A racing fan on your list? Try this lineup of gift ideas

ON MOTOR SPORTS

Auto Racing

November 25, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

As the racing season comes to an end, I thought a look at the new books that have crossed my desk would be a good way to wrap up the year and give some of you ideas for holiday presents:

Prototypes, the History of the IMSA GTP Series by J.A Martin and Ken Wells (David Bull Publishing, $89.95). Author Jim Martin is from Chase. He is an industrial designer who started writing about motorsports so he could get closer to the cars and drivers he loves. You can tell he is a fan by the way he writes about the IMSA series, long before you arrive at the back of the book, where Martin tells of the delight he had interviewing the likes of Bobby Rahal, Bob Tullius and Derek Bell.

I could tell, too, when he called me and chatted on about how surprising it is that there are so many Baltimore and Maryland connections in IMSA's history, beginning with IMSA founder John Bishop, whose first job was at Martin Aircraft and who started driving in the SCCA here.

The book began with Martin's teaming with his late friend Wells, who envisioned the book as being about Jaguar racing. But after Wells' death in 1992, Martin was advised the market was too narrow. He kept Wells' story-telling style, but expanded the book to cover the history of the IMSA GTP Series. It tells about the cars, the owners, the drivers and the teams. The purpose of the book, Martin says, "is to explain why things happened as they did. To understand the results, one must understand the stories behind the stories."

Martin obviously loves to share the stories he has gathered. The book has won the gold medal at the International Automotive Media Convention and has been named Book of the Year by the Independent Publishers' Group. The book is available only on the Internet at www.bullpublishing.com and at amazon.com.

NASCAR Generations, The Legacy of Family in NASCAR Racing, by Robert Edelstein (HarperEntertainment, $24.95). The idea for this book could have come simply from knowing a little stock car history. It sometimes seems Winston Cup racing is nothing but a family business.

But Robert Edelstein says he got the idea in the early 1990s, when he was given the opportunity to interview Bobby Allison before his induction into the Hall of Fame.

"That interview just sort of changed everything," Edelstein said.

"Talking to him about the loss of his two sons, Davey and Clifford, hearing him say he couldn't even remember the Daytona 500 in which he and Davey finished first and second - it made such an impression. And then I talked to Ned Jarrett calling [his son] Dale's win at the Daytona 500. To see both sides completely blew me away. I thought one day it would make a decent book, and, finally, I found the time and I did it."

The book looks at more than a dozen racing families. Among them: the France family, which began NASCAR and continues to run it; the Flock brothers, who entertained in the sport's early days; the Pettys, who were believed to be the first to have four generations competing in the major leagues of any pro sport; and the Earnhardts, whose second-generation contribution was seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, who died at Daytona in February.

At the Altar of Speed, the Fast Life and Tragic Death of Dale Earnhardt by Leigh Montville (Doubleday, $24.95). Someone was going to do a fast and furious book on the life of Earnhardt after his death, and Montville, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, was a solid choice for the job. Montville gathered the information for the book in the three months after Earnhardt's death. He didn't get total cooperation, but enough. The book is a good read, telling the story of a self-made man who grew from a shy backward youth to a stunning, intimidating star.

I Remember Dale Earnhardt by Tom Gillispie (Cumberland House, $18.95). This is a personal book. Friends, competitors, reporters, even fans reminisce, telling their favorite Earnhardt stories. Some of the humor is very dry. Some raucous. Some just sweet. It's like the old song, "Memories, pressed between the pages of your mind."

Mario Andretti, a Driving Passion by Gordon Kirby (David Bull Publishing, $29.95). Andretti wasn't sure he wanted to do this book, but, as he shared his life's experiences with Kirby, the American editor of Autosport, he found his passion for the book grew as his passion for his sport always had.

This book captures Andretti's "toughness, intelligence and humor" as he tells how he succeeded against the odds.

Personally, I'd buy this book for the pictures even before reading a word. The photos are fascinating, reminding how someone can change right before your eyes without your even noticing.

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