Feb 05 2011

Rare Images Series #2: Vanderbilt Cup Race Driver Joe Tracy

Joe Tracy (1873-1959) was the only driver to participate in the first five races associated with the Vanderbilt Cup Races (1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race, the 1905 American Elimination Race, the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race, the 1906 American Elimination Race, and the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race). As part of the Rare Images series, check out these photos of pioneering driver and engineer:


On Saturday, October 3, 1903 Tracy competed at the Empire City Track Races in Yonkers, New York in a 24 HP Georges Richard Brasier. The race was described in the October 7, 1903 issue of The Horseless Age:

In the 5 mile race for cars under 1,200 pounds, for a $100 and $50 silver trophy, there were three starters: F.A. La Roche, 12 horse power La Roche; Joseph Tracy, 24 horse power Georges Richard-Brasier; and I.D. Plank, 6 1/2 horse power Cadillac. Tracy led from the first and broke all records for this class up to the 5 miles.

As was perhaps to be expected on account of its greater superior horse power, Tracy's machine was very much faster than the others and he won from La Roche by 1 1/8 miles.

The radiator on this machine was provided with a sort of chimney, from which steam issued as though the car was a steamer.




Tracy's best results were third place in the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race and first place in the 1906 American Elimination Race. In all his five races associated with the Vanderbilt Cup Races, Al Poole drove along side Tracy as his mechanician.


In June 1946, the Veteran Motor Car Club of America sponsored its 50th Anniversary Jubilee featuring a parade of 75 vintage cars and nine races at the Mineola Fairgrounds on Long Island. The most famous car at the 1946 Jubilee was the Old 16 Locomobile, winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. The racer was owned by the prominent artist Peter Helck. At the Jubliee, the car was driven by 73-year old veteran Joe Tracy with 15-year old Jerry Helck, Peter's son, as his mechanician. Courtesy of Walter McCarthy and the Long Island Old Car Club, the Jubilee's highlights were captured in this 4-minute film:



In the 1950s, Joe Tracy worked part-time at Henry Austin Clark Jr.'s Long Island Automotive Museum in Southampton, New York.


Joe Tracy documented his racing and engineering career in these 1946 letters. Among his listed engineering accomplishments were:

1902- Obtained a patent on an automatic igniter for automobile engines

1910- Invented, manufactured and sold fan and reaction dynanometers for testing engines

1926- Invented a fluid dynanometer

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

New Series- Rare Images: Vanderbilt Cup Race Drivers and Mechanicians

Index: Joe Tracy


Feb 08 2011 Earl Gandel 10:29 PM

In Joel Finn’s coffee-table book about Bridgehampton racing, from 1910 or so on through the track up to 1970, there’s a picture of Joe Tracy driving #16 in an early old car commemoration at the 1952 street race, with Peter Helck and his son at his side.  He wasn’t racing then, but still able to drive the old car.

Feb 11 2011 Howard Kroplick 8:31 PM

Thanks Earl, the photo from Joel’s wonderful book is above.


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