Bobby Marshman, the man who died too soon, gets a monumental new biography

He was one of those racers who makes you instinctively wonder to yourself what might have been. This much is clear: Bobby Marshman, who crabbed his way out of the eastern Pennsylvania bullrings and managed to reach Indianapolis, had all the inner stuff he needed to go all the way. Then came the blood-spattered American racing season of 1964. In the year that claimed such diverse racing talents as Dave MacDonald, Fireball Roberts and Eddie Sachs in ghastly accidents, Marshman suffered horrible burns while testing his Lotus-Ford at Phoenix. He lingered three days before succumbing.

Marshman might have remained largely forgotten forever if not for the efforts of Racemaker Press of Boston, which publishes scholarly works on auto racing history, and author/historian Michael Argetsinger. They have collaborated on An American Racer, a huge narrative biography of the fallen hero, which encompasses 328 hardcover pages. Argetsinger comes from a famous racing family that brought professional motorsports to Watkins Glen, New York. He has published definitive biographies of Mark Donohue and Walt Hansgen, and dug deep into a painful subject to produce this essential work. The author meticulously traces Marshman’s ascension from the Midget and Sprint ranks to the big time, and spotlights his quick mastery of the transition from front-engine Indy roadsters to rear-powered cars. What’s most encouraging about this book is its assurance that Marshman’s memory will now live in perpetuity. It’s $75, and can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Coastal 181, which has a whole lot of books on racing you can peruse.

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