Friday, May 13, 2016

R100: Before Indianapolis and on the Heels of the Vanderbilt Cup came the American Grand Prize

A vintage 1911 Fiat S74 racing car, for which David Bruce-Brown utilized said marque's vehicle to win the American Grand Prize. (Image source:
Although arguably the International Sweepstakes race held at the Brickyard each May was the preeminent motor race in North America beginning in 1911, two other significant races were held Stateside, including the original version of what ultimately became known as the United States Grand Prix...

As I'll admit I'm less than enthusiastic over the Angie's List Grand Prix on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road course, especially since I bristle most over the usage of the term Grand Prix, which after all is what European Formula 1 races are! Not to mention that before there was an actual Grand Prix in America, there was the American Grand Prize between 1908-16 instead.

American Grand Prize race
(Year/Location/Winner/Country/Car Make)
1908: Savanna, Georgia) Louis Wagoner, France; Fiat
1910: Savanna, Georgia) David Bruce-Brown, UK; Benz
1911: Savanna, Georgia) David Bruce-Brown, UK; Fiat
1912: Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Caleb Bragg, USA; Fiat
1914: Santa Monica, CA) Eddie Pullen, USA; Mercer
1915: San Francisco, CA) Dario Resta, UK; Peugeot
1916: Santa Monica, CA) Howdy Wilcox, USA & Johnny Aitken, USA; Peugeot

As I've elected to leave Thy Heavy Lifting to those who've already done so in regaling us about the American Grand Prize's history, albeit in byte-size morsels...

As what I find funniest about the American Grand Prize was the  inaugural host city's use of Prison Convicts to build the racecourse! Which somehow I doubt would happen today? Whilst I also highly doubt they got to have Turkey Dinner at the race-track - for which the inaugural race was held on!

The race wasn't held in 1909 and 1913 - with the first time being due to Long Island deciding not to hold it in conjunction with that year's Vanderbilt Cup race, and later Long Island's request was not accepted while Savanna turned it down due to the event's unpopular standing with residents.

Sadly, the Grand Prize's only repeat winner David Bruce-Brown, who finished third in the inaugural International Sweepstakes Race at Thy Brickyard lost his life during practice for the 1912 running at Milwaukee...

Interestingly, on a tangent regarding my Home state of Washington, the 1914 winner, Eddie Pullen, whom I've never heard of before - reportedly was also victorious at Tacoma Speedway's road course where he claimed his first ever National Champ Car race in the early 1910's, prior to the track being turned into a Boardtrack Oval, which were all the rage culminating in the early 1920's.

Dario Resta was the only Indianapolis 500 winner to claim Thy chequered flag both at the Speedway and Santa Monica, he's the only driver to win all three prestigious events, i.e.; the Indianapolis
500, Vanderbilt Cup and the Grand Prize, for which he won two out-of-three both years 1915-16!

Other Indy 500 winners such as Ralph de  Palma contested the Grand Prize, yet due to mechanical  failure, whilst De Palma also won the Vanderbilt Cup twice, the Grand Prize trophy eluded him.

Meanwhile, the most winningest driver All-time at the Brickyard, Johnny Aitken, who also holds the record for most starts at Indianapolis has the dubious distinction of being classified first and last place in the final Grand Prize race - having substituted for Howdy Wilcox after his car "Done Blown Up" on Lap-1!

The race followed upon the heels of the Gordon Benet and Vanderbilt Cup races, with the latter running in conjunction with the American Grand Prize during its final years (1911-16) before something known as the First Great War, aka World War One got in the way.

Ironically, the American Grand Prize's trophy, for which I cannot find any pertinent information upon was shortly resurrected between 1930-35 as the forbearer to some trophy fondly known as the Borg Warner "Mug" which debuted at Mother Speedway in 1936!

While I've previously chronicled today's IndyCar championship trophy, the Astor Cup in: INDYCAR: Thy Astor Cup runneth over...

Along with the aforementioned Vanderbilt Cup in: INDYCAR: Thy Vanderbilt Cup runneth Over...

Hence, putting my personal feelings beside, i.e.; Indianapolis Motor Speedway's an Oval, for which the Indy Cars should only turn left upon. As Hey, I've been to the road course for three separate events: Formula 1 twice and Scooters', nee MotoGP once...

Perhaps I'll actually try tunin' into Thy race for once, if I can manage to get the ever elusive & constantly moving plus totally NON Screen-reader friendly website to cooperate? Since after all I think Eddie Cheever will still  be busy layin' Bricks' Err building thy Foundation for the Indy 500 on ABC?

Hmm? May be somebody could give Eddie a bag 'O Rachels potato chips to munch on during the broadcast;  Oh Never Mind!

Alas, I'll confess that my IMS Oval's only stance is pretty funny since I'm a Twisty' devotee, yet I'll also admit that I like the idea that the Indianapolis Grand Prix affords certain drivers a chance to double their amount 'O seat-time at Mother Speedway - with such driver's as Alex Tagliani, J.R. Hildebrand, Spencer Pigot and Mathew Brabham  getting to run "The Double" at Thy Brickyard in May, as this novel marketing sweepstakes continues growing, and it actually gives local fans some more racing.

Since obviously it's a good thing to utilize the infield road course, which is now in its third iteration, having been originally built for the United States Grand Prix, when Formula 1 invaded Mother Speedway between 2000-07.

Then the course was slightly modified to host thee Crème de la Crème 'O Scooters', those ultra insane Knee-draggers, aka MotoGP from 2008-2015, along with the Rolex Grand Am and Tudor United Sports Cars series using the left & right turns road course circuit for the Brickyard Grand Prix between 2012-14.

then there was a major makeover to the circuit as initially Thy Knee-dragger's had complained about its bumpiness, for which the road course was re-profiled for MotoGP and GASP! Indy Cars, with track construction work beginning in October, 2013 after an IndyCar feasibility test had occurred earlier that year, which ultimately led to the inaugural Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis being held in 2014.

As this first event saw Thy Mayor 'O Hinchtown getting knocked unconscious during an abortive Standing Start,  which also saw Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard being struck by debris!

And contrary to popular belief! Michael Schumacher and Jeff Gordon are NOT the second most successful winners at Mother Speedway. That honour goes to Ray Haroun who scored a total of eight victories there - all upon Thy Oval...

Grand Prix Winners
2000: Michael Schumacher; Ferrari
2001: Mika Hakkinen; McLaren
2002: Rubens Barrichello; Ferrari
2003: Michael Schumacher; Ferrari
2004: Michael Schumacher; Ferrari
2005: Michael Schumacher; Ferrari
2006: Michael Schumacher; Ferrari
2007: Lewis Hamilton; McLaren
2014: Simon Pagenaud; Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
2015: Will Power; Team Penske