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Ray Harroun

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing

Ray Harroun
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Wikipedia: Ray Harroun

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Born: January 12, 1879 in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania
Died: January 19, 1968 (aged 89) in Anderson, Indiana

Winner of the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

Biography

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Ray Harroun page on 26 November 2015, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

He participated in the original setting of the record from Chicago to New York in 1903, and the re-taking of that record in 1904. He and four others drove in shifts non-stop to establish the record of 76 hours at the end of September, 1903. That time was bested by another team nearly a year later, and in October 1904, the Columbia team re-set the record at 58 hrs, 35 min. That record stood for nearly two years. Other drivers in both years included Bert Holcomb (who was in charge of the runs), Lawrence Duffie (Demonstrator of the Gasoline Dept of Electric Vehicle Company, which manufactured Columbia cars), and Harry Sandol. In 1903, the fifth driver was David R. Adams; in 1904 it was Eddie Bald.

Racing career

Nicknamed the "Little Professor" for his pioneering work of creating the Marmon Wasp, which was a revolutionary design being the first open-wheel single-seater racecar. Harroun is best known for winning the first running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30, 1911. He is known to have started at least 60 AAA-sanctioned races, during the years 1905–1911 (statistics on some of the shorter races document only the top three finishers, so some starts resulting in lower finishes may not be known). From 1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team operated by Indianapolis-based auto maker, Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race result shows him driving a Buick. Also, statistics from 1905 through 1908 show him driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun Sneezer."

Race wins

Harroun's race wins included: a 1910 100-mile race at the Atlanta Motordrome; the 1910 200-mile Wheeler-Schebler Trophy Race (at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway); the May 1910, 50-mile Remy Grand Brassard Race (also at IMS); three races at Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby); three races at the original Latonia Race Track; and races at tracks in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Long Island and Memphis. He is best known for winning the first Indianapolis 500, driving a Marmon.

Harroun won a total of 8 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the second-most of any driver in the 100-year history of the track (the only driver with more victories at IMS is Johnny Aitken, with 15 wins in 1909–1916).

Retroactive champion designation

During the years that Harroun was driving, the AAA designated some races each year as "championship" events. However, there was no actual year-long championship, and no points were awarded. In 1927, points were assigned retroactively, and champions were designated for those years. At that time, Harroun was designated the champion for the 1910 season.

The first Indianapolis 500

At the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, his use of what would now be called a rear-view mirror, rather than the riding mechanic specified in the rules, created controversy, but was ultimately allowed. Harroun went on to win at an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour (120.060 km/h). Harroun, who came out of retirement to race in the first 500, would not race after 1911. Harroun's historic Firestone-shod yellow #32 Marmon "Wasp," in which he won the Indianapolis 500, is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

The 50th Anniversary race in 1961 was won by A.J. Foyt, and both Harroun and Foyt appeared together on the television program I've Got a Secret -- their secret being their respective wins at Indianapolis.

Later career

After retiring from racing, Harroun continued engineering work for Marmon, and later for the Maxwell racing team.

In 1917, Harroun started his own automobile company in Wayne, Michigan, where a street is now named for him.

In 1927 he joined Lincoln Products.

He continued to work in the automotive industry until his retirement at age 79. He died on January 19, 1968.


Images

Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 1 All Winners
Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 1, November 1951
View Hot Rods and Racing Cars: Issue 1 - 833KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 1.0MB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 986KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 868KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 890KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 936KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 861KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 894KB
Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp 1911 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Marmon Wasp

Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
2006 Chicago Auto Show
View photo of Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - 983KB


Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
30 May 1911Harroun is in Lead at 300Indianapolis News
31 May 1911Harroun Only One Sure of His PlaceIndianapolis News
4 June 1911HOW BIG AUTO RACE IS RUNCrittenden Mariott, Omaha Daily Bee
10 May 1915BURMAN TO FIGHT PROTEST.The New York Times


Racing Record

Click on Racing in the navigation bar to see a list of the series and seasons included in the Library's racing records.

Race-by-Race Record

DateSeriesRaceTrackMake#SponsorStartFinishStatusPointsEarnings
30 May 2011Indianapolis 500Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayMarmon "Wasp"32Marmon28WIN200$14,250




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