30 Amazing Vintage Photos of American Car Races from the Late 19th to Early 20th Centuries

Auto racing (also known as car racing, motor racing,[1] or automobile racing) is a motorsport involving the racing of automobiles for competition.

Auto racing has existed since the invention of the automobile. Races of various sorts were organised, with the first recorded as early as 1867. Many of the earliest events were effectively reliability trials, aimed at proving these new machines were a practical mode of transport, but soon became an important way for automobile makers to demonstrate their machines. By the 1930s, specialist racing cars had developed.

There are now numerous different categories, each with different rules and regulations.

The first prearranged match race of two self-powered road vehicles over a prescribed route occurred at 4:30 A.M. on August 30, 1867, between Ashton-under-Lyne and Old Trafford, a distance of eight miles. It was won by the carriage of Isaac Watt Boulton.

Internal combustion auto racing events began soon after the construction of the first successful gasoline-fueled automobiles. The first organized contest was on April 28, 1887, by the chief editor of Paris publication Le Vélocipède, Monsieur Fossier. It ran 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne.

On July 22,[4] 1894, the Parisian magazine Le Petit Journal organized what is considered to be the world’s first motoring competition, from Paris to Rouen. One hundred and two competitors paid a 10-franc entrance fee.

The first American automobile race is generally held to be the Thanksgiving Day Chicago Times-Herald race of November 28, 1895. Press coverage of the event first aroused significant American interest in the automobile.

The Targa Florio was an open road endurance automobile race held in the mountains of Sicily near the island’s capital of Palermo. Founded in 1906, it was the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973.

With auto construction and racing dominated by France, the French automobile club ACF staged a number of major international races, usually from or to Paris, connecting with another major city, in France or elsewhere in Europe.

Aspendale Racecourse, in Australia, was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, opening in January 1906. The pear shaped track was close to a mile in length, with slightly banked curves and a gravel surface of crushed cement.

Brooklands, in Surrey, was the first purpose-built ‘banked’ motor racing venue, opening in June 1907. It featured a 4.43 km (2.75 mi) concrete track with high-speed banked corners.

One of the oldest existing purpose-built automobile racing circuits in the United States, still in use, is the 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. It is the largest capacity sports venue of any variety worldwide, with a top capacity of some 257,000+ seated spectators.

NASCAR was founded by Bill France, Sr. on February 21, 1948, with the help of several other drivers of the time. The first NASCAR “Strictly Stock” race ever was held on June 19, 1949, at Daytona Beach, Florida.

From 1962, sports cars temporarily took a back seat to GT cars, with the FIA replacing the World Championship for Sports Cars with the International Championship for GT Manufacturers.

From 1962 through 2003, NASCAR’s premier series was called the Winston Cup Series, sponsored by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company cigarette brand Winston. The changes that resulted from RJR’s involvement, as well as the reduction of the schedule from 56 to 34 races a year, established 1972 as the beginning of NASCAR’s “modern era”.

The IMSA GT Series evolved into the American Le Mans Series, which ran its first season in 1998. The European races eventually became the closely related Le Mans Series, both of which mix prototypes and GTs.

Turismo Carretera (Road racing, lit., Road Touring) is a popular touring car racing series in Argentina, and one of the oldest car racing series still active in the world. The first TC competition took place in 1931 with 12 races, each in a different province. Future Formula One star Juan Manuel Fangio (Chevrolet) won the 1940 and 1941 editions of the TC. It was during this time that the series’ Chevrolet-Ford rivalry began, with Ford acquiring most of its historical victories. (Wikipedia)

The first U.S. oval track events took place in early September 1896 at Narragansett Park, Rhode Island
The first U.S. oval track events took place in early September 1896 at Narragansett Park, Rhode Island
The Sioux City Speedway race, July 4, 1914
The start of the Elgin National Road Races on Aug. 23, 1919. The annual dirt-track races went from 1910 to 1920, except for a three year break during World War I. Tommy Milton was the winner in 1919, racing 301 miles in a Duesenberg and winning the Elgin National Watch Company trophy.
Twin City Motor Speedway, 1916
Twin City Motor Speedway, 1915
Vanderbilt race, 1910
Waiting for start, Ascot Park, 1908
1908 Long Island Motor Parkway Sweepstakes
1914 American Grand Prize
1914 American Grand Prize
Agricultural Park race, 1903
Ascot Park, 1917
Auto races, Abilene, Kansas, ca. 1910s
Auto races, Minneapolis, Kansas, August 1917
Car racing at the old wooden race track in north Omaha, 1915
Fairgrounds Speedway, Nashville, Tennessee, 1911
First auto race at Orange County Fair, Middletown, NY, 1915
George Hill and his mechanician in car, a Stutz, on the new Tacoma Speedway track, 1915
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, September 9, 1916
Metropolitan trophy race, Sheepshead Bay, May 13, 1916
Vanderbilt Cup races at Motor Parkway Sweepstakes, 1908
Narragansett Park Speedway in Providence, Rhode Island on a sunny fall afternoon, 1915
Racing at the Readville racetrack in Boston, Massachusetts, 1909
Racing came to Arizona early as evidenced in this cartoon from the November 2, 1908 edition of the Los Angeles Times
Sioux City Iowa racetrack, 1914
Sioux City Mini Indy, July 4, 1914
Golden Potlatch race, Tacoma, July 5, 1915
Earl Cooper approaches the checkered flag in his Stutz racing car at the Tacoma Speedway, July 4, 1915
The first auto race in Rush County, Kansas, 1911

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