Cycle News

Cycle News 2021 Issue 49 December 7

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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M any people remember the classic Indy Mile that used to be a doubleheader held dur- ing the ever-popular Indiana State Fair. Perhaps one of the most memorable races in Grand National history took place there in 1975, when Kenny Roberts famously won the Indy Mile Na- tional aboard a TZ750-powered dirt track machine, which was promptly banned by the AMA. Less known, but significant nevertheless, is the fact that the Indy Mile holds the distinction of hosting the only major motorcycle race in this country attended by a sitting American president. On July 4, 1911, President Wil- liam Howard Taft attended a mo- torcycle race at the Indy Mile as part of a whirlwind Independence Day tour of Indiana's capital city. The big race of the day was "The President's Race," a special match race between local hero Erwin Baker (later better known as "Cannonball Baker") riding an Indian, and John Sink who was mounted on a Merkel. Baker was best known for winning the first race held at the Indianapolis Mo- tor Speedway two years earlier, but he had not yet earned his fame for his record-setting coast- to-coast runs. A crowd of 25,000 attended the race despite record heat. It was 103 degrees on Fourth of July, the second hottest day on record in Indianapolis to that point. Taft, who sat in a special Presidential Box along with local dignitaries, including former U.S. Vice President and Indianapolis resident Charles Fairbanks, wore a suit in the oppressive heat. His only concession to the muggy conditions was to remove his top hat while attempting to cool himself with a large fan. Indianapolis came out in force to greet the president. The lo- cal papers said that the entire Indianapolis Police force was on duty. It was the city's first visit by a U.S. President in four years, and Taft spent the day observing a parade, touring the city's parks by automobile, attending the motor- cycle race (which also featured a staged head-on collision by two trains on a track set up in the in- field), and giving a speech urging the approval of a reciprocity trade bill with Canada. The motorcycle races at the fairgrounds were held by the Indianapolis Motor- cycle Club. A total of 20 riders entered the day's events. Baker was the local favorite, but the big star attraction of the event was to be Chicagoan Freddie Huyck, the Merkel factory rider, who set the track record on the Indy Mile a few years earlier. He was advertised in the pre-race build-up, but for some reason Huyck's name never showed up in the results. It's not clear if he CN III ARCHIVES P100 President Taft Attends BY LARRY LAWRENCE President William Howard Taft and former chief justice of the U.S. attended the Indy Mile on July 4, 1911. He's the only sitting president to attend a major motorcycle race.

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