Fred Wagner at IMS

This image of race starter and flagman Fred Wagner was originally published in the August 20, 1909 Indianapolis Star. It was part of the coverage of the first auto races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that began the previous day. Wagner was the top starter from the American Automobile Association (AAA). Here we see him studying the situation at the Speedway during the first day of racing.
Fred Wagner was the recognized premier auto race starter of America in the sport's early days. He 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 during the infancy of auto racing. 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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