Fred Wagner

This image was originally published in the August 1, 1909 Indianapolis Star. It was part of the build-up to the first auto races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning August 19 of that year. The American Automobile Association (AAA) was announcing the team of officials that would be assigned to those races and this image is of the starter, Fred Wagner.
 
The caption that complemented this photo reads as follows:
 
"Daredevil motor racer who will compete against time at the local speedway ere long will be given their signals by "Wag." This title is given by thousands of racers, boosters and fans all over the world who know Fred J. Wagner of New York. Wagner has flagged the Vanderbilt and almsot all of the big automobile events, including the Crown Point races. Large silk flags of four colors have been procured by the Speedway managers."
 
Fred Wagner was the recognized premier auto race starter of America in the sport's early days. Wagner was the first starter of the Indianapolis 500 and returned the following year only to engage in an argument with Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Carl Fisher - and to be dis-invited from playing the role in future "500's." Wagner was the starter of choice for all the early major auto races in the United States. With the exception of the inaugural in 1904, Wagner started every Vanderbilt Cup race conducted on Long Island. The role of the starter in those days not only involved displaying flags for starting, finishing and warnings during the contest, it was more of a director of operations role. Unlike today, there were no ear pieces connecting the "flag man" to race control through a communications system. The starter needed to make the judgments to provide order to the races.
 
Wagner was a character and penned his autobiography, "Saga of the Roaring Road," found elsewhere on First Super Speedway. As a memoir the book has its flawed recollections and outright exaggerations. Nonetheless Wagner is a wonderful personality among the pioneers of racing.

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