Gentleman start your engines

On May 30, 1911, 40 automobiles lined up with unknown drivers behind the wheels at the start line of the first ever Indianapolis 500. Nobody knew it at the time, but it would become one of the world’s most well-known auto races.

The winner of the race was Pennsylvania native Ray Harroun, who was not new to the sport of racing. He already had competed in over 60 races and had done well in competition previously. He took 6 hours and 42 minutes to complete the race with an average speed of about 74.5 mph. The car came with a rear view mirrior because unlike most cars there was only one seat. This left no chance for a mechanic to be there to let the driver know when another car was passing them.  After a big crash on lap 13, scoring was interrupted, and a short dispute was initiated by runner-up Ralph Mulford.  The $14,250 prize was awarded to Harroun.

The idea for the race track came from Carl Fischer, who wanted a private area to test cars. Manufacturers needed a place to test a car’s top speed since the roads were not made to accommodate many cars at high speeds. The original cars had four wheel hydraulic breaks and V-8 engines made of aluminum. It took less than 20 years for the race to have the best possible machines and the high payout that it is now known for.

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