Driver Compensation

This article commenting on the salaries of drivers of the era appeared in the August 15, 1909 Indianapolis Star in association with the first automobile races held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The article does not provide specific numbers but asserts that for the level of risk the drivers were woefully underpaid. Baseball players like Hans Wagner and Frank Chance are mentioned as high wage earners although again no specific numbers are mentioned. General numbers are suggested as the article suggests that some horse jockeys earned $50,000 annually but auto racers were lucky to collect $50 a week. Reportedly the average American laborer earned $800 a year.
Based on this article and other material I have read the compensation structure for race drivers during these very early days of heavy manufacturer involvement was based on the fact that they were employees of the company beyond merely driving for them. Their driving was a part of the design and development work as engineers or mechanics.
An anonymous auto company manager is quoted to provide some explanation for the relatively low salaries:
"One of the reasons that these salaries are held so low is the fact that there are so many first-class men, really great drivers, who are simply crazy to get the chance to race and who do not require pay for their services. It seems the more danger there is in the business the more people there are who want to take a hand at it."

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