Willie K's Last Cup


Today marks the 93rd anniversary of the last William K. Vanderbilt Jr. Cup Race, America's first major auto race that began in 1904. Founded by its namesake as a sporting contest first and a commercial enterprise secondarily, this classic road race endured a tumultuous history. Born in Long Island, New York the contest was conducted on public roads, with courses ranging from 12.64 miles to 28.44 miles. From 1908 through it's final appearance on Long Island in 1910, a portion of the course included the privately owned Long Island Motor Parkway. Crowd control for the races proved an impossible task and after deaths and numerous injuries the race teams simply refused to return and the last five editions of the contest were staged in Savannah, Milwaukee, Santa Monica and San Francisco.
The final William K. Vanderbilt Jr. Cup Race was won by Johnny Aitken and Howdy Wilcox driving a Peugeot. The car was started by Wilcox but he was replaced by teammate Aitken when the latter's car dropped out early with mechanical failure. Wilcox was leading at the time, but Aitken had a shot at the AAA's first national championship based on points (with the exception of the 1905 track championship, but that's another story). Aitken had been locked in a season-long duel with Dario Resta, who drove another Peugeot, but not for the same team. Resta, too, had dropped out from the race with mechanical failure. After the finish Aitken appeared to be the national champion, but the AAA ruled that he could not share in the points awarded for the victory as he was not the starting driver. Johnny Aitken is perhaps the most underrated driver of his era and you can learn much more about him by clicking through the links on this post.
Vanderbilt Cup revials were staged in 1936, 1937 and 1960 but none involved William K. Vanderbilt Jr. (he altered his name to William K. Vanderbilt II late in life) who passed away in 1944.
Johnny Aitken pouring water