IMS Practice, Day 2

This article first appeared in the August 17, 1909 Indianapolis Star and reported on preparations for the first automobile races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, August 19-21.
While the previous day (the Star was and is a morning paper) was the second day of practice for the drivers and race teams much of this article reports on the preparations for organizing the races. One note I want to make is that you will see the track referred to as a "five-mile course." Original plans called for 2.5 miles of winding curves through the infield to connect with the outer oval and produce the option of a five-mile course. As Speedway officials rushed to prepare for the initial motorized competition of first motorcycle races and then the auto races they realized they were under a crunch and did not have time to complete the road course. Still, the local newspapers occasionally referred to the course as five miles, not its actual 2.5-mile oval configuration.
Good information is provided to describe the track but some of it contradicts earlier reports by the same newspaper. Most specifically the cost of construction is reported as in excess of $650,000 whereas an article elsewhere on First Super Speedway indicates it was considerably less at $390,000. Details such as that the Speedway had 41 buildings including grandstands, garages, aerodromes, clubhouses, machine shops, oil houses, and refreshment stands do corroborate with other sources. Flags of "all nationalities" flew from the roofs and the white crushed stone track surface contrasted with the thick, well maintained green brass. Three thousand hitching posts were a reflection of a world in transition.
Inconsistent with other reports is information about grandstand capacity. The main grandstand reportedly supported 12,000 while the "balloon grandstand" had another 6,000 seats. None of this jibes with an article describing the first day of racing which had the grandstand and associated boxes totaling 8, 200 seats. Still another article reported two stands with 7,200 and 3,200 seats respectively. As for the data, sussing it out is a challenge I will leave to each reader. This article also describes 22 private box stands along turn one and directly "up against" the track - which sounds decidedly unsafe.
Indicative of the pressure track management was under to finish preparations for the races is a note about how gas lights every 20 feet around the track had aided workers in two shifts laboring around the clock to ready the running surface. A temporary camp utilizing large tents staffed with doctors and nurses provided the infield hospital. Two cars were on hand as ambulances.
According to the article by this time all the garages were full and bustling with a full array of car parts, tools, fuel and accessories. The much anticipated and huge Buick team finally arrived, headed by the well-known promoter William Pickens. Pickens earned his notoriety as the "ballyhoo man" for Barney Oldfield along with Ernie Moross as they barnstormed the country staging "auto races" widely panned as entertainment, not competition.
Buick had 15 cars at their disposal with a super team of drivers widely recognized as among the best in the country. These were Louis Chevrolet, Bob Burman, and Lewis Strang. A fourth driver, George DeWitt was also part of the organization.
Among the other entries, Barney Oldfield and his "Old Glory" National are specifically mentioned. The article also notes the following car companies as in action:

The automotive industry was extremely interested in developments at the Speedway. Stoddard-Dayton reportedly sent 12,000 employees (I am certain this is a typo in the article and the number was actually 1,200) from their Dayton, Ohio offices. Auto clubs from throughout the midwest organized tours where a parade of their vehicles descended upon Indianapolis. This was led by the Chicago Auto Club which organized a ride large enough to consume 400 hotel rooms in downtown Indianapolis. George Dickson, an executive with National Motor Vehicle Company organized a reception specifically for these guests.
What looks to be a complete roster of officials is provided at the conclusion of the article:

  • Speedway management, specifically the founders and Director of Contests Ernie Moross are mentioned. Moross served, among other things, as the chief announcer.
  • Honorary Referee - Lewis R. Speare
  • Referee - F.B. Stevens of the Automobile Club of America (ACA)
  • Starter - Frank J. Wagner
  • Board of Judges - F.H. Elliott (AAA secretary), Frank Remy (founder, Remy Electric Company) and C.H. Hecker (president, Detroit Auto Club).
  • Board of Timers - E.H. Warner (The article uses initials "E.H." but I believe this is an error and it is "C.H. Warner"), Frank Trego, G.M. Cobb, F.C. Donald.
  • Board of Umpires - Henry Ford, C.M. Wainwright, Herman G. Deupree.
  • Board of Scorers - A.B. Batchelder, H.D. Weller, H.L. Henckel, J.A. Barclay, B.G. Saltzgaber, J.R. Nadall, W.H. Brown.
  • Timing Director - Walter Baker (Baker Electric)
  • Scoring Director - John Cox
  • Technical Committee - David Beecroft, Frank M. Joice
  • Clerks of Course - Charles P. Root, O.G. Temme
  • Associate Press Director - George M. Cook.
  • Driver's Committee - C.G. Sinsabaugh
  • Chairman of the Contest Board - Frank Hower
  • Military Board - Captain Davis, Captain Carpenter, Captain Barry.
  • Chief Engineer - P.T. Andrews
IMSpractice091709.pdf2.32 MB