12/1/1897 - 19/1/1968
Record updated 06-May-08
After starting competing as a riding mechanic he switched to driving in 1906. He won the American National Championship in 1910 and the first Indy 500 the following year.
If Ray Harroun is remembered at all, it's for winning the first Indy 500 in 1911. In fact, he may not have won that race (see the Ralph Mulford biography for details), but as a pioneer driver and designer of cars, Harroun still deserves his place in the Indianapolis Speedway Hall of Fame.
After serving as a riding mechanic for a time, he began racing in 1906 and won the National Championship in 1910. He then joined the Marmon automobile company in Indianapolis as chief engineer. The company asked him to design and drive a car in the new 500-mile race. Harroun came up with a revolutionary design.
Race cars of the period were usually heavy two-seaters that carried the driver and a mechanic who kept the driver informed about what was happening behind him. Harroun designed a light, streamlined, one-seater with a pointed tail and a stabilizer. To replace the mechanic, he added a rearview mirror. Whether or not the car actually finished first at Indy, it performed exceptionally well, averaging 74.602 mph.
That was his last race. Harroun later invented a carburetor that was a forerunner of modern fuel-injection systems. He also developed a kerosene-burning Maxwell race car in 1914 that was running on tracks for nearly 15 years.