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Crowd of 100,000 at the Speedway

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

Crowd of 100,000 at the Speedway

Indianapolis News
May 30, 1911

Grandstands and Bleachers Filled, While Course is Lined with Spectators.

RUSH BEGINS AT DAYLIGHT

Track Guards Comb Inclosure for Fence Climbers---Bleachers Fill Early---Roads Hung With Dust.

Special to the Indianapolis News

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, May 30.—One hundred thousand people saw the five-hundred-mile race at the motor speedway today. This was the estimate placed at noon by the speedway management on the throng in grand stand, bleacher and field.

The entire course was lined with spectators. The big crowds swayed when alarmed by an accident rumor or the swerving of the rapidly moving cars. The crowd rose as one man when Greiner’s car was seen to plunge from the track in the backstretch.

Motor mad America, and not a few mad ones from other shores, began knocking at the outer gates of the speedway at daybreak, and the most wonderful procession of speed devotees ever seen in the middle west began moving in to see forty of the swiftest engines ever built race for money and honor.

The day at the speedway began before the stars went to sleep. Long before light came in the east, Captain W. P. Carpenter, commanding a battalion of speedway guards, marshaled his forces and formed in a line that stretched across the track.

Covered Every Inch.

The men were then commanded to march and comb the grounds of every nonticketed occupant. The soldiers found boys and men who had, during the night, scaled the fences and had hidden in treetops in order to see the big race. Not a few of the stowaways in the branches produced admission dollars and were permitted to remain. Others sorrowfully marched to the gates, but not until they were offering to bet with the guards that they would be in again—and without pay. Many a sympathetic automobilist carried longing youngsters into the speedway inclosure this morning.

The rush from the city to the race course began with the dawn and when the gates were opened at 6:45 there was a crowd numbering several thousand jammed at the turnstiles. The women berated the men for their roughness when the rush began, but not one of the fair sex dropped out of line to avoid the crush. They stood the jostling and it is an interesting fact that the first person through each of the four turnstiles was a woman, one of them a cripple.

Scramble for Seats.

Men and women ran from the gates to the stands, although it was more than three hours until the race was to start. When the anxious early ones arrived and saw the magnitude of the grand stands and bleachers they were at a loss to choose a seat. They were bewildered, but finally planted themselves in what they regarded as advantageous places.

Automobiles bearing crowds of pennant-waving enthusiasts began kicking up the dust on the highways leading from the city as early as 5 o’clock, and by 6 o’clock all were massed with motor cars. By 7:30 o’clock not less than a thousand automobiles were packed in the reserve fields. Each motorist jockeyed for a point of vantage near the course, so as to be able to see well and use his machines as a grand stand.

Bleachers Full Before Nine.

The north bleachers were filled long before 9 o’clock, and the bleachers at the south turn had held their crowd for an hour. The rush for seats in them beginning from the moment the gates opened, the south bleachers being near the entrance and also affording a splendid view of the start of the race. The grand stands filled more deliberately, the holders of reserved seats feeling secure in their coupons. The grand stands began filling about 7:30. The crowd poured in steadily until the hour for the long grind to begin.

The magnitude of Indianapolis’s undertaking to entertain this throng was apparent to the early crowds that passed out of the city to the speedway on the special trains. Sleeping cars bearing race goers from St. Louis, Chicago and western points were stranded in the outer yards, and the occupants of the sleepers were compelled to walk a long distance to reach street cars. Girls in summary gowns, white shoes and bright hats tripped down the track. Most of them were good natured and laughed at the prattle of the passengers on the special trains.

“Drill, sweetheart, drill,” shouted one joker at a silken hosed track walker, and she jovially juggled her white parasol in imitation of a drum major.



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