Oldfield Ponders 160 MPH

The attachment below contains an article from the May 30, 1910 Indianapolis Sun published on the final day of racing for the May 1910 race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was the day of the much-anticipated "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 article is a kind of pop-culture profile of Barney Oldfield who was racing a Knox stock car and making time trial runs in his world land speed record car, the Blitzen Benz he had driven to a new world record of over 131 mph just weeks earlier in March. Oldfield was gunning for mile and kilometer record speeds on a closed circuit track.
While the article has some insights I see it as suspect as it has several problems. Anyone researching Oldfield must be careful to corroborate any information they glean from it. It is also a bit sensationalist in that it focuses on the accidents of the talented driver's career - apparently the more gruesome, the better.
I want to note the obvious: there are numerous typesetting issues with the article. In several places letters are transposed or even left out. For example, "Winton Bullet," is represented as "inWton Bullet." The article references a track called "DeGrosse track." I have to wonder if this isn't a reference to Grosse Point, although that track is noted in the article as well and correctly spelled. It's just that I have never come across a track called, "DeGrosse."
As I said, the article focuses on Oldfield's accidents. The first one mentioned is said to have occurred eight years prior at Grosse Point. The author reports that Oldfield rolled the Ford "999" at the Grosse Point track at 70 mph, injuring one of his arms. I am unaware of any such accident with the "999" and have to wonder if this isn't a confusion with another spill with the car at Milwaukee in 1903 that took the life of driver Frank Day.
The recounting of the next two accidents, both involving spectator deaths, is accurate. In September 1903 he wrecked the Winton Bullet at Grosse Point after blowing a tire. This resulted in a spectator death - Mr. Frank Shearer. The following year on August 29 he endured another crash through the fence at the St. Louis fairgrounds track with two spectators killed. On that occasion he was driving one the Peerless Green Dragons. In both instances Oldfield was injured with cuts, scrapes, chipped teeth and in the second accident, cracked ribs.
Other accidents are mentioned and one is where he allegedly flew over the top of a banked track in San Bernardino. The DeGrosse track reference was to report another crash through the fence resulting in a fractured skull. The article also reports that he crashed at Chicago's Harlem track and again in New Orleans in 1906.
One "fact" reported is that he then retired for three years. That simply isn't true and a big part of the reason I question the credbility of any information in this report. He did announce his intentions to retire on several occasions and even took a shot at alternative career in stage acting with the play, "The Vanderbilt Cup," in 1906. Years later he appeared in motion pictures.
A street accident is reported that allegedly injured his wife, Bess. I believe there was an accident with his wife but I am not clear on the details.
Another topic that is a point of focus is speed. I like the following excerpt, which is an Oldfield quote:
"Of course I don't always go 142 miles an hour (that's his record*) but even at a hundred, things come along pretty fast. At a hundred, a broomstick laid across the track will make a car shoot 50 or 60 feet without touching the ground. You can't stick your hand straight out and shift the gears. The wind's too strong for anything like that. You've got to slide it out on an angle. When I tried the other thing, I came pretty close to leaving my best hand behind me. At 130 a broken tire means an acrobatic motor car, with you doing the ground stunts. It's pretty hard to think when your're going that fast. The machine's really going faster than the mind. If there's something in the way half a mile ahead, you've got to start turning right away. A sudden twist of an inch on the wheel would turn you over."
*Well...not really. Oldfield reportedly touched 142 mph after completing the measured mile. He hit just over 131 mph for the mile, his officially recorded time.
Oldfield also discussed the Blitzen Benz, which he had briefly re-named the "Lightning Benz" because he thought it more marketable in the United States as a fan attraction for his national exhibition tour.
"Say, I could go 160 though in that Benz if she'd hold the track. Man, she'll develop 250 horsepower any time. Believe me, it's the greatest car..."
I hope I am not too critical of this article. It may contain good information I simply have not encountered before. The point is, though, I want to caution anyone doing research on Oldfield or his races that corroboration of any information found here is essential to avoiding mistakes. I also want to note the writer refers to Oldfield as a modest person. This is not the first time I have encountered this observation and find it interesting.

OldfieldBenzSun053010.pdf1.56 MB