Barney Oldfield


His happiest days were behind him now. He promoted Firestone tires for a while, but he drank too much, and the job was gently taken away from him. He lost all his money in the stock market, went through a succession of stormy marriages, and, ironically, spent some time giving lectures on auto safety for the Plymouth Motor Corporation. He took to hanging around in bars, cornering customers and asking forlorn questions: Did they remember when he crashed at Corona in 1913? Did they remember when he won the 1914 Cactus Derby? They almost never did.

Barney Oldfield died in 1946 of a cerebral hemorrhage. It was not the end he would have chosen. “If I go,” he had once said, “I want it to be in the Blitzen Benz, or a faster car if they ever build one, with my foot holding the throttle wide open. I want the grandstand to be crowded and the band playing the latest rag. I want them all to say, as they file out the gate, ‘Well, old Barney—he was goin’ some!’”