1909 Balloon Race

The first competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a national championship gas filled balloon race organized by Speedway President Carl Fisher. Fisher and his co-founders James Allison, Frank Wheeler and Arthur C. Newby were anxious to recover their investments in the Speedway. Since construction of the track did not begin in earnest until April 1909 it took months to prepare the track for motorized competition. Fisher, fascinated with aviation, sought to host the national championship balloon racing competition - and generate revenue for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company. He formed the Aero Club of Indiana, became the 21st person to earn a balloon pilot's license in the United States and worked with mentor George Bumbaugh to develop balloon vehicles. Their craft was called the Indiana and together they survived a harrowing ride through turbulent wind currents. Check out a photo gallery of this great event elsewhere on First Super Speedway.

This article is nothing short of fantastic. Written by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher, it is a lengthy feature printed in the Indianapolis Star Father's Day Sunday edition on June 20, 1909. Fisher provides a first-hand account of his participation in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's first competition of any kind, the June 5 national balloon championship.

In October 1909 - at the Indiana State Fair - Carl Fisher's ballooning mentor put on an exhibition of one of his giant gas balloons. This brief article with image notes the event.

While motor racing historians are familiar with the James Gordon Bennett Cup auto races at the dawn of the 20th Century Bennett's offer of a Cup by the same name for balloonists that still exists today is just as interesting.

On April 18, 1909 the Indianapolis Star published an article that presents the perspective of an "Aeronaut" or balloon pilot. This article was a direct result of the public interest in upcoming Aero Club of America national championship balloon race scheduled for June 5, 1909 at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway.

This attachment contains images of the first gas balloon ascension from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One is the frist aerial view of the Speedway, the other a pretty hard landing.

Recognized in Indianapolis as the "go to guy" for balloon pilot training Captain George Bumbaugh was working with aspiring entrants to the June 5, 1909 national balloon championship at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Several of the men wanting to compete had not yet obtained their pilot's license.

The "aeronauts," as they were called in the day, began arriving in Indianapolis in anticipation of the June 5, 1909 national balloon race championship at the end of May. One of the first of the balloon pilots to show up was Chicago's Charles A. Coey a prominent race car driver and balloon pilot.

George Bumbaugh had recently completed constructing the "Hoosier," an Indiana Aero Club balloon set for competition in June 5, 1909 national balloon race.

The Indianapolis Star published the attached article on June 3, 1909 as the intensity of preparations for the June 5, 1909 balloon championship heated up. I especially like this article because it focuses on A. Holland Forbes of the wealthy publishing family. Forbes' passion for aviation must have been exceptional as he survived some incredible close calls.