American Sports Revisionism: Football Champions & CHampion Drivers

In 1905, Caspar Whitney, a co-founder of Outing magazine and one of the creators of collegiate football’s All-American Team, named Yale as the season’s “national champion” in college football. Four years previously, The (New York) Sun had named Harvard as the 1901 collegiate football champions. Although the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was established in 1906, it first named national champions only in 1921, starting with track and field. Despite naming national champions in literally dozens of intercollegiate sports since then, the NCAA has not and still does not name a national champion in what is now the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I or Division I-A Football.

This, of course, has not stopped those in the sports world from naming national champions in collegiate football. Beginning with The Sun and Caspar Whitney at the turn of the 20th Century, roughly three dozen systems have endeavored to select the national champion in collegiate football. Several of these have used statistical data to retroactively select national champions all the way back to the very first season for collegiate football in the United States, 1869. In 1926, professor Frank Dickinson, of the economics department at the University of Illinois, created what seems to be the first mathematical system to determine the national championship, with the nod going to Stanford. The system devised by Dickinson attracted the interest of the coach at Notre Dame, Knute Rockne, who persuade the professor to apply the model to several previous seasons, with the result of Notre Dame becoming the retroactive 1924 national champion and Dartmouth the 1925 champion.

According to the listing of national championships provided by the NCAA, there are five colleges with claims to the national title for the 1926 season. The first is Alabama, with nine systems ranking it as the national champion: the Berryman (QPRS) System, which began in 1990; the Billingsley Report, 1970; the College Football Researchers Association, 1982 and 2009; Helms Athletic Foundation, 1941; National Championship Foundation, 1980; and, the Poling System, 1935. The school with the second high number of rankings, four, as the national champion was Stanford: the Dickinson System, 1926; Helms Athletic Foundation, 1941; National Championship Foundation, 1980; and, the Sagarin Ratings, 1978. Navy was selected by two systems as the 1926 national champion: the Houlgate System, 1927; and, the Boand System or Azzi Ratem System, 1930. The other two schools with selections as the national champion for 1926 are: Lafayette, Parke Davis, 1933; Michigan, Sagarin, 1978.

While it quite probably simply a coincidence that after naming Stanford as the 1926 national champion that professor Dickinson then used his formula to create retroactive champions for the 1924 and 1925 systems, that the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA) seems to have done something similar in 1927 is quite striking. One could suggest, however, that it might not be quite as coincidental that several automotive journals and newspapers named champion drivers from 1909 to 1915.

While it is entirely possible that we may never know exactly what prompted members of the AAA Contest Board to create retroactive champion drivers in 1927, nor why they were apparently so readily accepted, the many efforts to create retroactive collegiate football national champions might suggest that this inclination in the sports world is not unheard of. If professor Dickinson’s model of 1926 was used to determine the possible national champions of 1924 and 1925, this was also the case with several of the other systems used to select a national championship team.

A year after the Dickinson System was introduced, 1927, Deke Houlgate, created another mathematical model to determine the national championship team, which was used to determine championship teams beginning with the 1885 season. First used in 1930, the system devised by William Boand, the Boand or Azzi Ratem System, created national champions for the 1919 to 1929 seasons. In 1933, Parke Davis, a former player for Princeton and coach at Wisconsin and several other colleges, created a listing of national champions that began with the 1869 season until the 1933 season. Another former player, Richard Poling, devised yet another rating system based upon a mathematical model beginning with the 1935 season, creating championship teams back to 1924.

I would suggest from this consideration of historical revisionism in American collegiate football that the revisionism undertaken by the AAA Contest Board and its national champions is not necessarily unique in the field of American sports history. It might also help in understanding why the retroactively-created champion drivers seems to have been accepted with few qualms, only the Chevrolet-Milton and Dingley-Robertson issues apparently drawing any attention over the decades.

Another Russ Catlin Conundrum

Another Russ Catlin Conundrum

 In the program for the 1952 edition of the annual Memorial Day 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Russ Catlin introduced a listing of American Automobile Association (AAA) national champions that began with the year 1902, the year that the AAA was formed in Chicago. The formation of the AAA also resulted in the formation of the organization’s Racing Committee, the outcome of one of the tenets of the program establishing the AAA. In the article, Catlin creates several “unofficial” national champions of the AAA, beginning in 1902 with Harry Harkness as the first such champion driver.

According to Catlin, there were the records of four race meets during the 1902 season that could be found in the archives of the Racing Committee: Cleveland, Providence, Grosse Pointe (Detroit), and Toledo. According to Catlin, Harry Harkness, using a Mercedes, edged out Charles Shanks, who drove a Winton, for the “unofficial AAA National Championship title.” Thus, Harry Harkness was crowned as the first AAA champion driver, fifty years after the fact.

However, in a worksheet that Catlin apparently used to calculate the 1902 championship standings, one can actually see Catlin’s work. This worksheet, part of the Russ Catlin/Bob Russo collection of the Racemaker Archives in Boston, tells a slightly different story. Here are the points standings for 1902 as found on the worksheet:

  1. Charles Shanks, 36 points
  2. Alex Winton, 32 points
  3. Harry Harkness, 26 points
  4. L.P. Mooers, 24 points
  5. Barney Oldfield, 20 points
  6. Percy Owen, 16 points
  7. W. Hawkins, 10 points
  8. Tom Cooper, 8 points
  9. H.F. Brown, 6 points
  10. Buckman, 6 points
  11. Carl Fisher, 6 points

Although I was quite tempted to attempt to see if I could replicate the scoring that Catlin came up with for his points for 1902, I thought it was simply a waste of time and effort, there really not being any rational basis for doing so. Not that it matters, of course, given that this is simply one of a number of champion drivers that created from whole cloth from his imagination, but whether Catlin’s math was highly suspect or simply that he wanted Harkness to be the champion driver regardless of the math, either way, there remains the fact that the AAA Racing Committee did not – nor anyone else for that matter – name a champion driver in 1902.

Catlin states that thanks to his success in match races, Barney Oldfield was recognized as the unofficial AAA national champion in 1903. With the exception of one year, however, the winner of the Vanderbilt Cup was also the winner of the AAA national championship, unofficially, of course.

Here is the listing of the Russ Catlin “Unofficial” champion drivers of the AAA from 1902 to 1908:

1902 – Harry Harkness

1903 – Barney Oldfield

1904 – George Heath

1905 – Victor Hemery

1906 – Joe Tracy

1907 – Eddie Bald

1908 – Louis Strang

It should be noted that Russ Catlin did not merely select a champion driver for each season, but did so on a points system. Really. For the 1903 through 1908 seasons, Catlin, with one exception, of course, does provide points for each season’s national championship.

 

1903

Catlin does not provide any information regarding the events that may have been included in his imaginary AAA national championship.

  1. Barney Oldfield, 276 points
  2. Henri Page, 128 points
  3. Harry Cunningham, 59 points
  4. Tom Cooper, 52 points
  5. Peter Schmidt*, 48 points
  6. Joe Tracy, 42 points
  7. Grosso, 42 points
  8. Earl Kiser, 38 points
  9. William Graham, 32 points
  10. LaRoche, 32 points

* It is actually Charles Schmidt, not Peter Schmidt, an error Catlin also repeats in 1904.

 

1904

Apparently, Catlin made some sort of adjustment in his calculations for the points for the Vanderbilt Cup, along with what might be considered as something of a presentist adjustment to the results, given that recognition was only given by those to those finishing the full distance of an event. But, then again, such trifles did not seem to ever bother Catlin and his oft-overworked imagination.

  1. George Heath, 768 points
  2. Albert Clement, 614.4 (612.8) points
  3. Herbert Lytle, 597.6 (588.2) points
  4. Peter Schmidt, 460.8 (467.6) points
  5. A.L. Campbell, 385 points
  6. Barney Oldfield, 308.6 (246.6) points
  7. Henri Tarte, 307.2 (306.4) points
  8. William Luttgen, 230.4 (229.8) points
  9. P. Satori, 200 points
  10. H.L. Bowden, 197.6 points
  11. Fernand Gabriel, 192 (191.5) points

It is unclear as whether the results of the Vanderbilt Cup itself or that its supposed large number of points tipped that balance, not that it really matters, it is simply make-believe. At any rate, the results of the Vanderbilt Cup and the final rankings by Catlin do raise an eyebrow.

 

1905

  1. Victory Hemery, 566 points
  2. George Heath, 452.8 points
  3. Joe Tracy, 396.2 points
  4. Vincenzo Lancia, 339.6 points
  5. Paul Satori, 311.4 points
  6. Ferenc Szisz, 283 points
  7. Barney Oldfield, 244.6 points
  8. Felix Nazzaro, 226.4 points
  9. Walter Christie, 222.2 points
  10. Fletcher, 200 points

 

1906

  1. Joe Tracy, 683. 1 points
  2. Herbert Le Blon, 623.7 points
  3. Vincenzo Lancia, 605.2 points
  4. Louis Wagner, 594 points
  5. Harding, 415.8 points
  6. Antoinne Duray*, 415.8 points
  7. Walter Christie, 414.4 points
  8. Albert Clement, 356.4 points
  9. Frank Lawwell, 297 points
  10. Camille Jenatzy, 297 points

Although Wagner won the Vanderbilt Cup, it was Joe Tracy that Catlin managed the points to become the AAA national champion for the season.

* This is actually Arthur Duray.

 

1907

  1. Eddie Bald, 1,003 points

That is it for 1907, Eddie Bald.

 

1908

  1. Louis Strang, 2,386.6 points
  2. Herbert Lytle, 1,716 points
  3. George Robertson, 1,215 points
  4. Emanuel Cedrino, 1,184 points
  5. Harry Michiner*, 887. 4 points
  6. Al Poole, 867 points
  7. Louis Wagner, 806 points
  8. Harry Bourque, 804 points
  9. Louis Bergdoll, 742.4 points
  10. Bob Burman, 738 points

Given that the Briarcliff event in April and the Savannah events in November were events sanctioned by the Automobile Club of America, whose split from the AAA was anything but pleasant that year, one could raise questions regarding the points supposedly earned by Strang and Wagner towards the AAA national championship. Naturally, it is doubtful that Catlin let such trivial matters intrude upon his fantasies. This would also appear to be another occasion for which the winner of the Vanderbilt Cup did not emerge as the unofficial AAA champion driver.

* This was actually Harry Michener.

This would all be little more than a chuckle and simply another example of more make-believe at work in the development of yet more American champion drivers who never were had it not been for someone along taking this fantasy of Catlin’s seriously. Despite comments to the contrary, I have been unable to discover any evidence that the Contest Board accepted these 1902 to 1908 champion drivers that Catlin created as being official. While Russ Catlin might have convinced the Contest Board to drop Bert Dingley and replace him with George Robertson as the 1909 champion driver, while once again stripping Gaston Chevrolet of his rightfully-earned 1920 championship, replacing him once again with Tommy Milton, it seems that it never placed these supposed champion drivers among its other false champion drivers.

Unfortunately, for reasons that simply defy any modicum of logic or sense of history, the United States Auto Club (USAC) incorporated these Catlin creations into their listing of the other champion drivers, real and imagined, of the American Automobile Association. As late as its 1982 yearbook, USAC began its listing of national champions with Harry Harkness. This is an excellent example as to why there might be good reason to approach much of the written history of American champion drivers with great caution.

American Champion Drivers

What if, I thought, one were to compose a listing of all the national champions of the American Automobile Association, real or imagined, along with those also named as champion drivers during those years? As it turned out, this is how the listing looked:

1902   Harry Harkness                               1903   Barney Oldfield

1904   George Heath                                   1905    Barney Oldfield, Victor Hemery

1906   Joe Tracy                                           1907    Eddie Bald

1908   Louis Strang                                    1909   Bert Dingley, George Robertson

1910    Ray Harroun, Ralph Mulford, Ralph De Palma

1911     Ralph De Palma, Harvey Herrick, Ralph Mulford

1912    Ralph DePalma, Teddy Tetzlaff, Bob Burman, Louis Disbrow, Joe Dawson

1913    Earl Cooper                                       1914    Ralph DePalma

1915    Earl Cooper, Eddie Rickenbacher, Gil Anderson, Dario Resta

1916    Dario Resta                                       1917    Earl Cooper

1918    Ralph Mulford                                  1919    Eddie Hearne, Howard Wilcox

1920   Gaston Chevrolet, Tommy Milton

1921    Tommy Milton                                1922    Jimmy Murphy

1923    Eddie Hearne                                   1924    Jimmy Murphy

1925    Peter DePaolo                                  1926    Harry Hartz

1927    Peter DePaolo                                  1928   Louis Meyer

1929    Louis Meyer                                      1930   Billy Arnold

1931    Louis Schneider                               1932    Bob Carey

1933    Louis Meyer                                     1934    Bill Cummings

1935    Kelly Petillo                                      1936    Mauri Rose

1937    Wilbur Shaw                                     1938   Floyd Roberts

1939    Wilbur Shaw                                     1940   Rex Mays

1941    Rex Mays                                           1942-45  No Racing: World War II

1946    Ted Horn                                           1947    Ted Horn

1948   Ted Horn                                           1949    Johnnie Parsons

1950    Henry Banks                                   1951    Tony Bettenhausen

1952    Chuck Stevenson                             1953    Sam Hanks

1954    Jimmy Bryan                                   1955    Bob Sweikert

For the period from 1902 to 1920, I then decided to assign the origin or source of each season’s champion driver. In those cases when there were several sources, I then selected the earliest publication date for a source naming that champion. That led to some interesting sources being listed, along with some instances where another source might have been more familiar to some. Here is that listing:

1902   Harry Harkness (Russ Catlin)

1903   Barney Oldfield (Russ Catlin)

1904   George Heath (Russ Catlin)

1905    Barney Oldfield (AAA)

1905    Victor Hemery (Russ Catlin)

1906   Joe Tracy (Russ Catlin)

1907    Eddie Bald (Russ Catlin)

1908   Louis Strang (Russ Catlin)

1909   Bert Dingley (Motor Age)

1909   George Robertson (Russ Catlin)

1910    Ray Harroun (Motor Age)

1910    Ralph Mulford (Motor Age)

1910    Ralph De Palma (The Horseless Age)

1911     Ralph De Palma (The Automobile)

1911     Harvey Herrick (Motor Age)

1911     Ralph Mulford (Arthur Means)

1912    Ralph DePalma (Motor Age)

1912    Teddy Tetzlaff (Los Angeles Times)

1912    Bob Burman (New York Times)

1912    Louis Disbrow (The Horseless Age)

1912    Joe Dawson (The Horseless Age)

1913    Earl Cooper (Motor Age)

1914    Ralph DePalma (The Horseless Age)

1915    Earl Cooper (The Horseless Age)

1915    Eddie Rickenbacher (The Horseless Age)

1915    Gil Anderson (Motor Age)

1915    Dario Resta (MoToR)

1916    Dario Resta (AAA)

1917    Earl Cooper (Arthur Means)

1918    Ralph Mulford (Arthur Means)

1919    Eddie Hearne (Motor Age)

1919    Howard Wilcox (Arthur Means)

1920   Gaston Chevrolet (AAA)

1920   Tommy Milton (Arthur Means)

I then added the other possible contemporary sources, whether a publication, an individual or an organization, that was in agreement with the cited source regarding that season’s champion driver. I also allowed for the naming of multiple champion drivers during a season by a source. In addition, I then added whether the American Automobile Association (AAA), the United States Auto Club (USAC), Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), or the INDYCAR organization recognized that champion driver. That resulted in this very interesting and even informative listing:

1902   Harry Harkness (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1903   Barney Oldfield (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1904   George Heath (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1905    Barney Oldfield (AAA)

1905    Victor Hemery (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1906   Joe Tracy (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1907    Eddie Bald (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1908   Louis Strang (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC)

1909   Bert Dingley (Motor Age) (Arthur Means, AAA)

1909   George Robertson (Russ Catlin) (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1910    Ray Harroun (Motor Age) (Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1910    Ralph Mulford (Motor Age) (New York Times)

1910    Ralph De Palma (The Horseless Age)

1911     Ralph De Palma (The Automobile)

1911     Harvey Herrick (Motor Age)

1911     Ralph Mulford (Arthur Means) (AAA, Russ Catlin)

1912    Ralph DePalma (Motor Age) (Chicago Tribune, The Horseless Age, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1912    Teddy Tetzlaff (Los Angeles Times)

1912    Bob Burman (New York Times)

1912    Louis Disbrow (The Horseless Age)

1912    Joe Dawson (The Horseless Age)

1913    Earl Cooper (Motor Age) (The Horseless Age, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1914    Ralph DePalma (The Horseless Age) Motor Age, MoToR, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1915    Earl Cooper (The Horseless Age) (Motor Age, MoToR, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1915    Eddie Rickenbacher (The Horseless Age) (Motor Age)

1915    Gil Anderson (Motor Age)

1915    Dario Resta (MoToR)

1916    Dario Resta (AAA)

1917    Earl Cooper (Arthur Means) (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1918    Ralph Mulford (Arthur Means) (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1919    Eddie Hearne (Motor Age)

1919    Howard Wilcox (Arthur Means) (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1920   Gaston Chevrolet (AAA)

1920   Tommy Milton (Arthur Means) (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

I then eliminated, except for those years that the origin for a champion driver was the AAA, the original source for a champion driver. Where there was not a supporting person or organization for that champion, I eliminated that driver. That led to this listing:

1902   Harry Harkness (AAA, USAC)

1903   Barney Oldfield (AAA, USAC)

1904   George Heath (AAA, USAC)

1905    Barney Oldfield (AAA)

1905    Victor Hemery (AAA, USAC)

1906   Joe Tracy (AAA, USAC)

1907    Eddie Bald (AAA, USAC)

1908   Louis Strang (AAA, USAC)

1909   Bert Dingley (Arthur Means, AAA)

1909   George Robertson (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1910    Ray Harroun (Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1911     Ralph Mulford (AAA, Russ Catlin)

1912    Ralph DePalma (Chicago Tribune, The Horseless Age, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1913    Earl Cooper (The Horseless Age, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1914    Ralph DePalma (Motor Age, MoToR, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1915    Earl Cooper (Motor Age, MoToR, Arthur Means, AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1915    Eddie Rickenbacher (Motor Age)

1916    Dario Resta (AAA)

1917    Earl Cooper (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1918    Ralph Mulford (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1919    Howard Wilcox (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1920   Gaston Chevrolet (AAA)

1920   Tommy Milton (AAA, Russ Catlin, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

I then compiled a listing of those champion drivers recognized in some form or fashion by the AAA, USAC, CART or INDYCAR. That resulted in this not entirely unfamiliar listing:

1902   Harry Harkness (AAA, USAC)

1903   Barney Oldfield (AAA, USAC)

1904   George Heath (AAA, USAC)

1905    Barney Oldfield (AAA)

1905    Victor Hemery (AAA, USAC)

1906   Joe Tracy (AAA, USAC)

1907    Eddie Bald (AAA, USAC)

1908   Louis Strang (AAA, USAC)

1909   Bert Dingley (AAA)

1909   George Robertson (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1910    Ray Harroun (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1911     Ralph Mulford (AAA)

1912    Ralph DePalma ( AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1913    Earl Cooper (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1914    Ralph DePalma (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1915    Earl Cooper (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1916    Dario Resta (AAA)

1917    Earl Cooper (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1918    Ralph Mulford (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1919    Howard Wilcox (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

1920   Gaston Chevrolet (AAA)

1920   Tommy Milton (AAA, USAC, CART, INDYCAR)

Nostalgia, History, and the Record Books

Nostalgia: wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. History: a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events. Record: a collection of related items of information (as in a database) treated as a unit. All these definitions come from the 11th Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2003).

If, as I pointed out, the Championnat du Monde des Conducteurs that the Commission Internationale Sportive of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile established in late 1949 and which took effect with the 1950 season was terminated (suppressed) with the end of the 1980 season, then so did its records. Or did they? As some argued, quite forcibly in several instances, when I noted the legal demise of the CSI world championship for drivers, it made no difference since no one (that being defined as the fans in this case) noticed and things continued very much they were. There were also those who pointed out that it really did not matter since the FIA scarcely blinked and continued to march forward with its version of history in 1981, which looked just like that from 1980.

All this ruckus took place nearly a quarter of a century after the FIA ditched the Old Championship – actually, championships since the Coupe Internationale des Constructeurs Formule 1 got tossed on the rubbish heap of history well as well — and replaced it with the New Championships, Championnat du Monde de Formule Un de la FIA, one for Conducteurs and another for Constructeurs. The 1981 edition of the FIA’s Annualiare du Sport Automobile (Year Book of Automobile Sport) makes it very clear that this is a new world championship.

Other than the FIA now owning the commercial rights to the New Championship, the Concorde Agreement, and the poachers now doubling as game wardens, one might be quite happy to readily agree with the notion that things rolled right along without missing a beat. This, naturally, makes explaining the rise of Bernie Ecclestone and the role of CVC Capital Partners a bit more challenging. All this, as they say, is a story best told elsewhere, one that is infinitely more interesting than anything that has taken place on the tracks in recent years.

It is the history or the records that concerns this musing, however.

I would suggest that history ended at the end of the 1980 for the Old Championship and began anew in 1981 for the New Championship. Were I to construct such a history, that is how I would do it. Of course, the conniption fits, bellyaching, and outrage of the F1 Faithful, the Enthusiasts, and the Fanboyz (and FanGirlz), along with the mutterings regarding such a thing by the F1 “racing historians,” would be deafening. But, so what? I would suggest that there is far more to being a “racing historian” than compiling box scores of races and being enthusiastic about the sport. That the usual concepts associated with History do not apply to racing is, of course, a given. One need not have a clue as to how to approach explaining or researching the past to be a “racing historian,” such things often spoiling the fun.

Well, that is a bit harsh, given that everyone needs to start somewhere and professional, academically-trained historians are scarcely loved within the greater domain of sports history, especially when they do not display the necessary reverence or requisite appreciation of the topic. While historians do engage in nitpicking, being a nitpicker does not necessarily make one an historian.

The FIA’s rather cavalier attitude towards history is shared by its fellow-travelers, the various journalists and the many others beholden to and gobsmacked by the sport. Many know no better and others could care less, the past being that murky, hazy area residing in the past, with nostalgia often being mistaken of history.

As in the case of the FIA, the INDYCAR organization has make something of complete mess out of the past. Given that the Indy Racing League was created on 11 March 1994 and held its first event in January 1996, it is difficult to fathom how its history goes back beyond that. In the beginning, both the United Sates Auto Club (USAC) and the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) dated their histories from 1956 and 1979, respectively. Both then reached back to include others who preceded them. The Champ Car World Series (CCWS) of 2004 to 2008 was something quite separate from CART, given that CART was legally dissolved. Then there was the American Automobile Association (AAA), whose Racing Board (1902-1909) and Contest Board (1909-1955) served as the national sanctioning body for the United States, taking the seat from the Automobile Club of American (ACA) on the CSI in 1928 as the representative of the United States on the commission.

More to follow on all this.

RIP CSI WCD 1950-1980 and long live FIA F1 WC 1981-present

A long, long time ago, I suggested in one of my columns in the now long-defunct AtlasF1 Journal that the Championnat du Monde des Conducteurs that dated from the 1950 season was terminated at the end of the 1980 season by the FIA. I also created a thread for this interesting decision on The Nostalgia Forum (http://forums.autosport.com/topic/64873-rip-csi-wcd-1950-1980-and-long-live-fia-f1-wc-1981-present/). Re-reading the discussion some years later, especially in light of my departure from AtlasF1/TNF (2004) and then my subsequent (still unexplained) banishment from TNF (2010), it is interesting to realize just how little such things mean to most racing fans/enthusiasts. It is as if the thinking is, I-Didn’t-Pay-It-Any-Notice-Therefore-It-Didn’t-Really-Happen.

Fortunately, Mattijs Diepraam picked up the ball and then provided one of the few actual, in-depth discussions on the FIASCO War to be found anywhere, in print or digitally (http://8w.forix.com/fiasco-introduction-timeline.html). It was the FIA-FOCA conflict, best described as the FIASCO War, that of course led the FISA/FIA to terminate the existing world championship in 1980. Although several of those on TNF certainly got the gist of the point that I was providing, muddled as it may have been in retrospect, there were others that seemed to not care, their worship of Formula One such that their vision was blinded by its radiance. At least with the articles on the FIASCO War the Diepraam wrote, someone can actually read them; my old RVM four-part series on the FIASCO War, “Back to the Future: The FIASCO War,” is hidden behind the paywall of Autosport.com and not readily accessible. Besides, I think that the 8W series is much better than my effort.

Of course, history tends to be seen in a completely different light to racing fans than it does to, well, historians. Although it a topic that seems to be teeming with no end of those supposedly interested in its history, I do not believe that I have come across a book or monograph or whatever that tackles the many questions that would seem to present themselves regarding the International Racing Formula No. 1. Although the whole topic of starting and prize monies began to change in the mid-Sixties, it is rarely explored in any depth or even discussed in detail. The same with the actual regulations, both technical and sporting, for the formula and the championship. Then, of course, there are the various  meetings and conferences and whatnot that took place relating to various issues over the years which are rarely mentioned, with only an occasional mention in a racing publication to whet the appetite. As hopelessly over-saturated as Formula One/Grand Prix is with those writing about its past, it seems to have attracted few actual historians, meaning that there is very much still to be written that probably will not see the light of day.

One of the aspects of the death of the Championnat du Monde des Conducteurs that bothered me then was why did I not realize it at the time? That Something Happened (apologies to Joe Heller) between 1980 and 1981 in the world championship was apparent, given the fate of the South African Grand Prix and the creation of the Concorde Agreement, but no one seemed to take the time to point it out back then. Or, if they did, it may have been in passing and, therefore, easy to miss.

Russ Catlin and Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style”

In his essay that appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1964, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter offered readers what could be described as a scholarly discussion on the role of conspiracy theories in American history, which coming in the aftermath of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963, garnered much attention within the academy and the public. Hofstadter defined the “paranoid style” as being characterized by the following: “a distorted way of viewing the world, characterized by delusional thinking, excessive suspicion, shoddy scholarship, exaggeration of facts, and unjustified leaps of imagination.”*

Using Hofstadter’s criteria, one might suggest that most of these characteristics could be applied to Russ Catlin’s work regarding the AAA Contest Board, chairmen William Schimpf and Richard Kennerdell, and the secrecy – the conspiracy – surrounding the AAA national championship from 1909 to  1920. It appears that Catlin was quite capable of spinning an elaborate tale of secrecy and suspicion to support his contentions that the championships were legitimate, but that their existence was withheld from the public for various reasons.

Catlin’s vendetta against Richard Kennerdell is especially vicious at times, his attacks being libelous on occasion. The story that Catlin weaves regarding the conspiracy to deprive Tommy Milton of the 1920 AAA national championship could be the poster child for shoddy scholarship – along with several other characteristics of Hofstadter’s “paranoid style.”

That the Catlin version of national championship history was finally challenged by John Glenn Printz and Ken McMaken with solid, well-documented research and should have been soundly refuted, but was not, is a tale that is still with us, decades later. That it was Printz and McMaken who were rebuked and chastised is remarkable. That it is Catlin’s version of history that is being embraced by INDYCAR is shameful and a disgrace.

* “Richard Hofstadter’s Brilliant Essay Misled Us About the Paranoid Style of American Politics,” Richard Brotherton, History News Network, 21 February 2016, accessed 26 February 2016, at http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161832.

The Catlin-Russo Files

Here is an overview of what material can be found in the Catlin-Russo Files that at part of the Racemaker Archives in Boston.

1909

  • There is nothing from the 1909 season in the material.

1910

  • Chapter 2, The Ray Harroun Year – 1910. Pages 67 to 115. Typewritten draft with a number of corrections made to the text.

1911

  • Championship 1911. A worksheet on a ledger page for the 1911 season. Apparently used by Arthur Means to develop the standings for the 1911 season.
  • Chapter 3, The First Ralph Mulford Year – 1911. Pages 117 – 182. Typewritten draft with a number of corrections and changes to the text.
  • Chapter 4, Oakland – Jacksonville – Indianapolis – Bakersfield – Elgin – Cincinnati – Philadelphia – Santa Monica – Savannah. A typewritten draft for the 1911 with a number of changes and corrections to the text. Pages 1 to 24.
  • Chapter 4, Oakland – Jacksonville – Indianapolis – Bakersfield – Elgin – Cincinnati – Philadelphia – Santa Monica – Savannah. A typewritten text of what appears to be a corrected copy of the previous draft. Pages 1 to 25.

1912

  • Championship 1912. A worksheet on ledger paper for the 1912 season, entitled, Championship Point Standing 1912. Apparently used by Arthur Means to develop the points standings for the 1912 season.
  • Several pages, a total of four, apparently from a chapter on the 1912 season: numbered, 198, 200, 235, 236.
  • Several pages, apparently from a chapter on the 1912 season, listing race results. The results are apparently enumerated by the ordinal sequence in the national championship from the beginning. Events 65 through 81 are provided.

1913

  • Championship Point Standing 1913. A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1913 season.
  • Page 90, 8 January 1913 issue of The Horseless Age. Material relates to 1912 season.
  • Pages 44 and 45, 9 July 1913 issue of The Horseless Age.

1914

  • Championship 1914. A worksheet on ledger paper entitled, Championship Point Standing 1914; apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1914 season.
  • Page 49, 8 July 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Page 474b, 13 September 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Page 607, 21 October 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Page 641, 28 October 1914 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Sioux City, Iowa, 300 Mile. Typewritten report on the Sioux City race.
  • Corona – 1914 and Galesburg – 1914. Handwritten reports on these races.
  • Need To Complete 1914. Typewritten page listing five events with references (Elgin, Kalamazoo, Galesburg, Minneapolis, and Corona) and Review of Year with references.
  • 16 handwritten pages of notes for events and other information relating to the 1914 season. These are apparently notes made by Arthur Means.

1915

  • Championship 1915. A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1915 season.
  • Page 46, 13 January 1915 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Page 593, 5 May 1915 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Pages 794 and 795, 6 May 1915 issue of The Automobile.
  • Page 43, 14 July 1915 issue of The Horseless Age.
  • Two pages of possible handwritten draft of article; mentions Ralph De Palma and Dario Resta. Apparently written by Russ Catlin.

1916

  • Page 29, 30 March 1916 issue of Motor Age.

1917

  • A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1917 season.
  • Part of a column, “Exhaust Fumes,” written by Sheppard Butler, taken from 23 May 1917 issue of the Chicago Tribune.

1918

  • A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the points standings for the 1918 season. Has note by Means dated 11/9/32.
  • Chapter X, Of Rickenbacker and War – 1918. Apparently a typewritten draft of the chapter covering the 1918 season by Russ Catlin. The chapter does not include the results of 1918 events. It is 15 pages in length.

1919

  • Championship 1919. A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1919 season.
  • Chapter XI, Indianapolis Makes a Champion, Howdy Wilcox – 1919. A typewritten draft of the chapter on the 1919 season. Pages numbered 1 through 15, but includes page 10A.

1920

  • A worksheet on ledger paper apparently used by Arthur Means to determine the point standings for the 1920 season. Has note attached written on personal notepad – From the desk of Russ Catlin – stating, “Haresnape’s worksheet for 1920.”
  • Page 446, from Fourth Quarter 1982 (Vol. XX, No. 4) issue of Automobile Quarterly: “Controversy Continues for AAA Contest Board.”
  • Pages 43-45 of January 1987 issue of IndyCar Racing, “Perspective: The 1920 Championship,” by Bob Russo.
  • The 1920 Championship Debate: Chevrolet or Milton. Typewritten article by Russo for Indy Car Magazine.
  • Pages From the Original Los Angeles Speedway (Beverly Hills) Race Programs for the Year 1920 owned by Ken M. McMaken. Copies of pages from programs for 28 February and 25 November events.
  • Chapter XII, The Official Mystery, Milton or Chevrolet – 1920. Typewritten copy of draft of chapter on the 1920 season. Pages 1 through 15.
  • The Unfortunate 1920 Championship Goof. Two copies of typewritten draft for article submitted to Speed Age magazine on the 1920 season. Includes a copy of the cover letter dated February 8, 1958, on Darlington International Raceway letterhead stationery. The article was not published.

1921

  • Chapter XIII, Tommy Milton, Champion, Competitor, Repeater – 1921. Typewritten copy of draft of chapter on the 1921 season. 16 pages.

1922

  • Chapter XIV, Jimmy Murphy Comes Into His Own – 1922. Typewritten copy of draft for chapter on the 1922 season. 16 pages.

1923

  • Chapter XV, A Veteran, Eddie Hearne, Triumphs – 1923. A typewritten copy of draft for chapter on the 1923 season. 15 pages.

1924

  • Chapter XVI, A Year of Tragedy – and Murphy, 1924! A typewritten copy of the draft for the chapter on the 1924 season. 16 pages.

1928

  • All Famous Race Drivers 1909 – 1928 Inclusive. Large printed sheet listing drivers and points placings, as developed by Arthur Means, from 1909 to 1928. A typewritten cover note by Catlin is included.

Miscellaneous

  • Typewritten cover note referring to memo inserted in the record by Arthur Means in 1926, correcting “erroneous results of the 1920 season.” States worksheet is attached. Memo and worksheet missing.
  • Typewritten cover note referring to telegram sent by W.C. Edenburn to Contest Board regarding 1920 point standings. Telegram not attached.
  • Typewritten cover note referring to worksheet of Means and Val Haresnape. Catlin mentions that George Robertson is listed as 1909 champion rather than Bert Dingley.
  • Typewritten cover note for 1911 worksheet and tissue copy of worksheet. Tissue copy or 1911 is attached.
  • “Unofficial” AAA Point Standings Compiled by Russ Catlin. Typewritten sheet with listing of 1902 to 1908 champions as developed by Catlin.
  • Peter the Great, King of Speed. Copy of article by C.G. Sinsabaugh appearing in January 1926 issue of American Motorist, pages 16 and 17.
  • Record of Champion Drivers 1909 – 1928 inclu. Page from Enclosure to 8 February 1929 edition of Contest Board AAA Bulletin, Vol. IV, No. 6.
  • 1916 Championship. Copy of folder. Points schedule with notation, “Taken from 1916 worn out folder.” Points schedule for 1916.
  • The Great Milton by Russ Catlin. Typewritten draft of article on Tommy Milton. 18 pages.
  • National Driving Champions. A page listing national champions. No reference as to origin. AAA champions begin with 1902.
  • Page from AAA Record Book – 1950. Subject of page is Henry Banks.
  • A.A.A. National Champions, 1909 – 1950 Inclusive. Page listing national champions, number as page 4.
  • Champion Race Car Drivers 1951. Cover page of Contest Board publication. Page 6 has listing, “A.A.A. National Champions 1909 – 1951 Inclusive.”
  • 1952 Contest Board Activity and Press Reference (Including International, National, Track Records). Cover page for Contest Board publication. Page six has listing of “A.A.A. National Champions,” the listing beginning with 1909.
  • 1946 AAA Eastern Big Car Races. Two page listing of 1946 Big Car events.
  • 1946 AAA National Drivers Point Standings, As of November 29 1946. Listing of 1946 points standings with provisions for changes in points as a result of decision of Contest Board during 13-14 meeting regarding the 2 September Atlanta race.
  • Final AAA National Drivers Points Standing, As of December 31, 1946. Two pages.
  • CART Media Guide Correction, Driver Listing. John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken, dated 11/10/92, pages 1 – 7.
  • CART Media Guide Correction, Race Listing. John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken, dated 11/10/92, pages 1 – 10.
  • Lowell Courier. Three pages from 1909 regarding the 1909 Lowell races.