Many auto companies justify their participation in auto racing by quoting the slogan “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”
In 1901, when Henry Ford raced his car “Sweepstakes,” it was a case of win on Sunday, start another company on Monday.
In the summer of 1901, things were not going well for Henry. His first car company, the Detroit Automobile Company, failed and his financial backers had serious doubts about Ford’s engineering and business skills.
Intrigued by the idea of making a powerfully fast automobile, Ford decided to make a name for himself and start a new company – based on winning a car race in October 10, 1901. Ford didn’t have the money to hire a driver or anyone to teach him. What propelled him was faith in himself and his engine.
Ford’s opponent in the race was Alexander Winton, a successful auto manufacturer and the country’s most famous race driver. Winton led the first five laps of the race at Grosse Point. During the sixth lap, Winton had engine trouble and Ford sped by – at 72 miles per hour – for the win.
Henry Ford’s victory had the desired effect. New investors backed Ford in his next venture, the Henry Ford Company. Always a man of singular vision, Henry Ford disagreed with his financiers and left the company in 1902. The following year, he formed his lasting enterprise, Ford Motor Company.
“Sweepstakes” is currently on view at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.