1920 AAA Championship Car season

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1920 AAA Championship Car season
AAA National Circuit Championship
Season
Races 5
Start date February 28
End date November 25
Awards
National champion United States Gaston Chevrolet
Indianapolis 500 winner United States Gaston Chevrolet
Chronology
Previous season Next season
1919 1921

The 1920 AAA Championship Car season consisted of 5 races, beginning in Beverly Hills, California on February 28 and concluding in Beverly Hills on November 25. The AAA National Champion and Indianapolis 500 champion was Gaston Chevrolet. The 1920 season has been a source of confusion and misinformation for historians since 1926.

Official Schedule and Results[edit]

"Note: AAA had two different listings for the 1920 season. At the start of the year, 11 races were listed as counting toward the championship, but at the end of the season, AAA determined the championship to be based on the results of five races giving Gaston Chevrolet the championship. These results were considered official by AAA from 1920-26 and 1929-51. The 11-race championship was first recognized in 1926 with Tommy Milton as champion and was considered official for 1927 and from 1952 to 1955, the final year that AAA sanctioned auto racing." (IZOD IndyCar Series 2011 Historical Record Book - p. 77.)

Rnd Date Race Name Length Track Location Type Pole Position Winning Driver
1 February 28 United States Beverly Hills Race 250 mi (400 km) Los Angeles Motor Speedway Beverly Hills, California 1.25 Mile Board United States Jimmy Murphy United States Jimmy Murphy
NC March 28 United States Beverly Hills Heat 1 50 mi (80 km) Los Angeles Motor Speedway Beverly Hills, California 1.25 Mile Board United States Art Klein
United States Beverly Hills Heat 2 50 mi (80 km) United States Jimmy Murphy
United States Beverly Hills MainA 50 mi (80 km) United States Tommy Milton
2 May 31 United States International 500 Mile SweepstakesB 500 mi (800 km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway Speedway, Indiana 2.5 Mile Brick United States Ralph DePalma United States Gaston Chevrolet
NC June 19 United States Universal Trophy Race 225 mi (362 km) Uniontown Speedway Hopwood, Pennsylvania 1.125 Mile Board United States Tommy Milton
3 July 5 United States Tacoma Race 200 mi (320 km) Pacific Speedway Tacoma, Washington 2 Mile Board United States Tommy Milton United States Tommy Milton
4 August 28 United States Elgin National Trophy 255 mi (410 km)C Elgin Road Race Course Elgin, Illinois 8.5 Mile Road United States Ralph DePalma United States Ralph DePalma
NC September 6 United States 4th Annual Autumn Classic 225 mi (362 km) Uniontown Speedway Hopwood, Pennsylvania 1.125 Mile Board United States Tommy Milton
NC September 19 United States Syracuse Race 50 mi (80 km) New York State Fairgrounds Syracuse, New York 1 Mile Dirt United States Ralph DePalma
NC October 2 United States Fresno Race 200 mi (320 km) Fresno Speedway Fresno, California 1 Mile Board United States Eddie O'Donnell United States Jimmy Murphy
5 November 25 United States Beverly Hills Race 2 250 mi (400 km) Los Angeles Motor Speedway Beverly Hills, California 1.25 Mile Board United States Jimmy Murphy United States Roscoe Sarles
  Dirt/Brick/Board Oval
  Road Course/Hill Climb
  Non-championship race
^A Starters limited to first four finishers for each preliminary race
^B 183 cu in (3.00 L) maximum displacement.
^C Points allocated on the basis of advertised distance of 250 miles.

Official National Championship Standings[edit]

 #  Driver Manufacturer Points
1 United States Gaston Chevrolet Frontenac 1030
2 United States Tommy Milton Duesenberg 930
3 United States Jimmy Murphy Duesenberg 885
4 United States Ralph DePalma Ballot 605
5 United States Roscoe Sarles Frontenac, Duesenberg 540
6 France René Thomas 520
7 United States Joe Thomas 351
8 United States Ralph Mulford 350
9 United States Eddie Hearn 345
10 United States Eddie Miller 260

† Chevrolet was killed along with Eddie O'Donnell and Lyall Jolls, O'Donnell's mechanic, at the final race in Beverly Hills.

Controversy over official race schedule[edit]

The 5 race schedule has been confirmed as the correct and historically accurate schedule for the championship season of 1920. In the race day program for the final race at Beverly Hills was the points distribution[1] for the championship contenders over the previous four races of the season. The championship was confirmed in the weeks leading up to the race by various newspapers around the country printing the four race championship standings leading to the final race.[2][3] Confusion about the season began in 1926 when, for "comparative reasons", Contest Board member Arthur Means reworked the schedule to include 10 races and changed the champion to Tommy Milton. The earliest that the ten race standing occur are in the 27 October 1927 issue of Motor Age.[4] In 1951 Racing Board member Russ Catlin found these retroactive crib sheets and folded the results into official AAA documentation, continuing the confusion about the 1920 season and early AAA history as a whole.

The added races to the season are as follows:

Date Race Name Length Track Location Type Notes Winning Driver
March 28 Beverly Hills Heat 1 50 mi (80 km) Los Angeles Motor Speedway Beverly Hills, California 1.25 Mile Board Oval Art Klein
March 28 Beverly Hills Heat 2 50 mi (80 km) Los Angeles Motor Speedway Beverly Hills, California 1.25 Mile Board Oval Jimmy Murphy
March 28 Beverly Hills Main 50 mi (80 km) Los Angeles Motor Speedway Beverly Hills, California 1.25 Mile Board Oval Starters limited to first four finishers for each preliminary race Tommy Milton
September 19 Syracuse Race 50 mi (80 km) New York State Fairgrounds Syracuse, New York 1 Mile Dirt Oval Ralph DePalma
October 2 Fresno Race 200 mi (320 km) Fresno Speedway Fresno, California 1 Mile Board Oval Eddie O'Donnell started on the pole. Jimmy Murphy

The false championship results table is as follows:

 #  Driver Team Points
1 Tommy Milton Duesenberg 2095
2 Jimmy Murphy Duesenberg 1410
3 Gaston Chevrolet Frontenac 1135
4 Ralph DePalma Ballot 605
5 Roscoe Sarles Frontenac, Duesenberg 580

In 1961, Al Bloemker attempted to reconcile the two different accounts for the 1920 season. He surmises that there was an issue with sanctioning fees paid by the Uniontown Speedway and their two races held that year were not included in the final season standings.[5] The printed media of the time is silent about any issue with the Uniontown races not being championship events. They did in fact hold two races but they were non-championship. If Uniontown did pay for championship level racing but was not credited for them, lawsuits would have surely been filed but no such record exists.

The two Uniontown events are as follows:

Date Race Name Length Track Location Type Winning Driver
June 19 Universal Trophy Race 225 mi (362 km) Uniontown Speedway Hopwood, Pennsylvania 1.125 Mile Board Oval Tommy Milton
September 6 4th Annual Autumn Classic 225 mi (362 km) Uniontown Speedway Hopwood, Pennsylvania 1.125 Mile Board Oval Tommy Milton

Points System[edit]

The Points system used for both the official and false season standings are as follows:

Position/
Miles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
40 80 45 25 15 10
50 100 55 30 20 10 5
60 120 65 35 25 15
80 160 80 45 30 20
100 200 110 60 35 20 15 10 5
150 300 160 90 50 30 20 15 10
200 400 210 110 60 40 25 15 10
250 500 260 140 80 50 35 25 15 10 5
300 600 420 220 120 70 45 35 25 15 10
400 800 420 220 120 70 45 35 25 15 10
500 1000 520 270 140 90 60 50 40 35 30

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beverly Hills race day program "The present standings of the championship contenders who race today" 25 November 1920
  2. ^ Detroit News. 26 September 1920, Sect. II p. 7
  3. ^ L.A. Times. 21 November 1920, Pt. 6 p. 1
  4. ^ Motor Age. 27 October 1927, Pgs. 17 & 20
  5. ^ "500 miles to go; The story of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, New York, Al Bloemker, 1961, p. 153