Oldfield, Strang at Douglas Park - 1909

The articles in the two attachments below report on a race meet that took place at the Douglas Park track in Louisville, Kentucky June 9, 1910. The stars of the meet were Barney Oldfield and Lewis Strang. The first article in attachment OldfieldNews060909 is extremely brief but reports some facts that I regard to pretty cool. This article was published in the June 9, 1909 Indianapolis News.
Aside from simply acknowledging that Lewis Strang was racing we learn nothing else about his involvement from this first article, including the fact that he was representing the Buick team. The article focuses more on Oldfield. I suspect this was true because while Strang was a legitimate star in the racing world, Oldfield had already risen to genuine iconic status. More importantly, though, Oldfield was purchasing his race cars from National at the time and, in fact, the car manufacturer's founder, Arthur Calvin Newby, who had only recently become one of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, traveled with the cheroot-chomping racer to Louisville. The local angle of an important Indianapolis automobile manufacturer being at the heart of the story was irresistable - and rightfully so - for newspapers in the Hoosier capital.
Understand that Oldfield operated his own race team and purchased his cars from manufactuers or other private owners. A very neat connect-the-dots tie-in here is that Oldfield's car is the same one that had been raced successfully at the recent Giant's Despair hill climb at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The National drivers there were employees Johnny Aitken and Charlie Merz.
Merz scored a stock car class win at Giant's Despair but the article is not explicit in stipulating if it was that car Oldfield drove at Louisville or one of the others the company had there. We do learn that the National team changed out the gears on the car which makes sense because the previous race was a hill climb and Douglas Park was a horse track.  June 9 was a practice day for the Douglas Park meet.
Attachment OldfieldNews061009 contains a brief article summarizing the meet. Oldfield won the feature event of the day, a 10-mile "free-for-all" competition. He drove the National 60 and from the article you might surmise it was the same car Merz won with at Giant's Despair just days earlier, but, again, it is not completely clear. Strang, who with his Buick 30 won two other five-mile sprint races finished second to Oldfield in the ten-miler. This Buick is reportedly the one entered in the then-upcoming Cobe Trophy which was won by Strang's teammate, Louis Chevrolet. Again, it is not clear whether this is that specific car or a team car.
In all, there were five races which was a truncated card due to intermitent rain throughout the day. Attendace was described as "large" and a list of results was provided and appears below:

  • First race (motorcycles, 30.5 inch displacement), five miles, $25 winning prize. 1) H.J. Kline (Harley-Davidson); S. Buckner (Excelsior). No other competitors.
  • Second race (stock chassis cars) five miles, $100 winning prize. 1) Lewis Strang (Buick "30"); Tilford Cowell (Chalmers-Detroit 30). No other competitors. Time: 6:36.8.
  • Third race (special AAA classification), five miles, winning prize: a cup. 1) Lewis Strang (Buick "30"), 2) Charlie Merz (National 35), 3) Walter Donnelly (Packard 30). Time: 5:16.8.
  • Fourth race (cancelled)
  • Fifth race (Ten miles, free-for-all) $100 winning prize. 1) Barney Oldfield (National 60), 2) Lewis Strang (Buick 30), 3) Louis Doerhoerfer (Locomobile 40) Time: 10:50.6.
  • Sixth race (cancelled)
  • Seventh race - five miles, $100 to winner, Tilford Cowell (Chalmers-Detroit 30). Cowell was only entrant so he won by default. Strang withdrew due to wet track.

Note that the Douglas Park track was primarily a horse racing venue and an early rival to Churchill Downs. Both locations also stage occasional auto races as managers undoubtedly saw the new sport as a burgeoning opportunity.

OldfieldNews060909.pdf250.71 KB
OldfieldNews061009.pdf244.87 KB