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Earl Cooper

Full Name:
Earl P Cooper
2nd December 1886
Broken Bow, Nebraska
22nd October 1965 (Aged 78)
Atwater, California
Most recent race (in database):

IndyCar Series records show Earl Cooper as the first three-time champion in the sport’s history. However, those successes were part of AAA secretary Val Haresnape’s mid-1920s retrospective list of champions. Although his titles were only bestowed long afterwards and are hardly genuine for that, Cooper was an undoubted star. He won 21 AAA-sanctioned Indycar races during his career but was always out of luck at Indianapolis.

Background and early racing career

Born in Nebraska, Cooper had settled on the West Coast by the time he worked as a mechanic in a Maxwell dealership in 1904. He also took up racing that year but lost his job after beating his boss in a race in San Francisco!

America's leading driver

His racing career really took off in 1912 when he joined Stutz and Cooper scored his breakthrough Indycar victory in the heavy car class at Tacoma that year. Such was his form during the following season that the sensationalist American media christened Cooper as the "California Meteor". Of his seven Indycar starts in 1913, Cooper won five and finished second and third (as Charlie Merz’s relief at Indy) in the others.

The 1914 season was a disappointment and he fell ill with pneumonia at the start of 1915. Despite a couple of months away from racing, Cooper returned to finish fourth in the Indianapolis 500. He scored another five victories that year and was named as America’s leading driver of 1915 by magazine The Horseless Age.

Stutz pulled out of racing in 1916 (the first year that a formal National Championship was run) but Cooper continued to win as a privateer. The sport’s leading driver again in 1917 in what was to be his final season.

Racing return

Cooper announced his retirement although he could not stay away. He raced occasionally during the coming seasons and replaced Duesenberg’s Joe Thomas, who had broken his arm during practice, at Fresno in 1921. Cooper promptly won the race.

A member of Cliff Durant’s "superteam" for the next couple of seasons, he used Studebaker backing to design a Miller-powered special for 1924. Cooper finished second in the Indy 500 despite being delayed by a couple of punctures but that was as close as Cooper would come to victory at the Brickyard. He led a year later only to crash and qualified a works Miller on pole position in 1926 but transmission failure ended his challenge that day.

Italian Grand Prix and retirement

Cooper won his last two Indycar races later that season before finishing third in the 1927 Italian Grand Prix when sharing a Miller with Peter Kreis. He retired from driving at the end of that season but continued to work in the sport as a Team Manager, consultant to the United Oil Company and an official with the AAA.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1927 World Championship
Miller Automobiles
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
1927 AAA National Championship
Cooper Engineering
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
1926 AAA National Championship
Miller Automobiles
11 1 2 2
19% win rate
12th 465
1925 AAA National Championship
Junior 8
Cliff Durant
Earl Cooper
11 1 3 1
10% win rate
5th 935
1924 AAA National Championship
Earl Cooper
HCS Motor Co
9 0 3 1
12% win rate
2nd 1240
1923 AAA National Championship
HCS Motor Co
Cliff Durant
8 1 1 0
0% win rate
8th 310
1922 AAA National Championship
Cliff Durant
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
9th 260
1921 AAA National Championship
Duesenberg Bros
1 0 1 1
100% win rate
9th 300
1919 AAA National Championship
Earl Cooper
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
1918 AAA National Championship
Stutz Motor Car Co
3 0 1 0
0% win rate
1917 AAA National Championship
Stutz Motor Car Co
6 0 5 4
67% win rate
1st 1095
1916 AAA National Championship
Stutz Motor Car Co
4 0 3 0
0% win rate
5th 1405
1915 AAA National Championship
Stutz Motor Car Co
14 0 9 5
36% win rate
1st 3780
1914 AAA National Championship
Stutz Motor Car Co
6 0 2 1
17% win rate
1913 AAA National Championship
Ideal Motor Co
7 0 7 5
72% win rate
1st 2710
1912 AAA National Championship 4 0 1 1
25% win rate
1911 AAA National Championship 1 0 1 0
0% win rate