Just after Christmas, we paid a visit to the Museum of Arts & Sciences here in Daytona Beach, a terrific place to learn the heritage of central Florida. One of the museum’s major benefactors has been the Root family of Terre Haute, Indiana, whose business holdings have including a major Coca-Cola bottling plant. That’s one reason why MOAS has a major exhibition on Coca-Cola’s standing as an iconic American brand. The Root family has also long enjoyed a deep involvement in American motorsports, most notably at the Indianapolis 500, although their car also took part in a race for championship cars that took place very shortly after Daytona International Speedway was first opened in 1959. To our great surprise, we spotted a book in the MOAS gift shop – a really cool place, we should add – we found a book, commissioned by the Root family, that tells the story of their years in racing.
This is the story of Chapman S. Root, the grandson of the company’s founder, and good friend Don Smith decided in 1952 to form a racing team. They named it Sumar, a contraction of their wives’ names, and went on to assault the Midwest tracks, first with a Kurtis-Kraft 3000 Sprint car. That led to the car you see on the cover of this book, the Sumar Special, an early attempt at Brickyard streamlining. The book, largely the work of Chapman’s son, Preston Root, whose name you may recognize from his work as a broadcaster with the Motor Racing Network. It’s a fascinating, highly personal collection of photos of the team’s racing history during the 1950s. Sumar employed some of the era’s brightest stars, including Tony Bettenhausen, Jimmy Daywalt and Pat O’Connor. Another driver was the early NASCAR star Marshall Teague, who was killed in the car while attempting to set a speed record barely two weeks after the superspeedway’s opening. The Sumar Special was restored and now occupies a place of honor, along with the Sprint car, in a MOAS exhibition hall. We simply can’t get enough of this kind of 1950s racing history. Best of all, it’s only $19.95 for 90 large-format illustrated pages. You can get it directly from MOAS, whose contact information is on the website. Make sure you tell them we sent you.