At 12.64 miles, the 1909 course was shorter than those for any previous Vanderbilt Cup Race and for the first time did not cross railroad tracks. The Long Island Motor Parkway made up 5.15 miles of the total distance. Organizers believed the shorter course would decrease the intervals of time between appearances of cars and also provide more exciting entertainment for spectators. The 1909 race was held on October 30th, later in autumn than any other Vanderbilt Cup Race. The race began at 9:00 AM rather than the traditional daybreak start. The late start and colder weather of the later date were cited as reasons for a precipitous decline in attendance from previous years.