Tag Archives: Eddy Rickenbacker

1914 Indianapolis 500 France vs. America

As preparations for the 1914 Indianapolis 500 moved along, the field shaped up to feature France versus America. Jules Goux, the 1913 500 winner, headed the Peugeot assault with teammates Georges Boillot and Arthur Duray, and they seemed confident of a second French victory. The French Delage team of Rene Thomas and Albert Guyot, plus Joseph Christiaens’ Excelsior entry, provided extra support.

The U.S. met them with a crack contingent of men and machines – Barney Oldfield, Earl Cooper, and Gil Anderson for Stutz; Caleb Bragg and Spenser Wishart for Mercer; Teddy Tetzlaff and Willie Carlson for Maxwell; and Eddy Rickenbacker and Willie Haupt for Duesenberg.

A crowd of 100,000 surged into the Speedway to fill the stands to capacity. The top three qualifiers were Boillot, Goux, and Tetzlaff. Oldfield managed to qualify 29th among the 30 starters. Oldfield deliberately held back because of a blue-gray cloud of exhaust, castor oil, and burning rubber.

Barney Oldfield in his 1914 Stutz
Barney Oldfield in his 1914 Stutz

Rene Thomas assumed the lead on lap 13. On lap 16, Oldfield worked his Stutz to 19th position ahead of his American competitors. Anderson’s Stutz retired early, and he waited to relieve Oldfield. By lap 48, Oldfield edged into the top 10 with Rickenbacker close by and Cooper following in the third Stutz.

Oldfield was seventh by lap 72, with Guyot leading the pack in his Delage. Anderson climbed into the Number 3 Stutz on lap 100, with Thomas driving in first place. By lap 150, Oldfield was back in his Stutz holding on to fifth place.

With 50 laps to go, Thomas, Duray, Guyot, and Goux in four French cars led Oldfield in the lone Stutz in fifth place. Oldfield represented the last serious American threat. As the miles rolled by, the cars finished in that order. Rickenbacker and Haupt drove the Duesenberg entries to 10th and 12th respectively.

Eddy Rickenbacker in his 1914 Duesenberg
Eddy Rickenbacker in his 1914 Duesenberg

The fourth annual 500 was over, a singular triumph for France, but America had not lost without honor.

Almost overlooked by most spectators was the accomplishment of Willie Carlson’s Maxwell, which completed the full 500 miles on 30 gallons of kerosene priced at 6 cents a gallon and finished 9th. Indy 500 winner Ray Harroun had designed the new type of carburetor for kerosene on the Maxwells. This was the most economical high-speed performance in automotive history.

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