Thursday, January 19, 2017

"First Indianapolis 500 Winner" Ray Harroun Dies - January 19, 1968

January 12, 1879 - January 19, 1968
Ray Harroun
(Photo; findagrave.com)
Born in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
 He was a racecar driver and pioneering constructor most famous for winning the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

He participated in the original setting of the record from Chicago to New York in 1903, and the re-taking of that record in 1904. He and four others drove in shifts non-stop to establish the record of 76 hours at the end of September, 1903.

Nicknamed the "Little Professor" for his pioneering work of creating the Marmon Wasp, which was a revolutionary design being the first open-wheel single-seater racecar.

Harroun's original Marmon "Wasp".
(Photo; "MarmonWasp" by The359 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons)
On display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

Harroun is best known for winning the first running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30, 1911. He is known to have started at least 60 AAA-sanctioned races, during the years 1905–1911. From 1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team operated by Indianapolis-based auto maker, Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race result shows him driving a Buick. Also, statistics from 1905 through 1908 show him driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun Sneezer."

Harroun's race wins included: a 1910 100-mile race at the Atlanta Motordrome; the 1910 200-mile Wheeler-Schebler Trophy Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the May 1910, 50-mile Remy Grand Brassard Race also at IMS; three races at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby; three races at the original Latonia Race Track; and races at tracks in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Long Island and Memphis. He is best known for winning the first Indianapolis 500, driving a Marmon.

Harroun won a total of 8 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the second-most of any driver in the 100-year history of the track. The only driver with more victories at IMS is Johnny Aitken, with 15 wins in 1909–1916.

During the years that Harroun was driving, the AAA designated some races each year as "championship" events. However, there was no actual year-long championship, and no points were awarded. In 1927, points were assigned retroactively, and champions were designated for those years. At that time, Harroun was designated the champion for the 1910 season.

At the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, his use of what would now be called a rear-view mirror, rather than the riding mechanic specified in the rules, created controversy, but was ultimately allowed. Harroun went on to win at an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour. Harroun, who came out of retirement to race in the first 500, would not race after 1911.

After retiring from racing, Harroun continued engineering work for Marmon, and later for the Maxwell racing team. In 1917, Harroun started his own automobile company in Wayne, Michigan, where a street is now named for him. In 1927 he joined Lincoln Products. He continued to work in the automotive industry until his retirement at age 79.

Ray Harroun died on January 19, 1968 in Anderson, Indiana at the age of 89. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000.

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