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—Bob Kravitz, The Indianapolis Star
On the centennial of the Indy 500, controversy still reigns over who won the inaugural race, as this lively account of a tumultuous event makes plain.
History comes alive through the research and prose of Leerhsen (Crazy Good: The Story of Dan Patch, the Most Famous Horse in America, 2008), formerly the executive editor of Sports Illustrated. The early days of auto racing ignited plenty of controversy—whether it was even a sport, whether it should be allowed (it seemed far more dangerous than bullfighting, outlawed in the States) and whether, as the New York Times wrote in an editorial headlined “Slaughter as a Spectacle,” the races “bring out the very worst of human nature by providing a most barbarous form of excitement…They are an amusement congenial only to savages and should be stopped.” If such controversy didn’t already give this book enough of a charge, the characters do, led by the entrepreneurial racetrack co-founder “Crazy” Carl Fisher, whose own wife characterized her impulsive, adulterous, reckless spouse as a “lusty and incomprehensible personality.” Then there are drivers such as Barney Oldfield, “the Daredevil Dean of the Roaring Road” who “didn’t have an altruistic bone in his body, but he had a very low threshold of boredom, and plain-vanilla racing excited him as much as it did the average citizen.” For years, plain vanilla appeared to be the only alternative to banishment, as the fledgling sport succumbed to offering a series of short races, much like horse racing, rather than the longer ones that would be more likely to push drivers to destruction and even death. “Which was, of course, why a lot of people came to the auto races,” writes Leerhsen. “Not to see death, exactly, in most cases—but to spend some time luxuriating in its titillating possibility.” And a surprising number of those most titillated were women, as the macho sport proved quite the chick magnet, and anything that suggested strategy was dismissed as “weakness, even femininity.”
By the time the big race rolls around, Leerhsen has already spun a fascinating tale.
"With alternating tales of horrifying crashes and the schemes of Carl Fisher, who promoted the Indianapolis Speedway as a venue for airplane races, this is a ripping good yarn of America in the early 20th century. Leerhsen, a witty storyteller, draws from contemporary articles, histories, and interviews to pull readers into a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the building of the Speedway and the first race.... this book has broad appeal, with laugh-out-loud stories and characters who would be unbelievable if they turned up in fiction. Highly recommended."
—Library Journal, starred review
"Leerhsen provides an entertaining history of the automobile’s growth in the early twentieth century. . . . Along the way, readers are treated to sharply humorous social commentary bolstered by fascinating details of Indianapolis life and industry."
"When you read this gripping account of the first Indy 500 run May 30, 1911, you'll wonder why they ever had a second."
—Doug Clark, Greensboro News-Record (NC)
"Entertaining . . . and snarkily humorous."
—Rusty Blackwell, Automobile
It seemed as if the author was not only telling a story but also trying to impress us with how cute and creative he could be.
In particular, Howard Marmon, the builder of Ray Harroun's car, had a very close relationship with Carl Fisher, the chief among the investors in the track.
Very well written and provides some wonderful insights into the motivations behind the men who established automobile racing in the United States.
What a great book for those who love the Indy 500 (world's largest single day spectator sport ever!). Read morePublished 5 months ago by schamil
A very interesting read about the early field of car racing and the automotive industry. Car fans and "gear heads" will enjoy this history.Published 7 months ago by William J
Mr. Leerhsen takes every opportunity to frame all people, places, and events within his own big government big city views. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Yolanda Davis
i loved this book. Covered an often overlooked period of auto racing history and brought to life people especially gave a new perspective to Carl FisherPublished 9 months ago by james lesh
Shipped quickly and the book was in new condition. It was even signed by the author! I can't wait to emerge myself in the story of the Indy 500!Published 14 months ago by Pen Name
This book gives you a lot more than you might have bargained for when picking it up. Perhaps recognizing that 7 hours of "floor it and turn left" would make a pretty dull book,... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Mark K. Mcdonough
I admire the author's apparent intensive research into the subject, but his also-apparent bias against Carl Fisher (and automobile racing in general during these formative years)... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Rick Yocum
This is an excellent book. It is, of course, an examination of the first Indy 500 race in 1911. However, in the process of writing that book, the author has also written a very... Read morePublished 23 months ago by L. F. Smith
As a transplanted Indianapolis native, I read this book on a whim while passing through the library in search of another book. Read morePublished 23 months ago by R. Brown