Lytle & Bates

This picture of race driver Herb Lytle and his riding mechanic James Bates was originally published in the August 29, 1909, Indianapolis News. The event was "The Long Island Stock Car Automobile Derby," with five classes of cars. Promoters called the circuit, "The Riverhead-Mattituck" course.
Lytle and Bates became the story of the day as the result of an accident that proved fatal to the unlucky riding mechanic. The two had survived a violent accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during that facility's inaugural auto races the previous month. Their Long Island accident happened on the first lap of the contest when Lytle got a wheel off the course and into a sandy spot on the shoulder. Apparently, this effectively grabbed the wheel and flipped the car. Lytle was hurled some distance, but the best report indicates Bates clung to the car and it overturned on him, crushing his body.
Lytle was seriously hurt and doctors feared for his life, but he awoke and became increasingly stable. Bates' name is in question. He is referenced in various articles as "Joe," "Jim," and "James." His last name is presented differently in different sources as well, as both "Bates" and "Bitts." The truth is still a question - but I am betting on Bates.
Bates was a resident of Kokomo, Indiana, which makes sense because that was the headquarters city of Apperson. He was 27 years old, married and had one child. Bates and Lytle had been working together for two years. This sidebar notes that Lytle had been in several accidents but his closest call with premature death was a bout with Typhoid Fever in 1908.
As for Lytle, he suffered a serious concussion which produced speculation that he would require trepan surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Given the state of medical technology in 1909 it was fortunate for Lytle that the operation proved unnecessary.  

Other mentions of Bates (or Bitts) on First Super Speedway appear at links below:


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