Monday, February 23, 2015

INDYCAR: Thy Astor Cup runneth over...

Will Power kisses the Astor Cup after winning the IndyCar Series season championship Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, at Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, Calif. (AP Photo/Will Lester)
Once again, another Tomaso classic yarn has been languishing in thy cellar 'O Nofendersville, or is that my Mum's basement; Hooah! Having originally picked up this "thread" 'Wayback in 'Twenty-twelve when reading a 'lil Gem of a book titled: They Went That A-Way, who's author Malcolm Forbes should know a thingy or three 'bout aristocracy, right?

Astor Family Swindler' Dies
Purusing my daily newspaper sources last November via my Newsline for The Blind telephone service, I ran across the obituary in the New York Times, regarding a one Mr. Anthony Marshall, the only son of Brooke Astor, had died at the age of 90. And normally I would of simply hit next on my keypad, except for the fact that he'd apparently swindled millions from his late mother, along with the fact that the name Astor rings silent "Alarm bells" due to its regards involving IndyCar...

Alas,  with your unabashed No Fenders Scribe having just transited the Pacific Ocean, albeit the opposite body 'O water that this dry-docked tale's bobbing around, nevertheless what better time to finally launch   this story... 

Astor Cup
Between 1915-16, a pair of motor races were held on the Sheepshead Bay Speedway in Sheepshead, New York; a 2.0-mile banked oval Board-track, which were all the rage at the time. With the winner's trophy being commissioned by the wealthy William Vincent Astor, who's notoriety as one of the world's wealthiest businessmen was sure to attract attention to the race, along with gaining it prestige in regards to the trophy's namesake.

The Sheepshead Bay Speedway Corp. whose members included Carl fisher, of Indianapolis Motor Speedway fame, and Cleveland's Harry Harkness bought the assets of the then defunct Sheepshead Bay Racetrack, formerly utilized for a different type 'O Horsepower, aka the four legged type, ironically from William Kissam Vanderbilt and the Coney Island Jockey Club at the beginning of 1915.

The first Astor Cup race was held on October 9th of the same year and attracted such luminary racing drivers as Barney Oldfield, Dario Resta, Ralph De Palma, Eddie Rickenbacker, Howdy Wilcox and Johnny Aitken to name just a few, with Norway's Gil Anderson winning the inaugural race in just under three and one half hours behind the wheel of a Stutz.

After the second and final Astor Cup race in 1916, won by Aitken, a previously unknown holder of Mother Speedway notoriety, aboard a Peugeot, other races were held until 1919, when after the death of Mr. Harkness and the track being in financial difficulty led to its selling off for residential real estate development.

Further tripping my memory banks towards this languishing story, was the reference to Sheepshead Bay in the recently seen (last year's) most enjoyable Bill Murray movie St Vincent; Hmm? Wasn't that where those Astor Cup races were held nearly a century ago...

John Jacob Astor
Born: July 17, 1763
Died: March 29, 1848
Age: 84

John Jacob Astor of Waldorf, Germany, father of eight children was the first multi-millionaire of the United States, worth twenty million at the time of his death, approximately $110+ billion! (2006 USD) Having made his wealth originally from the Fur trade for which he gained a monopoly of, before selling out in 1830 and diversifying into New York real estate...

John Jacob Astor IV
Born: July 13, 1864
Died: April 15, 1912
Age: 47

John Jacob Astor IV, great grandson of John Jacob, a man of many occupations, including Lieutenant Colonel during  the Spanish American war, and subsequently elevated to rank of Colonel afterwards...  

Was reputedly known simply as "JackAss" in the national press, most notably caused great scandal by marrying Madeleine Talmage Force, his junior by 29yrs, a then 18yr old Socialite Who became pregnant with the couples only child, a son named John Jacob Astor VI...

Madeleine, who'd become pregnant during the couples round-the-world Honeymoon desired for her child to be born in the United States and thus, their personal Valet, Maid and Nurse, along with their prized (Airedale Terrier) Hoond Kity (with the dog perishing at sea, as nobody ever mentions how many animals were euthanized in this affair...) were all traveling aboard the RMS Titanic upon its fateful single voyage, and after loading his wife, her maid and nurse into lifeboat No. 4 was told no men were allowed to board until all of the women and children had been loaded first, as Madeleine and the maid and nurse all survived, with John and his valet perishing at sea, with John's body being one of the 333 recovered afterwards.

At the time of Astor's death, he had an estimated wealth of $85m ($2.77b - 2014 USD) and was the richest person aboard Titanic...

And as I've briefly scribbled 'bout before in one of those epic Tomaso Files tomes, the following four luxury liners were frothing about the Atlantic Ocean in hopes of dominating the then prolific trade of world travel in;

Thru a variety 'O guises of names, the Cunard Steamship Lines, heavily financed by Britain itself originally built two Lusitania class "Super-liners"  in order to compete against the Germans for superiority of the then heavily contested North Atlantic trade route during the early 1900's...

RMS Mauritania
Launched: Sept 20, 1906
Maiden Voyage: Nov 16, 1907
Service Date: 1907-34
Route: South Hampton to New York
Tonnage: 31,938 GRT
Length: 790ft; Beam: 88ft. (Height: 60ft - to Boat Deck; 165ft to Ariel's)
Passenger Decks: 8
Passengers: 2,165 (3-class total)
Crew: 802
Speed: 24 Knots
The RMS Mauritania(I) was the world's largest passenger ship between 1907-11, and was the sister to the RMS Lusitania which suffered a worse fate, as the Mauritania served out its  useful service life before being scrapped in 1935, the only one of these four monstrous ships to survive its entire service life  expectancy, with a second passenger ship named Mauritania going into service in 1938...

RMS Lusitania
Launched: June 7,  1906
Maiden Voyage: Sept 7, 1907
Service Date: 1907-15
Route: New York to Liverpool
Tonnage: 31,550 GRT
Length: 787ft; Beam: 87ft. (Height: 60ft - to Boat Deck; 165ft to Ariel's)
Passenger Decks: 9
Passengers: 2,198 (3-class total)
Crew: 850
Speed: 25 Knots
The Lusitania is forever known as the catalyst for invoking the United States to finally, reluctantly enter  the first "Great War," aka World War I after its torpedoing by a German U-boat in May, 1915 which resulted in the death of nearly 1,200 civilians, including 128 Americans...

The company was founded in 1845 and in the early 1900's was the chief rival of Cunard, before both companies fell afoul of financial difficulties largely due to the great recession caused by the 1929 Stock Market crash. Britain's government agreed to give financial assistance to Cunard on the condition that the two rival entities merge, which occurred in 1933, and today Cunard is owned, like many of today's ocean liner fleets by Carnival...

RMS Titanic
Launched: May 31, 1911
Maiden Voyage: April 10, 1912
Service Date: April 10-15, 1912
Route: South Hampton to New York City
Tonnage: 46,328 GRT
Length: 883ft; Beam: 92ft. (Height: 175ft)
Passenger Decks: 9
Passengers: 2,435 (3-class total)
Crew: 892
Speed: 24 Knots
The RMS Titanic is the most famous of these four passenger liner "Dread knots," due to its illustrious fate of sinking upon its maiden voyage upon striking an Iceberg late evening April 14, 1912, and sunk a mere 2hrs 40mins later in the early morning hours of April 15th, claiming some 1,500-plus civilians due to its design opting for only 20 Lifeboats to accommodate a scant 1,178 passengers - approx one-third of its intended clientele...

HMHS Britannic
Launched: Feb 26, 1914
Service Date: Dec 23, 1915 - Nov 21, 1916
Duty: Hospital Ship
Tonnage: 48,158 GRT
Length: 893ft; Beam: 94ft. (Height: 175ft)
Passenger Decks: 9
Passengers: 675 total
300 wounded with 439 medical staff
Crew: 860
Speed: 23 Knots
His Majesty's Hospital Service Britannic was the third and largest of the Olympic class ocean liners produced, with its sister ships being the RMS Titanic and RMS Olympic of which only the Olympic saw out her service life, being retired in 1934 and then scrapped; whilst the HMHS Britannic either collided with an underwater mine or was torpedoed off the Greek island Kea in November, 1916, albeit only losing 30 civilians of the 1,066 onboard, a much lower casualty rate vs. Titanic and Lusitania...

(GRT = Gross Registered Tons)

William Vincent Astor
Born: Nov 15, 1891
Died: Feb 3, 1959
Age: 67

William Vincent Astor was John Jacob IV's first of two children from his first wife Ava Lowle Willing whom also had a daughter, and after a difficult childhood, Vincent was suddenly one of the nation's wealthiest person's, ranking number 12 upon Forbes first annual ranking of wealth estimated at $75 million, with the advent of his father's sudden death upon the Titanic.

Vincent immediately quit his studies at Harvard at age 20 and focused upon the family empire instead, and is credited with diversifying its assets along with turning valuable real estate properties into playgrounds for children.

Vincent married three times and at age 67 died of an apparent heart attack...

To continue reading, see; The Dark Side of Astor Cup lore...