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AAA Contest Board – to 1946 Part 3 of 3

AAA Contest Board - to 1946 Part 3 of 3

Comments from John Glenn Printz:…

"As the 1930s wore on, the stock block vehicles had less and less success. They were generally just too heavy, less maneuverable, and lacked the horsepower of the all-out racing vehicles. The highest positions gained by stock block powered machines at Indianapolis during the Junk era were: 1930 5th Duesenberg-Bill Cummings, 1931 5th Studebaker-Russell Snowberger, 1932 3rd Studebaker-Cliff Bergere, 1933 5th Buick-Hartwell Stubblefield, 1934 6th Buick-Al Miller, 1935 13th Buick-Cliff Bergere, 1936 9th Studebaker-Zeke Meyer, and 1937 10th Studebaker-Leo Tomei. It was the law of diminishing returns.

The great economic depression (1929-1940) had a very dismal effect on AAA National Championship racing whose real heyday was from 1916 to 1927. The number of annual Champ events continued to slide drastically from 24 in 1926 down to just 3 in 1933.

During the entire depression era (1929-1940) only two major automobile racing facilities were built in the entire U.S.
The first was the Oakland Speedway, located in California. Oakland was a one mile slightly banked oval built in 1931. It was a project formulated by Art Pillsbury, a former sidekick of John "Jack" Shillington Prince (1859-1927), the board track builder and guru.
At first Oakland was an AAA track and its first race was a 100 miler, run before 25,000 fans, on 18 Oct. 1931. The Pacific Coast ace Ernie Triplett (1906-1934) won this event in a Miller powered sprint car, averaging 75.37 mph.

Oakland however hosted only one AAA Championship race, a 150 miler staged on 13 Nov. 1932, won by Bill Cummings at an average speed of 90.45 mph. In March 1936 Oakland bolted from the AAA and became an "outlaw" track. Thereafter its activity was of only local interest, but because of its banking Oakland had been the fastest AAA one mile dirt oval in the country. Al Gordon held the AAA one lap record here, set on 12 Nov. 1933, of 33.86 seconds or 106.320 mph in a "Gilmore Special", another single seat Miller powered sprint car.

Miscellaneous 1946. Mr. Jim Thurman. I have no remembrance of any objections to the 1946 Fageol entry at Indianapolis, at least I don’t recall hearing or reading anything; so unfortunately I can’t help you here, either positively or negatively. To Mr. Capps and Mr. Ferner: I am just typing "on-line" my 1946 AAA season write-up, however I don’t deal with any of the 71 sprint car races which counted for the 1946 AAA Title, as I have no interest in them. To "Jimmyc". The new "two-man", unsupercharged cars up to 366 cubic inches, were eligible for all eight 1930 AAA Championship races, including the Langhorne 100 staged on 3 May 1930. Snowberger’s new two-man Studebaker ran in that event. In a sense then, this 1930 Langhorne race was the very first Championship event using the new junk formula. Thus this 1930 Langhorne 100 obviously was not just a 91 1/2 or 183 cubic inch "carry-over" event from the 1929 AAA season, or utilised a formula "left over" from the 1929 Championship season.

Originally only the "500" was going to use the new "junk" formula rules, as the U.S. racing fraternity was generally against the new regulations. I think Rickenbacker, as both Chairman of the AAA Contest Board and the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just pushed the new rules though over their objections. The race car owners did not want their single seat, blown, 91 1/2 cubic inch cars scraped because of all the expence and investment they had put into them and/or the added expence of building new unsupercharged, large displacement, "two-man" machines on top of all that.
The AAA compromised a bit in 1930, to placate the 91 1/2 cubic inch car owners, by allowing the single seat 91 1/2 cu. in. jobs to run in four of the 1930 Championship contests. At least this is what appears to me to be the case.

The exact rules governing the 1930 AAA Championship contests at Langhorne, Akron, Bridgeville, and Syracuse may have varied amongst themselves, but I have no exact details. Here again what we need is a complete set of 1929 and 1930 AAA Contest Board Bulletins to, perhaps, clear up the confusion here. Again, Mr. McMaken and myself thank everyone for their interest!

The second and more important track development project during the Depression was the construction in 1936 of the Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, NY. The layout was an artificial road circuit with a vast multitute of labyrinth like curves measuring in all 4 miles a lap. Art Pillsbury, again, was the main layout designer. The race format and/or the idea of it all was to introduce European Grand Prix racing into the States and have them run against the American speedway type Indy cars.
The track’s first contest (12 Oct. 1936), the George Vanderbilt Cup for 300 miles, was won by Tazio Nuvolari at a 65.998 mph average in an Alfa Romeo, 2nd was Jean Pierre Wimille (Bugatti). 3rd Antonio Brivio (Alfa Romeo) and 4th Raymond Sommer (Alfa Romeo).
Because its original four mile layout proved to have very unexpected low lap speeds and that all the American speedway cars were rather decisively outrun, the course was greatly altered for the staging of the 1937 George Vanderbilt Cup 300.
The raceway was now just 3.33 miles in length and had nine corners removed. This second and last George Vanderbilt Cup race was run on 5 July 1937 and was won by Bernd Rosemeyer (1909-1938) at 82.564 mph in an Auto-Union and Dick Seaman (Mercedes-Benz) was 2nd. American drivers Rex Mays and Joel Thorne finished 3rd and 6th respectively but both drove Alfa Romeos.

In the 1937 Vanderbilt contest the American entries were even more outclassed than they had been in 1936 and all astute observers like Frankie DelRoy, Louie Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Art Sparks, etc., suddenly knew that all American race car designs since 1929 had been in a state of acute obsolescence and no real technical or engineering advances had been made in them at all.
By March 1938 the Roosevelt Raceway management announced that the track was bankrupt and that was the end of this rather unexpected and unusual experiment. Rickenbacker’s "junk" two-man 366 cubic inch formula lasted, with variations, until late 1937. It was not strictly adhered to even in 1936 and 1937.
For instance, at the two George Vanderbilt Cup races of 1936 and 1937, the two-man car rule had to be waved because most foreign racing cars were single seaters. In 1937 the piston displacement limit at the Vanderbilt Cup was upped to almost 400 cubic inches because the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix cars were thought be have engines larger than the 366 cu. in. maximum limit, hitherto in force since 1930. Bill Cummings drove the first U.S. built car across the line in both of these 1930’s Vanderbilt Cup contests, placing 7th both times. His racer, in both instances, was owned by Mike Boyle and the vehicle was a Miller chassis powered by an Offenhauser engine as all altered and modified by mechanic, Cotton Henning.
Athough riding mechanics were still required at Indy in 1936 and 1937, the AAA totally banned their use in the 100 mile Championship dirt events run those two years, now maintaining that the danger for the mechanics was just too great to risk, on the treacherous dirt surfaced tracks. At Indianapolis in 1936, supercharging was allowed again for the first time since 1929, but was not at all practical because of the 1936 Indianapolis fuel limitation, of just 37 1/2 gallons. At the 1938 "500" riding mechanics were optional, but none of the 33 qualified cars used them.

For the upcoming 1938 AAA Championship season, the AAA adopted on 21 July 1937 the newly introduced International Grand Prix limits of 4 1/2 litres (274.59 cubic inches) unsupercharges and 3 litres (183.06 cu. ins.) supercharged and single seat cars were legal once again at Indy and in all the other AAA Championship contests.
Meanwhile the AAA National Championship Title itself was at its nadir during the four seasons of 1938 to 1941. The Indianapolis 500 was supplemented by less than an average of two races a year, all 100 milers. These were all run on one mile dirt horse racing ovals located at Milwaukee, Springfield, and Syracuse.
Because of the paucity of Championship events, Floyd Roberts in 1938 and Wilbur Shaw in 1939 were able to clinch the year’s AAA Driving Title by points earned (i.e. 1,000) at Indianapolis alone!

In reality, the AAA National Driving Title during the entire 1930’s and early 1940’s didn’t amount to much. The interested reader should not be misled however. There was plenty of automobile racing going on in the U.S. during the period 1930 to 1942 but it consisted of races for sprint cars, midgets, stock cars, and jalopies. Most of this activity ran on oval tracks smaller than a mile and at distances usually less than 100 miles, but the AAA Championship division itself was seemingly moribund during these years and was certainly languishing. Such was the immediate pre-World War II U.S. scene."

Posted by clamshack on 2014-11-20 00:11:32


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