one report or the other was in error.
This item is actually a digest of automobile news items. One I found profoundly interesting was that John Willys, president of Overland Automobile Company, started travel to Europe aboard the historic Graf Waldersee of the Hamburg-American shipping line. His plan was a two-month tour of European factories. He was traveling with his wife and they planned to return by the first of September. 
Also note that there is a reference to a Columbus, Ohio race meet where Barney Oldfield had planned to debut his new National "Six" racecar that he named "Old Glory." The stellar Buick team of Louis Chevrolet, Lewis Strang and Bob Burman is called out.

IMSprizes062609.pdf756.52 KB
IMSNews070209.pdf550.66 KB