Ray Harroun

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Ray Harroun
Ray Harroun.jpg
Harroun circa 1911
Born (1879-01-12)January 12, 1879
Spartansburg, Pennsylvania
Died January 19, 1968(1968-01-19) (aged 89)
Anderson, Indiana
Occupation Racing driver
Known for Winning the 1911 Indianapolis 500

Ray Harroun (January 12, 1879 – January 19, 1968) was an American racecar driver most famous for winning the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

Biography[edit]

He was born on January 12, 1879 in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania.

He participated in the original setting of the record from Chicago to New York in 1903, and the re-taking of that record in 1904.[1] He and four others drove in shifts non-stop to establish the record of 76 hours at the end of September, 1903. That time was bested by another team nearly a year later, and in October 1904, the Columbia team re-set the record at 58 hrs, 35 min. That record stood for nearly two years. Other drivers in both years included Bert Holcomb (who was in charge of the runs), Lawrence Duffie (Demonstrator of the Gasoline Dept of Electric Vehicle Company, which manufactured Columbia cars), and Harry Sandol. In 1903, the fifth driver was David R. Adams; in 1904 it was Eddie Bald.

Racing career[edit]

Nicknamed the "Little Professor" for his hand in creating the Marmon Wasp. Harroun is best known for winning the first running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30, 1911. He is known to have started at least 60 AAA-sanctioned races, during the years 1905-1911. (Statistics on some of the shorter races document only the top three finishers, so some starts resulting in lower finishes may not be known.) From 1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team operated by Indianapolis-based auto maker, Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race result shows him driving a Buick. And, statistics from 1905 through 1908 show him driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun Sneezer."

Race wins[edit]

Harroun's original Marmon "Wasp" on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

Harroun's race wins included: a 1910 100-mile race at the Atlanta Motordrome; the 1910 200-mile Wheeler-Schebler Trophy Race (at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway); the May, 1910, 50-mile Remy Grand Brassard Race (also at IMS); three races at Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby); three races at the original Latonia Race Track; and races at tracks in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Long Island and Memphis. He is best known for winning the first Indianapolis 500, driving a Marmon.

Harroun won a total of 8 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the second-most of any driver in the 100-year history of the track. (The only driver with more victories at IMS is Johnny Aitken, with 15 wins in 1909-1916.)

Retroactive champion designation[edit]

During the years that Harroun was driving, the AAA designated some races each year as "championship" events. However, there was no actual year-long championship, and no points were awarded. In 1927, points were assigned retroactively, and champions were designated for those years. At that time, Harroun was designated the champion for the 1910 season.

The first Indianapolis 500[edit]

At the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, his use of what would now be called a rear-view mirror, rather than the riding mechanic specified in the rules, created controversy, but was ultimately allowed. Harroun went on to win at an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour (120.060 km/h). Harroun, who came out of retirement to race in the first 500, would not race after 1911. Harroun's historic Firestone-shod yellow #32 Marmon "Wasp," in which he won the Indianapolis 500, is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

Later career[edit]

After retiring from racing, Harroun continued engineering work for Marmon, and later for the Maxwell racing team.

In 1917, Harroun started his own automobile company in Wayne, Michigan, where a street is now named for him.

In 1927 he joined Lincoln Products.[2]

He continued to work in the automotive industry until his retirement at age 79. He died on January 19, 1968.[3]

Indianapolis 500 results[edit]

Year Car Start Qual Rank Finish Laps Led Retired
1911 32 28 1 200 88 Running
Totals 200 88
Starts 1
Poles 0
Front Row 0
Wins 1
Top 5 1
Top 10 1
Retired 0

Legacy[edit]

He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000.

References[edit]

  1. ^ As noted in the Columbia Car webpages, Harroun
  2. ^ "Ray Harroun Joins Lincoln Products Co. Indianapolis Sweepstakes Winner In 1911 Heads Equipment Department". New York Times. April 22, 1923. Retrieved 2012-10-05. "The Lincoln Products Company of Chicago, manufacturers of Lincoln shock absorbers has announced the appointment of Ray Harroun as manager of ..." 
  3. ^ Associated Press (January 20, 1968). "Ray Harroun, First Indianapolis 500 Victor, Dies. Inventor and Car Designer Drove 74 m.p.h. Marmon to Glory in 1911 Race". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-05. "Ray Harroun, who wanted to be remembered as an engineer and inventor, but who was more famous as the winner of the first Indianapolis 500 mile ..." 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
None
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1911
Succeeded by
Joe Dawson