Aitken Leads in Turn One!

This image is the start of the Wheeler Schebler Trophy race on August 21, 1909, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was on the final day of racing during the first auto meet at the now historic track. The image shows National Motor Vehicle Company driver Johnny Aitken (#8) leaping into the lead from his inside front row starting position and was originally published in the August 22, 1909, Indianapolis Star.
 
Aitken dominated the first 100 miles of a brutal race held in treacherous conditions of dust and a rutted, deteriorating running surface. To make matters worse the dust carried chemicals from the taroid or "asphaltum oils" material used to try to hold crushed stones in place. Several drivers including Stoddard-Dayton pilot Bert Miller and Marmon's legendary Ray Harroun stopped in the pits for doctors to wash their eyes.
 
The race proved not only a miserable but tragic affair with several accidents, the first to the steady veteran Herb Lytle who spun his Apperson Jack Rabbitt in turn one early in the race. The last was to Harroun's Marmon teammate driver Bruce Keene and his riding mechanic James Schiller. While both men survived but Schiller was thrown from the car to incur a scalp wound and what might have been a concussion.
 
Those incidents paled in comparison to the devastating accident involving driver Charlie Merz and riding mechanic Claude Kellum. Their National racer, a team car to Aitken's, blew a tire and catapulted through a fence and into a cluster of spectators lining the track. Two spectators were killed: James West and Homer Jolliff. A third man, Henry Tapking, was among other spectators who were injured.
 
In a twist of fate, Kellum had started the race with Aitken but switched to the Merz car mid-race when his riding mechanic, Herbert Lyne, fainted in the pits. An image of Aitken at the starting line before the start of the race can be found elsewhere on First Super Speedway.

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