"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man In Black by Ed Hinton

Great book but there are a few errors...

The title basically says it all. This fascinating book uses Daytona International Speedway and the old racing surface of Daytona Beach itself as its lens to focus on the world of NASCAR. Hinton has been a beat reporter covering NASCAR since the mid-1970s and knows all of the old stories and Hinton is able to package them so that the reader is reading one little vignette after another until the history of Daytona is told.

I was reading another book when I picked up this one (a Christmas gift that I hadn't really paid a lot of attention to) and began thumbing through it. I couldn't put it down! It is well-written and at times it is laugh out loud funny, especially if you are a NASCAR fan and are familiar with the older, retired drivers.

However, a couple of disturbing, trivial factual errors throw a negative light on the book as a whole. Two that I noted were Hinton's assertion that no rookie has won the Indy 500 since the 1926 race (in case you're wondering, Daytona Beach used to be used as a high-speed test site, much like Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah is used today and the 1926 winner died making such a high-speed run). I knew that his assertion was wrong since I witnessed rookies win the 2000 race (Juan Montoya) and the 2001 race (Helio Castroneves) - both were well-before publishing time for his book. Besides that, 2 minutes on Google told me there were two others - the 1927 and 1966 winners.

The Dukes of Hazzard  
in a car chase
Willy T. Ribbs
Secondly, he makes the assertion that California driver Willy T. Ribbs was encouraged by the example set by "The Dukes of Hazzard" to get drunk and play chasing games with the police in downtown Charlotte, NC in May of 1978. Since I spent a great deal of my own childhood watching the Dukes, I thought that that seemed a bit early. Sure enough, two more minutes on Google told me that the show premiered in January of 1979, so it really had no part in Ribbs' ill-conceived misadventures. Oddly enough, Ribbs' trip to the drunk tank gave Dale Earnhardt the chance to take his car - his first chance to drive a good car in the Winston Cup Series and this opportunity eventually led him to the career that made him a household name.

Despite these errors the book was a hoot to read and I'm sure I'll be lending it to every NASCAR fan I know.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on July 26, 2004.

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