May 21 2012

Lewis Strang: A Fan’s Story

Ken Parotte, West Monroe, NY: " I have been a long-time Lewis Strang fan through his connection with J. I. Case who is from Williamstown, NY.. .Over the last 30 days, I have visited Lewis Strang’s grave site in the Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam, NY  and researched newspaper clippings about the Strang family and Lewis’s auto racing exploits."

This is a little story about Strang that I put together."

Lewis Strang

By Kenneth J. Parrotte
April 28, 2012

Lewis Putnam Strang was born August 7, 1884 in Amsterdam, NY to LeGrand S. Strang and Estella Loranie Putnam Strang.  LeGrand S. Strang was a well known jeweler in Amsterdam, NY until the time of his death in 1896.  Throughout most of his auto racing career Lewis P. Strang was also known as Louis Strang.

Strang began his racing career in 1905, hit his stride in 1907, and made his mark in 1908 when he won major automobile races; Savannah Challenge Trophy Road Race, Briarcliff Cup Road Race, Lowell Road Race in Massachusetts  driving an Isotta-Fraschini.

The Binghamton Press Friday June 26, 1908

Listen to what Louis Strang, who won both the Savannah and the Briarcliff races, says:  “When a human being travels in a racing car at the rate of  two miles or even a mile a minute in competition, depending entirely upon his five senses for guidance, staking his nerves and judgment, his experience or inexperience with the course, against a thousand chances of disaster, or worse, he is presumably playing with death.  Does he realize or remember it at the time?  Never-if he wishes to win.”

In 1909 Lewis Strang teamed up with Louis Chevrolet and Bob Burman on the Buick racing team.  The highlight of Strang’s year was his Indianapolis Motor Speedway win of the 100 mile G & J Tires Trophy Race Friday August 20th during the second day of racing on the newly constructed two and one half mile crushed stone and taroid (taroid is made of “pure” coal tar). 

On November 13, 1909 on the two mile oval Atlanta Speedway Strang created another new record. “The most spectacular and brilliant individual performance was that of Lewis Strang driving his 175 horse power Fiat”  over five laps of the course in the remarkable time of 7:01.94-100.  In this run he easily distanced Barney Oldfield and Walter Christie, his competitors.

After the August races the Indianapolis Motor Speedway replaced the stone and taroid surface with 3.2 million paving bricks.  Upon completion of the repaving two days of testing was scheduled December 17 and 18, 1909.  Lewis Strang set one mile and five mile records in bitter cold conditions driving a Fiat.

At the end of the 1910 racing season the J. I. Case Company hired Strang as its racing manager.  The team was ready to race in the spring of 1911.  Strang and the Case race team entered three cars in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 May 30, 1911.  Other team members were Joseph Jagersberger of Vienna, Austria, and William Jones of Milwaukee.

Indianapolis Star May 12, 1911

Barney Oldfield, auto racing pioneer superstar, had this to say about Lewis Strang:  “The greatest in-and-outer the game has ever known.  A brilliant performer one day and a disappointment to his followers the next.  A genius at nursing a car and picking winning mounts.  He won my admiration by capturing races and breaking records with a 200 horse-powered foreign car that no other driver in America has been able to do anything with.  Winner of Savannah, Briarcliff, and Lowell road races in quick succession.  He’s been working on the construction of his present cars for several months.  Seems to be due for one of his sensational come back performances.  No one has it on Strang in the big race.”

Lewis Putnam Strang sat on the front row pole position for the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Tuesday May 30, 1911 driving the red and gray #1 Case automobile.  Cars were assigned car numbers and starting positions according to their entering order.  Each car had to run a quarter mile with at least a speed of 75 miles per hour in order to maintain the assigned starting position.

Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 driving a Marmon Wasp.  Joe Jagersberger was the first Case out of the race when on the 87 lap his Case snapped a steering knuckle and hit the wall on the front straightaway.  The front wheels were pointed in opposite directions making the car impossible to drive.  His riding mechanic C. L. Anderson jumped from the car as it slowed and he fell to the track.  Harry Knight in an attempt to miss the prone Anderson, plowed into a car in the pits driven by Herb Lytle.  None were seriously hurt.  Strang was the next Case out the race with steering problems.  Will Jones finished one position better in 28th also with steering problems.

On June 16, 1911 Louis Strang was injured when he drove through a fence when a tire burst at Kenosha Wisconsin.  Physicians attending Strang declared he would recover from injuries dislocating his arm, severely spraining his ankle and inflicting internal hurts reported the June 20, 1911 Amsterdam Evening Recorder.

July 20, 1911  Lewis Strang is Killed in Wisconsin Reliability Run

Amsterdam Evening Recorder July 20, 1911

“Louis Strang probably the best known racer in the world was killed this afternoon.  He was driving a Case car in the Wisconsin State Reliability Tour, the car jumping an embankment while trying to pass a farm wagon at a slow speed, the car slid off the road and turned over crushing Strang to death.  Louis Strang was the son of the late LeGrand S. Strang.  The young man was born in Amsterdam.  He received his schooling in this city and shortly after the death of his father his mother moved to New York City.  The young man visited this city a few years ago when the remains of his mother were brought here for burial.  He is survived by three sisters, Angie Livingston Strang, Elizabeth Putnam Strang, of New York City, and Christine, who is now Mrs. Jerome H. Pennock of Brooklyn.”


Amsterdam Evening Recorder July 22, 1911

“The funeral of Louis Strang, who was killed while driving an automobile in Wisconsin Thursday was held this afternoon at 4:30 at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church with the Rev. Mr. Ellsworth, of Johnstown, officiating.  The bearers were: Edward Carroll, Adelbert Sears, John Newman, John Conover, E.W. Sanders, and Henry Vollmer, all members of the Amsterdam Chauffeurs Protective Association.  The body of Mr. Strang arrived on the 3:20 train, and was accompanied by M.C. Meigs, a personal friend of Mr. Strang.  The interment was made in the family lot in Green Hill Cemetery.” \

Ken, thanks for your contributions to !


Howard Kroplick

Lewis Strang (right) acted as the mechanician for J. Walter Christie (left) for the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race. Long Islanders, believe it or not this photo was taken on Glen Cove Road in Old Westbury looking north. Strang drove a Renault for both the 1908 Motor Parkway Sweepstakes and the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race. Strang switched to a FIAT for the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race. In 1910, Strang went to Indianapolis to view the layout for the new track at the Motor Speedway. Strang driving the #1 Case in the first Indy 500 Race in 1911. A 1911 close-up of Strang wearing a Case sweater. Film "The First Indy 500 Race"- Strang can be seen at the 45-second mark. Strang's gravesite (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Parrotte)

See more:

  • Drivers
  • 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race
  • 1909 Vanderbilt Cup Race
  • 1911 Indy 500
  • Comments

    May 27 2012 Wayne Carroll Petersen 2:29 PM

    Thanks for keeping American Automotive Racing History Alive!
    Never Look Back,
    Wayne Carroll Petersen
    Barney Oldfield Great Great nephew

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