Book Review: Leader Card Racers A Dynasty of Speed

Gordon White’s latest book’s subject is the remarkable story of one family’s four-generation passion for open wheel racing. Beginning with a team of midgets before World War 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 tracks across America, and currently with a successful return to midgets.

One measuring stick I use is the subject matter, in this case, the Wilke’s. Just on their longevity in motorsports alone, over 70 years, makes them a worthy subject. This is the first book detailing their forays in racing. Mr. White’s book delivers with many interesting tidbits, anecdotes and trivia, many I was not aware of. Secondly, another measuring stick I use is photos. Today, photos are an integral aspect in books. Not every book purchased is read completely in today’s busy society. Thus, photography and informative captions are very important for those books ‘paged through.’ Many books have been released on 1950’s and 1960’s Indy Car racing, a few by Mr. White himself. It was a joy to see many photos I’ve never seen before, especially at tracks such as Trenton and many short tracks.

The first several chapters delightfully detail Mr. Wilke’s initial start in racing in the late-1930’s and how the legendary Marchese brothers of Milwaukee played a role in developing Mr. Wilke’s interest in racing, especially Indianapolis.

The book details Mr. Wilke’s sponsorships with car owners such as Lindsey Hopkins and the eventual partnership with hall of fame mechanic and builder, A.J. Watson. It continues with the extraordinary Indianapolis roadster era and eventually with the rear-engine revolution and successes with Jud Phillips and Bobby Unser.

The book moves on to the tumultuous 1970’s and Leader Card’s struggles into the 1980’s and 1990’s as costs rose.

Superbly chronicled by Mr. White, the story of Leader Card Racers is a testament to the Wilke family’s devotion to motor sports and to the history of American oval track racing. Certainly a worthy addition to any motorsports enthusiasts book collection.

The book is priced at $55, and can be found for sale on the web at or by calling 617-723-6533 or by mail (please enclose $7 for postage and handling) 39 Church Street Boston MA 02116.

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