Entries and Program

Printed August 16, 1909, in the Indianapolis Star, the article in attachment IMSNews081609 (Indianapolis_Speedway_First_Races is a poorer quality duplicate) presents tables of the entries and the program for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's first auto races. At first glance, these charts appear comprehensive in that they not only list the events but also the cars and drivers entered. The problem is, they are confusing. Look through them. At no point do I see races listed that are longer than 10 miles and yet we know the Prest-O-Lite, G&J and Wheeler-Schebler Trophy races were long distance events of 250, 100 and 300 miles, respectively. 
The article in the second attachment, IMSprogramNews070909, is surprisingly more accurate in that it does list the longer races. I say surprisingly only because it was published earlier in the July 9, 1909 Indianapolis News so it did not benefit from the inevitable updates that were released as the event approached.
I also include a third attachment, IMS1News070909, as I think it is a reasonable complement to the less-than-satisfying charts contained in the other attachments. As a whole, though, the three in combination provide some useful sense of what was happening in the summer of 1909 in Indianapolis, especially if you research elsewhere on First Super Speedway for more comprehensive information on the landmark inaugural race meet of the Speedway.
This third article reported that the program of races had been printed for a mailer to race teams. Again, this article refers to the Speedway as "the greatest race course in the world," even though not a single lap had been completed. The track is referred to as a "five mile solid stone track." This confusion is regularly reported during 1909 as the Speedway had originally planned a 2.5-mile oval with another 2.5 miles of road course twists in the infield to create one, giant five-mile course. Just like today this could offer the flexibility to stage both oval track and road racing contests. Interestingly, this article points this out but asserts that the full, five-mile configuration would be used for long distance races. Who knows if that was conjecture or an official position that evolved, but obviously the road course was never constructed.
It's interesting to note that the article says that the banking in the turns was so high competitors would be able to blast through them at full speed. This was inaccurate even then, as the cars carried too much speed for the moderate banking in the turns. Drivers had to back off.
The article also reports that winners of every event at the Speedway would receive gold medals with silver and bronze medals for second and third place. These awards were in addition to trophies already planned. The most talked-about prize was a gold-plated 1910 Overland "38" roadster for the fastest mile made on the track during the year. Promoters expected entries from most American factories as well as some from Europe.
The grounds of the facility are described. Grandstand seating for 35,000 spectators were announced as well as parking for "hundreds" of automobiles. The entire venue was lined by a "high board fence." The grandstands, clubhouses, press accommodations and garages were described as "modern in every respect." The article reports that spectators could see the entire track from all points.
The article attempts to invoke a sense of urgency with the call to action that entries would close at noon on August 10 - and had to be in the hands of the contest committee on or before that time. The entry fee was $10, except for the long distance races, which were free. As an extra incentive, teams were being told that they could use the garages for free 10 days in advance of the races. 
Among the rules was the assertion that anti-skid tires or wheels with chains were not allowed on the course. Cars were to be weighed without drivers, mechanics, water, fuel and lubricants beyond those normally present in the crank case, transmission and rear-end. Ridiculous as it may sound, other items not allowed at weigh-in were: tools, spare tires, luggage, clothing, provisions, lamps and horn. Shock absorbers and batteries were required to remain on the car.
I have yet another Indianapolis News article, published July 13, 1909, that is relevant because it may be the best one I have come across describing the Overland Automobile Company's promotion to award a gold-plated touring car to the driver busting off the fastest mile at the Speedway during the 1909 season. The article is in attachment IMSNews071309.
Although this article is brief, it is packed with choice information. We learn that at the time the prize was announced everyone bought into the Speedway's announced plans for three race meets in 1909. All of this would be scuttled after the August race meets resulted in so much death, injury and misery. The wonderful insight comes as the article spells out plans not just for the August 19, 20 and 21 races but also another meet on September 24 and 25 as well as a 24-hour grind in October. Time trials were to be part of the card on each occasion.
Good information is also presented about the speed records at the time for our consideration.

  • Mile run on a track of more than one mile: Webb Jay at Morris Park, 48.2 seconds.
  • Record for a mile circular track: Ralph DePalma, 51.0 seconds.
  • Record run for one mile of beach: Fred Marriott, Stanley Steamer, Daytona, 28.4 seconds.

The Overland car is described as having gold fixtures where brass was normally used. The car was to be painted white and gold. It was unclear exactly how much of the car would actually be plated with gold, so its exact cost was not available.
Another news report is added to the conclusion of this article revealing that Arthur C. Newby had named four National Motor Vehicle Company cars to be entered in the August contests. Two were to compete for the Prest-O-Lite Trophy and two others for the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy. The article speculates that Johnny Aitken and Barney Oldfield - in his recently acquired "Old Glory" National - would represent the company. This was not accurate with respect to Oldfield because while he did call on the services of National in preparing his car, the machine was a private entry. 

IMSNews081609.pdf8.72 MB
Indianapolis_Speedway_First_Races.pdf2.93 MB
IMSprogramNews070909.pdf207.71 KB
IMS1News070909.pdf478.68 KB
IMSNews071309.pdf1.18 MB