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Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 19: Louis Schwitzer wins first Indianapolis Motor Speedway race on this date in 1909



The first car race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway took just over five minutes to run. The site had already held a balloon race and a motorcycle event, but on this date in 1909 cars took to the 2.5-mile oval for the first time, the culmination of a years-long effort by the track's builders.

 That first race, in front of a crowd of 12,000, was won by Louis Schwitzer, the chief engineer of Stoddard-Dayton, who averaged 57 mph in his four-cylinder car during a five-lap sprint race.

Schwitzer would go on to a long career in the industry, and the track still gives an annual award for engineering achievement in his name. (Those first three days of racing also left five people dead due to the track's terrible surface; within a few months, it would be paved in brick.) Here's Wayne Carini trying out one of Schwitzer's road cars:

Photo: IMSC