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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500


The New York Times
April 4, 1920

Great Contest Promised In Indianapolis 500-Mile Auto Race.

INDIANAPOLIS, April 3.-Tommy Milton, winner of the rejuvenated Elgin road race in 1919 and holder of a majority of world's racing records, including all distances from ten to 300 miles, is the tenth gasoline gladiator to enter the lists for the eighth international 500-mile sweepstakes on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 31.  Entries to date are as follows:

Cliff Durant, Chevrolet; Monroe team, Louis Chevrolet, captain, and two drivers yet unnamed; Frontenac team, three drivers yet unnamed; Ray Howard, Peugeot; Jimmy Murphy and Tommy Milton, Duesenberg.

Milton will team with Jimmy Murphy, his protegĂ©, who captured the inaugural race on the Los Angeles speedway recently, as member of the Duesenberg combination that is being assembled for the big contest.  Last year Milton enjoyed the most profitable season in his racing career, capturing three major events, the opening contest at Uniontown, the Independence Derby on the same course, and the road racing revival at Elgin.  In the final event of the year at Uniontown, he had a fourth victory within his grasp when his car caught fire and wound up its career in a blazing mass of flames in front of the grand stand.

Milton's handling of his mount on this occasion was one of the most masterly exhibitions in racing history.  Instead of driving straight ahead, in which event the flames from the burning engine would have incinerated him where he sat, he skidded his car sidewise, fanning the flames away from him and so brought the car to a stop with only a few minor burns to show.

The speed creations to be piloted by Milton and Murphy are the latest examples of American racing car construction, incorporating eight cylinder engines with the cylinders all in line.  These mounts were put through their paces at the Sheepshead Bay track as early as last Fall and in their initial tryouts showed a speed well over 100 miles an hour.  Since then they have been greatly improved, and are expected to run within a few seconds as fast as the cars of last year, which were powered with engines of almost twice their size.

The seat sale for the 500-mile race is four times greater than it was at this time last year, states T. E. Myers, speedway general manager.  An unusual number of long-distance reservations are being made, Myers says, and indications are that this year's contest will see the greatest and most cosmopolitan crowd in speedway history, promising to exceed in this respect even the gathering of 1914, which drew more than 100,000 people.

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