Morning of First Time Trials Day

The article in attachment IMStrials121709 was first published in the December 17, 1909 Indianapolis Star. The article concerned the second day of practice on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's freshly brick paved track and discusses the day ahead when the time trials were set to begin. The plan for the day also included a commemorative ceremony of laying a gold brick by Indiana Governor Thomas Marshall who was also named "honorary referee" for the event.
Among the stars of the previous day were 200 HP Fiat driver Lewis Strang; Marmon's Harry Stillman and Johnny Aitken of National Motor Vehicle Company. Strang, who used his Fiat to set new American speed records the previous month at the new Atlanta Speedway asserted that the new Brickyard was the fastest track he had ever seen. Among the speeds reported were Strang's half-mile run of 16.4 seconds. Aitken's lap around the 2.5 mile Speedway in one minute, 59 seconds and Stillman's lap of two minutes, 1 second.
Plans called for the time trials to be organized into several events:

  • Event 1: Open to all cars complying with American Automobile Association (AAA) racing rules - no restrictions on engine capacity, weight or price. The competitors were to be sent away on a flying start for all records from one quarter mile to 10 miles.
  • Event 2: The primary difference with Event 1 was that the cars were to be sent away from a standing start.
  • Event 3: This competition was planned for cars in "Class 1," or cars with piston displacement of 451 to 600 cubic inches. This was planned for distances of one quarter mile to 100 miles with flying start.
  • Event 4: This was planned for "Class 2," cars with 301 to 450 cubic inch engines. The expected entries here were Tom Kincaid and Aitken, both of National as well as Stillman in a Marmon.
  • Event 5: This was for cars of "Class 3" with 231 to 300 cubic inches. Ray Harroun was listed as the driver for Marmon. Interestingly, Speedway President Carl Fisher filed a private entry for one of the Stoddard-Daytons from his Fisher Automobile Company despite the manufacturer's earlier decision to withdraw from racing.
  • Event 6: Louis Schwitzer, driving for Fuller, and Cole's Harry Endicott were the entries for this contest for cars with engines of 161 to 280 cubic inches.
  • Event 7: This appears to be a special class for Empire, the Indianapolis-based car company that was formed by the Speedway founders. Newell Motsinger was the driver. The car complied to the AAA rules for Class 5 with engines of 160 cubic inches.

Another storyline for the event was the biting cold. Despite the discomfort to both observers and drivers the cold was touted as an advantage to those seeking speed. The big factor cited is the performance of tires. The rubber of the day tended to decompose when exposed to higher temperatures so the premise was that colder weather would promote performance.
The weather brought a new look to the drivers who reportedly covered their faces with hoods or crude balaclavas. The face covers were described as made of heavy chamois skin with holes cut out for the driver's eyes. Rubber bands were used to secure them around their heads. Goggles were also put on over the hood. The drivers wore fur or felt caps and protection for their ears. These caps had chin straps. In a sign of the times the article compares the look to the infamous and disgusting Ku Klux Klan hood.
Strang is described as wearing a bright heavy red sweater with the same "automobile jacket" he sported in the August race meet at the Speedway. The driver stressed that the most important part of his body to keep warm was his hands - where he wore thick gloves. One colorful point in the article described Stillman's physical stature as he climbed out of his Marmon during practice.  Stillman was described as, "the slim, wiry driver."
Note that the plans called for motorcycles to take to the track as well as the cars. Fred Huyck, the star of the Speedway's first motorcycle race meet in August, planned to be on hand with an Indian bike. In all three Indian bikes and two Thor machines were at the track.
The Speedway still predicted strong attendance but this would prove unfounded as it was simply too cold. The local interurban street car company had arranged for special half-hour schedules to the track.

IMStrials121709.pdf840.51 KB