It’s a tough time for racing. Working to adjust to a global crisis, an economic downturn like no other, and trying to understand how to keep both participants and fans involved, the future of motorsports faces an interesting challenge.
Of course, the above statement is about the 1930s. Right?
Looking to the past to help understand the future, the hosts of “Dinner with Racers” are proud to present the latest episode of their Amazon Prime series, titled “Brickyard Empire.”
Aware of the parallels between the 1920s and 1930s and the modern era of racing, the search for a rags-to-riches hero ended up uncovering a different character – the ‘businessman’ known as Mike Boyle, who began a dynasty of Indianapolis 500 success as the country rebounded from the Great Depression.
As a founding member of one of Chicago’s most powerful trade unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Mike Boyle would earn the nickname of ‘Umbrella Mike’ for his, well, propensity for taking ‘donations’ in an umbrella in exchange for electrical services throughout the Chicago area. While the movies largely portray the Chicago scene of the era as being overrun with bootleggers and liquor racketeers, the practice of trade unions running the city with their own tactics preceded this, as well as continued long after.
One of the original pioneers of the concept, Mike Boyle’s exploits in Chicago eventually led to his love of car racing, where he spent much of his ‘earnings’ on developing an IndyCar program, eventually running the most successful car in the history of the Indianapolis 500, and playing an instrumental role in the saving of the Speedway as we know it today.
Brickyard Empire takes a look at the many elements of this story, focusing on Boyle’s off-track exploits as well as on-track, including his role in creating a legacy for many of the sport’s biggest figures. Sticking to the documentary format of telling stories over ‘dinner,’ hosts Ryan Eversley and Sean Heckman sit down with not only racing historians such as Mark Dill and John Pappas, but Chicago organized crime experts Wayne A. Johnson and John J. Binder. The show also features highlight stories with Wilbur Shaw, Jr., whose father would not only win the race three times but also play an instrumental role in the saving of the Speedway.
“We went looking for a hero and we came away with, well, something more on-brand for us,” said Dinner with Racers co-host and director Sean Heckman. “We’re really happy with this story because it is a time in history we feel really deserves another look given the current climate, and another reminder that it’s the characters that make this sport so special.”
Brickyard Empire is available now as part of the Dinner with Racers television series on Amazon Prime, the third episode of the current season. Additionally, long-form interviews on the subject are available via the Dinner with Racers podcast, available wherever free podcasts are sold.