Thursday, May 3, 2018

Johnny Aitken Born In Indianapolis, Indiana - May 3, 1885

May 3, 1885 – October 15, 1918
Johnny Aitken
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
Aitken competed in the Indianapolis 500 three times. He led the first lap of the first race in 1911. He also captured the pole position in 1916, but ended up in 15th place that year. In the 1915 Indianapolis 500, Aitken drove relief for two drivers, Gil Anderson and Earl Cooper (who ultimately finished 3rd and 4th). While Aitken never won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver, he did serve as team manager for two winning efforts, Joe Dawson’s victory in 1912, and Jules Goux’s win in 1913.

Aitken’s activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not limited to the Indianapolis 500. He won a total of 15 races at IMS, the most of any driver in the 100-year history of the track. Aitken was the only driver to win races in each of the four automobile race weekends that were held during the track’s “pre-500” years of 1909-1910. He also won all three races which comprised the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, in September 1916. Aitken started a total of 41 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is, the most of any driver in the track’s history. The driver with the second-greatest number of starts at IMS is A. J. Foyt, who started a total of 36 races from 1958 to 1994.

Outside of his participation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Aitken is known to have started at least 33 AAA-sanctioned races, from 1907 to 1916, and to have driven relief in at least three others. He won seven of these races, including the 1916 1st International Sweepstakes 300 mile race at the Cincinnati Motor Speedway, the 1916 Astor Cup 250 mile race at Sheepshead Bay Speedway, and the 1916 Harkness Trophy 100 mile race at Sheepshead Bay.

Aitken is credited as co-winner of the American Grand Prize race, which was held at the Santa Monica Road Race Course on Nov 18, 1916. He started the race, but was the first driver to drop out, when his car suffered a broken piston after one lap. On Lap 21, he took over the car which had started the race being driven by Howdy Wilcox. Aitken drove that car for the remainder of the race, completing 28 of the total 48 laps, finishing first. Aitken, therefore, was credited with both first and last place.

Aitken died on October 15, 1918 of bronchopneumonia from the Influenza pandemic of 1918.

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