RACEMAN is a testimony to not only one of the finest engine builders in the history of American auto racing, Jim Travers, but to an era defined by competition at the crossroads of technology. The references are legendary, from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Riverside Raceway, Sebring and LeMans, but Gordon Chance doesn't dwell on racetracks or engineering. Both are mentioned in context, serving only to reinforce the relationships which were forged through an uncompromising desire to be the best and win championships. The people involved, beginning with Travers at Traco, include the likes of Roger Penske, Billy Vukovich, Bruce McLaren, A.J. Foyt and Mark Donohue. There are historic photographs and meticulously indexed details of races won and lost, all captured on beautiful archival paper. Still, the heart of this book belongs to the mechanics who thought out the machinery and formed a foundation of trust. This is an inside look at a dynasty, offered through the language, pragmatism and work ethic of the time. "The Teenage Tuner" was there. His ground level view is based on respect, given for and received from the men whose imagination, commitment and integrity provided the motivation for this story. Gordon Chance gives you Jim Travers, his mentor Max Kelly and a Traco hall of fame, all of whom were personal friends. RACEMAN is therefore a lasting acknowledgement and an elegant, heartfelt tribute to those individuals who shared a common bond through time spent in the pursuit of excellence.
—Marco Barla - 20 year publicist to Clint Eastwood
As so often happens in life when the winds of change separate friends and other priorities intrude, great history isn't always passed down. Luckily that didn't happen. Chance and Travers hadn't seen each other for almost three decades, but when serendipity finally reconnected the two, Gordon found it impossible not to record the untold truths of both his and Travers' amazing racing exploits. More importantly he also focused on Travers' early history that preceded his fame as the era's premier supplier of racing engines. Travers' horrific days in WWII, as well as his later pre-TRACO racing escapades, are recalled with sometimes chilling honesty. Along with Travers' leading the Keck team with Bill Vukovich at Indianapolis and later in several professional racing series, there's never been anything written quite like what occurred when the finest minds in racing got together."
—Peter Brock - Designer of the Corvette Sting Ray and the 1965 World Champion Daytona Coupe
Your book by Gordon Chance was a real home run for me because it awakened many great memories of you and Frank Coons and other "heavies" from back int he days when we all knew a lot less than we think we do now. You were certainly a giant in the industry and you deserved to be. I used to listen to everything you said just as a young eager student would listen to a professor and mentor. Art Early, Dick Jones, Chuck Daigh, Bobby Strahlmann, Art Lamey, Dick Troutman, Tom Barnes, Ed Iskenderian... You all have remained heroes to me.Thank you very much for your tribute to me on the Inside page... it means a great deal to me coming from you.
For those you enamored by what is considered by many as the golden age of American racing (1949-1974),"RACE MAN – Jim Travers and the TRACO Dynasty" is a "must read." TRACO was a small but legendary shop that built race prepared engines for the intensely competitive series of the USRRC, the Can Am, the Trans Am, Pikes Peak and the Worlds Manufacturers Championship. The name was derived from its two founding owners (Jim Travers and Frank Coon= TRACO). The author of this great story is Gordon Chance, an active participant in the 1960's and 1970's racing scene.
This book is really three stories interwoven into a single text. The main story is about Jim Travers, the man who partnered with Frank Coon to create TRACO in 1956. The life of Jim Travers is traced back to his childhood, his relocation to California from Nevada during his youth, his high school years (where he met Stu Hilborn and Frank Coon), and his military service in World War II. The post war years of Jim Travers takes him to Indianapolis where he teamed up with Howard Keck, Frank Kurtis and Bill Vukovich. This powerhouse trio experienced the "thrill of victory" at the brickyard with two consecutive first place finishes in 1953 &1954. Sadly, Bill Vukovich would tragically die just one year later in 1955. In 1956, TRACO was formed and a new saga in American racing would begin. TRACO would supply engines to the kings of the sport and would dominate the winners circle from 1958-1974.
The second story intermixed with the Jim Travers biography is the life and times of the author himself, Gordon Chance. Gordon was a young car guy growing up in Southern California who was blessed with a God given instinct for engine science. In 1961, (at the young age of 17) Gordon started working at Maserati of Beverly Hills where his specialty was tuning and adjusting Weber carburation setups. He became so adept at this pursuit he was nicknamed the "teen tuner." He got the "racing bug" when he and friend / mentor Max Kelly prepared a type 61 "Bird Cage" Maserati for Bill Krause. This would lead to a stint with Bill Harrah working as a mechanic/tuner for his Western States Ferrari Distributorship. Two years later he reunited with Max Kelly to co-design and develop the "Hussein", a Chrysler Hemi powered sports racer that they built for John Mecom. It was at the Mecom racing operation where he met Jim Travers which ultimately led to working for TRACO in 1965&1966 and again in 1967&1968. The gap in time at TRACO was employment with Carroll Shelby as a mechanic on the GT 40 program in their pursuit of the World Manufacturers Championship.
The third story is the vivid description of the Southern California car racing scene of the '50's and '60's. Gordon paints a colorful tapestry of the cast of characters who were at the heart of the racing culture. Throughout the book, there are anecdotes and sidebars that tell a unique tale. Each of them adds richness and humanity to the story. Gordon was both an active participant and an active observer during this time. His candor and lack of political correctness is refreshing. His writing style is unique and he uses a lot of "shop slang". He refers to many of the central characters in the book by their "nick names" (like Crabby, God, Davy Crockett), refers to TRACO engines as "strong mothers," describes the shop shenanigans, talks about the after work "bench racing" sessions at the bar, elaborates on the management style and shop culture of each of his employers, and pays special homage to those individuals that he held in high esteem (especially Bruce McLaren and Mark Donohue).
This is a unique book written by an insider. Like a fine whisky, it is to be savored in small sips (one chapter at a time). The story goes beyond the facts and takes you into the inner circle of the greatest quarter century of American racing. "RACE MAN – Jim Travers and the TRACO Dynasty" holds a special spot on my bookshelf.
—William Nakasone - Seattle Classic Sports Car Examiner