With the running of the 101st Indianapolis 500 on May 28, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” begins its second century. So why not celebrate it with 101 different facts and figures on the race and Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
This is part two covering facts 11 through 20 about Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. Check back on www.SPEEDSPORT.com every few days for more Indianapolis 500 facts leading up to the 101st Indianapolis 500.
11. Concrete had been a strong candidate in 1909 because there was already an established auto racing facility that used concrete for its surface.
The Brooklands in England was the first purpose-built auto-racing track in the world and Indianapolis was second. Races were held until 1939 when England entered World War II. During the war, part of the Brooklands track was damaged in a bombing raid and it was never repaired.
12. For 1910, races were planned for the weekends of Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. Although the Memorial Day crowds were large, the other two holiday weekends saw such a drop that the founders decided to have only one big race the following year — the Indianapolis 500.
13. The famous Marmon Wasp got its nickname from a newspaper headline writer. Previously, the car had been referred to as the Marmon Yellow Jacket or the Marmon Bumblebee. When neither of those nicknames would fit in the headline of one of the local newspapers, the word “Wasp” was chosen because it would fit. It quickly caught on.
14. By the way, the famous “world’s first automotive rear-view mirror” that Ray Harroun affixed to the Marmon Wasp to quell a protest over his lack of a riding mechanic did not work very well.
In later years, Harroun admitted the roughness of the brick surface made the mirror vibrate so much he could not see out it.
15. Although the box score lists them as rookies, of the 40 starters in the inaugural Indianapolis 500, at least 15 had won races staged at the track in 1909 and 1910.
16. While Ray Harroun gets credit for leading the most important lap of the 1911 race (the 200th), Johnny Aitken led the very first lap of the first Indianapolis 500.
17. And then there was Art Greiner. He has the unfortunately distinction of finishing last in the first 500. Sadly, he was eliminated by an accident on lap 12 in which his riding mechanic, Sam Dickson, was killed. Dickson became the first fatality in the Indianapolis 500.
18. In 1912, Ralph DePalma dominated the proceedings, leading 196 of 200 laps and heading second-place driver Joe Dawson by more than five laps when his engine expired on lap 199.
For his efforts, DePalma received nothing as IMS only paid the first 10 finishers. And because the speedway did not offer prize money for laps led until 1920, DePalma’s lofty 196-lap effort went without any financial reward.
19. Jules Goux found much to like about racing at Indianapolis. In addition to winning the 1913 race by a record margin of 13 minutes and eight seconds over American driver Spencer Wishart, he later met the woman of his dreams. In 1922, he married Ruth Davis of Indianapolis.
20. It took four races, but in 1914, the Indianapolis 500 finally had a defending winner in the starting field. Jules Goux, the 1913 winner, finished fourth in 1914. Ray Harroun had retired after the 1911 race and Joe Dawson missed the 1913 event due to an injury.