Found an old copy of Captain Eddie's autobiography "Rickenbacker" (fourth edition, copyright date 1967) in a used book store a while ago, and I finally got around to reading it. Very interesting guy. I'm going to write a book report as soon as I find the time.
I thought this group might be interested in hearing about Eddie's account of the 1916 Harvest Auto Classic at Indy, the last non-500 race run there prior to the establishment of the Brickyard race. I knew that Johnny Aitken won this race but before I read this book that was all I ever knew about it. But Rickenbacker nearly won the race and he gives a good account of it.
The Harvest Classic was a 40-lap race run on Labor Day, September 9, 1916. Eddie was driving one of the Maxwells that he had bought when the factory team shut down, while Johnny was driving a factory Peugot. Johnny's car was 10 MPH faster on the straights and Eddie was trying to keep up by taking the turns harder. Apparently they ran close until Aitken had to pit for tires. With 10 laps to go Rickenbacker was leading by a half-mile (about 20 seconds at those speeds), and the pace was well ahead of the track record for that length. But with a few laps to go, Rick's right rear wheel broke a spoke. The additional stress caused other spokes to start breaking, but Rickenbacker kept going and holding off Aitken who apparently had closed up the gap (this part isn't clear) and was pointing at the broken wheel, trying to get Rick's attention, but of course Eddie already knew about it.
Going into turn 4 on the last lap, the wheel finally collapsed and the car spun. Rickenbacker kept it off the wall, and he said he was amazed to find when the car stopped that he was on the front stretch with the car pointed in the right direction. He started limping it towards the finish line... then it occurred to him that Aitken hadn't passed him. Then, finally, here came Aitken -- with his front wheels pointed askew due to a broken steering arm. Aitken was limping but Rickenbacker was limping worse, and as they went along in what must have been a comical slow-motion drag race down the front stretch, Aitken passed and took the checkered flag at 25 MPH.
Cautionary note: I don't know how true this account is. I've found several obvious factual errors in some of Rickenbacker's rememberances in other parts of the book. Nonetheless, if it went anything like Rickenbacker tells it, it must have been one heck of a race, and I enjoyed getting the insight into one of the least-well-known events ever held at Indy.
[This message has been edited by cornutt (edited 04-13-2001).]