Indy: The Race and Ritual of the Indianapolis 500
In a nation that worships the automobile for the freedom, style, and status that it confers, the Indianapolis 500, run on or near Memorial Day eighty-seven times, is an annual rite of passage celebrating Americans’ love affair with speed. Indy recounts the drivers (677 men and 3 women) who have gone to Indianapolis in the past ninety-five years to live their dreams, staking their lives on the outcome. It highlights the faces in the crowd: hardworking Americans, tinhorn celebrities, hookers, movie stars, gate-crashers, and five American presidents. Terry Reed focuses his narrative on the track’s four quarter-mile-long turns, each the site of triumphs (including those of such multiple winners as Billy Vukovich, A. J. Foyt, and Helio Castroneves); grisly deaths (at least sixty-six, including three unrelated men of the same unusual last name who died in the same turn but in different decades); and bizarre heroics (like the sans souci French driver who downed champagne throughout the 1913 Indy 500 and still won). Reed also examines Indy’s confluence of racing and aeronautics (World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker once owned the track) and the impact upon the event of such forces as segregation, gender politics, food, fads, publicity stunts, world-class partying, and tasteless pop culture. Indy takes readers on an entertaining, full-throttle ride through the history of one of the world’s most famous races and one of America’s most hallowed rituals. It is the definitive account of the crown jewel of American motorsports.
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