Indianapolis Motor Speedway Records Despite Zero Weather

Lewis Strang at the wheel of a Renault in 1908
Lewis Strang at the wheel of a Renault in 1908

As reported in The Automobile, December 18, 1909 – Considering the weather conditions, the speed trials on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday and today could be termed eminently successful. The events, which were the first on the course since the track has been paved with brick, merely gave an indication of what may be expected when the weather is more favorable.

The speedway management, in fact, is fairly well satisfied with the results. With the thermometer hovering near the zero mark, causing frequent carburetor trouble, and with the drivers suffering from the intense cold, some remarkable time was made. The most notable feat was that of Lewis Strang in his 120-horsepower Fiat covering five-miles in 3:17.70, establishing a new record, the former record for the distance being 4:11.3, held by Barney Oldfield and established on the local course last August.

Inclemency of weather detracted somewhat from the mass of interested spectators, yet the total attendance was quite satisfactory, being of the substantial sort, to whom a little detail like zero weather would have but small influence in the face of the expected performance, nor can it be claimed that they were disappointed. Then, there were opening speeches, congratulatory opportunities, they who stood shoulder to shoulder in the good fight.

Just prior to the first trials yesterday afternoon, the ceremony of placing the last brick in the course was held in front of the judge’s stand, at the finish line. The brick is of coin silver, plated with gold and weights about fifty-two pounds. It was placed in position by Governor Thomas R. Marshall, assisted by his private secretary, Mark Thistlewaite.

Strang’s time for the five-miles was easily the sensation of the meet. The drivers suffered intensely from the cold. Despite the fact that they wore heavy gloves and had their faces protected by woolen bandages they were almost frozen during the trials. When they stopped their cars, they could scarcely move their bodies and frequently had to be lifted out. Once after Strang had completed a trial he found his face almost frozen and washed it in the icy water of the stream that runs nearby.

The Speedway management is to be congratulated for its persistence, having expended a vast sum of money in brick-paving the track, after it was found that no other class of pavement could be regarded as safe, considering the possible speeds of modern racing automobiles. That all records will be broken, under fair conditions of weather, is now assured.

I feel this is an incredible story of the trials on the newly paved Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Can you imagine driving an open car for five-miles during zero-degree weather?

Stay tuned for more stories about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For more information on our automotive heritage, follow this link.

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