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From Barnes & Noble
On Memorial Day, May 30th, 400,000 spectators and millions of viewers will watch the 100th Indianapolis 500. Despite the event's strong adherence to traditions, most contemporary fans would be startled by the realities of the first installment of the greatest spectacle in racing. The 1911 Indy 500 featured forty state-of-the-art vehicles, some of which could achieve speeds of (brace yourself) 75 miles an hour. The night before the race, the crews stoically pooled money to be given to wives widowed on race day. All except one of the windshield-less, open-cockpit racecars held not just a driver, but also a mechanic, who busied themselves by manually pumping oil and sometimes by throwing bolts or wrenches at close-racing competitors. Charles Leerhsen's Blood and Smoke takes you back to the raucous early days of a sports event before its worldwide reputation had begun to rev up. Editor's recommendation.