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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VOLUME 58 ISSUE 49 DECEMBER 7, 2021 P101 attended the race and found the track condition too bad to race, if he crashed in practice, or simply never showed up. Let's just say the local reporting of the race left much to the imagination. Baker broke Huyck's five-mile record nevertheless on the Indy Mile, racing his Indian to a time of five minutes, 12 and two-fifths seconds. In other words, Baker averaged just under 60 miles per hour on the soft dirt of the horse- racing track. For some reason the news- papers of the day kept citing a "Sane Fourth of July Celebra- tion." Apparently, many people were being injured by fireworks during the era and there was a national ad campaign promoting a sane celebration of the national holiday. The campaign was not a success. I guess Americans tend to go a little insane when it comes to the nation's birthday. When the President's mo- torcade arrived at the Indiana State Fairground, home of the Indy Mile, hot-air balloons were launched, and a band struck up "Hail to the Chief." The Prez was now suitably prepared for the mo- torcycle race and train collision. Never let it be said that Hoosiers don't know how to put on a good show. Maybe it's just a jaded view of a veteran racing journal- ist, but I would lay odds that the President's Race was fixed. Local hero Baker and Sink traded the lead back and forth several times during the five-mile match race. On the final lap, it was Sink who led, but Baker made a miraculous last-second pass just before the finish line to win by a foot, much to the delight of the crowd and Mr. President. The President called Baker and Sink to his box and shook the grimy hands of the racers. When shaking Baker's hand Taft said, "I congratulate you, Mr. Baker. I have never seen such a race before. I don't know whether you hold your breath when you go around those corners, but I do." Okay, maybe Taft's speech writer had the Fourth of July off. Then everyone settled back to watch the head-on train crash. One intrepid railroad man earned his claim to fame that day by being the last to jump off one of the trains before they collided. President Taft was said to have a look of seriousness at the mo- ment of impact of the two 50-ton locomotives. The ever-observant Indianapo- lis newspaper reporters didn't pull any punches. One daily rag back- hand complemented Taft say- ing, "The President handled the heat of the day surprisingly well," stating how "unusual for a man as fat as the President to hold up so well in such conditions." They might have chosen an adjective a tad more delicately, perhaps something like rotund, plump or something, but no... these were straightforward Midwestern reporters after all, and President Taft was fat, plain and simple. If you think a president doing something as down to earth as coming to a motorcycle race is guaranteed to win the admiration of "the folks," it didn't quite work out that way for Taft. A little over a year later he lost his re-election bid, finishing third behind Wood- row Wilson and former backer Teddy Roosevelt. The good news is that without the stress of the presidency good old Taft lost 80 pounds and went on to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. So, the next time there is the Indy Mile, you'll have the chance to watch the race from the same vantage point an American presi- dent did 97 years ago, something that's never happened before or since. CN This Archives edition is reprinted from the April 30, 2008, issue of Cycle News. CN has hundreds of past Archives editions in our files, too many destined to be archives themselves. So, to prevent that from happening, in the future, we will be revisiting past Archives articles while still planning to keep fresh ones coming down the road. -Editor Attends The Indy Mile Subscribe to nearly 50 years of Cycle News Archive issues:

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