Racers Hie to Daytona - 1910

This article was originally published in the Sunday, March 20, 1910 Indianapolis Star. It was part of  a special supplemental section about the upcoming March 28 Indianapolis Automobile Show presented by the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association (IATA). Key features of the upcoming auto show were the Floral Parade, contests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and concluding banquet at the Denison Hotel that boast an impressive lineup of leaders.
The article concerns planning for the 1910 Daytona-Ormond speed tournament.  The local auto club, the Florida East Coast Automobile Association (FECAA) had already announced that arch rivals Barney Oldfield and Ralph DePalma would be pitted against each other on March 15, just prior to the March 22-24 speed carnival. The plan was for Oldfield to drive his newly acquired monster Blitzen Benz while DePalma was to use the Giant Fiat. Oldfield and DePalma were reportedly antagonists but frequently competed against each other in one-on-one match races. They may have had a genuine dislike for one another but overcame due to the profitability of showcasing their rivalry or the whole thing may have been for show to boost gates.
Oldfield reportedly paid $14,000 (according to Internet sources $350,000 in 2014 dollars) for the Blitzen Benz all with the goal of becoming the fastest man on Earth. Apparently Barney was on a spending spree. The article notes that he had recently purchased "a big house and three acres of ground" on Daytona Beach next to the FECAA club house.
As for DePalma his 200 HP Fiat, referred to as the Giant, formerly driven by Lewis Strang, was owned by the young millionaire E.W.C. Arnold. The article stresses that while Arnold inherited his wealth and the purchase of the Fiat was of little financial consequence to him, Oldfield's acquisition of the Blitzen Benz was made possible through money he had earned risking his life in a hard-scrabble, high-stakes sport.
Both the cars had been raced at the famous English concrete-paved closed circuit, Brooklands. The Fiat was gunned around the big course by the famous Itlaian pilot Felice Nazzaro. The Benz was wheeled by the temperamental winner of the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup, Victor Hemery. The DePalma - Oldfield match was to be a three-heat affair of one, two and five miles. The article notes that Playa Del Rey - America's first board track - had lobbied to stage the match between the super cars and the super star drivers at their inaugural event but failed to win a bidding war. The main reason the match was scheduled - as noted above - for March 15 was to enable Arnold to ship his Fiat by freight across the country to compete at Playa Del Rey.
Another headline event of the multi-day race meet was a 300-mile "free-for-all" event for what was described as a magnificent $5,000 trophy sponsored by the "W.B." Corset Company. Reported as "probably the handsomest prize ever raced for in this country," why a woman's undergarment company would have an interest in motor races is hard to fathom. Regardless the article claims the cup had twice the "melting value" of the Vanderbilt Cup, still the most famous of the American auto racing trophies at the time.

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