Racy Reading: A quartet of autobiographies for race fans
Auto racing fans prefer to get their thrills at the track, but most of us can’t be there 24/7. Here are four great racing books to keep you in a motorsports frame of mind—wherever you happen to be parked.
Jenson Button: Life to the Limit
At 20 years old, Jenson Button joined Williams Racing in Formula 1, but it took him five teams and 113 races before he finally won a Grand Prix, and another three years to claim the world championship. In all, Button spent 17 years on auto racing’s top rung. Intelligently written and perfectly candid, his 2017 autobiography is the kind of racing book serious F1 fans crave. Its 304 pages place readers on Button’s path, from his childhood racing karts to the pinnacle of the sport, and his descriptions of life in the F1 cockpit are just gripping. Throughout, he casts light on the relationships and personalities of competitors and team owners alike.
Challenger: Mickey Thompson’s Own Story of His Life of Speed
Born in 1928 and brutally murdered in 1988, Mickey Thompson ranks among America’s gutsiest racers. In a life checkered with triumph and tragedy, he possessed, through keen focus and perseverance, that emblematic Yankee quality of grit. Titled after Thompson’s four-engine Bonneville streamliner, Challenger is his racing life through 1964. His pluck is represented in one passage about preparing a Ford for the dangerous La Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. Lacking seatbelts, he simply welded a handle onto the floor to grab if things got dicey. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the postwar racing decades—and for Thompson himself—after reading this terrific autobiography.
Speed with Style: The Autobiography of Peter Revson
Although he was heir to the Revlon cosmetics empire, Peter Revson was hardly a moneyed pretty boy. He drove like hell, earning the Indy 500 pole in 1971 before finishing second there, and then winning that year’s Can-Am championship for McLaren. His demise came in a 1974 Formula 1 testing accident in South Africa. In Speed with Style, former Autoweek editor Leon Mandel shadowed Revson during the 1973 season. The 221-page book is part Mandel as observer, but gloriously, the rest is pure Revson, the combination making the reader uniquely privy to the private life of “Revvie,” a celebrated American driver.
Hurley: From the Beginning
Benefiting from excellent printing and production values, this exhaustive tome spans 420 pages and includes more than 650 photos. Considered one of the best racing autobiographies to date, Hurley, published in 2018, chronicles virtually the entire life of an American endurance-racing legend, including his coming out as gay. Hurley Haywood raced sports cars at the top level for over 50 years, winning Le Mans three times and the Daytona 24 Hours five times, among other achievements—including a podium finish at Daytona at age 63. Haywood is indelibly linked to Florida entrant Brumos Racing and the meteoric champion Peter Gregg, and this forthright memoir tells all.