Carl Fisher was an indomitable huckster and salesman who started his working life pedaling magazines and bicycles before making his mark as the key moving force behind creating and building not only the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also Miami Beach. He’s also considered the father of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, America’s first interstate road systems, and the creator with IMS partner Jim Allison of Prest-O-Lite, manufacturer of the first mass market automobile headlight.
The title for Hungness’s book comes from Fisher’s love of carving something out of an empty field or wilderness. ‘I love to make the dirt fly!’ was one of Fisher’s favorite sayings which he would deliver with a wide grin at the site of one of his latest field or forest-clearing construction sites. He also loved high society, polo, parties and alcohol.
During this time Fisher started racing bicycles and after a visit in 1900 to a show for the burgeoning horseless carriage industry in New York’s Madison Square Garden he became a convert and soon was selling motorcycles and automobiles. His bicycle shop became ‘Fisher’s Garage’ and then ‘The Fisher Automobile Company’ as he emerged as one of Indianapolis’s most prosperous citizens.
In October of 1908 Fisher indulged in one of his most renowned publicity stunts when he flew a hot air balloon across the skies of Indianapolis while seated in a brand new Stoddard-Dayton automobile suspended beneath the balloon!
At the time the fledgling automobile industry was booming with more than 76 manufacturers setting up shop in the state of Indiana. Most of them lasted only a few years but the fever for automobiles resulted in Fisher building a giant, 2.5-mile test track on the outskirts of town in partnership with Arthur Newby and Jim Allison. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909, the first 500 was run two years later and the 100th running of the world’s oldest race takes place next year. Of course, Fisher went on to engage in many other entrepreneurial escapades, including founding and developing the Prest-O-Lite company with Allison and Miami Beach with Henry Flagler.
‘I love to make the dirt fly!’ will provide readers with a thorough appreciation of the spirit that made both the Indy 500 and America great.