Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tommy Milton on the early days of racing

From Borgeson, p.9.
Tommy Milton remembers:
"It was 1913. I was just a kid who wanted to race and I happened to have my own Mercer. Mercer was a very good name just then and once when Sloan brought his show to St. Paul he offered me a job with his fakeroo outfit. All I had to do was furnish the car, maintain it and drive it and he would pay me $50 a week. I took the offer and stuck it out for three years.
He had a cattle car with decking in it, which made it possible to haul nine race cars wherever there was a railroad. AS soon as we left my home town and hit the open road he cut my salary to $35 a week; that was his style. There was one eight -day period when we traveled 3000 miles and raced in five cities. For $35 a week. No prize money.
My Mercer was just a stock model. I never had a chance to do anything against the real race cars of the outfit, so I was never given any instructions. Louis Disbrow was the big star during most of that period and it was usually arranged that he would win. All the dirt-track promoters ran these phony shows.
One day we raced in Peoria, where I learned never to boo anybody. My sister and her husband lived there and they came to see their daredevil id-kin in action. I didn't stand a chance anyway, but those bums in the stands roaring at me, "Get off the track, you lousy coward!" --and a lot worse--got to me.
It sickened me with being so slow. I chapped my car's frame and shortened its wheelbase from 108 t0 96 inches. I installed a 450-cu.-in. Wisconsin T-head engine--which is what Stutz used in those days -- and I suddenly had a darn good track car. We sound up the season at Shreveport, Louisiana. I was tired of getting beaten, so I beat everybody, including Disbrow. Sloan fired me, putting an end to one of the dark pages in my history, and in 1916 I joined the Duesenberg team.

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