Soon after automobiles were invented, races were conducted to test their speed and endurance. They publicized the make, provided a means of experimenting with innovations and attracted paying spectators. The Chicago Motor Club had been one of the sponsors of a disappointing road race at Crown Point, Indiana, in 1909. An Elgin auto enthusiast, Frank B. “Tootie” Wood, invited the club to consider a better alternative he found near Elgin. Using what are now Larkin Avenue, McLean Boulevard, Highland Avenue, and Coombs Road, the proposed circuit was nearly eight and one-half miles long with no steep hills, railroad crossings or towns to be passed through. It provided straightaways, where cars could make top speed, and sharp turns that required driving skills. Club officials were impressed with the speed potential after a tour and gave their approval.
Local residents incorporated the Elgin Automobile Road Race Association in the spring of 1910 and raised capital through the sale of stock. Additional funds were to be obtained from ticket sales. The money was used to purchase frontage rights from the farmers, who generally were not enthused by the project; grade, widen, and oil the road bed; pay the National Guardsmen and police for crowd control; and provide for cash prizes, liability insurance and extensive advertising. The Elgin National Watch Company donated a big trophy for the main event. It stood forty inches tall, contained forty pounds of silver, and cost upwards of four thousand dollars.
Automobile manufacturers quickly agreed to send their cars and such famed drivers as Barney Oldfield, Tommy Milton, Al Livingston and Ray Harroun. The makes entered included the National, Benz, Simplex, Marmon, Jackson and Abbott-Detroit.
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