“A Month at the Brickyard: The Incredible Indy 500” by Sonny Kleinfield
Auto Racing, Indianapolis 500, History
April 30, 2014 – re-release in electronic form. Originally published in 1977
4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)
While many people are familiar with the Indianapolis 500 as one of the biggest auto races in the world, there is a lot more to the even than just the race itself and the qualifying runs. The preparation by people of the track, the city of Indianapolis and the members of the race crews all play a part in making the race a huge event. These stories and others are covered by this excellent book by Sonny Kleinfield.
The book covers the month of May leading up to the 1976 Indianapolis 500. Johnny Parsons, a young up-and-coming driver whose father Johnnie won the race in 1950, is chronicled as he and his crew work to first qualify, then run well in the race itself. Descriptions of the work done on the car, the engine and in the pits is just right – not too technical that would confuse casual race fans (or non-fans) but enough to keep the interest of those readers who are hard-core car enthusiasts.
There are also many human interest stories in the book as well that make up the experience of the race track and the race. Fans that arrive and stay for most of the month, city officials who want to both promote the race and show the world that there is more to Indianapolis than the 500, and business owners who benefit from the thousands of extra customers in May are all portrayed in a fun and thoughtful manner. The difference in the social mores of that time compared to today is also apparent. When Janet Guthrie attempted to become the first woman to qualify for the race (she would do so the next year) the rampant sexism is apparent. Many of the comments made by men on other crews would not be so funny or tolerated today.
The sport of racing itself is covered superbly, especially the description of the days of the time trials to qualify for the race. The struggles of the drivers and their crews in trying to determine when to run the car were in my favorite section of the book. Parsons was covered in depth, of course, but other late qualifiers had entertaining stories to tell as well.
The book concludes with the 1976 race, following Parsons and his crew as they have some highs and some troubles, especially with tire changes during pit stops. I will not give away any more information about the race here – the reader will enjoy finding out how the race evolves.
Overall, this is an excellent book on one of the greatest spectacles in sports – not just the event but the entire month that leads up to the race. I recommend this for any auto racing fan.
I wish to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
Excellent. The various stories from different vantage points keep the reader engaged and entertained.
Do I recommend?
Yes, even if the reader is not a racing fan. Those readers will enjoy the human interest stories and some of the interviews with officials from the city of Indianapolis. Of course, race fans will soak up a lot of information about the entire Indianapolis 500 experience.
Book Format Read: