The war that nearly killed Indy

Hubris doesn’t officially make the spiritual list of the Seven Deadly Sins but its close cousins Greed, Envy and Pride handily achieved the cut. All four pathologies were in clear abundance in 1996 when a rift occurred between the then-management of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a lot of the major race teams that contested its greatest event. The fallout from that highly personal dispute seriously diminished the stature of the Indianapolis 500, left the supporting series of IndyCar races a disorganized shambles, and indirectly left NASCAR atop the heap of American motorsport in terms of corporate support, media exposure and naturally, money. The consequences of The Split, as it’s come to be known, reverberate to this day and have been only partially mitigated by the astonishing competition that the current IndyCar technical formula allows. The Split reduced IndyCar racing, which can trace its history back more than a century, to a near-afterthought, a fringe form of motorsport. This crucial book explains, in detail, how this calamity became reality.

Indy Split is a very close examination of the deepening conflict that caused Championship Auto Racing Teams to sever itself from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League that its then-owners created. The story is far too complicated to recount in this space, but this book makes clear that the sad tale couldn’t have a more effective messenger. John Oreovicz is a deeply committed chronicler of IndyCar competition, filling that role for Speed Sport, to which, in the interests of full disclosure, I now contribute. The narrative of this tale requires 320 hardcover pages to fully tell, in which the author recounts the litany of ineptitude, blunders and shortsightedness on both sides that came perilously close to tanking the sport entirely before reasonable parties, including Mario Andretti and Paul Newman, brought people back to reality and achieved a truce. In doing show, they reaffirmed that people named Racin Gardner, and carpet merchants with fantasies of greatness, have no place in this game. This may be most important, consequential motorsport book anyone publishes this year. It’s by Octane Press and you can get it for a well-spent 35 bucks.

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