Need a Holiday Gift for the Motorsport Enthusiast? Here's Some Book Suggestions

Need to do some last-minute shopping for the motorsports fan on your list? Or perhaps you’re the motorsports fan and want to drop some last-minute hints to your friends and relatives and co-workers.

Here is a list of recently published books about auto racing that I’ve enjoyed reviewing and that I think you’ll enjoy reading:

Fast Lines: Memorable Moments in Motorsports

By Pete Lyons

$24.95 from or

Pete Lyons’ father, Ozzie, was an acclaimed motorsports photographer, and so is Pete, who also writes about racing for publications on both sides of the Atlantic. This book is a compilation of 55 of the columns he’s written in the past 15 years for Vintage Racecar magazine. 

From Lime Rock to Le Mans and Brazil to Barcelona, you’ll enjoy reconnecting through Lyons’ insight with some old faces and places. You’ll feel as though you’re walking alongside he and his wife as they explore like auto racing anthropologists what remains of Riverside Raceway. Feel privileged to peak into his notebooks and to see photos from his personal and family collection.

Be prepared to laugh with Lyons at some of the funny stories and also to cry with him at the too-frequent loss of life.

These “lines” may be fast,  but you’ll want to savor them slowly.


Living on the Edge: A History of Auto Racing in Michigan

By Rick Sigsby

$14.95 from

I’m only a third of the way through this one, but am enjoying getting reacquainted with the motorsports history of the state where I lived most of my life and where I covered a lot of racers and racing events as a newspaper sports editor and later as motorsports editor at AutoWeek magazine.

Rick Sigsby also was a Michigan newspaper sports editor, and his book includes a series of interviews he’s done with many of the state’s racing greats -- or in one case -- inaugural Indy 500 winner Ray Harroun, with Ray’s 97-year-old son, Dick. The book also has feature stories about Michigan racers who no longer are around to be interviewed.

I thought I knew a lot about Michigan’s motorsports history, but I’ learning something new on seemingly every page. 

Real Racers: Formula 1 Racing in the 1950s and 1960s: A Driver’s Perspective

By Stuart Codling

Photography from The Klemantaski Collection

$40 from

Ever wonder what's different about Formula One racing today compared the glory years of the 1950s and 1960s? Buy this book, turn to pages 59 and 1,118, 120 and 123 and so many others and it becomes obvious. See it? It's the drivers' eyes.

No, they didn't have better vision than today's drivers. And they certainly didn't have the technologically advanced equipment used by today's drivers.

So what's the difference? It's the drivers' eyes. Back in the heyday, you could see them, especially in photographs taken by Louis Klemantaski and his camera-carrying contemporaries.

Today, the driver's eyes are hidden behind full-face helmets that provide a slit through which the driver can see out but we cannot see in. But back in the day, helmets barely covered the driver's hair, and the goggles they wore didn't hide their eyes but drew our attention to them.

Put a driver in a protective and fire-proof suit and cover his (or her) head with what could be a Star Warriors helmet and you might think it was a robot driving the racecar. But in the Klemantaski era, you not only saw the drivers' eyes, but even the set of the jaw, the tightness of the lips and, above all, the eyes, those mirrors of the very soul.

While the book is dominated by Kelmantaski’s amazing images, the book's value is enhanced by Codling's captions and especially by the words of the drivers themselves.

The Crew Chief’s Son: A Trackside Memoir of Early NASCAR

By Michael L. Clements

$35 from

From 1957 through 1965, Michael Clements’ father, Louie, and uncle Clements were NASCAR crew chiefs, so skillful at their trade that in 1960, Louis and his driver, Rex White, won the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championship.

The Crew Chief’s Son is Michael Clements’ account of tho years when his family traveled the NASCAR circuit, which at the time meant living in a station wagon as the circus made three or four stops a week at tracks throughout the southeastern United States.

His well-illustrated book is dominated by often detailed accounts of the various races, each with its successes and frustrations, and sometimes with tragedies. But where the book is at its best comes when Michael takes us beyond the race results and into the his dad’s garage and onto pit road, and when he shares stories about family life, from his adventures with his cousin Gary to the times when racers shared family dinners.

Although it wasn’t a dinner, Michael speculates that Cotton Owens may have won one race because he ate so much of prune cake baked by Louie’s  wife that he drove faster than usual because he really needed to use a bathroom. In fact, Michael writes, after the race Owens even bypassed the winner’s circle and drove straight to an infield outhouse.

The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit

By Michael Cannell

$25.99 from (or $12.99 as an e-book)

In the summer and early autumn of 1961, American sports fans were engrossed with a race, a race between New York Yankees teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as they battled to see which might break the previously unassailable single-season home run record set three decades earlier by the famed Babe Ruth.

But it was another race involving teammates that occupied the attention of European sports fans that season. This was the race was between Wolfgang von Trips, a German count whose family estate had been reduced during World War II to little more than a family farm, and Phil Hill, an American who had found within the insane pace of racing cars the sanity lacking in his parents’ home.

Like Mantle and Maris, von Trips and Hill were teammates on the most famous of the teams in their sport -- Ferrari.

Their friendship and rivalry, played out against the backdrop of a period in which driver faced death at every turn, is chronicled in this book by a former New York Times staffer who expertly crafts a tale that unfolds much like a race itself -- from the pre-race driver introductions, though the laps behind the pace car, the early jockeying for position, the pressure of the pit stops and the drama of the late-race passing and the chase for the checkered flag.

But Cannell also takes the reader into the closed garages and even inside the cockpit, into the driver’s thoughts and emotions, and reveals that too often, even in victory there is loss.


They Started in MGs: Profiles of Sports Car Racers of the 1950s

By Carl Goodwin

$35 from

Goodwin profiles 79 men and women, including Carroll Shelby and Steve McQueen, who were among the American sports car racing pioneers who began their competitive careers in MGs. Goodwin, himself one of those pioneers who became an automotive writer and historian, either interviewed those people or those who knew them.

“The MG was a great car for the early racing driver,” Goodwin writes. “It was affordable, durable and easy to drive... in an era when few trailered their cars to races... you could drive it from Columbus, Ohio, to McDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida... drive it [and win your class] in the 6-hour race... and drive it back to Columbus.

“These great little cars opened the door to a rewarding life in amateur racing for thousands of people.”

Goodwin’s book reopens that door to today’s readers.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Larry Edsall is an accomplished author himself, and you can read more from him daily at   Larry didn't want to plug his own latest book, but that doesn't mean we can't.   Take a peek at Larry's new book:  "Ferrari,' at the following link.