Oval Vs. Road Racing

This article discusses the some of the top topics of the day in 1909 as motor racing was taking shape as a profession. Two that discussed most thoroughly are financial compensation for drivers, the differences in driving technique between road racing and oval racing as well as comparing the skills of American and European drivers.

One of the great controversies of motorsport during the first decade of the 20th Century was the safety of what the motorsport community called "track racing" or oval horse tracks also used for auto races. The dirt tracks were excessively dusty many times forcing trailing drivers to steer blind.

These brief articles capture an observation that is a central reality of American politics and society today - the red states versus the blue states. The first has a more cultural bent, the second speaks to the geographic realities of the regions of the country. Keep in mind that when these articles were originally published in 1906 and 1909 respectively the term "west" meant something different than it does today. States in the near midwest such as Ohio, Indiana Illinois and Michigan were considered "western."

An article (attachment trackracing102007) from the October 20, 1907 Indianapolis Star represents the view that racing on oval horse tracks was simply too dangerous to continue to permit. Such appeals had been going on for at least two years. The American Automobile Association (AAA) ruled on track racing just a few weeks later as shared in another Star article published November 10 of the same year.

This article from the November 10, 1907 Indianapolis Star reports on the direction of a special committee the American Automobile Association (AAA) established to render decisions on the future of "track racing," or auto races conducted on dirt horse tracks.

The theme of track racing being particularly unsafe continued when Edwin Ross "E.R." Thomas of the the Thomas Motor Company issued a challenge to Fiat and Renault for an ultimate 24 hour race on a dirt oval.

This article from the January 15, 1910 edition of the Indianapolis News looks ahead to the New Year and discusses the role of auto racing in developing the automobile industry. By this time oval tracks were winning the public over despite periodic outcries concerning safety.

This is a curious item I found in the January 8, 1908 Indianapolis News that is evidence that some sports writer might have been a frustrated poet. As with any New Year the media of the day reflected on the previous year. In this instance the author was reviewing auto racing events of 1909 that he found most significant. I have provided links to original coverage of each of these events, all of which include additional links to biographical information on the drivers listed in bold.
In chronological order, the are:

In the early days of oval track racing it received a ton of criticism for being so dangerous it was unconscionable. Luminaries like Henry Ford and Frederic L. Smith (Oldsmobile leader) announced that they were withdrawing from oval track racing.

This article was published in the March 21, 1909 Indianapolis Star and is an editorial discussing the merits of auto racing primarily concerning its contributions to the development of the automobile. The upshot of the article is that racing could make contributions but needed to be conducted in a responsible manner. In particular it calls out the use of public roads as being excessively dangerous.