IMS Aero Meet & Track Plans

This article is about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's plans to expand and improve its facilities in the wake of their controversial first auto meet August 19-21 1909. It was originally published in the September 3, 1909, Indianapolis Star. Check out a September 5 article that focuses more on plans for a new garage area which are barely mentioned in this one. These races were controversial due to the devastating fatal accidents the first and third days of the meet. In all, five men were killed:

Despite this Speedway management continued on with their plans looking ahead to more auto races in the fall as well as an aviation show with the still-new invention they called the "aeroplane." In fairness, this article notes that they planned to repave the track to develop a safer running surface. In the typical impatient fashion of Speedway President Carl Fisher the article suggests that they expected the project to be complete in less than a month - by October 1 - which is the same kind of rush job thinking that delivered the unsafe track responsible for the dangerous conditions of both the August motorcycle race meet and the first auto race meet a few days later.
In the article about garage area construction linked to above a price tag for that work is mentioned to $150,000. This article offers a similar figure for all new construction on the track: paving it, new grandstands and the new garage area are specifically mentioned. In the end, the additional investment was probably significantly more and the $150,000 number is almost certainly nothing more than an early and excessively optimistic budget estimate.
Some of the early ideas for a safer track and ways to conduct safer races are very interesting. Officials were considering a 50-foot wide sand trap to slow errant cars. In addition, they planned to line the track with a guardrail again as a precaution to slow the cars before reaching spectator areas. For races longer than 100 miles they were looking at forcing drivers to stop to be relieved by another driver. During the stop, the car would be inspected especially the tires before the new driver would be allowed to return it to the track. In the meantime, the plan called for the first driver to undergo a medical exam.
Other track improvements besides the racing surface, rails, sand traps and larger garage included grandstand expansion, a second suspension bridge and a tunnel under the track. The first suspension bridge was to be widened and additional refreshment stands were to be constructed.
As for the aviation meet the big news was that super star Glenn Curtiss had indicated he planned to participate. No date was announced but later the Speedway would promise October 14-16 but eventually, this event was canceled. Curtiss was a big "get" in the day, the winner of "airship races" in Rheims, France. This was the first great air race in history and would serve as the gold standard for such endeavors for many years hence. It was here that Curtiss won the James Gordon Bennett Cup for aviation, recognized as the highest honor for such events.
The article also mentions the possibility of Curtiss bringing an airplane designed by another giant of the age, Louis Bleriot, the first man to cross the English Channel. Others named as likely participants were the Wright brothers, Hubert Latham and Henri Farman. Again, this event never occurred but there was an aviation meet at the Speedway in June 1910.
Henri Fournier, better known for racing cars but an aviator as well, reportedly had some type of accident the previous day and broke his nose. He leaped from the machine and, according to the article, narrowly escaped being shredded by the whirling propeller blades.
On the following day, September 4, 1909, the Indianapolis News ran with a story touting the optimism of Director of Speedway Contests Ernie Moross in his efforts to attract Curtiss and his famous "Golden Flyer" airplane. Apparently, this was the aviator's first successful airplane and he had used it successfully in competition airshows.
One sticking point on the Curtiss entry was that Moross wanted assurance that the aviator would not appear in any state west of New York - where he lived - until after the October 14 IMS show. In the end, Curtiss did not enter and the October air show never happened. Note that the Aeronautical Society of Morris Park, New York (the group utilized the Morris Park race track) managed the Golden Flyer.

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