Matson Talks Indiana Trophy Win

Originally published in the August 29, 1909 Indianapolis Star this article provides rare insight to an early race driver's thoughts about strategy in winning races. The driver is Indiana Trophy winner Joe Matson who drove a Chalmers-Detroit to victory in the preliminary event to the Cobe Trophy.
The two races, which made up the first major auto race meet in Indiana, took place in June 1909, several weeks before the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted its first automobile races. While more than two months had transpired since Matson's big win and when the article was published the upcoming major road race in Lowell, Massachusetts road races in September was the occasion for the reflection. The premise of the article was the visit of an unnamed man to the Chalmers-Detroit factory and the occasion of meeting Matson.
The visitor reportedly said that Matson's victory was "lucky" which triggered the driver's explanation of what it takes to win. Matson describes his thinking during the contest which today would be considered part of his "racecraft." Here's a good quote that gets to that point:
"Billy Knipper (his teammate) started out to 'beat it.' Al Poole (his other teammate) didn't race quite as hard, but kept well in the front. I took things easy. It was not until the fifth or sixth lap that I made any speed at all. The scheme worked perfectly. Knipper got some of the leaders racing pretty hard and Poole helped him. All this time I trailed. Then when the time came to get away, I was in condition to make a good race."
While Knipper and Poole faded Matson hung on to the end but not without a threat from the great 1908 Vanderbilt Cup champion George Robertson. The relatively inexperienced Matson was able to prevail over second place Robertson and his Locomobile. Matson described his battle with Robertson in the closing laps...
"Only during the last eighty miles was I pushed hard. Then Robertson gave me a great run. We fought it out through three hard laps. The course was oiled, with the loose gravel edging common to such roads. When our dual (sic) was closest we plunged into this, throwing dust, dirt and small stones into each other's faces. First he would have the lead; then I would take it, but no matter who led, we kept up this dust battle. On the grand stand approach was a bridge over the course. Once I passed Robertson directly beneath this bridge and I'll wager there were not six inches to spare. That was the kind of a race it was right to the finish. I do not believe that luck played a very great part in such a victory. I had it planned and I drove my hardest."
The lessson this unnamed visitor learned is relevant today. Most races are rooted in strategy and to win you must first finish.

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