Rear View Mirror
Volume 7, No.3
- Don Capps
- November 21, 2009
- RVM Vol 7, No 3 (PDF format, 102k)
“Pity the poor Historian!” – Denis Jenkinson
The Jacob Cohen Complex
Or, I Wonder if Mr. Peabody Ever Had Second Thoughts About the Way Back Machine?
Alas, much like Jacob Cohen1, automobile racing history gets no respect.
If one were to suggest that the study of automobile racing history is to history as military music is to music, a relationship that Marx2 suggested, there would be little doubt that most heads would nod in the affirmative. However entertaining automobile racing might be to many, it is probably fair to say that other than as trivia, the history of automobile racing gets little attention and even less respect.
Nor is it much of a surprise that little respect is given is automobile racing history. Doing automobile racing history is a bit of a muddle at best and is usually something of a shambles the rest of the time with things going downhill from there. This is a theme I will touch upon in this and future RVM columns.
Doing Automobile Racing History
While it might be something of a Blinding Flash of the Obvious to suggest that automobile racing historians do exactly what each and every other historian does, that is, study the history of their chosen field of endeavor, that particular field is somewhat ill-defined. Any aspirations to hold a chair in automobile racing history at the university level would be quite misplaced at the moment as well as far into the future given both the dearth of courses being taught along with the corresponding lack of majors being offered in the field. Then, there is the rather obvious fact that this is not a topic around all that much flows in the academic world. Any interest in automobile racing at the academic level is almost exclusively personal rather than professional it would appear.
What little automobile racing history that is being produced is being created from outside the community of scholars. It is largely from the pens of professional writers that the history of automobile racing has long resided. Their works are best described as “chronicles” rather than “histories,” however. This is not to diminish either their contributions to the history of automobile racing or the works themselves. On the contrary, it is these chronicles that lured most with an interest in the topic to the further study of the subject.
A theme that I will be thinking about as time goes on will be that can probably be expressed as something along these lines: Whither the history of automobile racing? Not that this particular subject has not been done to death, but I always seem to be missing something it seems.
Program Notes: North Randall, Labor Day 1928
From the Archives of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, New York
The International Motor Racing Research Center collection of race programs contains one for the “100 Mile Championship Auto Race, North Randall, Labor Day, Sept. 3rd.” Doing the necessary crosschecks, this turns out to be for the 1928 event. The race is sanctioned by “The American Automobile Racing Ass’n,” and the price of the program is fifteen cents.
Here is the lineup given for the event:
|Make of Car||Car No.||Driver||From|
|Frontenac Special||1||Eddie Meyer||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Thomas Special||3||Martin Thomas||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Benz Special||2||Unnamed||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Peugeot Special||6||Antone Ponikvar||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Allied Special||25||B. E. Reister||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Cliff – Ford||9||Harry Clifford||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Chrysler Special||5||Bill Humboldt||Harrisonburg, Va.|
|Bates Special||4||Red Searight||Indianapolis, Ind.|
|Frontenac Special||7||Ernie Jones||Canton, Ohio|
|Hal Special||8||Kling Smith||Akron, Ohio|
|Chandler Special||10||Bennie Rousch||Steubenville, Ohio|
|Chandler Special||11||Wylie Sanders||Steubenville, Ohio|
|Frontenac Special||17||Johnny Barco||Canton, Ohio|
|Hal Special||14||Whiz Sloan||Akron, Ohio|
|Carpenter Special||15||Bill Carpenter||Findlay, Ohio|
|Frontenac Special||12||Floyd Trevis||Youngstown, Ohio|
|Miller Special||18||Lou Moore||Oakland, Cal.|
|Roof 8||20||Johnny Bryan||Wheeling, W. Va.|
|Leiber Special||23||Unnamed||Bellevue, Ohio|
|Frontenac Special||13||Joe Catone||Youngstown, Ohio|
|Frontenac Special||24||Jack McFadden||Warren, Ohio|
|Front Wheel Drive Chevrolet||26||Red Kinett||Alliance, Ohio|
|Grandall Special||32||Curly Grandall||Canton, Ohio|
The race officials as listed:
- Promoter, Burgess E. Lewis
- Assistant, W.R. (Bill) Thomas
- Starter, Ralph Mulford
- Official Timekeepers, Howard Edwards, Dr. W.D. Smith
- Red Flag – Start
- White Flag – Stop at pits on next lap
- Yellow Flag – Accident on course – CAUTION
- Black Flag with White Center – Move to inside and let faster car pass you
- Red Flag – Clear course
- Green Flag – You are on your last lap
- Checkered Flag – You are finished
There is also the following notation: Drivers failing to obey these flags are subject to disqualification.
Hand-written on the program is the cryptic note, “8 cars cracked up.”
Also listed below the entry list is the lineup for the “Aeroplane Races” – the “Planes furnished by Thompson Aeronautical Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio.”
|Travelair Special Racing Plane||Pilot Cliff March||No. 1|
|Laird Special||Pilot Ralph Devore||No. 4|
Note: North Randall was a half-mile dirt track located in the Cleveland, Ohio area. It operated from September 1927 until about June 1937. The track was located about three-quarters of a mile east of the Cranwood Raceway.3
The Points Scoring Schedules for the 1964 NASCAR Grand National Season
During the 1964 season for the championship of the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Grand National Division, a total of sixteen different points schemes were used to award points during the season. This exceeds the number of expected schemes used during the season based upon the information found in the “Official Program for the NASCAR Grand National Championship Stock Car Races 1964 Season.”4 Table 1 shows the schedule for awarding points as listed in the program:
Table 1: NASCAR Championship Point Schedule
All Starters Receive Minimum as Per Schedule
Instead of the points being distributed as shown in Table 1, taken from the NASCAR program, the points were awarded according to the schedule shown below in Table 2:
Table 2: NASCAR 1964 Grand National Championship Point Schedule
The information from both the NASCAR program as reflected in Table 1 and from a survey of the points awarded for each of the individual Grand National events run during the 1964 season5 as listed in Table 2 clearly confirm that points were awarded according to the purse offered for an event rather than being tied solely to the distance of the event.
Food for Thought
The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the FIA, is the post-Second World War reincarnation of Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus, the AIACR, which was organized in June 1904, during the running of the Gordon Bennett Cup or Coupe Internationale. In 1922, the AIACR created the Commission Sportive Internationale, the CSI, the International Sporting Commission. It was the CSI that governed motor sport within the AIACR and then, later, for the FIA.
The FIA, to quote from its own Year Book of Automobile Sport/Annuaire du Sport Automobile6, is an international organization “through which automobile clubs from all over the world have gathered in order to improve the development of their activities and defence of their common interest: the automobile. The two main activities resulting from the tremendous development of the motor car during the last 60 years are touring and motor sport.”
The FIA, as implied, is composed of the national automobile clubs or associations (Automobile Clubs ou Associations nationals, ACN) of the countries which join the organization. While much of the focus of the FIA is on matters more concerned with Touring – tourism and related issues – than motor sport, this is perhaps its most visible activity. The FIA may allow, in some cases, more than one national automobile club or association from a country into its membership, but that nation is given only a single vote. How that is arrived at, the FIA has little interest.
In the area of motor sports, the FIA adopts a similar approach to the issue – only one vote can be cast concerning matter relating to motor sports issues by a country in an FIA forum. The club, association, or committee with the ability to cast that vote retains what the FIA terms the “National Sporting Authority” (Autorité Sportive Nationale, ASN). This implies that the ASN is responsible for the motor sports within that country.
The CSI derived its authority, the “Sporting Power” (le Pouvoir Sportif), from the “uniting of the powers detained in their respective countries by the ACNs.” In the FIA Statues, the FIA declares that, “The FIA is the sole international body governing motoring sport.” The agency within the FIA with the responsibility for motor sport was the CSI. In 1963, its President was Maurice Baumgartner, an interesting choice (he was elected in 1961) since he was Swiss and his country had banned motor sports – with the exception of the occasional hill-climb event – in 1955.
In late 1949, the CSI followed the lead of the Fédération Internationale Motocycliste and created a World Championship of Drivers (Championnat du Monde des Conducteurs) to take effect with the 1950 season. For 1964, the World Championship of Drivers was conducted under the auspices of the CSI and the events were run with cars conforming to “Formule internationale no. 1.”
Events were expected to be a minimum of 300 kilometers and a minimum duration of two hours. Points during 1963 were awarded on the basis of 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 for first through sixth places; points can only be awarded if the driver drove the same car throughout the entire event, that is, no car swapping. With 10 events on the 1964 calendar for championship events, a driver could count only his six best scores.
The International Cup for Formula 1 Manufacturers (Coupe Internationale des Constructeurs Formule 1) was awarded along line similar to those for the drivers’ championship, the points and the number of scores able to be counted in the final tally being identical. However, there was the stipulation that only the best-placed car of a manufacturer count score points. In addition, the definition of “make” was that of a specific chassis and engine combination.
Here is a synopsis of “International Racing Formula No. 1” in its 1963 form:7
1. Racing cars with an engine capacity superior to 1,300 cc and inferior or equal to 1,500 cc.
2. No supercharging device.
3. Commercial fuel as specified by the F.I.A.8
4. Minimum weight of the car without ballast: 450 kg in working order including lubricant and coolant but without fuel. The ballast prohibited is that of a removable type. It is, therefore, permissible to complete the weight of the car through one or several ballasts incorporated into the materials of the car, provided that solid and unitary blocks are used, and that they are fixed by means of a tool and offer the opportunity of being sealed on should the officers entrusted with scrutineering deem it necessary.
5. Compulsory automatic starter, with an electrical or other source of energy capable of being controlled by the driver when sitting at the steering wheel.
6. Protection against fire. Besides that already provided by Article 125 of the International Sporting Code, the car shall be equipped with a general electrical circuit-breaker either operating automatically or under the control of the driver.
7. Driver’s seat capable of being occupied or abandoned without it being necessary to open a door or to remove a body panel.
8. A fastening system for a safety belt is demanded, the belt itself being optional.
9. A roll-over protection bar is compulsory, complying with the following requirements:
(a) It shall not overhang the driver’s head.
(b) It shall exceed in height the driver’s head when he is sitting at the steering wheel.
(c) It shall exceed in width the driver’s shoulders when he is sitting at the steering wheel.
10. All the wheels shall be exterior to the body, so that the vertical projection be contained within the figure drawn by the vehicle wheels when the front wheels are pointing dead ahead (‘not steered in the French text).
11. A double braking system is compulsory, operated by the same foot pedal and defined as follows:
(a) the pedal shall control the four wheels in the normal way.
(b) In case of a leakage at any point of the brake system pipe lines, or of any kind of failure in the brake transmission system, the pedal shall still control at least two wheels of one same axle.
12. Fuel tanks must comply with the following requirements:
(a) The filling port(s) and their cap(s) shall not protrude beyond the coachwork material.
(b) The opening shall have a sufficient diameter to allow the air to be expelled at the time of quick refueling (with particular reference to pressure filling systems), and if necessary the breather-pipe connecting the tank to the atmosphere shall be such as to avoid any liquid leakage during refueling or running.
13. No replenishing with lubricant is allowed throughout the duration of a race. The filling port(s) of the oil tank(s) and radiator(s) shall be filled with the wherewithal to which seals may be applied. The leads sealing the filling port(s) of the lubricant tank(s) may not be removed at any time during the race. The lead(s) sealing the filling port(s) of the radiator(s) shall be in place at the start of the race, but may be removed at any pit stop,
And, finally, for 1963 the rules demand a ‘catch-tank’ into which the breathers from crankcase, oil tank, and transmission are led – to avoid oil being spilled on to the circuit.
- The name given at birth to Jack Roy was later better known as Rodney Dangerfield.
- Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx, that is.
- Allan Brown, History of America’s Speedways Past & Present, Comstock, Michigan: Allan Brown, 1994, p. 425. This information taken from the copy of the “Official Program for the NASCAR Grand National Championship Stock Car Races 1964 Season” found in the archives of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen. It also carries the title “NASCAR Magazine and Auto Race Program.” This particular “NASCAR Official Program,” as it is entitled on its cover, was based upon a template provided by NASCAR Publications to individual race promoters and carries information up to and including the “Firecracker 400” run on 4 July 1964.
- The survey was conducted using materials made available by Ms. Suzanne Wise, the librarian overseeing the Stock Car Racing Collection at the Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Caro-lina. The materials used for the survey were: Southern Motorsports Journal and Southern Motoracing.
- Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, Year Book of Automobile Sport/Annuaire du Sport Automobile, London: Patrick Stephens, 1970, pp. 15, 17, 19. Given that the “Yellow Books” – as the FIA Year Books are known, did not begin to be published until 1968, I am using the assumption that most definitions and basic parameters did not change very much from the 1964 season until the 1970 edition, which is the earliest one I have been able to obtain.
- Peter Garnier, 16 on the Grid: The Anatomy of a Grand Prix, London: Cassell & Company, 1964, pp. 136-137.
- “…by ‘commercial fuel’ to be used in motor car speed events, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile intends to designate a ‘motor’ fuel produced by an Oil Company and currently distributed at road refueling stations throughout one same country. May therefore be used, in all speed races for which the use of commercial fuel is compulsory, all commercial fuels of the country in the event takes place, and no other additive except that of a lubricant of current sale which cannot the octane number, or water. May also be used, under the same conditions, any commercial fuel(s) which – in France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy – is (are) of the highest octane rating, according to the Research Method.” F.I.A., Year Book, p. 97.