When a hero owned Indy

Americans don’t devote a great deal of conversational effort to discussing people like Eddie Rickenbacker before, and that’s too bad. In addition to being a fighter ace during World War I, a Medal of Honor recipient and a swashbuckling racing driver in the earliest days of motorsport, Rickenbacker was a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He was behind the Rickenbacker automobile during the 1920s and also, beginning in 1927, took ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The bulk of what’s been written to date about Brickyard history focuses on the days after 1945, when Rickenbacker sold the track to Tony Hulman and his family. Rickenbacker goes down in motorsport history for his work keeping the speedway alive during the Great Depression, which had a lot to do with his pre-1929 decision to require production-based cars in the Indianapolis 500, assuring then-crucial industry support. Until now, that era hasn’t always received the focus it deserves.

Denny Miller is a California-based historian with a love for the 500 that’s evident in everything he writes, a body of work that’s included a definitive biography of the East Coast driver Eddie Sachs, who nearly won the race in 1961 and died in it three years later. Miller’s latest work is a 555-page, episodic telling of the Rickenbacker years at the speedway, recounted chronologically not just through recounting Rickenbacker’s own work, but also the exploits of the drivers who achieved stardom during his reign, starting with the two three-time winners depicted on the cover. The narrative is laid out in large type – very helpful to readers of a certain seniority – and dotted with the motorsport artwork of Hector Cademartori. The Eddie Rickenbacker Era retails at $44.95, and you can order a copy signed by the author from our favorite bookstore, Autobooks-Aerobooks of Burbank, California. If you’re going to be in the Los Angeles metro area on Saturday, April 10th, Miller will hold a signing at the shop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT and believe us, this store is always worth a visit.

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