DateTues, February 15th, 2022
Time6:00 PM PST
Short DescriptionSAE SoCal kicks off the 2022 calendar year with a look back at three unique stories of motorsports. Join us for a fun discussion with authors Sylvia Wilkinson, Neal Bascomb, and Randall Cannon.
Panelist Names
Sylvia Wilkinson, DIRT TRACKS TO GLORY: The Early Days of Stock Car Racing

Neal Bascomb, FASTER: How A Jewish Driver, An American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best

Randall Cannon, CAESARS PALACE GRAND PRIX: Las Vegas, Organized Crime, and the Pinnacle of Motorsport
DIRT TRACKS TO GLORY: The Early Days of Stock Car Racing — as told by the Participants
Author Sylvia Wilkinson
In less than four decades stock car racing in America developed from catch-as-catch-can chases on small dirt ovals at country fairgrounds to a multimillion dollar industry in which hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered at huge superspeedways to watch nationally famous drivers duel for fame and fortune.  Many of the men who drove the cars back in the days when there were few rules and regulations and highly uncertain prize money were still active when this book was written. Novelist Sylvia Wilkinson took her tape-recorder into their homes, offices and garages, and edited their memories into fascinating first-person accounts of their lives and times.  There was Bill France, Sr., who saw the financial possibilities and organized NASCAR. There were Bud Moore, Humpy Wheeler, Soapy Castles, Richard Howard, Banjo Matthews, Freddie Lorenzen, Ralph Moody, Tim Flock. There was Dan Gurney, the outsider who earned a place in stock car racing. There was Ned Jarrett, twice Grand National champion and then a familiar face on television as color commentator for CBS. There were Wendell Scott, a black man in an otherwise all-white sport, and actress Linda Vaughn, queen of speed.  There it was — wild tales of bootlegging on mountain roads, battling the sands at Daytona, high living and
fancy exploits before and during and after race days, the development of superspeedways and the nerve required to drive on them, the modifieds, the abortive convertible circuit, the coming of the Grand Nationals and the Winston Cup, the cost in money and men of making a dirt track sport into a vast enterprise, told in the words and memories of the pioneer figures.    

FASTER: How A Jewish Driver, An American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best 
Author Neal Bascomb
They were the unlikeliest of heroes. Rene Dreyfus, a former top driver on the international racecar circuit, had been banned from the best European teams—and fastest cars—by the mid-1930s because of his Jewish heritage. Charles Weiffenbach, head of the down-on-its-luck automaker Delahaye, was desperately trying to save his company as the world teetered toward the brink. And Lucy Schell, the adventurous daughter of an American multi-millionaire, yearned to reclaim the glory of her rally-driving days.
As Nazi Germany launched its campaign of racial terror and pushed the world toward war, these three misfits banded together to challenge Hitler’s dominance at the apex of motorsport: the Grand Prix. Their quest for redemption culminated in a remarkable race that is still talked about in racing circles to this day—but which, soon after it ended, Hitler attempted to completely erase from history.Bringing to life this glamorous era and the sport that defined it, Faster chronicles one of the most inspiring, death-defying upsets of all time: a symbolic blow against the Nazis during history’s darkest hour.   

CAESARS PALACE GRAND PRIX: Las Vegas, Organized Crime, and the Pinnacle of Motorsport
Author Randall Cannon  
This important book traces the threads of history that ultimately converged along the world-famous Las Vegas Strip in the 1980’s to create a Roman colosseum event for the ages.  “Beyond recounting the on-track action, “McFarland VP Steve Wilson notes, “Randall Cannon meticulously develops the complex backstories that converged to plant a Formula One race on the premises of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in the first place.” “Big ambitions clash, “continues Wilson, “as characters both shady and respectable chase after speed, prestige and always money. Extensive, documented research and many interviews with key figures involved have produced a remarkably thorough, nuanced telling of a story much larger than the brief duration of the race even hints.” “Caesars Palace Grand Prix” is indeed the product of deep research into the history of Formula One in America, as well as the role of the national organized crime syndicate in the concurrent development of Caesars Palace – allegedly!  The intersection of those two threads along the path is intriguing and – perhaps – telling, if not altogether troubling.  At 442 total pages and with nearly 200 images, the storytelling elevates that juxtaposition, weaving a highly detailed narrative.  Virtually every page transitions from racing stars like the Formula One great Jimmy Clark, to syndicate cronies like the mysteriously departed Jimmy Hoffa, and peppered along the way with J. Edgar Hoover and the long arm of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.