In the early 1950s, as a child, I attended
midget racing at a track in Hampton, Virginia. One evening,
an old fellow sitting next to my father continuously
wanted to discuss his racing days. My father, having
little interest in racing, was there only for my benefit
and was becoming irritated and dismissed him as a braggart.
At the end of the evening, this 'new friend' invited
us to his house to see his stable of Indy race cars.
My father smiled and said "sure", just to
prove him a fraud. We followed him home and pulled up
to a rundown house with a row of even more dilapidated
sheds. In the dark with flash lights, we proceeded to
the sheds and there we saw about ten old Indy race cars
from the 1930s and 1940s. By midnight the cars were
a glorious sight to me, all with interesting histories.
I don't remember much about the race but the cars are
still in my head. I would bet that they all survived
and are in some collections today. My interest in racing
really took off after that, and 'Leader Card Racers'
has brought back some of those memories.
Leader Card Racers is the remarkable story of one familys
four-generation passion for auto racing. Beginning with
a team of midgets before WW II, successful paper manufacturer
Bob Wilke, his son Ralph, and now his grandsons have
owned and sponsored winning racing cars on the Championship
trail, on dirt track, and currently with a successful
return to midgets. With legendary mechanics A. J. Watson
and Jud Phillips, the Wilke Family won the Indy '500'
and the National Championship three times: twice with
Roger Ward (1959 & 1962) and once with Bobby Unser
(1968). Superbly chronicled by noted author Gordon White,
the story of Leader Card Racers is a testament to the
Wilke familys devotion to motor sport and to the
history of American oval track racing.
You will find Leader Card Racers to be a fresh look
at American racing of the 1930s through the early 1990s.
Well illustrated, it is more than a picture book. It
is a very interesting history of the period involving
the Wilke Agency, the Marchese brothers, Ferrari, A.J.
Watson, Pat Flaherty, Roger Ward, A.J. Floyt, Don Branson,
Bobby Unser and the list goes on. I hope you will like
it as much as I did.
Eliot White is an authority on classic American
racing history. His other books:
- Kurtis-Kraft: Masterworks of Speed and
- Lost Race Tracks: Treasures of Automobile
- Offenhauser (Motorbooks Classic), 2004
- Marvelous Mechanical Designs of Harry
A. Miller, 2004
- Ab & Marvin Jenkins: The Studebaker
Connection and the Mormon Meteors, 2006