Lewis Putnam Strang was born in Amsterdam, New York. He was known as a courageous and fast driver, although somewhat unlucky, frequently suffering mechanical maladies within sight of the winning line.
In 1907 Louis Chevrolet was competing against Strang, when both of their cars broke down, Chevrolet's terminally. Overnight Chevrolet managed to construct a new bearing for Strang by pouring the alloy and bending it around a discarded pipe. The emergency repair worked well enough for Strang to win the main event the following day.
In July 1908 he travelled to Europe and entered the XI Grand Prix de l'A.C.F (French Grand Prix). He had competed before as a riding mechanic for Walter Christie so knew the course quite well. However he had to retire before half distance with clutch failure.
He entered the Vanderbilt Cup race in October driving a Renault but dropped out after just three of the eleven laps, but did slightly better in the I Grand Prize Race of the Automobile Club of America in Savannah, bringing the Renault home in 6th place.
He was married to an actress known as Louise Alexander, who performed as the Vampire in what the Washington Post described as “a dreadfully shocking dance”.
She had promised not to go back to the stage again when they married in 1908. However the following year she did and as a consequence they separated. Strang hoped that she would tire of the stage and return to him.
In 1909 he raced a FIAT and was considered to be one of the favourites to win the Vanderbilt Cup race at the Long Island Motor Parkway. However it was not to be and Harry Grant won the race on 30th October in an ALCO.
In June 1909 he made a clean sweep in the postponed Memorial Day auto races at Decatur, driving a Buick Cobs Trophy racer on the egg-shaped one mile track. He won the $1,000 cash prize for the fifty-mile Decatur Derby before also taking the five mile Free for All and the Five Mike Handicap.
In August that year he competed in a number of races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway including the Prest-O-Lite Trophy Race driving for Buick.
His hopes of reconciliation with his wife were dashed in 1910 when she was named by Mrs Bessie Clayton, another well-known dancer, in a divorce suit against her husband Julian Mitchell, who was Mrs Strang’s partner in the Vampire dance.
The news came just after Lewis had been involved in a flying accident. He was learning to fly at the Aeronautical Society in Mineola when the plane he was in failed to get off the ground. The plane flipped and Strang was thrown out, fortunately without injury.
Strang qualified a Case on pole for the inaugural Indy 500 on May 30, 1911 but retired with steering failure. He was killed two month later near Blue Rivers, Wisconsin.
From the Washington Post.
Lewis Strang was killed on the 20th July 1911 near Blue Rivers, Wisconsin. He was accompanying the technical committee of the Wisconsin Automobile Association on its annual reliability run, and was attempting to pass a farm wagon. As the car left the road Strang’s passengers jumped clear, but Strang didn’t. It was suggested that he had not fully recovered his strength following an accident in Kenosha on June 18th when he dislocated his arm and suffered internal injuries after crashing during a race.