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As It Was: Medford, Ore., Holds Grand Prix Auto Race in 1911

Medford, Ore., held its own Grand Prix race on July 3, 1911, just two months after the first-ever Indianapolis 500 race.

In the morning, seven autos of 40 horsepower or less from Portland, Eugene and Medford competed in a 50-mile race.  Drivers maneuvered 10 times around a five-mile course that started near Washington School, the combination of pavement and country roads taxing the endurance of cars and drivers alike.

The winner of the first race was A.J. Edwards, who completed the circuit before 10,000 spectators in a time of 1 hour and 8 minutes, despite skidding twice and stalling the engine on his little Ford racer.

A second race held in the afternoon consisted of a 60-mile course.  The free-for-all allowed cars of any horsepower to drive the same five-mile course as in the morning, but this time for 12 laps instead of 10.  Overheated engines and flat tires plagued some drivers.

Edwards’ Ford racer won again, in a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 55 seconds.  It was estimated that some 25,000 spectators watched the two races that day.  No other sporting event in Medford had ever attracted so many.

Sources: “Medford Grand Prix 1911." Southern Oregon History Revised, edited by Tina Truwe, Medford Mail Tribune, 3 July 1911, id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/grandprix.html. Accessed 20 June 2017; "Indianapolis 500." Wikipedia, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Indianapolis_500. Accessed 18 June 2017.

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.