Black Noon is a must-read for any fan of motorsports.
50 years after the 1964 Indianapolis 500 mile race, a new book has come out detailing the month of May, 1964 to a level I hadn’t read beforehand.
Art Garnet’s book, Black Noon: The Year They Stopped The Indy 500 does three things very well. It describes the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a clear, concise way for non-racing fans. It describes the lives of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald, two men from vastly different racing backgrounds and vastly different parts of the country in a fashion that even racing aficionados will be amazed at how much they learn.
And, the book goes through the month day by day, detailing how various drivers got their cars up to speed. It tells about the battle between the new “funny cars” with their engines behind the driver and the old “dinosaurs”, the front-engined roadsters that had dominated the 500 for the past decade.
The book starts out describing the ’63 500 and gives an inside look at many of the players involved in the events that took place in the race the following year. A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Ford Motor Company, Mickey Thompson, Eddie Sachs, Dave MacDonald and the tire companies involved.
One of the things I liked about the book was how nobody in the story was really left behind during the telling of the book. After the story told about the differences between gasoline and fuel (something that I particularly enjoyed reading about), the story would go off to touch back on other drivers and car owners mentioned earlier. Even when Humpy Wheeler was introduced in the story, he wasn’t left behind with only one mention. You never forgot names in the story because of how they were brought up.
I did enjoy reading about the qualifications at the track. The sub-plots with the fuel vs gasoline battle and the different tire makers also made for some interesting conflicts that saw cooler heads prevail.
The book also goes into detail regarding what happened to MacDonald and Sachs that day, and it was a very chilling read to hear about how the impact affected the gasoline tank on the car and how the car wasn’t holding as much gas as some people claimed it did hold.
One of the things the book does well is talk about the urban myths surrounding the crash and the race that year. I was glad to see that section of the book, because so much information has circulated in the last 50 years, it has been hard to separate fact from fiction.
Overall, if you’re a racing fan, a racing historian, or someone who likes cars, this is a must-have.