William K. Vanderbilt tremendously stimulated the young automotive industry by sponsoring the famous series of Vanderbilt Cup races, beginning on Long Island, New York, in 1904. Before the emergence of the Indianapolis 500, the Vanderbilt Cup race was the major motor race in the United States.
Vanderbilt first earned recognition as an outstanding driver of international caliber by scoring several noteworthy victories in European races and finishing third against top-flight European competition in the 318-mile International Circuit des Ardennes (France) in 1902. At the wheel of a Mercedes, Vanderbilt also broke Henry Ford’s “999” land speed record for the measured mile by averaging 92.307 miles per hour on the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida, in January 1904.
Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum