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Harroun Only One Sure of His Place

Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

Harroun Only One Sure of His Place

Indianapolis News
May 31, 1911

Contests by Drivers May Upset the Semi-Official List of Race Winners.


Declared by Some They Were Allowed to Run More Than 500 Miles and So Lost Money.

It developed today that there probably will be changes in the list of winners in the five-hundred-mile international sweepstakes race at the motor speedway, yesterday.

Until 3 o’clock this morning the officials, including representatives of the speedway, A. R. Pardington, official referee; S. M. Butler, chairman of the contest board of the American Automobile Association; Charles W. Sedwick, Indiana representative of the A. A. A.; men in charge of the timing device and the adding machines, in addition to the scorers, worked over the records at the Claypool hotel, and then resumed the work later today.

Harroun Sure of Place.
The officials say there is no doubt that Ray Harroun, in his Marmon Wasp, won first place, but there is much uncertainty as to the standing of the others in relation to the semi-official returns given out from the judges’ stand while the race was drawing to a close.

The positions of Ralph Mulford and Bruce-Brown, announced as winners of second and third places, respectively, may be reversed it is said. The three leaders in the race at the finish were far ahead of the other cars.

As the timing arrangements were excellent, there is no doubt that the officials can straighten out what now seems to be a tangle, but it will require much work to check up the records, including those of the dictaphones, the adding machines, the timing machine and the other methods by which the score was kept. The officials say there is no possibility of a mistake after the records are properly tabulated. This means, however, that in order to ascertain the correct standing of the leaders all the laps records of the forty cars that started in the race will have to be checked up from beginning to end.

Complaint as to Laps.
There is complaint from several of the drivers that they ran their cars one or more laps after they had made the two hundred laps necessary to complete the five-hundred-mile race, and that while they were running these extra laps, other cars finished ahead of them, according to the semi-official scores. According to O. W. Sedwick, possibly this was done, but he added that a revision of the scorers’ records would leave no doubt as to the accurate standing of the winners.

Ten prizes were offered in the race, aggregating approximately $40,000, and at the close of the contest, twelve cars were announced in the list of winners, the reason for including the eleventh and twelfth being to have two extra cars on the record in case of protest.

Semi-Official Winners.
An idea of the magnitude of the work of checking up may be gained when it is taken into account that each of the forty cars were tallied on every lap they completed. The majority finished more than 150 of the 200 laps in the full distance of five hundred miles. The semi-official list of the winners that was announced from the judges’ stand at the close of the race is as follows:

Driver and Car. / Position. / Time.
Harroun, Marmon / First / 6:41:08
Mulford, Lozier / Second / 6:46:46
Bruce-Brown, Fiat / Third / 6:51:28
Wishart, Mercedes / Fourth / ...
De Palma, Simplex / Fifth / ...
Merz, National / Sixth / ...
Turner, Amplex / Seventh / ...
Cobe, Jackson / Eighth / ...
Belcher, Knox / Ninth / ...
Hughes, Mercer / Tenth / ...
Frayer, Firestone-Col / Eleventh / ...
Anderson, Stutz / Twelfth / ...

Racing men who have attended all the great speed events of Europe and America were unanimous in their opinion that the 500-mile event the greatest by far in automobile history. The last fifty miles was a struggle for supremacy between Harroun, Mulford, Bruce-Brown and Joe Dawson, whose car failed him in the last lap.

Leaders Close Together.
Harroun held the lead throughout the latter part of the race and maintained a speed of between eighty and eighty-five miles an hour. Mulford and Brown drew close and for miles less than a lap separated the flyers. Joe Dawson, who made a poor showing in the earlier stages of the race, made a sensational drive for about fifty miles and gained fourth position, only a little more than a lap behind the three leaders. By a tremendous burst of speed Dawson passed Harroun and found himself in the same lap with the three leaders. Dawson, however, was just entering the lap as the leaders were completing it. The struggle was nerve stirring, and the thousands in the grand stands and bleachers were on their feet waving and shouting frantically nearly all the time.

The admirers of Dawson believed he was about to make a spectacular finish when within five miles of the end. Then his car was seen to check up and Dawson rolled up to the pit with a tire gone. He had completed 199 laps at the time and had only to circle the course once more. However, the stop put him out of the running for either of the first three positions and his friends consoled themselves by thinking that he would drive around once again and accept fourth place.

Loses to the Mercedes.
The nearest competitor of Dawson at the time was Spencer Wishart, in a Mercedes, who was many miles in the rear. Dawson got a new tire and started out to complete his last lap just as Harroun scored. Dawson continued around the track and then seemed to disappear on the north turn. His friends wondered what had become of him.

Mulford and Brown finished, and the other flyers on the track passed the tape, time and again. Finally Wishart got the checkered flag and it was announced that he was fourth place in the race.

Then De Palma and Merz finished in order and still Dawson did not appear. It was found that some small obstruction on the track had struck Dawson’s radiator and let water flow out. A few seconds later the car “stuck” and in spite of Dawson and his mechanician’s efforts they were unable to get it started. The metal that broke the radiator was supposed to be a bolt dropped by another racer.

While Dawson labored frantically, the other racers whizzed by and finished the race leaving the young pilot alone with his “dead” car. The same ill fortune prevented him from winning the last Vanderbilt Cup race. At the Vanderbilt classic Dawson stopped and lost six minutes investigating an accident in which a man was injured and then finished a few seconds behind the winner.

Merz Took No Chances.
Charles Merz, the Indianapolis man at the wheel of National No. 28, won sixth place in the race by following plans which he made before the event. Merz, who figured in a tragic accident at the speedway two years ago, told his employers he would enter the race and drive consistly without taking the chances that characterized his work in former races.

He said if the other drivers wished to risk their lives every moment he would let them win. Merz followed his plan to the end, and there was hardly a time when he seemed to be in danger. By driving consistently he saved his tires and he had less trouble of this kind than almost any other driver.

Howard Wilcox, at the wheel of National No. 21, finished the race in thirteenth place, although the officials only counted the first twelve cars and stopped the race when the twelve finished. Wilcox, however, was close behind and he crossed the line a few seconds after the last driver saw the checkered flag.

Johnny Aitken, the other National driver, went 280 miles and was making a good showing when a broken connecting rod under his car caused him to withdraw.

Steady Grind Wearing.
The steady grind told on the machinery of many of the racing cars, even more than on the drivers, as was shown by the fact that only about half the forty cars that started were running at the finish. However, in the last hundred miles, the officials were busy trying to keep a correct record of the ten prize winners and the eleventh and twelfth cars in the race, and consequently almost lost sight of those that were far behind, but still in the running.

An example of the tenacity the drivers displayed was the case of Bob Burman, who stuck gamely to the finish, notwithstanding that he was many miles in the rear. It was generally conceded that the speed king had more tire trouble than any other driver. This, in a measure, was due to Burman’s taking the curves at full speed. Frequently a tire would be wrenched from a wheel and he would make the rest of the circuit on the rim before stopping at his pit for repairs.

Time and again Harroun had narrow scrapes when tires burst, but his nerve was not shaken. Once he crashed into the wall on the south turn, glanced off, skidded down the incline, righted his car and continued the whirl around the track minus the tire on his right rear wheel.

Twenty-Five Cars in at 400 Miles.
At four-hundred miles twenty-five cars remained in the race and all of them, with some three exceptions, were on the track when the checkered flag was waved to halt Harroun. The cars were: Mulford’s Lozier, Dawson’s Marmon, Bruce-Brown’s Fiat, De Palma’s Simplex, Wishart’s Mercedes, Turner’s Amplex, Merz’s National, Cobe’s Jackson, Gil Anderson’s Stutz, Hughes’s Mercer, Wilcox’s National, Endicott’s Interstate, Hall’s Velie, Knipper’s Benz, Bigelow’s Mercer, Beardsley’s Simplex, Frayer’s Firestone-Columbus, Belcher’s Knox, Adams’s McFarlan, Burman’s Benz, Tower’s Jackson, Endicott’s Cole, Delaney’s Cutting, and Fox’s Pope-Hartford.

Even when the drivers saw they were hopelessly distanced they continued on in an effort to make as good record as possible. The act of remaining in the race was a good card for all of them.

The semi-official time of Ray Harroun was 6:41:08, and his average was 74.62 miles an hour for the entire distance. To drive at this speed it was necessary to drive at a speed of between eighty and eighty-five miles an hour much of the time to make up for the minutes lost in changing tires and getting fuel.

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