California Gold: The Legendary Life  of Troy Ruttman

by Bob Gates

Review by Steve Zautke (originally published on News, 1/9/2013)

As was his modus operandi with his award winning book, Vukovich, author Bob Gates worked with the subject's family for his latest book, California Gold - The Legendary Life of Troy Ruttman. Mr. Gates digs deep into Ruttman's life and spices the book with numerous photos from the Ruttman family photo albums. This book peers into his childhood and tough decisions the family made by moving west during the depression

California Gold looks at a very young Ruttman who started racing at a young age of fifteen in post-war California. Not unusual today, however, racing was very different from the clean antiseptic scene at karting parks and successful paved short tracks that are so common across America today. Racing in post-war America saw many war-hardened veterans running at dusty tracks where it wasn't uncommon to have two or three fatalities a year.

Ruttman sometimes gets overlooked in a decade which saw Bill Vukovich, Tony Bettenhausen and Jimmy Bryan dominate the decade. Reaching the big leagues at age 19 thanks to a altered birth certificate , Ruttman was a natural-talented fearless driver. He reached his pinnacle three years later when he won the Indianapolis 500 at the age of 22 in 1952. However, 60 years later, he's still the youngest winner at the Brickyard.

California Gold examines his post-Indy Cedar Rapids accident which changed his life. Out of racing for 18 months we peer into a life that spiraled out of control. We also dive into a career that bounced around AAA, later USAC and even Europe. We see a resilient man who was able to bounce back in life, overcoming obstacles in life. It's an inspirational story which makes the book an off-season must read.