MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Here’s an interesting tidbit that arrived in the “In Box” here at The Garage this week: Artist David Uhl, who has done A LOT of illustration work for Harley Davidson, has created a painting that will serve as one of the Centennial Indy 500 program covers. The 100th running of this all-American auto race is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2011.

Uhl based his painting on a photograph from the first Indy 500 in 1911. You’ll notice that car 32, which won the race, has only the driver on board. That is because car 32 had an innovation still in use on every car in the world today: a rear view mirror.

That mirror, which looks like a miniature wing on four struts—just in front driver Ray Harroun—took the place of what all the other race teams used to keep an eye on racers behind: a ride-along mechanic.

It is generally believed that the weight saved by Harroun riding alone is what allowed him to win the race. Harroun’s race car was dubbed the Marmon Wasp. I like the fact that Uhl’s illustration includes small flames in the exhaust ports of Harroun’s number 32. Speaking of numbers, the Wasp averaged a speed of 74.6 mph in that first Indy 500.

Compare Harroun’s car to the 1999 Indy 500 winner — the year I was able to cover the race for WCCO-TV.

You’ll see quite a bit of race car evolution, but rear view mirrors are still in use. This photo is from the Indianapolis News, May 31ST of ’99. We were covering a Minnesota driver piloting a Target-sponsored race car.

I got a T-shirt that day 12 years ago, and here is a picture of it.

I have never worn it because the trip to Indy is such a special memory. I am going to frame the shirt and hang it in my garage some day.

I’ll bet some people who attend this year’s race will bring home a program with the David Uhl image and end up framing that some day in the future.

Comments (5)
  1. Jim says:

    My friend’s grandfather, Ray Patschke, ws Harroun’s co-drive. He drove the first 35 miles and got him the lead. Harroun got all the accolades.

  2. Bob Moffitt says:

    I have a relative who was one of those ride-along mechanics in the Indy 500.

    I grew up in Indy. The 500 is part of life there.

  3. brillera says:

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    brillera: Indianapolis painters