Last-Minute Gift Ideas For You To Receive

Christmas Day is one week from today. If you’re like most people, you haven’t finished shopping yet. IndyCar fans love getting IndyCar stuff. A few years ago, I wrote a post about what to give the IndyCar fan that you know. Since I tend to be very self-centered and shallow – I thought that this time, it would be more appropriate to write about the hints you can drop to make sure your significant other knows what to get you. It is all about getting what you want, right?

Time is growing short, but most of these can be delivered by Christmas, so long as the hints are clear and easy to read.

Here are some of my favorite books that I’ve collected over the years. Many, I’ve reviewed here. Most of them were given to me by Susan, but others have contributed. Every now and then, I’ll break down and buy one myself – but that’s the exception and not the norm.

I own all of these titles and can vouch for them. Most of these are found on Amazon or through the Amazon shop found on the right-hand side of the home page. I’ll bet most of you had no idea there was a store through this site. It’s been there since Day One, but since May of 2009 – I’ve made a whopping thirteen dollars off the site. At this point and time, you may want to ignore my shameless plug and find the site that can get these titles to you by next week.

The Official History of the Indianapolis 500This book has been out of print and then revised, since the original printing in 2006. I own the original, but have not seen the updated version.

If you are going to own only one book about the Indianapolis 500, this is the one to own. It is co-written by Donald Davidson and Rick Shaffer. There is a year by year breakdown of every race, not only in stats, but a well-written synopsis of each race. Donald writes the first part leading up to 1960, then Rick Shaffer takes it from there. IN all honesty, the change in writing style is very subtle. Buy this book!

The Indianapolis 500 ChronicleRick Popely’s product will not go down as the greatest book ever. It was written in 1998, and has a noticeable pro-IRL slant that gets in the way. There are two things I really like about it though. One is that as it goes through each year of the Indianapolis 500, it has something that the Davidson book does not – a picture of every car that started the race, when available. There are a few cars from the very early races that apparently have no photographs documenting their existence. Other than that, you get a nice shot of every single starter from 1911 through 1998. What else did I like about it? It was cheap. I found it a couple of years ago on Amazon for twelve dollars. For that kind of money, you could buy several and give them as gifts.

Dan Gurney’s Eagle Racing Cars – If you were around in the sixties, you learned to appreciate the beauty of the Eagle – with it’s pronounced beak nose. It looked as good as it raced. The Eagle chassis was one of the most successful of the sixties and seventies. This is a beautiful book that is loaded with high-resolution photos on quality paper.

If you are an engineer, you will start foaming at the mouth after seeing all of the plans and drawings of the car. I am not an engineer, so that part left me just a little cold. Still, there are enough photos, as well as informative text to keep you riveted throughout a cold, snowy weekend.

Indy’s Wildest Decade – Another book focusing on the sixties – this is a very entertaining read. It is well written with humorous stories as well as tales of the cars and the innovation behind them. In addition, it has some of the more unique photos that I’ve seen anywhere.

Rick Mears:Thanks – Surprisingly, Gordon Kirby’s book on “The Rocket” is rife with typos and misspelled words. Find a lot of those here, you say? Well, that’s true – but no one pays thirty-five dollars to come to this site. For a fee, I’ll gladly hire a proof-reader instead of having my eighty-nine year-old mother e-mail corrections to me each morning.

Typos aside, this is an excellent book. There is plenty of text to learn about one of my favorite drivers, but it is also filled with some great photographs. And if you haven’t noticed by now – I like pictures.

Vukovich – If you want to learn a lot about the childhood and early career of one of racing’s most fascinating, but elusive men – get your hands on a copy of this book. Bob Gates did a thorough job researching and interviewing family members of the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner from the fifties. There are a couple of dry stretches, but t is a must-read for any IndyCar fan.

Along for the Ride – Dorie Sweikert, the widow of Bob Sweikert – the 1956 Indianapolis 500 winner – wrote every word of this book herself. If you like stories about hard-core racing in the fifties, this book is for you. If you enjoy reading about an enduring love story, this book is for you. It is a very enjoyable book and one that reads very fast. I would list it as one of my top-five favorite IndyCar books, as it seems to capture the true essence of racing in the forties and fifties.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! – If Along for the Ride is listed in my top-five books, Wilbur Shaw’s autobiography is at the top. It was published in 1955, the year after his death in a plane crash. This is the story of one of the most important figures in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He details his childhood, his early driving career – his personal triumphs and tragedies, his three Indianapolis 500 victories and how he saved the track from demolition by approaching Tony Hulman and persuading him to buy the track.

This is one of the few books I’ve gone to the trouble to read for a second time – it is that enjoyable. The book is hard to find, however. Susan finally found a library copy and bought it. This is one you probably won’t find by Christmas, but if you ever have the chance to get your hands on it – do it.

Smokey Yunick’s Best Damn Garage In Town – This three-volume ode to Smokey that happens to be written by Smokey has some great, little known racing stories as told by Smokey Yunick. This book is not for the faint of heart. Once you acknowledge to yourself that Smokey has a higher opinion of himself than anyone else and get past that – it’s an enjoyable book. If a book laced with profanity is not your thing, you may want to pass. This book was sent to me by longtime readers Donald and Laurie McElvain in Montana. This was a very nice wedding gift last summer that was greatly appreciated.

They also recently sent me a copy of Parnelli – a book I am currently reading and enjoying. However, since I’m not done with it yet, I can’t officially recommend it. When I get done with it – I want to get a copy of As a Matter of Fact, I AM Parnelli Jones – the autobiography released by the legend just last winter.

So that’s my list for anyone that is wanting some good wintertime reading while we wait to thaw out for next season. Not everyone is as thrilled about the early days as I am. If you prefer to stay current, just go to Amazon and type in “Indy 500” and you’ll find plenty to choose from. Then compile a list of those that take hints easily and hope that they will fill your stocking with at least one of these. It’s high time someone did something for you, isn’t it?

George Phillips

6 Responses to “Last-Minute Gift Ideas For You To Receive”

  1. Mike Silver Says:

    While Vukovich is the only one I currently own, I have read Gentleman, Start Your Engines. I am currently reading Ralph DePalma, Gentleman Champion, while waiting ro to get Hard Luck Lloyd next week.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    I got Popely’s Indianapolis 500 Chronicle for a song at a now-closed Waldenbooks about 10 years ago. As you said, George, the starter photos are excellent, and I very much like how they are arranged to illustrate the starting grid of their respective year. It was a fair resource for race statistics before all of that could be found online. Though obviously dictated by when the book was published, the final photo being of Eddie Cheever’s Rachel’s car will never cease to look strange to me. It’s probably one of the least iconic Indy winning cars.

    Among books not mentioned here:

    If you get your hands on a Dick Wallen book do. not. let. go. Expensive as they are, they are absolute treasure troves of information and photographs about the history of national championship racing.

    Karl Ludvigsen’s photo-dominant “Indy Cars of the 19__’s” books are also quite good, especially if you have an interest in the historical evolution of Indy racing cars and engines. He has also put out a book about the Novi.

  3. For the more veteran fans there is “The American Dirt Track Racer” by Joe Scalzo. Norris McDonald has a nice review of it recently in his Toronto Star blog.

    Bettenhausen fans may want to take a look at “GO!” the Tony Bettenhausen Story.

    What’s not to like about Paul Newman on almost any level? But since this is about racing, take a look at “Winning-The Racing Life of Paul Newman”

    As we approach the end of the year, you might consider a donation to one of the charities associated with IndyCar racing.

    Thanks for helping to fill the down time George.

  4. Chris Lukens Says:

    A book I would recommend is “A Racing Drivers World” ( if you can find it ) by Rudi Caracciola. Der Rainmeister is mostly unknown to todays fans, but he was the epitome of a true racer. He didn’t care about the money, the fame or the accolades, he just wanted to be the best of the best, the fastest of the fast.

  5. I have most of those books and a few more and each would make a fabulous Christmas gift, however, I think that the IMS Nike Dri-Fit polo would make a terrific Christmas gift as well!!!

    Joy to ALL!!

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