Oldfield Throws in with National

This article (attachment Oldfield051909) was originally published in the May 19, 1909, Indianapolis Star and reports that Barney Oldfield had decided to work with the  National Motor Vehicle Company to provide his race cars for that season. The Indianapolis-based company's leader was Arthur C. Newby who was one of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which was under construction at the time. The article also shared that Oldfield was in town to meet with Newby, supervise work on his race cars and visit the Speedway.
The track was taking shape and another one of the founders, President Carl Fisher, was pretty active that week beating the publicity drum for his great new venture. He took local newspapermen on a tour of the track which was actually the first laps ever taken around the oval. Upon Oldfield's visit to the Speedway, he pronounced it "the best on Earth." According to the article, Oldfield believed the track could produce speeds as great as Daytona Beach which was overly optimistic as the beach provided miles of smooth, hard sand ideally suited for the state of automotive technology in the day and the quest for land speed records. Fred Marriott in a Stanley Steamer racer had already achieved speeds in excess of 127 MPH. But it was good PR and fueled local excitement to visit the Speedway.
As for his enthusiasm for National, his choice was reportedly influenced by the make's success at the recent Ft. George Hill Climb where National's Johnny Aitken had won an event for six-cylinder cars. It was also the scene of time trials held in the Jamaica area of Long Island where Ft. George is. Charlie Merz, another National driver enjoyed success there as well.
Another good article (attachment Oldfield052309) referencing Oldfield's association with National and his assessment of the Speedway was published by the Star on May 23, 1909. His coments about the Speedway were effusive as he predicted a pace of two miles a minute or 120 MPH. Oldfield reportedly assured both Newby and Fisher he would enter races at the Speedway which was huge due to his power to draw crowds as well as his reputation for breaking speed records. The newspaper stressed that Oldfield's participation would improve tremendously the odds of world speed records that would extend the brand of Indianapolis as a racing capital worldwide. Oldfield proclaimed the track better than the concrete-paved overseas British rival Brooklands although it is unclear Barney had ever seen the facility in Weybridge, England.
Another small item (attachment Oldfield052609) documents Oldfield's affiliation with National and the fact that he was in Indianapolis at the time of its publication in the Indianapolis Star on May 26, 1909.
Before Oldfield could take possession of his new National racers he had the opportunity to enter in track races in Louisville. The track is not mentioned but a subsequent article also attached here reveals it was Douglas Park. (Note: This is not to be confused with Lexington's Churchill Downs as auto races did occur there in those days). National promised to loan him the racers they had entered in the upcoming (May 31) Giants Despair Hill Climb. This development is reported in an article published in the May 28 Indianapolis Star.
Interestingly the article notes that National could not enter the upcoming races at Crownpoint, Indiana (Cobe Trophy and Indiana Trophy) apparently because of engine size regulations. This is the only explanation I have seen for National's absence in the first major auto race held in Indiana. The only Indianapolis-based manufacturer entered was Marion with a car designed by Harry Stutz.
A report on the Douglas Park races is provided in an article published in the June 10, 1909, Indianapolis Star (attachment Oldfield061009). The races, which occurred the day before, were hampered by rain. Oldfield, who did use one of the Giants Despair Hill Climb Nationals, proved to dominate. His times were off as at least one of the events finished in a downpour but he easily disposed of a field of impressive drivers such as Lewis Strang and Johnny Aitken. Strang raced the Buick he drove at the Cobe Trophy.
The June 25, 1909, Indianapolis Star ran a photo (attachment Oldfield062509) with an extended caption that reported on Barney Oldfield's "Old Glory" National - the name he gave to the car he purchased from the company. The article discusses Oldfield's success on the dirt oval tracks in sprint races. It also notes that the European drivers and cars had largely dominated the road races, beach speed trials and hill climbs that had taken place in the United States during those early days of the 20th century. Drivers - both American and European - of the era are mentioned. The general view is that the Europeans, despite their success at other venues, had failed to succeed on the short ovals. Louis Chevrolet is singled out as a "foreign" driver exception and a competitor Oldfield would likely encounter in the coming season. Note that the author of this article tries to reference driver Charles Basle but refers to him as "Brazil."
A small item was published in the June 29, 1909, Indianapolis Star (attachment Oldfield062909) that reported on a testing session Oldfield ran with Old Glory on a dirt track in Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Auto Club was planning a race meet there on July 2nd & 3rd. His greatest competition was the Buick team of Lewis Strang, Louis Chevrolet, and Bob Burman. Ever confident Oldfield announced he would place a $500 wager on his ability to beat them all.
Attachment Oldfield070309 contains an article that reports on the first day of the Columbus Auto Club event and was a decidedly anticlimactic affair. Race officials announced that Oldfield and his racer "Old Glory" had been disqualified from the event due to the technical equipment that the car was not stock. Oldfield was reduced to an exhibition run at a track record but his speed was too slow. Buick drivers Lewis Strang and Bob Burman each picked up wins in the race meet as did Lee Lorimer who drove for Chalmers-Detroit.

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