O’LEARY: Hoosier Pit Pass


STANFORD, Ind. — A new book has come out within the last month and it is pretty good.

No, it is really good.

“The People’s Champ” by Dave Darland, with assistance from Bones Bourcier, was released by Coastal 181 Publishing in mid-July.

This book is a winner on several levels. First, there is a lot of significance to the story. Dave Darland is one of the best sprint car racers ever. For years, racing veterans have said that sprint cars are the toughest, most competitive and dangerous form of racing there is. The cars are greatly improved, but in many ways not drastically changed from the origins of the species during the 1940s. They are still high horsepower, lightweight machines.

There are no passes on pit lane; they are all on track, in the hands of the racers. Some may draw distinctions between USAC (Dave’s organization) and the World of Outlaws, with the wings, but you can simply say that they are similar, but greatly different.

At this writing, Darland is tied for the most USAC National Sprint Car Series wins in history at 51 with Tom Bigelow, and he is still very competitive. He is also one of only five USAC Triple Crown winners, having won championships in sprint cars, Silver Crown cars and midgets. The other four drivers who have accomplished this in almost 60 years are Pancho Carter, Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley and Jerry Coons Jr. — stout company.

“The People’s Champ” covers Darland’s career, from the earliest days, and even some of this year’s efforts. He talks about the great teams he has driven for, including the Hoffmans, Steve Lewis’ midgets, Galen Fox’s Silver Crown team, the Earlywines, and of course, the sprint cars that he and his father, Bob, fielded together. In its pages, Darland provides behind-the-scenes insight into what made them as successful as they were.

This book also documents an era of short track racing that may never be equaled. Consider just some of the characters that were instrumental in Dave’s career, in different ways: Big Bob Kinser, Jack Hewitt, Tony Stewart, Tony Elliott, Jeff Walker and Bob East.

The list goes on and on. Then think about the racing during the 1980s and until today, including the tracks where Dave has plied his trade, like his home Kokomo Speedway, Lincoln Park Speedway, Eldora Speedway and the Terre Haute Action Track. It is all in the book, and Darland and Boucier capture it with a knowledgeable eye.

Finally, “The People’s Champ” is an easy read. You pick it up, you start reading, and it is difficult to put down. “The People’s Champ” isn’t some moniker that was made up for the front cover, it is a title that Dave has earned over almost 30 years of being in the public eye and it describes how he is seen by most. A popular racer no matter where he appears, from coast to coast, the book is written in his own straightforward style. He doesn’t back away from anything, and it is an endearing tale.

With 173 pages, including an index, and many pages of glossy color and black and white photos, it is a valuable addition to any race fan’s library and, looking ahead, will make a great Christmas present for hard-to-shop-for friends and relatives.

If you can catch Darland at a race track he, and Brenda, will most likely have copies for sale. But it is also easily obtainable from www.coastal181.com.