Christmas Gift Ideas For Your IndyCar Fan

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With Christmas just two weeks from tomorrow, are you still racking your brain trying to find that perfect gift for the IndyCar fan on your list? Relax. There are tons of ideas to choose from and still plenty of time to get them. Many of us, myself included, sometimes fall into the trap of rambling on about how things were so much better in the early nineties. One thing that is better today than it was then, is the amount of IndyCar and Indy 500 gadgets, trinkets and gizmos that are available to us. If anything existed back then, we had to see it advertised in Indy Car Racing Magazine – that monthly homespun creation of Ned Wicker that was published in Milwaukee. There was an internet then, but who had it? Certainly not me, nor anyone I knew.

Nowadays, we can let our imaginations run wild for anything that is IndyCar related and order it online and have it the very next day – assuming you’re willing to pay the exorbitant overnight fees. But if your imagination gearbox is stuck in neutral this Christmas season, here are a few suggestions. Some of these I already have – others are things I would like to have, in case someone wants to send me something.

I’ll give a shameless plug to an area of my site that most probably don’t know even exists. There is a link to my “store” listed to the right. This isn’t where you’ll find the obligatory Oilpressure T-shirts, caps and polos. Except for a very small number of polos that I had made up last spring – none of those things exist. Other than friends and family, the only two Oilpressure polos known to be in circulation belong to Roy Hobbson and Megan Bickel (Bickelmom to you and me – she won the Oilpressure Trivia Contest last May). Hopefully, they are still intact.

Instead, my store is an Amazon store that features mostly books that were handpicked by me. So far, in the two seasons this site has been up – my store has generated $4.20 in commissions for me. Unfortunately, they won’t send me a check until it reached $10. At this rate, I might get my ten bucks by the start of the 2014 season. Nevertheless, there are some excellent book selections that all pertain to IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. Many I’ve read (I’m reading Vukovich right now), others I plan to read at some point.

Some of the books that I think any real IndyCar fan should have are:

The Official History Of The Indianapolis 500 by Donald Davidson and Rick Shaffer.
This is an Indy historian’s bible. It covers from the beginning of the Speedway all the way up to and including the 2006 race. There’s just one problem – the last I heard, it was out of print due to a dispute over a license issue. Hopefully, that issue has been resolved.

Gentlemen Start Your Engines by Wilbur Shaw.
To date, this is probably my favorite racing book. Although I know this was more of an “as told to” type book, you feel as if you personally know Wilbur and his wife “Boots” by the end of the book. It is a very quick read.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – One Hundred Years of Racing by Ralph Kramer.
Although it is very well written, this book is known for its photography. This is more of a coffee table book. Just don’t let some clod spill his beer all over it.

Vukovich by Bob Gates
I’m a slow reader and I’m only halfway through the book. At this rate, I’ll still be reading it in May. But so far, it has made me admire the man more than I already did – which was quite a lot.

How Much Do You Really Know About The Indianapolis 500? by Pat Kennedy.
This is a great…er, um…bathroom book. There are 529 trivia questions. Why they picked that number instead of an even 500, I don’t know. But you can open it up to any page and stump yourself at any time. Some questions are fairly easy. Some are impossible. But if you’re an Indy 500 fan, you must have this book.

Jack Arute’s Tales From The Indianapolis 500 by Jack Arute.
Don’t laugh. Robin Miller once called this “Jack Arute’s book of fiction”. It’ll never be confused with War & Peace, but it’s an enjoyable, light and easy read. I guess I relate to it because we both had our first experience at Indy in the sixties with our fathers. He kind of snagged me there.

Eddie Sachs: The Clown Prince Of Racing by Dennis Miller
I haven’t read this book, nor do I own it. I have heard great things about it and always come close to buying it when I see it in the Speedway gift shop every May. Perhaps next year, I’ll take the plunge.

Along For The Ride – A Love Story by Dorie Sweikert
This is another one that is on my to-do list. Donald Davidson raves about this book written by Dorie Sweikert – the widow of the 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner Bob Sweikert. What is unique about this book is that she used no ghostwriter and wrote every word herself. I have read the first chapter on Amazon and it is literally riveting. Donald Davidson said the first time he read it; he could not put it down. Coming from Donald – that says a lot.

There are probably some glaring omissions, but that’s what first comes to mind when I think of IndyCar racing books.

Some other items for gift consideration are:

Vintage Radio Broadcasts: Just in time for Christmas, the Speedway has released complete race broadcasts from selected races available for download from Indy500.com for only $9.99. The oldest broadcast is the 1960 race that features the famous duel between Rodger Ward and Jim Rathmann.

Great Moments From The Indianapolis 500: This was an extra long playing album (44 minutes per side) with Sid Collins narrating various soundbites from way back. It was produced in 1974. It is available on Amazon for $30, but I found it a few years ago on e-bay for $9.00. I converted it to CD as well and there are other homemade CD versions available on e-bay.

Vintage Indy 500 Programs: Probably my most prized possession is my collection of Indy 500 programs. After I mistakenly threw my collection of programs  away in a move about ten years ago, my girlfriend surprised me for my birthday in 2003 with a collection of Indy programs for every year that I have been alive (dating back to 1958). She spent almost a year gathering these on e-bay. Some she paid as little as $5.00, while others cost her $20. The older programs give you a realistic glimpse at what things were like at that time, plus bring back a ton of memories from the races I attended as a child. 

Indianapolis 500 – Legend DVD Series: A decade-by-decade look at every race from 1960 through 1999, announced by none other than Tom Carnegie. Aside from a close look at each race, there are other sections of each DVD that pays homage to Sid Collins, Tony Hulman, Jim Clark, etc. There are also recent interviews by the drivers, chief mechanics and owners involved including Jim Rathmann, Rodger Ward, AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, George Bignotti, the Unsers, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears, Roger Penske and more. I just wish they would have one for the fifties and the decade that just finished (whatever we call it).

Trinkets & Apparel: E-bay, Indy500.com and IndyCar.com are loaded with IndyCar apparel from today and yesterday. Key-chains, Christmas ornaments and almost any type of die-cast car is available. Have at it!

Artifacts: Some other items that my girlfriend has gotten for me are display items such as a plaque from the Speedway that has an actual piece of brick and asphalt from the track from when the track was last resurfaced in 2005. She also found an autographed Gil de Ferran Marlboro Team Penske visor on e-bay that actually raced. You can tell because there is a crack in it from a piece of debris.

Indy Racing Experience: Without a doubt, the best gift I ever got was when my two older brothers surprised me with an IndyCar drive at IMS for my fiftieth birthday. I got three laps in a 2000 G-Force (Panoz) around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with me driving the single-seater. It wasn’t cheap (for them), but it was a day I’ll never forget.

And of course…Tickets to the 2011 Indianaplos 500. If there was ever a year to make it to the Speedway, it is next year when visions of Ray Harroun and the one hundred year old Marmon Wasp will be dancing in everyone’s head.

I’ve just scratched the surface, here. Feel free to remind me of whatever I may have missed. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas to help thaw out a race-starved IndyCar fan this Christmas.

George Phillips

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10 Responses to “Christmas Gift Ideas For Your IndyCar Fan”

  1. George, unless you want Monica Hilton (the Race gIRL) all up in your grill, you might want to include the Izod IndyCar Series 2011 calendar: http://www.umponline.com/calendar/

  2. Good ideas, George. A lot of those books were on my list. Sadly, Donald’s book can only be found for over a hundred bucks, and sometimes much more. I hope it’s back in print quickly.

  3. All excellent choices of gift ideas for an IndyCar fan.

  4. Ralph Kramer did Indianapolis Motor Speedway – One Hundred Years of Racing but he also did The Indy 500 – A Century of Excitement. Does anybody know if these two books are different? or are they almost virtual duplicates with a forward by Mario Andretti in one and by David Letterman and Helio in the other?

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I found one of those (Van Camp’s Pork and Beans presents) Great Moments From The Indianapolis 500 LPs at a used bookstore in good condition for $5. I couldn’t get it to the register fast enough.

  6. I voted for OTHER only because we all have different tastes. I’m not really into t-shirts, and even though part of me likes caps, I almost never wear them (I prefer a broad-brimmed hat to keep the sun off my ears/neck). I did threaten to get my friend the hat that’s all white with the Indy 500 logo in very 70s red-and-white style. It’s wonderfully awful.

    Still–I do plan to get download a radio broadcast and listen to it on the drive to my folks on Christmas eve.

    Shameless plug (but honestly, I only mention it because it’s relevant): for the last 3 weeks I’ve been running a roundup called “Does Anyone Buy This [stuff]?” where I look at the various Auto-racing-connected websites and see what’s for sale. A lot of it is the same old-same-old, but some of it is a hoot. I can’t imagine they sell many $2,000 gas-pump-replica gumball machines. Not unless the gumballs are coated in heroin.

  7. Mike Silver Says:

    Another great book is 500 Miles to Go, by Joe Quinn. I read it about 50 years a go. i doubt if it is still in print, but it was an amazing history. The Wilbur Shaw book is one of my favorites, also.

  8. If any of you Indy merchandising/marketing suits are reading today’s blog, well how about a 100% cotton polo with the centennial logo on it. I can’t wear the 100% man-made fiber shirts. at least get a 60-40 blend.

  9. Hope all of you in America buy those Indy 500 year books. I tried to buy the 1992 Indy yearbook, would have cost me $85 dollars, sucks being in the UK. So I say if you have the opportunity buy them if you can.

  10. Great idea George

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