Barney Oldfield

Full Name:
Berna Eli Oldfield
Born:
3rd June 1878
Wauseon, Ohio
Died:
4th October 1946 (Aged 68)
Beverly Hills, California
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

This cigar-chewing showman was as famous as any driver in the early days of American motor racing. Henry Ford was an as yet unproven Detroit car maker when he invited Barney Oldfield to replace him as race driver of his famous Ford 999 car in 1902. Oldfield had raced bicycles since 1894 but had never driven a car before that day. The association was inspired and launched two true pioneers on their respective paths.

Pioneering racing driver

Quick to learn, Oldfield beat Alexander Winton and others in his first event – establishing fame for himself and the Ford marque. He became the first man to lap a mile circuit at over 60mph a year later and competed throughout the country as an early professional, directed by his agent Will Pickens.

That showmanship took Oldfield onto stage and silver screen and he starred in the musical The Vanderbilt Cup (1906) and in eight movies including Barney Oldfield’s Race For A Life (1913).

He had his brushes with authority as well and was suspended by the AAA on a number of occasions for competing in "outlaw" races. One such absence prevented him from starting the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. He was back in the fold in 1912 and his Fiat finished fourth in that year’s American Grand Prize at Milwaukee.

AAA race winner

Second in the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup, he finished fifth on his belated debut at Indy that year. 1915 was his busiest and most successful season of what is now known as Indycars. He began the year with a Maxwell and scored back-to-back victories during March. He benefited at Venice, California when Dave Lewis’ leading Stutz broke a crankshaft on the penultimate lap and he repeated that success at Tuscon, Arizona just three days later – allegedly using the same set of tyres for both races.

Subsequent career

Fifth again on his second and final appearance at Indianapolis in 1916, he retired from racing in 1918 to concentrate on running the Oldfield Tire & Rubber Company which he eventually sold to Firestone. By now a very wealthy man, Oldfield lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929. He worked in the motor industry as a consultant until his death in 1946.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1918 AAA National Championship
Golden Submarine
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
45
1917 AAA National Championship
Golden Submarine
Barney Oldfield
5 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1916 AAA National Championship
Barney Oldfield
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
28th 80
1915 AAA National Championship
Maxwell Motor Corporation
15 3 5 2
14% win rate
1425
1914 AAA National Championship
Mercer Automobile Co
Stutz Motor Car Co
Maxwell Motor Corporation
7 1 3 0
0% win rate
990
1913 AAA National Championship 3 0 1 0
0% win rate
520
1912 AAA National Championship 1 0 0 0
0% win rate
25
1910 AAA National Championship 2 0 0 0
0% win rate
15
1909 AAA National Championship
Old Glory
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
35