Jan 07 2011

The Alco “Black Beast” in the Inaugural Indy 500 Race

Besides its two Vanderbilt Cup Race victories, the Alco-6 Black Beast's most famous race was the Inaugural Indy 500 held on May 30, 1911. To further celebrate this year's centennial, here is a comprehensive review of the Alco's performance as one of the 40 participants in this historic race.

American Locomotive Company Submits Its Entry-February 28, 1911


The Indy 500 entry fee before March 1, 1911 was $500 and increased to $750 through May 1, 1911 , the entry dealine. On February 28, 1911, one day before the initial US entry deadline , the American Locomobile Company submitted its fee for the Alco-6 Black Beast to be driven by Harry Grant for the "500-Mile International Sweepstakes at the Indianapolis Speedway, Memorial Day, 1911." Since starting positions were determined by the date of entry on the official ledger, the Alco, listed on the 19th row, was assigned the number 19. (Ledger image courtesy of Mark Dill).

Black Beast Practice Runs on the Long Island Motor Parkway-May 21, 1911


As reported by the Indianapolis Star, Harry Grant and his mechanician Frank Lee prepared for the 500- mile race by practicing on a measured half mile of the Long Island Motor Parkway. Grant's speed surprised auto company officials:

Grant made three separate trials over the Long Island Course. His first was the fastest (107.8 mph). The other two half miles were drive in 17 seconds flat each. This is the equivalent of 105.1 miles per hour. Those who were privileged to see the performance were amazed at the power developed.

(Reference courtesy of Mark Dill.)

Harry Grant Picked By Automobile Topics to Win the Race- May 27, 1911


By May 1, 1911, a total of 40 American and 6 international cars had entered the race. Four cylinder cars dominated the field with only six entries having six cylinders; including the Black Beast. Automobile Topics selected Harry Grant as the favorite to win the race:

Harry Grant, due to his two time victory in the Vanderbilt Cup race, is entitled to first consideration. Grant is to drive the same Alco car that carried him home first in the 1909 and 1910 Long Island classic and he has announced his intention of following out the same system of driving he used on these two occasions. Grant drives at a consistent speed and is not the flashy spectacular type of pilot, who earns the applause of spectators during the early stages of a race and is never heard again of. It is Grant's style of driving that is going to bring forth a winner in the Decoration Day contest.

The 40 Participants on Race Day- May 30, 1911



Six of the entrants never made it to the starting line as two cars were not completed in time, two cars were damaged during practice and two cars failed the mandatory 75 mile per hour qualification test held prior to the race. Before the race, the 40 drivers posed for a group photograph on the start-finish line. Harry Grant was easy to identify in his Alco sweater.

The Starting Line-Up


The 40 cars were lined up in rows of five cars and by order of their numerical entry.The exceptions were the first row which had only for cars and the Stoddard-Dayton pace car in the pole position driven by Speedway President Carl Fisher and the last row which only had a single car. The Alco-6 Black Beast started in the center position in the fourth row.

The Parade and Pace Laps


The cars were then sent around the track in their rows for a series of parade laps. The #19 Alco with Harry Grant and Frank Lee was seen here between the #18 FIAT driven by Eddie Hearne and the #20 National driven by Charles Merz.

In this one-minute film segment, a parade lap, the end of the pace lap and the beginning of the race can be seen:

The Alco-6 Black Beast Performance


For the first 100 miles of the race, Harry Grant followed his consistent driving strategy to perfection, moving up from 13th place to 10th place with average lap speeds of 72 to 73 miles per hour:

25 miles: Position 13, averaging 73.75 miles per hour

50 miles: Position 12, averaging 72.73 miles per hour

100 miles: Position 10, averaging 72.26 miles per hour

However, after 127.5 miles and 51 completed laps, the Alco-6 Black Beast blew its engine due to a burnt out crankshaft bearing and was forced to leave the race:


The 1911 Indy 500 Race was won by Ray Harroun in the #32 Marmon, averaging 74.61 miles per hour. By completing 51 laps, Harry Grant's Alco finished 33rd of the 40 entrants.

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

Archives: Indy 500 Races

Centennial Celebration:Great Classic Cars To Be Featured At Special 2011 Indy Show

Automobile Topics, June 3, 1911: "Harroun Wins with Marmon"

Results of the 1911 Indy 500 Race

Five Indy 500 Race Films

Index: Alco-6 Black Beast Racer

Archives: Alco-6 Black Beast Racing History

Driver Profile: Harry Grant


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