Charlie Merz' Comeback - May 1910

This image orginally appeared in the May 27, 1910 Indianapolis Sun complementing articles covering the first day of racing at the May 1910 race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. These contests were part of the May 1910 weekend that included "national championships," a newly-announced distinction by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for select race meets. Car manufacturers were keen to make a great showing.
This image is of National Motor Vehicle Company driver Charlie Merz who was making his comeback after his involvement in the tragic first auto races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A young man at the time, Charlie Merz was already an impressive player in auto racing's early days. At just 17 he and co-driver "Jap" Clemens set a new 24 hour world speed record in November 1905 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds driving a National Motor Vehicle Company stock car. 
Four years later he survived the  brutal accident (referred to above) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's first auto race on August 21, 1909. Again driving for National, a tire blew and he crashed through a wood and wire fence approaching the southwest turn. His riding mechanic, Claude Kellum, and two spectators, James West and Homer Jolliff, perished in the disaster
Somehow, Merz survived largely unscathed, despite the giant machine turning over on him. He competed in four Indy 500's, finishing in the top 10 three times. Most spectacular was his third place finish in 1913 when his car burst into flames just before his final lap and instead of stopping, he forged ahead for the final lap with riding mechanic Harry Martin swatting the flames back with his jacket.
Merz was a successful businessman as well, founding Merz Engineering, a company that prospered well beyond his death in 1952. He also served as chief steward of the Indianapolis 500 from 1935 through 1939. If you want to read more about Charlie Merz, check out my wikipedia entry.
The original photo caption read as follows:
"Charles Merz, who drove one of the big National cars in the Speedway races gave up the racing game after the enormous accident at the Speedway races last season in which three people were killed. Merz lost control of the car while traveling at a fast pace and the car skidded and went into the fence. Although the car turned over and pinned Merz underneath the nervy driver shut off the power and crawled out uninjured. Merz' driving was a feature in the opening day's program. He won second place in the race for the Prest-O-Lite Trophy."


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