Title: Marian Catholic senior pens racing book
Author: Casey Toner
Publisher: Southtown Star
Marian Catholic High School senior Samuel Beck has had a taste for speed since he was an infant.
After all, the resident of Hammond, Ind., was only five-months old when his Dad took him to Blue Island's Raceway Park.
By 9, Samuel Beck was racing go-karts that topped out at 86 mph. It's a no-brainer as to why Beck became a full-fledged racing fanatic as he grew to be an adult.
"It's full of action," Beck said. "It takes a fair amount of guts to drive a vehicle in triple digit speeds inches away from (other cars)."
Few, however, could have predicted the 18-year-old would have authored a book about his passion before he even walked down the aisle to graduate high school.
"This is something I thought was interesting," he said. "I took my writing interest and my history interest and combined them."
His book, "Blue Island's Raceway Park," an entry in the "Images of America" series, is set to be released Feb. 15. He penned the 128-page book with Stan Kalwasinski, a newspaper racing columnist and historian.
The book, which features at least 180 photographs, chronicles the famous track that hosted racing events for more than 60 years.
It covers the history of the track from conception in 1938 to its demolition in 2001.
"If it was still there, I'd be prepping my car for the season," Beck said.
He said the track originally was built to be a dog track for gamblers. Gaming on those races was never legalized so it was remodeled into a track for cars.
It started as a racetrack for midget cars and it slowly began to feature more and more regular car races. Famous drivers including Bud Koehler and Bobby Dotter often raced there.
"In its heyday, the raceway was more popular than the Chicago White Sox," Beck said, adding the track used to be filled to capacity every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
To research the book, Beck said he and his co-author contacted racers, track owners and fans who kept photographs and records of the events.
"I figured I would write it before too many people passed away and all that knowledge is gone," he said.
Beck said he has been promoting the book to friends and family. With help from his Dad, he created a Facebook group titled "Raceway Park Fan Club," devoted to the track. It has already gathered more than 500 fans.
"It's amazing, we've heard all across the country from people who are in love (with the raceway)," he said.
In the fall, Beck plans to go to college. Among other schools, he has applied to Notre Dame University. He wants to major in mechanical engineering, of course.
"We should combine the aesthetics from the 1950s and 1960s with modern technology," he said. "Car knowledge is becoming a lost art."