Powerful Prose by P. P. Willis (1910)

The attachment below contains an article by the leading Hoosier auto racing journalist of the day, Peter Paul "P.P" Willis. It was published in the May 27, 1910 Indianapolis Star.
Willis wrote this stirring prose on the eve of the May 1910 "national championshipsrace meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For the founders of the Speedway the event was the culmination of some very trying times. They were times that break average men.
The devastatingly tragic inaugural auto races of the imposing speed complex resulted in five fatalities in August 1909. The brutal carnage had pushed their dream of a giant, glorious race track - the pride of America and a proving ground for the nation's nascent auto industry - to the brink of destruction. Some of the State's leaders called for laws to put a stop to the cruel sport.
Only through steely-eyed determination, vision and massive financial risk did they resuscitate their dream. A grander track than their original conception re-emerged complete with a nickname: "The Brickyard."
This was the moniker hung on it by newspapermen and locals who wandered by to gawk in awe as three million, two hundred thousand bricks were put into place by the calloused hands of everyday laborers assisted by mules pulling wooden carts. Scorned by those in the elite northeast as a crude "western" city, the Hoosier capital's farmers must have wondered what mad men would attempt to build the eighth wonder of the world in the middle of simple cornfields. They were men who "had no quit."
So it was that on the eve of the first major race meet on what the press called "the vitrified surface" everyone invovled swallowed hard. In any like contest of the times the stakes were astronomically high. The nearly brakeless cars with wheels made of hickory were crude 2,000 pound hulks that frequently barrel-rolled after unpredictable mechanical failures or when primitive rubber tires exploded without warning. There were no helmets, no roll bars or fire suits. Drivers sat high on their seats bouncing over rough roads and were frequently tossed through the air when things got out of hand. It was the truly the "Heroic Age." Still, with this race the founders literally bet what actually had been a farm little more than a year prior on the outcome.
The original article is attached but its imagery is so rich, so eloquent I simply want to copy it here with a few embedded links for additional information. Click thru to see the headline and subheads. Yes, the writing is a little over-the-top and the style a bit dated but you have to appreciate the context of the times.
By P.P. Willis - Infants were never tucked in bed with more care and attention than were the big motor race cars that were put in the Speedway garages last night by their anxious pilots. 
Do automobiles need rest? Ask any one of the drivers who today will vie with the winds and he will regard the question as almost an insult. They love their pet speed creations and handle them with human tenderness. Big and ugly as the machines appear in action, as if they were rushing their occupants into the jaws of death, they are the object of the drivers' devotion.
In fact, last night was the most nervous period of the preparations for the battle of cylinders today. For several days these knights of gasoline have been tuning and grooming their charges. They have found fault and remedied it, have studied every detail of the cars' mechanism with repeated, patient and unerring care, and now know exactly what to expect of them if the goddess of a driver's fate - luck - smiles upon them.
The element of danger is forgotten. It is now placed on the basis of man's skill, courage, endurance and the power and speed of the craft. Not one man gives a thought to the horrors of a possible sudden dash to death. All are oblivious to the chances of fatal wrecks. All are centered upon one goal - victory.
When the last thundering car was checked in its mad practice flights - late yesterday evening and the dark, cool night cast its magic spell over the beautiful Speedway Park the pilots gathered in their individual garages to make a final inspection of their favorite steel steeds. Hands were placed on the warm throbbing sides of the hoods with a mother's tenderness, levers and cranks were turned or adjustments made with as much thought and painstaking as though they were tender and their feelings migh be hurt.
These scenes back behind the Speedway curtain contrast oddly with the sight of the same men with the same cars on the track in fierce and determined competition.
Last night, in the dressing rooms where the actors in the drama of spark plugs, carburetors, magnetos and motors were preparing, the drivers were cool and serious in their actions. Compared to the part these same men and cars will play today upon the stage of speed, where they will wear curious clothes and goggles covered with dirt and oil, where the machines will spit forth fire, smoke and deafening noise, it did not seem possible that they are the same humans. The drivers lose their gentle ways when in action. It seems the demon's power and the men become one. Steel and flesh seem to form one whirling object driven by superhuman force and indifferent to all save speed.
Never in the romantic history of motor car races was there as much interest and speculation as to the outcome of events as there was last night. Old devotees of the sport, who have seen the Vanderbilt, Daytona Beach, Lowell, Crownpoint, Atlanta and all of the classics, agree that fortunes, fame and reputations hang in the uncertain balance as never before.
The pilots and their trusty mechanicians were hurried to bed last night by the various team managers. They needed all the rest and sleep possible for the trials of today. But did they sleep? Some said they would. Barney Oldfield, veteran, says it never worries him. With others comparatively new in the game, it is different.
With the votaries of the sport, hundreds of whom last night gathered in eager groups and talked and speculated of the events, the races were raced and reraced many times last night.
One group of men did not let the fascination and the excitement of the pending battle divert their attention from cold facts. These were the men who have actual charge of the many details in connection with staging the motor-drama. They labored until late in the night at the Speedway office perfecting plans that will add comfort and pleasure to the thousands who are sure to surge for admission to the Speedway gates.
Trains during the entire night brought their cargoes of dyed-in-the-wool fans of the motor race course, who traveled as far as from Maine and California to be at the track's edge to see the blurred figuires go crashing past. All night long the various highways leading from the ink-black spans of country all around the city were dotted with the headlights of big touring cars that were wending their way to the city's glare. These true-blood motorists drove here from surrounding cities - some from Louisville, Toledo, Chicago, Columbus and other places.
Such is the nervous strain on the eve of the deciding tests. But when the thousands are leaning far over the rail, eager and intent upon what their eyes translate for their excited brains, the men who will lay their lives and reputations at the alter of speed will appear cool and calm.
When the doors of the garages swing open and the booming of the motor-musketry is started when the rubber shod creations give vent to their pent-up speed and dash upon the track to line up on the tape, all that brains, skill, hard work and money can do will have been done to make today's events the greatest ever seen - unless Mars enjoys auto races.

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