1911 Indianapolis 500

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1st Indianapolis 500
MarmonWasp.JPG
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body AAA
Date May 30, 1911
Winner Ray Harroun
Winning Entrant Nordyke & Marmon Company
Average speed 74.602 mph (120.060 km/h)
Pole position Lewis Strang
Pole speed N/A
Most laps led Harroun (88)
Pre-race
Pace car Stoddard-Dayton
Pace car driver Carl G. Fisher
Chronology
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1909-1910 events 1912

The 1911 International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 30, 1911. It was the inaugural running of the Indianapolis 500, which is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. Ray Harroun, an engineer with the Marmon Motor Car Company, came out of retirement to drive, and won the inaugural event before re-retiring for good in winner's circle.

Over the previous two seasons (1909 and 1910), the Speedway had scheduled numerous smaller races during a series of meets over the two years. In a departure from that policy, for 1911 the management decided to instead schedule a single, large-scale event attracting widespread attention from both American and European racing teams and manufacturers. It proved to be a successful event, immediately establishing itself both as the premier motorsports competition in the nation, and one of the most prestigious in the world.

One Race[edit]

Bob Burman, Louis Disbrow, Jack Tower, and Joe Grennon at the 1911 Indianapolis 500

"Too much racing"[edit]

The 1910 racing season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway began well, with an estimated 60,000 spectators for the 200 mi (320 km) Wheeler-Schebler Trophy on Memorial Day, won by Ray Harroun.[1] Throughout the remainder of the season, however, the crowds grew progressively smaller, and after seeing a second decline in attendance in as many days for Labor Day, 5 September 1910, the final day of the concluding meet, Speedway co-founders Carl Fisher, James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler conferred to decide on a new course for the following year.

While the appearance on Monday of some 18,000 was reasonable enough, given both the rain showers occurring early that morning and the large parade held downtown during the afternoon, neither the two days of the Labor Day meet nor the July 4 weekend races had come near to equaling the Memorial Day turnout. While potential explanations for the decline included the high heat of summer and the women of the city making family holiday plans that did not include automobile racing, one of the most likely, they reasoned, was an overabundance of the very events they exhibited: too many races had diluted turnout to including only those most interested in the sport.[2]

Timing[edit]

By the next day, Tuesday, 6 September 1910, local newspapers had already heard rumors of the decision, and reported that the four partners would likely soon choose to concentrate on a singular, major event for 1911. Most strongly considered were either a 24-hour contest — anticipating the 24 Hours of Le Mans, itself inaugurated just a dozen years later — or a 1,000 mi (1,600 km) endurance race, with a spectacular purse of $25,000;[3] equivalent to 37.615 kg (82.93 lb) of pure gold, and more than high enough to attract global as well as national and regional competition.[1] The endurance event was favored by several manufacturers, but debate soon proceeded as to what would be most beneficial to the spectators as well as the participants. While a 24-hour race would be possible on a technical level despite its extreme nature, all agreed that potential ticket-buyers would inevitably depart the grounds well before its conclusion. Deciding on a "race window" extending from 10:00AM to late afternoon, local time, early estimates placed the planned race distance at 300 to 500 miles (480 to 800 km). The race winner, with purse estimates ranging toward $30,000, could expect to see as much as $12,000.[2]

In choices for a specific date to hold the race, Memorial Day, already the occasion of the largest attendance, was always foremost. As suggested to the Speedway owners by business associate Lem Trotter, the time coincided with the completion of a late-spring agricultural practice known as "haying," after which the farmers acquired an effective two-week break. While the intention, Trotter argued, would certainly be to draw from far more than just the local farming community, simple business sense called for as little interference as possible with the regional economy. That such an opportunity to avoid a conflict of interest fell on a major national holiday sealed the decision: within two days, formal announcement was made of a 500-mile (800 km), marathon-distance motor race, to be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 30 May 1911.[2]

Preparation, and the "Month of May"[edit]

As desired and expected, news of a contest of such distance evoked strong enthusiasm both within and without the motorsport community. Newspaper and trade magazine articles used ever-new superlatives for the challenges expected to soon face both drivers and engineers, and continuing discussion throughout the spring and winter kept the race as the primary conversation piece of the average citizen. Everyone, it seemed, had something to say about it.[4]

Due to the publicity thus created, Speedway management, which had for the previous two seasons of meets charged the effectively nominal entry fee of one dollar per mile of scheduled race distances, took measures to ensure that the likely large entry list did not include any that were frivolous: at an accordingly heightened fee of $500 per car, participation became a nominally risky proposition to teams and manufacturers, since, although the high finishers were due to receive record purse money and accessory prizes, no money at all was offered to finishers below tenth place. Interest, however, was far from dampened, with entry blanks distributed over the course of the following month quickly returning filled, the first of which being an automobile built by the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company of Racine, Wisconsin, to be driven by Lewis Strang. By 1 May 1911, the final day for entry filing, a high total of some 46 cars had been nominated to compete.[4]

1 May also marked the beginning of a long tradition of the opening of the Speedway, on the first day of the month of the race, to free practice on the circuit during daylight hours by any and all participants. A policy originally established so as to allow teams unfamiliar with the 2.5-mile (4.0 km), recently brick-paved high-speed course as much time to acclimate as necessary, the "Month of May", as it came to be called in future years, ultimately proved most advantageous in the short-term to the locally-based teams, given that many of the entries from abroad did not even set out for the city until well into the month. One such example, the double-entry Pope-Hartford team based in Springfield, Massachusetts, came by way of the team's actual racing cars themselves simply being driven cross-country, while loaded up with toolboxes and as many spare parts as they could hold, making overnight stops in New York City, Buffalo, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, before finally arriving, where they were duly met at the city's East Washington Street by Frank Fox, who was not only the slated driver of one of the two cars but also the company's local agent.

Ultimately, of the full forty-six entries originally submitted, only the two cars of the Falcar team from Moline, Illinois failed to appear, due to an inability to acquire critical chassis pieces.[4]

Setting the Field[edit]

To further refine the entry list as the date of the race approached, a qualification system was implemented whereby each car would be required to demonstrate a sufficiently competitive pace. With several of the top entries having already recorded, during the "unofficial" practice time of the month, complete laps at up to 88 mph (142 km/h), a minimum required speed of 75 mph (121 km/h), based on a flying start over a 0.25 miles (0.40 km) section of the main straightaway, was considered to be within reason. Thus, all cars successfully completing an officially-timed run of the quarter-mile distance at or under 12 seconds would be accepted into the starting field; those that did not would be given two additional attempts before being rejected, a policy that began the tradition of three qualification attempts allotted to each entered car.

In the years following these inaugural qualification sessions, which were held on 27 and 28 May 1911, anecdotes would occasionally arise, and thereafter be steadily embellished in their retelling, regarding the purported qualifying times and speeds of given competitors, and how they compared to one another. In reality, no records of the sessions were kept at all, let alone publicized, with the sole objective being the confirmation of each car's capability to achieve the minimum speed. Also in contrast to later eras, both the starting order and the car numbering of the participants were determined not by respective speeds or previous seasonal point totals, but by entry date, with the Strang-driven Case entry being assigned #1 in the first starting position.[4]

The 500-mile race[edit]

The 1911 Stoddard-Dayton pace car on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

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The largest racing purse offered to date, $27,550, drew 46 entries from the United States and Europe, from which 40 qualified by sustaining 75 mph (121 km/h) along the quarter mile-long main straight.[5] Grid positions were determined by date of filing of official entry forms,[5] rather than speed, a difference from the contemporary European practice of lottery.[6] Entries were prescribed by rules to have a minimum weight of 2,300 lb (1,043 kg) and a maximum engine size of 600 cubic inches (9.83 litres) displacement.[7]

The 40 cars lined up five to a row, except for the first and last. In the first row, the Stoddard-Dayton pace car was situated on the inside (driven by IMS owner Carl Fisher), with four competitors cars rounding out the row. Rows 2-8 had five cars each, while the final row had only one car in it. Fisher's use of the Stoddard-Dayton is believed to constitute the first use of such a vehicle, for the first known mass rolling start of an automobile race.[7]

Amid roiling smoke, the roar of the 40 machines' engines, and the waving of a red flag which signalled 'clear course ahead', American Johnny Aitken, in a National, took the lead from the fourth starting spot on the extreme outside of the first row, and held it until lap 5 when Spencer Wishart took over in a Mercedes, himself soon overtaken by David L. Bruce-Brown's Fiat which would go on to dominate the first half of the race. Nearing the halfway point, Ray Harroun, an engineer for the Marmon-Nordyke company and defending AAA national champion, and the only driver competing without a riding mechanic due to his first-ever-recorded use of a cowl-mounted rear-view mirror, passed Bruce-Brown for the lead in his self-designed, six-cylinder "Marmon Wasp" (so named for its distinctively sharp-pointed, wasp-like tail).[7]

Others faltered during the marathon event; of the 14 cars to fall out, riding mechanic Sam Dickson was the lone fatality, killed when driver Arthur Greiner hit the wall in the second turn on lap 12.[7]

Harroun, relieved by Cyrus Patschke[8] for 35 laps (87.5 miles / 140.82 km), led 88 of the 200 laps, the most among the race's seven leaders, for a race-average speed of 74.602 mph (120.060 km/h) in a total time of 6:42:08 for the 500-mile (804.67 km) distance to win.[5][7] During the midpoint of the second half the race, Harroun and Lozier driver Ralph Mulford had fought an intense duel, with Harroun holding a small advantage near the 340 mile (550 kilometer) mark, whereupon one of the Wasp's tires failed.[citation needed] Harroun's forced stop allowed Mulford to move to the front, before Mulford also pitted for new rubber. After Mulford came back onto the track, Harroun was scored in the lead with a 1 minute 48 second advantage, and victory.

After the race, and collection of $10,000 for first place, Harroun returned to the position he had taken at the end of the 1910 racing season: retirement. He would never race again.

Controversy[edit]

Upon Harroun's declared victory, second-place finisher Mulford supposedly protested, contending he had lapped Harroun when the Marmon limped in on the torn tire, an argument appearing plausible to some, due to an accident disrupting the official timing and scoring stand at nearly the same time. However, race officials were quick to note Mulford's subsequent pit stop forced the Lozier crew to spend several minutes themselves changing a tire which stuck to the wheel hub; Mulford's protest was thus denied.[9]

According to track historian, Donald Davidson, no protests were filled at the end of the race and Mulford congratulated Harroun in the Detroit papers the following day. Davidson has also pointed out that Mulford was reported by contemporary publications to have changed 14 tires during the course of the race, including one from a blown tire in turn one. Changing tires at the time was a lengthy and painstaking process, as the wheels were not removable. Mulford had to limp around the track for almost an entire lap, and subsequently bent the rim, necessitating a long pit stop to fix the damage. The details from the newspapers claim that Harroun changed only four tires all day during only three pit stops. But the undermining to support Harroun as the rightful winner was the team strategy to run a constant 75 mph pace, regardless of position, in order to save tire wear.[10]

Davidson contends that Mulford did not make claims to victory later in life, as some have suggested. And in fact the controversy itself did not begin to inflame until decades after the race.

Box score[edit]

Starting grid[edit]

1911 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race Qualification Results
Starting grid determined by order of entry date.[4]
Entries required to maintain an excess of 75 mph (121 km/h) over a quarter-mile distance to qualify.[4]
No qualification times or speeds recorded, only success or failure to qualify.[4]
Row No Far Inside No Inside Center No Center No Outside Center No Far Outside
1 Pace Car Position 1 United States Lewis Strang (R) 2 Italy1 Ralph DePalma (R) 3 United States Harry Endicott (R) 4 United States Johnny Aitken (R)
2 5 United States Louis Disbrow (R) 6 United States Frank Fox (R) 7 United States Harry Knight (R) 8 United States2 Joe Jagersberger (R) 9 United States Will Jones (R)
3 10 Norway Gil Andersen (R) 11 United States Spencer Wishart (R) 12 United States W. H. Turner (R) 15 United States Fred Belcher (R) 16 Switzerland3 Arthur Chevrolet (R)
4 17 France4 Charles Basle (R) 18 United States Eddie Hearne (R) 19 United States Harry Grant (R) 20 United States Charlie Merz (R) 21 United States Howdy Wilcox (R)
5 23 United States Mel Marquette* (R) 24 United States Fred Ellis (R) 25 United States Harry Cobe (R) 26 United States Jack Tower (R) 27 United States Ernest Delaney (R)
6 28 United States David L. Bruce-Brown (R) 30 United States Lee Frayer (R) 31 United States Joe Dawson (R) 32 United States Ray Harroun (R) 33 United States Ralph Mulford (R)
7 34 United States Teddy Tetzlaff (R) 35 United States Herbert Lytle (R) 36 United States Hughie Hughes (R) 37 United States Charles Bigelow (R) 38 United States Ralph Beardsley (R)
8 39 United States Caleb Bragg (R) 41 United States Howard Hall (R) 42 United States Bill Endicott (R) 44 United States Arthur Greiner (R) 45 United States Bob Burman (R)
9 46 United States Billy Knipper (R)  
 
DNQ United States Louis Edmunds (R) Australia Rupert Jeffkins (R)  
* Entry started in race by United States Bert Adams, finished by United States Mel Marquette.

Race results[edit]

1911 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
Race finishing times recorded down to second intervals.
All entries still running at conclusion scored ahead of non-finishing entries, regardless of race completion percentage.
Position colors reflect the wikistandard for American formula motorsports finishing positions.
Pos No Driver Entrant Chassis
(car name)
Engine Start
Pos
Laps
Led*
Laps
Run
Time
(interval)
Speed
(mph)
(km/h)
Status Prize
Money
($)
Cyl Displ
(in³) (L)
1 32 United States Ray Harroun** (R)
(relieved by Cyrus Patschke (R))
Nordyke & Marmon Company Marmon
Wasp
Marmon 28 88 200 6:42:08 74.602
120.060
finished 14,250
6 477 7.82
2 33 United States Ralph Mulford (R) Lozier Motor Company Lozier Lozier 29 10 200 6:43:51
+0:01:43
74.285
119.550
finished 5,200
4 544 8.91
3 28 United States David L. Bruce-Brown (R) E. E. Hewlett Fiat Fiat 25 81 200 6:52:29
+0:10:21
72.730
117.048
finished 3,250
4 589 9.65
4 11 United States Spencer Wishart (R)
(relieved by Dave Murphy (R))
Spencer Wishart Mercedes Mercedes 11 5 200 6:52:57
+0:10:49
72.648
116.916
finished 2,350
4 583 9.55
5 31 United States Joe Dawson (R)
(relieved by Cyrus Patschke (R))
Nordyke & Marmon Company Marmon Marmon 27 0 200 6:54:34
+0:12:26
72.365
116.460
finished 1,500
4 495 8.11
6 2 Italy1 Ralph DePalma (R) Simplex Automobile Company Simplex Simplex 2 4 200 7:02:02
+0:19:54
71.084
114.399
finished 1,000
4 597 9.78
7 20 United States Charlie Merz (R)
(relieved by Len Zengel (R))
National Motor Vehicle Company National National 18 0 200 7:06:20
+0:24:12
70.367
113.245
finished 800
4 447 7.33
8 12 United States W. H. Turner (R)
(relieved by Walter Jones (R))
Simplex Automobile Company Amplex Amplex 12 0 200 7:15:56
+0:33:48
68.818
110.752
finished 700
4 443 7.26
9 15 United States Fred Belcher (R)
(relieved by John Coffey (R))
Knox Automobile Company Knox Knox 13 4 200 7:17:09
+0:35:01
68.626
110.443
finished 600
6 432 7.08
10 25 United States Harry Cobe (R)
(relieved by Louis Schwitzer (R))
Jackson Automobile Company Jackson Jackson 22 0 200 7:21:50
+0:39:42
67.899
109.273
finished 500
4 559 9.16
11 10 Norway Gil Andersen (R) Ideal Motor Car Company Stutz Wisconsin 10 0 200 7:22:55
+0:40:47
67.73
109.001
finished 0
4 390 6.39
12 36 United States Hughie Hughes (R) Mercer Motors Company Mercer Mercer 32 0 200 7:23:32
+0:41:24
67.63
108.840
finished 0
4 300 4.92
13 30 United States Lee Frayer (R)
(relieved by Eddie Rickenbacker (R))
Columbus Buggy Company Firestone-Columbus Firestone-Columbus 26 0 197 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 432 7.08
14 21 United States Howdy Wilcox (R) National Motor Vehicle Company National National 19 0 194 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 589 9.65
15 37 United States Charles Bigelow (R)
(relieved by W. H. Frey (R))
(relieved by E. H. Sherwood (R))
Mercer Motors Company Mercer Mercer 33 0 194 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 300 4.92
16 3 United States Harry Endicott (R) Inter-State Automobile Company Inter-State Inter-State 3 0 192 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 390 6.39
17 41 United States Howard Hall (R)
(relieved by Rupert Jeffkins (R))
Velie Motors Corporation Velie Velie 36 0 190 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 334 5.47
18 46 United States Billy Knipper (R) E. A. Moross Benz Benz 40 0 188 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 444 7.28
19 45 United States Bob Burman (R) E. A. Moross Benz Benz 39 0 183 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 520 8.52
20 38 United States Ralph Beardsley (R)
(relieved by Frank Goode (R))
Simplex Automobile Company Simplex Simplex 34 0 178 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 597 9.78
21 18 United States Eddie Hearne (R)
(relieved by Edward Parker (R))
Edward A. Hearne Fiat Fiat 16 0 175 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 487 7.98
22 6 United States Frank Fox (R)
(relieved by Fred Clemons (R))
Pope Manufacturing Company Pope-Hartford Pope-Hartford 6 0 162 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 390 6.39
23 27 United States Ernest Delaney (R) Clark-Carter Automobile Company Cutting Cutting 24 0 160 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 390 6.39
24 26 United States Jack Tower (R)
(relieved by Robert Evans (R))
Jackson Automobile Company Jackson Jackson 23 0 145 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 432 7.08
25 23 United States Bert Adams (R) (started)
United States Mel Marquette (R) (finished)
Speed Motors Company McFarlan McFarlan 20 0 142 flagged flagged,
still running
0
6 377 6.18
26 42 United States Bill Endicott (R)
(relieved by Johnny Jenkins (R))
Cole Motor Car Company Cole Cole 37 0 104 flagged flagged,
still running
0
4 471 7.72
27 4 United States Johnny Aitken (R) National Motor Vehicle Company National National 4 8 125 did not finish connecting rod 0
4 589 9.65
28 9 United States Will Jones (R) Case Corporation Case Wisconsin 9 0 122 did not finish steering 0
4 284 4.65
29 1 United States Lewis Strang (R)
(relieved by Elmer Ray (R))
Case Corporation Case Wisconsin 1 0 109 did not finish steering 0
4 284 4.65
30 7 United States Harry Knight (R) Westcott Motor Car Company Westcott Westcott 7 0 90 did not finish accident,
front-straight
0
6 421 6.90
31 8 United States2 Joe Jagersberger (R) Case Corporation Case Wisconsin 8 0 87 did not finish accident,
front-straight
0
4 284 4.65
32 35 United States Herbert Lytle (R) Apperson Brothers Automotive Company Apperson Apperson 31 0 82 did not finish accident,
pits
0
4 546 8.95
33 19 United States Harry Grant (R) American Locomotive Company Alco Alco 17 0 51 did not finish bearings 0
6 580 9.50
34 17 France4 Charles Basle (R) Buick Motor Company Buick Buick 15 0 46 did not finish mechanical 0
4 594 9.73
35 5 United States Louis Disbrow (R) Pope Manufacturing Company Pope-Hartford Pope-Hartford 5 0 45 did not finish accident,
front-straight
0
4 390 6.39
36 16 Switzerland3 Arthur Chevrolet (R) Buick Motor Company Buick Buick 14 0 30 did not finish mechanical 0
4 594 9.73
37 39 United States Caleb Bragg (R) Caleb S. Bragg Fiat Fiat 35 0 24 did not finish wrecked,
pits
0
4 487 7.98
38 24 United States Fred Ellis (R) Jackson Automobile Company Jackson Jackson 21 0 22 did not finish fire damage,
withdrawn
0
4 355 5.82
39 34 United States Teddy Tetzlaff (R) Lozier Motor Company Lozier Lozier 30 0 20 did not finish accident,
front-straight
0
4 544 8.91
40 44 United States Arthur Greiner (R) Simplex Automobile Company Amplex Amplex 8 0 12 did not finish accident,
second turn
0
4 443 7.26

Notes[edit]

* Due to an accident at the timing and scoring stand, laps 138 through 176 were unofficially recorded.
** Ray Harroun was relieved by Cyrus Patschke for approximately 35 laps at the halfway point of the race.
1 De Palma is usually shown as American, but his application for a US passport (available at [1]) reveals that he did not become a US citizen until 1920
2 Austria-Hungary Jagersberger was Austrian-born.
3 Chevrolet is usually shown as American, but documents available at [2] show he did not become a US citizen until at least 1917.
4 Basle is usually shown as American, but documents available at [3] show he did not become a US citizen until at least 1917.

Statistics[edit]

Race field average engine displacement:

  • 460 in³ / 7.54 L

Race field average qualifying speed:

  • No full lap

Finishing entries average time and finishing speed:

  • 7:05:27
  • 70.74 mph / 113.85 km/h

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kettlewell, Mike. "Indianapolis: The Richest Race in the World", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 9, p.1013.
  2. ^ a b c Davidson, Donald; Shaffer, Rick (2013). "How It All Began; 1910". Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500, Second Edition (Icon Publishing Limited). p. 27. 
  3. ^ Kettlewell, p.1013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Davidson, Donald; Shaffer, Rick (2013). "A 500-Mile Race It Is; 1911". Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500, Second Edition (Icon Publishing Limited). pp. 28–30. 
  5. ^ a b c Kettlewell, p.1014.
  6. ^ World of Automobiles
  7. ^ a b c d e Popely, Rick; Riggs, L. Spencer (1998). "1911". Indianapolis 500 Chronicle (Publications International, Ltd.). p. 10. 
  8. ^ http://www.thevintageracer.com/articles/cyrus-patschke.htm
  9. ^ Popely, Rick; Riggs, L. Spencer (1998). "1911". Indianapolis 500 Chronicle (Publications International, Ltd.). p. 11. 
  10. ^ "The History of the 500 - Episode 10 (Mythbusters)", WIBC 93.1, April 14, 2013

Works cited[edit]


Indianapolis 500
Inaugural race
1911 Indianapolis 500
Ray Harroun
1912 Indianapolis 500
Joe Dawson
Preceded by
Inaugural race
Record for the fastest average speed
74.602
mph
Succeeded by
78.719 mph
(1912 Indianapolis 500)