HIBBING — A small group of racing enthusiasts, including Sprint Car Driver Anna Hippe and her family, recently gathered to pay tribute to two racing events that took place in Hibbing a century ago.
The first racing event they commemorated was a 100-mile road race held on the streets of Hibbing on July 4, 1916. This was the second road race held in Hibbing. The first road race was held in 1914 and utilized a race course known as the “Mahoning Loop.”
The Hibbing Auto Club had received an official sanction from the American Automobile Association (AAA) for this event. The AAA was the largest race sanctioning body in the country at the time and the Indianapolis 500 was it’s yearly marquee event.
Chester S. Ricker, head of timing and scoring at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1911 to 1951, was in Hibbing to collect the results of the race.
This race might be described today as an “Indycar race held on a temporary street circuit.” The race course started on First Avenue near the North Hibbing Cemetery and proceeded south to the Alice Fire Hall. It then went east on Dupont Road to Brooklyn Drive, north to Brooklyn Road, northwest to McKinley Street and west to First Avenue. A distance of approximately 4.5 miles, or 22 laps, would be required.
The race was won by local driver Elmer T. Shannon of Chisholm, driving a 60 HP Stutz. His best lap time was 5 minutes and 56 seconds. He won a $1,000 prize.
Shannon would go on to a 13th place finish in the 1919 Indianapolis 500 while driving his Duesenberg racecar, which was entered as the “Mesaba Special.” He was nearly killed in a freak accident involving Louis Chevrolet.
The second racing event commemorated was a race held at the Hibbing Raceway on Aug. 6, 1916. This was held at the first Hibbing Raceway, which was built at Pool Location in 1906 and later replaced by the current racetrack in 1927.
This race marked the first appearance of Elfrieda Mais, who was known as the “Champion Feminine Pilot of the Universe.” This race also featured a stellar lineup of world famous drivers and cars.
Women were not allowed to compete with the men at this time. Consequently, Mais could only participate in time trials — during which she frequently set fast time — and perform stunts.
Mais made her fourth and final appearance at the Hibbing Raceway on July 4, 1934, during which she performed her signature stunt of crashing her racecar through a burning wall of wood planks at a high rate of speed.
Just a few weeks later, Mais was killed performing the same stunt at the Alabama State Fair.
During the recent gathering here in Hibbing, Hippe was photographed at the Mitchell Engine House and on First Avenue near the North Hibbing Cemetery where the 1916 race course started.
The photograph of Hippe was taken to show the evolution of racecar technology and attitudes toward women in motorsports over the past 100 years.
Hippe has been racing sprint cars with the Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series for five years and is a member of the Kouba racing family. She recently won the “Hard Charger” award at the 24th annual Earl and Ethel Kouba Memorial race held at the Cedar Lake Speedway in July.
While on the Range, Hippe competed in the Broking Transport/Northern Belt and Conveyor Sprint Car Exhibition Race held at the Grand Rapids Speedway.