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That little car in Racemaker’s logo has big history at the Indy 500

Racemaker’s iconic logo comes to life 100 years after its second-place finish in the 1916 Indianapolis 500.

Vintage Duesenberg
The Racemaker Duesenberg

This Duesenberg was the second of the two Duesenberg team cars that utilized the new 16-valve version of the 300-cid “Walking Beam” Duesenberg engines that appeared at the end of the 1915 season. Painted with the race number 16, Pete Henderson drove it to fifth in its first race at the Sheepshead Bay board speedway on October 9, 1915. In the same race, Eddie O’Donnell finished third in its sister car — the No. 9. The difference between the two cars is obvious from the position of each car’s exhaust pipe. Henderson’s 16-valve Duesenberg had a shorter pipe coming off the engine than the other car.

No. 16 Duesenberg
Eddie O’Donnell and Jimmy Murphy at speed past the pits in Corona, CA on April 8, 1916. Photo credit: O’Keefe/Craig

O’Donnell took the Henderson Duesenberg to California for the start of the 1916 season. In photographs, the number 16 is still visible on the front of the radiator. While there, he secured the services of Jimmy Murphy, who rode with him as riding mechanic. The car enjoyed its greatest success with O’Donnell at the wheel as he won four races — three of them major — including the 300-mile road races at the Corona and Fresno tracks.

No 16 Duesenberg
Wilbur D’Alene and his mechanic Eddie Miller seated in the Duesenberg at the Indianapolis 500 in May 1916. Photo credit: O’Keefe/IMS

In May, the car then went from California to Indianapolis for Wilbur D’Alene to drive in the Indy 500. D’Alene hung on behind Dario Resta’s L45 Peugeot to finish second in the race. George Buzane then drove the car in June at the board speedway in Chicago, but could only finish 11th.

The car did not race again until it was sold to Jimmy Benedict at the end of the 1916 season. On October 28th, the Duesenberg placed sixth in Benedict’s hands at the Sheepshead Bay board speedway. In the following year, Benedict managed to finish 10th in the car at the same track. This was the only race he ran in 1917, as he did not start at the Providence race in September. During 1919 and 1920, Benedict confined his efforts to the dirt tracks that made up the eastern fair circuit. In 1921, he sold it to Lou Hoyt who continued to race it on the dirt in the east for a number of years thereafter.

Want to read more car history? The rest of the Peugeot story and Dario Resta’s exciting campaign for the first AAA Championship in 1916 can be found in Peugeot Racing in America, written by Jim O’Keefe and Sarah Morgan-Wu, which will be published later this year.

Copyright 2016 Jim O’Keefe