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De Palma is First in Elgin Auto Race

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Elgin Road Race Collection

De Palma is First in Elgin Auto Race

The New York Times
August 29, 1920

Elgin, Ill., Aug. 28.—Ralph De Palma won the eighth annual national road race here today.  He covered the course of 251 miles 2,820 feet in 3:09:54, breaking lap and race records in the progress and averaging 79½ miles and hour.  Tommy Milton was second in 3:11:01.  He, too, broke the lap record, tying De Palma at 6:11 for one round of the course.  Murphy finished third in 3:12:47, Mulford fourth in 3:12:59 and Eddie O'Connell fifth in 3:16:35.

De Palma won $6,000 for finishing first, a trophy cup and $3,000 additional because he led on each of the thirty laps at $100 each.  The last man to finish in the money was Percy Ford.  Finishing outside of the prize list were Tom Alley, replacing Joe Thomas after the sixth lap, and Gaston Chevrolet.

The following is the official entry list of cars and drivers in the order in which they started in the Elgin road race:

Ralph De Palma, Ballot; Jimmy Murphy, Duesenberg; Joe Thomas (Eddie Hearn), Revere; Tom Milton, Duesenberg; Eddie O'Donnell, Duesenberg; Gaston Chevrolet, Monroe; Percy Ford, Frontenac; and Ralph Mulford, Monroe.

The contestants found the course in better condition than when the event was postponed last Saturday because of rain.

Cliff Durant withdrew from the race last night and an accident to Eddie Hearn in the preliminary trials was the cause of his replacement by Joe Thomas.  De Palma was depending on the result of this race to outstrip Gaston Chevrolet for the 1920 automobile racing championship title.  Chevrolet's victory at the Indianapolis classic gave him a 300-point lead, but de Palma passed him by winning the 500 points allowed for today's victory, the last race to count for the 1920 title.

A Record Attendance.

A crowd officially estimated to number 60,000 persons, the greatest thatever attended a race on the Elgin course, witnessed the start.

De Palma, the first to start, made the first lap of the eight-and-a-half-mile course in 6 minutes 30 seconds.  Following de Palma, the other starters got off in the following order:  Murphy, Thomas, Milton, O'Donnell, Chevrolet, Ford and Mulford.

On the first lap, Milton and O'Donnell passed Thomas and Mulford passed Ford.  De Palma made the fastest first lap.  The lap record for the course is six minutes and eighteen seconds.  On the second lap Chevrolet was delayed by motor trouble and Mulford, passing both Chevrolet and Thomas, went into second place on lapsed time.

De Palma's average speed to the end of the sixth was 77.6 miles per hour.  Mulford was just three seconds behind the leader.  Milton was in third position, O'Donnell fourth, Murphy fifth, Ford sixth, Thomas seventh and Chevrolet eighth.

Joe Thomas, who was injured in a practice spin last week, was replaced by Tom Alley as driver of car No. 15 in the sixth lap.  At the end of the sixth lap, approximately fifty miles, De Palma was still leading the field, with Mulford a close second.  De Palma's elapsed time was 38 minutes 52 seconds.  Chevrolet lost four laps when he had to stop at the pit for mechanical repairs.

Breaks Course Record.

At the end of the twelfth lap, approximately 100 miles, De Palma was still leading, with an average speed of 78 miles an hour.  His eleventh lap was made in 6 minutes 17 seconds, breaking the course record.  Milton was second, Murphy third, Mulford fourth and O'Donnell fifth.  There were only fifty-five seconds between the first and fifth man.

De Palma still maintained his lead at the end of the eighteenth lap, approximately 150 miles, with an average of 81¼ miles per hour, a record for the course.  Milton was second, Mulford third, Murphy fourth and O'Donnell fifth.  Up to this time, only two cars had stopped at the pits and one of these stops was for a change of drivers.

De Palma made the nineteenth lap in 6 minutes and 11 seconds, breaking another record, the best previous time having been 6 minutes and 18 seconds, made by Spencer Wishart in the race in which he was killed.

De Palma ran off the road on the north end of the course in the twenty-first lap, but backed on again and continued the race.  At the end of the twenty-fourth lap, approximately 204 miles, De Palma was leading Milton by 1 minutes 5 seconds.  Murphy was third, Mulford fourth, O'Donnell fifth.  At the end of the twenty-fifth lap, De Palma's average was 80¼ miles per hour.  In the twenty-seventh lap, De Palma's time was 2:51:16.  Milton was second with 2:52:05, and Murphy third with 2:53:26.

Starting his last lap, De Palma was leading Milton by 53 seconds.  Only 1 munite and 33 seconds separated the first three cars.  De Palma covered this lap in 6 minutes 11 seconds.



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