Looking at the polished industry of auto racing today, it’s hard to imagine the bygone era of its birth — a time of unprecedented American innovation and risk-taking by business entrepreneurs and hard-driving men looking for adventure, financial gain and to make their mark on a changing world.
A new book by Mark Dill immerses readers in that time by telling the story of racing’s American origins through actual historical accounts of the races, machines, drivers and other central figures who created an entirely new sport in the early 1900s — when horses and railways were still the most common forms of transportation. Boasting a forward by Willy T. Ribbs and an introduction by Al Unser Jr., the book is now available as an e-book and in print through Dill’s author website or in print on BookBaby. Print copies will be available Nov. 25 from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
“The Legend of the First Super Speedway: The Battle for the Soul of American Auto Racing,” opens with a captivating introduction to Barney Oldfield as he disrupts an October 1902 day of toil for Detroit River dock workers when he drives his race car amidst the dock’s warehouses. The thunderous blasts from the giant engine startled and angered the workers while terrifying the horses that pulled loading carts.
That vivid description of the scene of Oldfield in his “Nine-Ninety-Nine” race machine (produced by engineer Henry Ford) is matched by equivalent authentic detail in each of the book’s subsequent chapters. It culminates with a May 1910 conversation between Oldfield, by then heralded as racing’s Speed King, and Carl Fisher — the leading founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — about Fisher’s feat in building the iconic track.
To get better insight into the project, we talked with Dill — creator of the First Super Speedway website that houses the world’s largest online archive of primary research about pre-1920 auto racing history — about why he felt compelled to introduce readers to American racing’s real-life characters in his fact-based historical novel.
Read the full interview at VintageMotorsport.com.