National Championships Preview

This attachment contains an article which orginally appeared in the May 30, 1910 Indianapolis Star. The article ran in support of the May 1910 race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The May 1910 race meet weekend included "national championships," a newly-announced distinction by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for select race meets. Car manufacturers were keen to make a great showing. Check out other articles that provide additional summaries on the results of the races staged May 27 and May 28 elsewhere on First Super Speedway.
This particular attached article previews the races planned for the final day of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Memorial Day, 1910. This is an important article because it describes the "national championship" races noted above. This was a peculiar development in auto racing and confusing when taken out of its historical context. These "championships" had nothing to do with a system of awarding points during a series. Applying our interpretations of contemporary conventions to historical events can lead to erroneous conclusions such as the widely embraced belief that a racing national championship existed in 1909.
The national championships in this case were used to set specific AAA races aside as carrying higher value than others and by insinuation set them on a loftier perch than the annoying (to the AAA) barnstorming events staged by the likes of Barney Oldfield on dirt horse tracks. The implication communicated in the first paragraph of the attached - that the races would be renewed in subsequent years - proved less than prophetic. Indeed, the only times the Speedway hosted such a format came in 1910 as it would give way to the wonder of one spectacular annual contest - the Indianapolis 500 - in 1911.
The format was also meant to be appealing to car manufacturers in that it was designed to showcase their stock cars. In this way the events were more about car performance than driving skill. The article makes a reference to the national championship events being analogous to the format of the hugely popular bicycle races of the 1890's. As an aside I think it is useful to realize that both horse racing and the 1890's bicycle craze influenced the organization of automobile racing much in the way that decades later the production of radio shows informed how early television was presented.
Still the drivers were heroes and none more so than Barney Oldfield who had set a new world land speed record just weeks earlier in March at Daytona Beach. Much anticipated was his stab at new world records for mile and kilometer closed circuit runs using the same highly regarded 200-horsepower Blitzen Benz he steered so bravely on the hard sands of Daytona.
The 50-mile run for the Remy Grand Brassard and Trophy was regarded as the feature race of the day. It was easily the longest as the eight AAA national championship races were no more than five or ten miles.
The article indicates that track officials anticipated this card would attract the largest crowd of the three days, which, on the surface may seem surprising. There had been no racing the previous day due to the Sabbath but Saturday's card included the feature event of the weekend, the 200-mile Wheeler-Schebler Trophy. In retrospect it seems Monday's schedule was anticlimatic with all the short contests. The difference was that Monday was Memorial Day while the first day of the meet was Friday and the second Saturday. Many people worked six days a week and the holiday gave them a chance to see what everyone was talking about concerning the amazing new and fast sport.
The break on Sunday allowed organizers and teams alike to rejuvenate for Monday. Drivers could rest, track officials scrubbed the Brickyard of the coating of oil that soaked the running surface the previous two days and mechanics could overhaul the cars.
As for the crowds the holiday gave many outside Indianapolis a chance to travel to the Speedway to witness the spectacle. The article reports that people flowed into the Hoosier capital on interurban rail cars, railroad trains and automobiles from every corner of Indiana and even further away from places like Louisville, Columbus (Ohio), Chicago, Toledo and Detroit.
Another point the article raises is that the national guardsmen employed for crowd control would be dressed in new uniforms and carry guns owned by the Speedway. Although it is not clear in the article - although it is insinuated - is that the State government did not financially support the work of the guards. Speedway leadership took responsibility for compensating, clothing and arming them. The guardsmen's efforts are praised.
One of the contests, a ten-mile free-for-all race referred to as Event No. 17, had been planned for Saturday but was rescheduled for Monday because the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy took too long to complete.

IMSPreview053010.pdf1.32 MB