Ray Harroun -First Indianapolis 500-Mile Race Winner
While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex was built in 1909, the first 500-mile race took place here on May 29, 1911. This annual race is traditionally held on the last weekend in May (Memorial Day).
Ray Harroun of Spartansburg, Pennsylvania won the inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile race in 6 hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds averaging 74.59 MPH. The Indianapolis 500 purse amounted to $27,550, of which Harroun earned $14,000.
A year before the race, he accepted a job in 1910 as an engineer for the Marmon Motor Car company. Though he had been building cars since 1905 at the age of 26.
Harroun designed the six-cylinder Marmon Wasp from stock Marmon engine components. Most cars during this time were only two-cylinder units. It was Mr. Ray Harroun's rear view mirror invention that allowed him to drive without a riding mechanic to watch for cars behind. He also created the Wasp to be streamlined, with only one seat.
The name of the winning car was the Marmon Wasp; Aptly named for its yellow and black exterior.
In 1961, 50 years after the Indy 500 debut, Harroun came out of retirement and drove an anniversary lap in the Wasp. The Wasp remains on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
He later died on January 19, 1968 in Anderson, Indiana.
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