Totally agree that the '64 500 is full of many interesting stories, I've ordered my copy.
Totally agree that the '64 500 is full of many interesting stories, I've ordered my copy.
I'll see YOU at the races!
Hi all. One thing that interested me in the story of the '64 race was all the subplots, many of which you've touched on. FE vs. RE, tire wars, gasoline vs. methanol, the influx of road racers, Ford vs. Offy just to name a few. Also a turning point to improving the safety of the sport.
And yes, the book will be available in Kindle as well.
Thanks to Amazon's search inside, I've been able to read some of the book (I've ordered two copies, one for me and one for a friend). Here are my first impressions:
1) It is well-written. Not all auto racing books are. This one is clear, there is a narrative flow, paragraphs actually have topic sentences and the author sustains powerful themes throughout entire sections.
2) It is not sensationalized in the least. In fact, the author has gone out of his way to be respectful. That is the high road and the way to go.
3) It is clearly a history of the entire story of the 1964 race. Indeed, I don't know of another racing book that concentrates on a particular 500 in the way this one does. I suppose the book about the 1973 race (Institution Under Fire is the sub title, I think) counts, but that book wasn't really a history. It had a distinct and overt point of view. And did not have nearly the narrative arc that this book does.
4) Starting with the 1963 race is both interesting and a great story telling hook.
5) So many sports stories are about triumphs. Or, on the other hand, about falls from grace because of personality faults (thinking of Lance Armstrong). Not many are conveyed as true tragedies, both in the literary sense and in the real life impact. This one is and Mr. Garner handles it with the tone of someone who cares about the subject.
I hope the book not only catches the attention of the racing community but also the general community. About 15 years ago Norman Maclean wrote a book titled Young Men and Fire (the author of A River Runs Through It). The book is a remembrance of a fire fighting tragedy. Mr. Garner's book reminds me of this work.
Last edited by preacher; 04-17-2014 at 09:06 PM.
Just a little off topic, but still dealing with the 500. When Duke Nalon had that fiery crash with the Novi, they never stopped the race. And, they never removed the car from the wall until the 500 was over. Times have changed somewhat, huh?
Which brings up another question. If the '64 crash had not blocked the track and had happened in one of the turns down low and out of the way would they have still stopped the race? My guess would be that they would not. It takes a lot to stop a race; especially the 500. And usually that means that the track has to be totally blocked.
Up to that point, had there ever been a fire of that magnitude at the Speedway? I've seen photos of Nalon's crash and Floyd Roberts' crash and as bad as they were, I don't think they compared to this one. It was like ground zero of an aerial bombing in wartime. I think even if it was down low and out of the way, they still would've had to throw the red at least for a while to deal with it, maybe not as long as they actually did.
Just received the prepublication copy...no pictures...it is a great read...author did his work...and the behind the scenes
Stories of the Sachs and MacDonald families is nicely written...yes...a must read. Beginning sets up the yr of 1964
Quite well...w the move to the rear engines...etc.
I'm not sure how in 1964 you place the crash on the track somewhere in order to not stop the race; down low in a corner and you have a potentially enormous grass fire. Up high in a corner and it's a threat to spectators on the other side of the wall, depending on the corner.
Of course, thinking of the "Champions Forever" discussion, the F1 race went on in 1973 with the raging inferno of Roger Williamson's inverted March adjacent to the track, so I could be wrong.
I would think that the magnitude of the blaze and the fact that so many emergency vehicles were called upon to extinguish it would have caused a red flag no matter just where on the track the accident would have happened.
Tibi Fumus Obsidio Septum Doro
I don't think the question is whether or not you stop the event, it's if the event would be stopped in May 1964 if the crash did not happen in the location that it did.
All I can draw from post WWII and prior to 1964 are the Vukovich and 1958 first la;p accidents.
The 55 accident involved multiple cars and damage to spectator vehicles outside the backchute rail, plus a fire. That race was not stopped.
The 58 first lap accident involved even more vehicles with the car of O'Connor staying on the track and on fire as well. That race was not stopped.
I have to think that even if the accident had occurred as rjc speculates then Harlan Fengler does not throw the red flag in 1964.
"For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".
John Kennedy at American University 1963
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"
The 1964 accident was catastrophic. One can watch it over and over on YouTube and become somewhat desensitized to the magnitude of the fire. During real time it was a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Some thought the grandstands were on fire. The black smoke was dense enough that it made it hard to tell how to maneuver through the scene. In real time, the red flag was the only rational decision.
When an atomic bomb explodes, you don't keep serving lunch at the diner.
It was the first 500 stopped for an accident.
"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved
body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting
"...holy $^!+...what a ride!"
I'd have stopped the race in '64. As far as Fengler knew, there might have been trapped drivers who were still alive and needed emergency rescue.
As I recollect, Jimmy Clark saw the caution light and smoke, he slowed the field and stopped in turn 4. Fengler may not have actually made the call to throw the flag.
"You just don't know what Indy Means", Al Unser Jr.
"That's why to me it does feel more precious when an American wins it...", Michael Andretti
I was there. I was sitting over at the entrance to three, in a grandstand outside the track.
the first we knew about the accident was the TREMENDIOUS amount of black smoke rising from over in four. Only five or six cars came around again. They all stopped in the entrance to four.
the blaze seemed to last forever, but prolly only five or six minutes.
From where we sat, we really had no idea how bad it was. I didn't find out until the following mornings paper.
i have always been fascinated by the tragedy.
Last edited by ZOOOM; 04-19-2014 at 01:45 PM.
"Doc, just set them fingers sose I can hold the wheel"
James Hurtubise, June, 1964
I've seen the films, the reports and many photos, some of which many here may not have seen.
There is no underestimating the fire and the tragedy that occurred.
RJC speculated had the accident happened in another part of the track would the red flag have been displayed?
In order to ponder that scenario you have to take into account the officials at the time, the technology available to them to communicate to the chief steward, past history and the chief steward himself.
Past history shows that officials were loathe to use the red flag. I'd always been taught that when an open wheel race car got upside down, a red flag was used. That was not the case apparently through the 50's and part of the 60's in championship racing. I would have thrown the red numerous other times when it was not done, 55 and 58 being prime examples. The red was not used in 59 at Milwaukee either for Elisian, I believe and someone will have to advise if it was used for Herk's accident in 1964.
All I am basing my own theory on is the above. Past history would indicate officials were not prone to use the red flag. Harlan Fengler was deeply rooted in the old AAA ways. Has the Sachs accident happened out of his field of vision, all he would have had was the phone communication of observers around the course to tell him what the situation was.
I am not certain that he would have thrown the red under rjc's scenario.
With all due respect son, even HE couldn't have missed that amount of rolling black smoke...
the red flag hadn't been thrown when Clark parked it up in four.
AJ was quoted that he was awfully hard to convince to get back in his car. He was to have said that if this was what Indy was like, he might not come back.
Then he buckled in and drove...
Last edited by ZOOOM; 04-21-2014 at 02:15 PM.
I just learned about this book from this thread. Checked out the preview on Amazon. Looks VERY well written. Can't wait to read the whole thing!
I am not your son
I just don't think Fengler the official throws the red.
Tom Binford possibly/probably.
Some of those AAA guys weren't all that impressive in their calls throughout the championship trail.
AJ is also the one who kept Gordy from going to the Savage wreck in 73.
The fact that anyone got back into a car, much less remained in the stands...................
Especially when the car was removed with Sachs still in it (covered of course)
From what I can see, the wreckage was much more in the middle of the track too then in 1973 and of course more cars involved. Unser's Novi and Session's car were parked a bit further.
For the men in the rear of the filed there wasn't a manner to safely get through and pass the site of the accident anymore.
In this thread it was mentioned that Clark parked in Turn 4 because of seeing the flames. But don't forget (as also already mentioned) that there had been a few cars behind Sachs and MacDonald that never had been able to pass the site of the accident and cross the finish line for the second time already. Jim McElreath has been listed to have been the last driver to get alongside the inferno. But his team mate Art Malone never passed.
In other words: apart from the fire, Clark could have seen other cars having stopped already and thus followed suite.
Even more telling: I think there is a good chance that several drivers in the tail of the field, among them Malone, who may have parked the car already even before the red flag was thrown.
If what Niseguy wrote that the flag was thrown after Clark had parked his car is right, then I dare to suggest that the officials threw the red flag since they had been aware of the fact that for a while there were no more cars passing anymore that indicated that the race was still on but that they realized no one was racing anymore.
Last edited by Indyote; 04-23-2014 at 07:38 AM. Reason: adding
And not that it mattered in the long run but anyone that had stopped on the track but didn't cross the starting line to complete their second lap (as did Clark and the leaders) basically started the race over from scratch on the restart. Since a red flag was thrown scoring reverted to everyone's previous scored lap. For those that had only completed a single lap they had effectively not really started the race; at least from a scoring standpoint. USAC even had a rule covering red flags stating that a complete restart was called for in this kind of situation and that single file restarts would not be used. There were some arguments among the remaining cars and USAC about just how everything would be handled but in the end a single file restart was used. I think the question about whether or not a complete restart should have been called came down to just when was the red flag actually thrown.
Last edited by indyrjc; 04-23-2014 at 10:17 AM.
The matter of who should be scored what and how they should be lined up was a matter of some confusion on the radio broadcast. Plus, in 1964, there wasn't scoring at various intervals around the track, but simply or not so simply at the start/finish line.
Also, in terms of live reporting as captured on the radio broadcast, the red flag was reported as being displayed sometime after the accident. Not forever, but at least after the leaders had come back around.
Was it by chance AJ Foyt himself????? He made only two stops that race while, from what I remember, most Offy's made at least three stops.
So they took on 3 times some 70 gallons and then started with a similar amaount, is about 300 gallons in total.
With two stops and started with a similar amount, 3 times 100 equals 300 Gallons.
And typically Foyt/Bignotti, not telling anyone what they did but let it pay off on race day.
Thanks everyone, for your interest and kind words about my book. Big year for Indy history books with The Beast and another one by Gordon Kirby going on sale during the month. Looking forward to reading both of them. I'll be in Indy most of the month and hope to meet some of you in person.
BTW, I believe the drivers stopping really brought the race to a halt and forced the red flag. The dense black clouds from the gasoline fire (versus a clear methanol flames) forced them stop. The caution flag for 1958 500 crash that took the life of Pat O'Connor lasted 20 laps and nearly 30 minutes and was nearly the last 500 for the rookie Foyt.