Automobile Racing

AUTOMOBILE RACING. On 28 November 1895, the Chicago Times Herald sponsored the first automobile race held in the United States. Its purposes were to test American cars and promote the nascent automobile industry. The winning speed, in a Duryea car, was 7.5 miles per hour (mph). The first series of races on American soil was organized in 1900 by Gordon Bennett, the owner of the New York Herald, with national automobile clubs of entrant nations choosing teams of three cars to compete on open roads. With a variety of mechanical and design improvements, race speeds had increased significantly and fatal accidents were not uncommon, involving both drivers and spectators.

The years from 1904 to 1910 saw the first Vanderbilt Cup street races on Long Island, organized by William K. Vanderbilt and held despite both legal threats and public misgivings. The first race, held on 8 October 1904 and sanctioned by the new American Automobile Association, had eighteen entrants on a 30.24-mile course mostly through Nassau County in New York. In 1906 the race attracted 250,000 spectators, but because of safety concerns it was canceled in 1907, resuming the following year after the Long Island Motor Parkway was built.

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