Lytle's Wrecked's Apperson

This image of veteran driver Herb Lytle's stalled Apperson Jackrabbitt racer first appeared in the August 22, 1909, Indianapolis Star. It was part of the coverage of the tragic first auto racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. These races were controversial due to the devastating fatal accidents on the first and third days of the meet. In all, five men were killed:

The single most devastating race was the final event of the entire three days, the Wheeler-Schebler Trophy which was scheduled for 300 miles but was called off at 235 miles with Jackson Automobile Company driver Leigh Lynch in the lead. The big accident of the day occurred when the National Motor Vehicle Company racer driven by Charlie Merz blew a tire, crashed through the fencing lining the course and catapulted into the crowd. Riding Mechanic Kellum lost his life as did spectators West and Jolliff.
Early in the race Lytle and his riding mechanic Joe Bitts (Bates?) provided a scare when the former lost control of his Apperson Jackrabbitt racer in the first turn. They appeared to be headed up the embankment to fencing and then spun down to the infield to come to an abrupt stop by hitting a dirt embankment. Bitts was thrown from the vehicle, tumbling several feet before springing to his feet to the cheers of the fans in the grandstand. The men used shovels to dig out of the dirt, repaired the car and re-entered the competition some 50 laps down.
Note that Bates' (Bitts?) name is in question. He is referenced in several articles as "Joe," "Jim," and "James." His last name is presented differently as well, as both "Bates" and "Bitts." Unfortunately, fate caught up with him just short of a month later when he was killed during a race at Riverhead on Long Island, New York.

LytleApperson.jpg1.68 MB