Chalmers, IMS Facilities, Road Race Costs

This attachment to this entry contains articles concerning the upcoming first automobile races held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway races. It originally appeared in the August 15, 1909 Indianapolis Star.
The attachment contains three brief but high quality information articles. The longest piece discusses entries in the Speedway auto races by the Chalmers-Detroit Automobile Company. Another article provides excellent information about the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway describing significant features of the facility. The third article has nothing to do with the Speedway or its races but provides good information about the cost of conducting big road races on American public roads.
The article reports that Chalmers-Detroit Company assured the Speedway of four of their "Thirty" model machines in the hands of top drivers. Joe Matson was still riding high on his victory for the company at Crown Point in the Indiana Trophy. Two other Chalmers-Detroit "Thirty" machines were planned for drivers Billy Knipper and Frank Gelnaw. Knipper had also driven in the Indiana Trophy for the team.
This article is exciting to me because it contains some good information about Matson and Knipper I had never seen before. Prior to Chalmers-Detroit, Matson had worked for the Corbin Automobile Company of Connecticut as well as the American operations of Mercedes.
There is even more information on Knipper who would later that year nearly win the Vanderbilt Cup. The article reports that Knipper served as riding mechanic for Herb Lytle, including that great driver's attempt for glory in a Pope-Toledo in the 1905 Gordon Bennett Trophy. According to the article Knipper also rode in the "Grand Prix," but this is not a clear reference unless it was one of the first two French Grand Prix or the 1908 American Grand Prize. He had recently completed an endurance run for Chalmers-Detroit from Denver to Mexico City.
Frank Gelnaw is mentioned as the other driver but the event was reportedly his debut as a driver. The company's fourth entry was with their "Forty" Bluebird model for driver Lee Lorimer. The article asserts that Lorimer was an accomplished driver, a veteran of road racing and the winner of 15 track races in the prior four months.
Specific Lorimer victories cited are:

This article also lists Bert Dingley in a second Bluebird "Forty" as a possible entry. Dingley was Lytle's teammate in the Gordon-Bennett Cup and reportedly won the 100-mile Wemme Trophy road race at the Portland Rose Carnival. He also won the Shettler Trophy at Santa Monica. Although not included in the article, Dingley also won the 1905 American Elimination Race for the Vanderbilt Cup that year.
The second article, this one providing details about the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is great reference. Here are the key details:

  • The total area of the Speedway was 328 acres.
  • There were 41 buildings on the grounds.
  • The "buildings" included grandstands, garages, aerodromes, clubhouses, machine shops, oil houses and concession refreshment stations.
  • The track was consistently referred to as being five miles long because of the planned infield road course.
  • The 2.5 mile oval was coated with 230 gallons of "asphalt oil." I believe this figure is incorrect, understated by as much as a factor of ten.
  • The facility was enclosed by three miles of fencing.
  • Four miles of six-inch gas main for balloon inflation were in place - connected to the Indianapolis gas plant.
  • Nine miles of pipe were in place to light the facility with acetylene gas (Prest-O-Lite).
  • Three thousand hitching posts were provided for horses.
  • Twenty-two stands were in place. The largest had 7,200 seats while a second stand supported 3,200 fans. Another 20 "club stands" seated 50 people each.
  • The Speedway's main gate was in front of stops for the Big Four Railroad and Ben Hur Traction Line of interrurban electric street cars.

The final article discusses the cost of road races with some good specific examples, especially the Vanderbilt Cup, the Cobe Trophy and the American Grand Prize. No sources are quoted but the article asserts that receipts for the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup (entrance fees, parking, seat tickets) totaled approximately $50,000 which was something short of costs. The article also reports that the sanctioning body, the American Automobile Association (AAA) were still owed $10,000. The Cobe Trophy reportedly lost $30,000 and losses were divided between the Chicago Automobile Club, its president John Farson and trophy donator Ira Cobe.

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