Indy 500 history on DVD

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DVD Review - No CRs - What Happened? "Indianapolis 500: The Legacy Series," Just in Time for May What better way to kick off the month of May than with seven hours of video from the Brickyard? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is arguably the...

DVD Review - No CRs - What Happened?
"Indianapolis 500: The Legacy Series," Just in Time for May

What better way to kick off the month of May than with seven hours of video from the Brickyard?

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is arguably the most famous racetrack in the world. A victory in the Indianapolis 500, known as the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," is one of the most coveted titles in sports.

Just in time to rekindle the spirit of the world-renown Memorial Day classic, Studioworks has released "Indianapolis 500: The Legacy Series," a five-DVD boxed set covering four decades of the Indianapolis 500. It contains "The '60s, A Decade of Change," "The '70s, A Decade of Legends," "The '80s, A Decade for the Ages," "The '90s, A Decade of Drama" and a fifth bonus DVD entitled "Indianapolis 500 Legacies."

The first DVD in the series, "The '60s, A Decade of Change" chronicles the beginning of the modern era at Indianapolis. The car designers had just begun to address the need for better aerodynamics, and the decade began with a full field of front-engine cars. The appearance of Jack Brabham's Cooper Climax in 1961, the first rear-engine car at the Speedway, prompted Gary Bettenhausen to proclaim it "the ugliest race car I had even seen at the 500, because the engine was on the wrong end."

Within five years the revolutionary rear-engine cars became the norm, attracting a new breed of driver. During the sixties the national championship still consisted of dirt and paved ovals, but the Indianapolis 500 attracted European road racers such as Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark and Graham Hill. Clark's victory in 1965, the first year the race was run at an average speed over 150 mph, all but ended the competitive life of the old roadsters.

Change continued through the seventies. The first women competed at the

Indianapolis 500 and aerodynamics became even more important. By the end of the decade full-blown ground-effects cars had emerged.

"The '70s, A Decade of Legends" also examines the rise of several prominent American drivers. During the seventies many Indianapolis 500 drivers became household names. Mario Andretti, Bobby and Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Mark Donohue and Parnelli Jones became synonymous with speed. "A Decade of Legends" also includes a tribute to Tony Hulman, the man whose vision guided the Speedway's renaissance after World War II.

Technological advancements, particularly refined aerodynamics, and increased competition characterized the eighties. "The '80s, A Decade for the Ages" features some of the most incredible stories to ever come from the Speedway. In 1985 Danny Sullivan spun in front of Mario Andretti and still went on to win the race. Al Unser Sr. was unemployed when practice started in 1987, and he too won. Unser's fourth victory was even more remarkable, as he drove a year-old chassis that had been a show car a few weeks earlier. Bobby Rahal's emotional victory in 1986 driving for team owner Jim Trueman receives special attention, as Trueman passed away shortly after achieving the victory.

The Indianapolis 500 has always generated the full range of human emotions. The glory of winning, the pinnacle of a driver's career, can be quickly offset by the somberness of disappointment, or worse, the gravity of tragedy.

The Indianapolis 500 celebrates glory and reverberates in disappointment. One of the most poignant moments at the Speedway, featured in "The '90s, Over a Decade of Drama," is A.J. Foyt's retirement lap. The first man to earn four victories at the Speedway, the venerable Foyt is clearly seen choking back tears as he is interviewed on the Speedway's public address system. Some thought the resilient Texan would never retire. The decision to retire and the interview were probably two of the toughest challenges the legendary Foyt ever faced.

The boxed set's bonus DVD, entitled "Indianapolis 500 Legacies," is primarily a documentary on the "Voices of the 500." Starting with the late Sid Collins, "Voices of the 500" portrays the men who have anchored the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 and led the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

Collins was by far the most famous of the radio announcers employed by the Speedway. The am ount of time devoted to Collins in the documentary reflects his long tenure at the microphone as well as his ability to paint a picture with his vivid descriptions of on-track action. His in-depth knowledge of the drivers provided him with the background for producing masterful commentary, particularly when confronted with tragic situations.

While the "Voices of the 500" documentary makes the bonus disc well worthwhile, the other features come across as filler. The feature on Firestone tires is too short, which may be a good thing since it resembles a glorified TV commercial. The short film on the Speedway's infield medical center hosted by Derek Daly is outdated. An updated documentary on the medical center would have included some of the interesting technological advances employed by the current Delphi safety team.

This boxed set does a good job featuring the highlights behind the victories. Crash scenes are covered with multiple angles, some which are rarely shown on television.

But the Indianapolis 500 is about drama, and that can't be portrayed simply by showing video footage. While the footage will surely excite any sports fan that enjoys the speed and exhilaration of motor racing, happily these videos also capture the human drama of the sport by going behind the scenes with the people who participated in the events.

Some of the interviews were recorded shortly after the events unfolded.

Others were conducted long after the heat of battle had worn off, or as in Michael Andretti's case, long after the pressure of competing at the Speedway had subsided. He came to the Speedway as a youngster, but his recent interview allowed him to reflect on his early days at the Speedway with the maturity of a retired driver and current team owner.

The Indianapolis 500 holds a special place in the hearts of its fans.

"Indianapolis 500: The Legacy Series" captures the exciting racing, the glory of victory and the dramas that tax the lives of race participants.

The suggested retail price for the five-DVD boxed set, "Indianapolis 500: The Legacy Series," is $39.99.

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Series AUTOMOTIVE , HISTORY