Driving Stars, 1918

August 17, 1918, Sheepshead Bay two-mile board speedway, International Sweepstakes, won by Ralph DePalma.  From left to right Louis Chevrolet, Ralph Mulford, Dario Resta, Harry Harkness, Ralph DePalma, Arthur Duray and Ira Vail.  Photo from the August 22, 1918, issue of Motor Age magazine from the Horseless Carriage Foundation collection. This contribution was provided by auto racing historian and researcher, Ken Parrotte.

Auto Racing 100 Years Ago During World War 1 — Prepared by Ken Parrottee
The “war to end all wars” ended November 11, 1918. The December 12, 1918, issue of Motor Age magazine reported “Race Set for Indianapolis May 30”. But did racing end August 1, 1914, when Germany declared war on Europe or when the United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917?
Unlike World War II when all automobile racing was suspended for the duration of the war, auto racing during World War 1 continued. Christian Lautenschlager won the French Grand Prix July 4, 1914, driving a Mercedes which turned out to be the last race in Europe until 1921 when the French Grand Prix was run and won by Jimmy Murphy driving a Duesenberg.
In the United States, there was a full season of racing 1914 and 1915 highlighted by premier racing events, the Indianapolis 500, Vanderbilt Cup, Grand Prize, and the Elgin National Trophy Race. The December 4, 1915, issue of Automobile magazine informed its readers that the “Indianapolis Race would be 300 Miles” for 1916. March 30, 1916, the Automobile magazine reported that “Shorter Races Feature 1916 Schedule” again with the premier races but at shorter distances. For the first time since 1905 and the last time until 1920 the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.) awarded a national champion for the 1916 season, Dario Resta with John Aitken 2nd and Eddie Rickenbacher 3rd.
March 29, 1917, Motor Age magazine headlines “Decoration Day Race Off” and on the same page “Racers’ Squad Planned” organized by auto racing star Eddie Rickenbacher to utilize the skills and expertise of race drivers and mechanics for the Army. James Allison of the Indianapolis Speedway offered the speedway grounds for Army training, the Indianapolis 500 was not run 1917 and 1918. Fourteen race meets were held March through the end of November 1917. “Pall of War Hits Racing” was the November 15, 1917 headline in Motor Age magazine and in Motor Age’s November 29, 1917 issue the headline was “No A.A.A. Racing Until Peace” to which President Woodrow Wilson issued the following statement “I am very glad to learn that it the purpose of the American Automobile Association to stop automobile racing until after the close of war”.
While Eddie Rickenbacher (Eddie would change the spelling to Rickenbacker) was on the Western Front flying his SPAD XIII Biplane, Hat-In-The-Ring 94th Pursuit Squadron, becoming America’s Ace of Aces there was an announcement in the March 14, 1918, issue of Motor Age magazine that “A.A.A Resumes Racing”. A competing auto racing sanctioning organization was formed in 1915, The International Motor Contest Association (I.M.C.A.). IMCA released a 1918 racing schedule listing races on many of the half-mile and one-mile fairgrounds tracks. The United States Government did not ban the use of gasoline or railroads for travel so a nine-race series of A.A.A. races was scheduled between May and September of 1918 on the four operating board speedways; Chicago 2 mile, Sheepshead Bay Speedway 2 mile, Tacoma Speedway 2 mile, Uniontown Speedway 1.125 mile and Cincinnati Motor Speedway 2 mile.
On May 16, 1918, four heats and the main event was held at the Uniontown Board Speedway with Tommy Milton, Ralph Mulford, Eddie Hearne, Louis Chevrolet winning the heats and Ralph Mulford winning the 27-mile Liberty Sweepstakes main event driving a Frontenac. Ralph DePalma, driving a Packard, won the 100 mile Harkness Trophy Race at Sheepshead Bay June 1, 1918. 
Louis Chevrolet won the Chicago Derby 100 driving his Frontenac on the boards of Chicago’s Speedway Park June 22nd. Tacoma Board Speedway held three races July 4th with Cliff Durant winning the first two races and Eddie Hearne, driving a Duesenberg, won the 75 mile Liberty Sweepstakes race. Cincinnati also held a race July 4, 1918. Ralph DePalma won the 100 lap event. 
Louis Chevrolet won the 112.5 mile Independence Auto Derby at Uniontown July 18, 1918, driving his Frontenac. Ralph DePalma, driving a Packard, won all three International Sweepstakes races at the Chicago Board Speedway July 28, 1918. Ralph DePalma followed the Chicago’s sweep with another three-race sweep driving a Packard in the International Sweepstakes event at Sheepshead Bay August 17th.
“Motorless Sundays Asked East of Mississippi as the Federal Fuel Administration urges abandonment of the non-essential use of gasoline on the Sabbath”. Motorless/Gasless Sundays, not a U.S. order, but a Patriotic Duty was the feature article in the August 29, 1918, issue of Motor Age magazine. The final race of the 1918 season was held September 2nd at the Uniontown Board Speedway with Ralph Mulford winning the Labor Day Liberty Sweepstakes 112.5 mile race. 1918 A.A.A. auto racing performed before record crowds.
On October 3, 1918 “No More Racing Until After the War, Voluntary Suspension of All Speed Events” was issued by A. A. A. Chairman Richard Kennerdoll.
The Camden Advance-Journal’s November 14, 1918, headlines read “Great War Ends and the World Rejoices” the November 11, 1918, Armistice. The December 12, 1918, issue of Motor Age announced “Race Set for Indianapolis May 30”.
The May 29, 1919, issue of Motor Age magazine says it all “Peace Lifts War’s Pall on Racing”.

1918Drivers copy.jpg257.69 KB