Autocourse Official Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500: Revised and Updated Second Edition Includes Tribute to Dan Wheldon


THE Indianapolis "500" is much more than merely the best known automobile race in the world. It is a cherished time-honored institution with a glorious history dating back more than one hundred years.
Known to most as, quite simply, "The 500," it has been held every year since 1911, the only exceptions being 1917-18 and 1942-45, during the periods when America was ...

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THE Indianapolis "500" is much more than merely the best known automobile race in the world. It is a cherished time-honored institution with a glorious history dating back more than one hundred years.
Known to most as, quite simply, "The 500," it has been held every year since 1911, the only exceptions being 1917-18 and 1942-45, during the periods when America was involved in the two world wars.
Steeped in tradition, it has meant many things to many people and has played an enormous role in the lives of human beings, perhaps even more so for the spectators and devotees than for the participants themselves.
For over half a century, Memorial Day meant either trekking to the track or else ensuring that whatever other activity was planned for the day, a radio would always be within earshot. In more recent decades, settling down in front of the television has been added to the equation, while it is now the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend on which the extravaganza takes place, rather than on Memorial Day itself. But the feeling is the same.
For the participants, it has been a nearly 100-year saga of dreams, innovation, ingenuity, bravery, triumph, and tragedy. Paupers became millionaires, young men from small towns and broken homes became international celebrities, and regrettably, some of them gave their lives.
The "500" has endured world wars, depressions, recessions, political strife, and negative journalism, and yet it continues to draw massive passionate and emotional crowds, whose loyalty is rewarded with never-to-be-forgotten moments such as the finishes of 2006 and 2011, when Dan Wheldon snatched victory on literally the final turn.
This, then, is the story of the Indianapolis 500 and how it came to be. This is the story of more than 100 editions of the race, interspersed with a look at some of the compelling personalities, some little-known facts, an attempt to document the origins of some of the traditions, and perhaps even to dispel a few myths.

From Harroun to Franchitti, it's all here…

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What People Are Saying, May 2007
“Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 is a masterpiece. All 90 races are meticulously researched and lavishly presented. From Harroun to Hornish, it’s all here. This magnificent book ... belongs in anyones library. I give it five out of five lug nuts....prepare to be amazed!”

Vintage Motorsport, August 2007

“A must for the serious racing fan and a testament to the greatest of American races.”

Vintage Motorsport, July-August 2007

“A must for the serious race fan and a testament to the greatest of American races.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781905334827
  • Publisher: Icon Publishing Ltd.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 337,120
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 12.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Davidson
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson has been blessed with what he is told is a “selective retentive easy access” memory. He showed up at the track in 1964 as a young adult from England, obsessed with the “500” and having memorized a plethora of trivial facts about the event and its participants. To his amazement, he was immediately embraced by the racing fraternity and taken into its inner circle.
Returning in 1965 (this time on a one-way ticket and clutching a “green card”), he was invited by IMS Radio Network Chief Announcer Sid Collins to participate as a commentator on the race-day broadcast, a duty he has performed ever since.
The week after the race, he was hired (by Director of Competition Henry Banks) to be the keeper of records for the United States Auto Club (USAC), and since that time has contributed to dozens of books, written numerous magazine stories and local newspaper columns, given hundreds of talks, been featured on ABC News, and been a guest, along with Mario Andretti and Jackie Stewart, on Ted Koppel’s Nightline.
He has hosted a call-in radio show every May since 1971, and for 20 years has conducted a four-night course on “500” history for IUPUI, the Indianapolis-based combined campus of Purdue and Indiana Universities. He joined IMS full time on January 1, 1998.
Rick Shaffer
For most youngsters growing up in Indianapolis, the “rite of passage” can mean one’s first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the case of writer/historian Rick Shaffer, it came during October of 1962, when his father took him and his older brother on a surprise trip to the track and museum.
Like his co-author, Shaffer got to witness his first Indianapolis 500 in 1964. A combined interest in history and auto racing led him to major in journalism in college, and he has been writing stories on the subject since 1973. From 1987 through 1993, he helped cover the sport for The Indianapolis Star. Over the years, he has also written articles and columns for a number of racing publications. Shaffer currently resides outside of Indianapolis where he continues to write, occasionally lecture and collect books on the subject of auto racing.
 This is his second published book and he rates the latest experience the combination of “a labor of love” and “a dream come true.”

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Table of Contents

The Early Years: 1911-1960   Donald Davidson     12
How It All Began     14
A 500-Mile Race It is     28
Exit the Auto Manufacturers, Enter the Racing Car Specialists     44
Supercharged Screamers     58
Dealing with the Great Depression     68
Addressing the Issue of Safety     80
Single-Seaters, the European Formula, and Gathering Warclouds     94
Back Up and Running Again     104
The Coming of the "Roadster"     122
"Upright" or "Laydown"?     140
Back to Front 1961-2006   Rick Shaffer     156
There Was Clearly Change in the Wind     158
Wings and Things and Record Flings     194
Truly Flat Out for the First Time     220
Welcome to Our Show for Chevrolet     254
Indy Racing League Ushers in New Era for Speedway     286
Statistics     318
Drivers Listed by First Race Start     320
Official Box Scores 1911-2006   Donald Davidson   Tim Sullivan     322
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