Barney Oldfield (RIGHT) is credited with Indy’s first 100mph
lap, achieving 102.623mph in 1916. The first 100-plus pole
run came in 1919, courtesy of René Thomas (104.7mph). 102.623MPH
INNOVATION WINS THE DAY
1911 MARMON WASP
Setting the tone for so many races that
followed, Ray Harroun’s victory in the first
Indy 500 came courtesy of an elusive mix
of innovation, strategy and, of course, skill
and bravery. The innovation was to ditch
the riding mechanic and fit a streamlined
body to the Wasp – and when other drivers
griped that losing that extra pair of eyes was
a danger, Harroun added the first rear-view
mirror to a racecar. Today, we’d call it
“thinking outside the box.” Back then, with
the automobile in its infancy, pretty much
every development was outside the box...
After extensive testing, Ray Harroun’s race
plan was to minimize tire wear by sticking
to a 75mph average speed, regardless of
the opposition’s pace. And it worked.
STICKING TO THE GAME PLAN
BY THE WAY...
• The Marmon Motor Car Company let
Harroun keep the entire $14,250
winner’s purse (around $350,000
today) and paid him a bonus on top.
• 40 cars started the inaugural Indy 500.
The now-traditional 33-car field was
introduced in 1915, but continued to
fluctuate in size for several more years.
A record 42 cars started the 1933 race.