Trio of Speed Kings to Columbus - 1909

Three American "speed kings" of the age, Barney Oldfield, Johnny Aitken and Jap Clemens left Indianapolis to represent the National Motor Vehicle Company's race team at contests in Columbus, Ohio on July 1, 1909. The central figure in all this was Oldfield in his newly acquired National "Six" stock racer he nicknamed, "Old Glory." He had only days before driven with journalist Roland Mellett the 180-mile distance over the Old National Road between Indianapolis and Columbus.
Obviously, he had returned and was now on official business with the National team in formal auto races on a dirt oval in the Ohio city. Below are attachments containing Indianapolis News newspaper articles reporting on their adventure. The first article, originally published in the July 1, 1909 Indianapolis News, is contained in attachment OldfieldNews070109.
The trip reported here, the earlier journey with Mellett and additional testing at the Indiana State Fairgrounds oval also reported in this article were all part of "limbering up" the National engine. In these days engines needed to be "broken in." New engines of the era, given the assembly and engineering technology of the day, were described as "stiff." They were typically ran at slower speeds to seat the moving parts, such as pistons rubbing against cylinder walls. This was an important part of effectively finishing up the production of the car and enabling it to attain its performance potential.
The importance of Oldfield's implied endorsement of National by purchasing one of the cars for his private race team must of been huge for the Indianapolis-built manufacturer. Evidence of this is the fact that National made this show of parading into Columbus with three cars - "Old Glory," another National "Six," and Clemens at the wheel of a National "four" touring car. This is further underscored by the reporting that Aitken's presence was to serve as Oldfield's mechanic and not to compete as a driver. National wanted a happy, successful Oldfield and understandably must have seen that outcome contributing to car sales.
Aitken's car had already scored competition success with victories in hill climbs at Ft. George and Giant's Despair (Wilkes-Barre). Bess Oldfield, Barney's wife, rode in the tonneau of the four-cylinder touring car Clemens drove. That car was to be entered in touring car races with Barney as the driver. It is interesting to note that the article shares that Clemens recently retired following an accident. I believe that reference is to traffic accident where he was found at fault earlier that year. Clemens was speeding and alcohol was involved. This is interesting because he did end up competing in the first auto races held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just weeks later in August.
The article reports that Clemens had taken a job in the "oil business." It also reviews his success in setting the world speed record for 24 hours with Charlie Merz at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in November 1905. That record was attained with a National touring car. Interestingly, this article shared that the record was still intact at the time it was published - nearly four years later.
The article closes with news from another Indianapolis-based factory, Marion. Local favorite driver Charles Stutz, who had performed well in the recent Indiana Trophy at Crown Point, Indiana, was headed to the east coast for a beach race event and a hill climb. The first event, the hill climb, was at Orange, New Jersey while the second at Wildwood in the same state near the shore. Harry Stutz, the famous engineer and Charles' cousin, designed the Marion car.
The article in attachment OldfieldNews070309 is from the July 3, 1909 Indianapolis News and reports on the first day of the two-day meet. The headline had to be disappointing for any true race fan reading it, and certainly the circumstances let the air out of National's balloon. It read, "Oldfield Barred From Columbus Motor Races."
The event proved to be a bust as no speed records were broken and Oldfield's "Old Glory" was ruled by Columbus Automobile Club officials as not complying with rules governing stock cars. It is not clear to me from the article if the event was associated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) or was compelled to live by their rules for cars.
Some big names were on hand in addition to Oldfield, Aitken and Clemens, including the Buick team of Lewis Strang, Louis Chevrolet and Bob Burman. Strang and Burman emerged victorious in ten-mile and five-mile contests, respectively. Chalmers driver Lee Lorimer won the 25-mile race in 26:06.4. Burman captured a one-hour feature competition, covering 55.75 miles.
Oldfield made a five-mile exhibition run to go after a record previously set by Ralph DePalma, but fell short. His time was 4:43.20 and DePalma's mark was 4:26.00. Oldfield did not drive "Old Glory," but instead the hill climb car National also had entered. The two were both six-cylinder machines and very similar. In addition to the exhibition time trial, Oldfield also took part in the 25-mile race. He retired after nine miles because of a flat tire.
The article assessed the one-hour endurance contest as the most exciting of the day. Louis Chevrolet, known for his devil-may-care driving, apparently busted through the fence lining the course at two points before ending his day with a heavy accident that injured his riding mechanic. He reportedly had lacerations and bruises.
Many of the cars experienced tire failures during the day's events. Some 30 tires blew out in the course of the afternoon. Strang was put out of the last contest of the day. Another driver by the name of M.N. Cannon damaged his car on his first lap of the course. All cars were repaired in anticipation of the next day's races with the exception of Chevrolet's entry which had to be shipped back to the factory in Detroit.
Attachment OldfieldNews070509 is an extremely brief, one paragraph item noting that Oldfield did win a race on Saturday, the second day of the meet. It was called, "The Ohio State Championship," and was apparently limited to residents of Ohio. Oldfield, born in Toledo where his parents still lived, was considered a citizen of the state. The event was a 10-miler for touring cars and it was in this contest Oldfield drove the previously mentioned National "four," the designation meaning a four-cylinder engine. Oldfield had purchased this car from National along with his "Old Glory" racer.
Interestingly, this car was protested as well for not being a stock car. National asserted that it was a regular 35-horsepower touring car and was only modified by stripping it of its fenders and "lamps," or headlights. 
The fourth attachment (OldfieldNews070609), reports that his Ohio State Championship touring car victory had been reinstated. His time was reported at 11:29. Second place went to a Pope-Hartford entry with a Firestone-Columbus third.
From the article it is not hard to surmise that Oldfield was still offended. He reportedly did not believe the silver cup award for winning was, "not worth 15 cents," and that, "he cared nothing for the race." He also reportedly asserted that "the Columbus races were a farce."
More important to Oldfield is that the protest be disallowed as a precedent for future questions about the authenticity of his car. It is interesting to note that the Buick team filed the protest of the National cars. The article indicated that an AAA investigation was pending. A year later the Buick team underwent the same stock car protest frustration at the big Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 1910 race meet.

OldfieldNews070109.pdf924.84 KB
OldfieldNews070309.pdf752.32 KB
OldfieldNews070509.pdf301.23 KB
OldfieldNews070609.pdf474.92 KB