Harroun Wins in New Orleans - 1909

The article in attachment Oldfield112209 first appeared in the Indianapolis Star on November 22, 1909. This article reports on the events of a race meet held at the fairgrounds track in New Orleans. The big news was future Indianapolis 500 winner Ray Harroun's victory in the 100-mile feature and Barney Oldfield's establishment of a new track record. The event was hosted by the New Orleans Automobile Club and Marmon wasted no time in promoting their success.
To avoid confusion Oldfield was not driving the Blitzen Benz. He did not acquire that famous car until January 1910. Oldfield blasted an older Benz around the dirt track in 54 seconds, bettering a mark established by Ralph DePalma the previous February by two-tenths of a second.
Harroun's big victory came at the wheel of a Marmon car. The race was a heartbreaker for perennial charger Johnny Aitken who had lapped Harroun by lap 80 only to have his National crap out with ignition failure.
Another sensation of the meet was Ben Kirscher, called a German driver, who reportedly was brought to America by William H. Pickens. Kirscher (whose name may be misspelled) drove a Darracq racer and I have read from other reports that it was the car that won the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup. Kirscher was a teammate to Oldfield and won a 10-mile handicap race.
Check out these race summaries:
10-Mile Handicap Race:
Kirscher (scratch - no handicap - start) winner; Aitken (25-second handicap) second; Harroun (scratch start).
Time Trial:
Oldfield attempt to lower 50-mile world speed record failed with a blown tire in the 18th mile.
5-Mile Amateur Southern Championship:
National (driver - Speer), Marmon (Swoboda), Buick (Walker) - Time: 5:30.
Free-For-All Handicap:
Charles Basle, Renault, winner (1.15 handicap); second Kirscher (scratch); third, Harroun (40-second handicap) - Time 10:16.6.
5-Mile New Orleans Championship (for local residents only):
Walker, Buick - Time 6:15.
5-Mile Special Match Race, Oldfield vs. Kirscher:
Oldfield winner, $500 prize - Time 5:17.6
100-Mile Feature:
Harroun, winner; Basle, second and Cowell (Chalmers-Detroit) third. Time - 1 hour, 47 minutes and 14 seconds. Note that Marmon placed an advertisement to promote their success at New Orleans.
The Mardi Gras Speed Festival returned in 1910.
The November 22, 1909, Indianapolis News article contained in attachment HarrounNews112209 also reports on the New Orleans races. This article is particularly interesting in that it reports on results from both Saturday and Sunday of the two-day meet. Harroun was again spectacularly successful as he won both a 50-mile and a 25-mile feature. Charles Basle, driving a Renault was second in Sunday's 100-miler.
Barney Oldfield is noted for breaking the local track's record for one mile at 54 seconds. As noted above, the previous record was held by Ralph DePalma at 54.2 seconds. Ben Kirscher, referred to as a German driver, is mentioned as the victor over Oldfield in a five-mile match race. I believe this is an error and the results were actually in reverse based on other points in the article that state the opposite. Kirscher also won a 10-mile handicap.
The close of this article provides a box score, of sorts.

  • 10-mile handicap: Kirscher (Darracq), Aitken (National), Harroun (Marmon).
  • Time trial record attempt by Oldfield (Benz) - failed after 18 miles with blown tire.
  • Five-mile amateur/chauffeurs southern championship: Speer (National), Swoboda (Marmon), Walker (Buick).
  • One-mile time trial. Oldfield set a new track record of 54.2 seconds.
  • 10-mile free-for-all handicap: Basle (Renault), Kirscher (Darracq), Harroun (Marmon).
  • Five-mile New Orleans championship - drivers had to residents of the city: Walker (Buick).
  • Five-mile match race for $500 prize: Oldfield (Benz), Kirscher (Darracq). Time: 5 minutes, 17.6 seconds.
  • 100-mile feature: Harroun (Marmon), Basle (Renault), Cowell (Chalmers-Detroit). Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes, 14 seconds.
Oldfield112209.pdf475.56 KB
HarrounNews112209.pdf958.82 KB