Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tribute to a Racer

1987 Tribute to a Racer
Ray Harroun's place in history was sealed when the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring the famous racing champion. Called "Racing Car 1911," the stamp depicted Harroun and the Marmon Wasp which he drove to victory in the first Indy 500. Harroun, an engineer, had built the car himself and was the only driver on the Indianapolis track without a riding mechanic. The mechanics usually accompanied the driver in order to warn him of the other cars in the race, but Harroun went the race alone after he rigged up a device that allowed him to see the cars behind him--the first rearview mirror. The race took over six hours to complete, with Harroun coming from 28th place to finish first. He died in 1968 at the age of 89.
1725 Birth of a Steam Pioneer
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, the French engineer who designed and built the world's first automobile, was born in Austrian Lorraine on this day. Cugnot arrived in Paris after the Seven Years War with the hope of tinkering with several inventions he had conceived during the war, including a steam-driven vehicle. After six years, Cugnot succeeded in building two steam-propelled tractors--which were actually huge and heavy tricycles. Although they may not have had power steering or cruise control, these massive tricycles are considered the world's first automobiles.
1936 A Brush with Fate
Bill Schindler, a race-car driver, met with misfortune on this day, crashing during a sprint race in Mineola, New York. Three days after the accident, Schindler's left leg had to be amputated. However, this loss did not prevent him from continuing his career.


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