By: Shanna Gray | Category: Gifts & Decor | Issue: December 2009
“To Indy and Beyond: The Life of Racing Legend Jack Zink” by Dr. Bob L. Blackburn is now available at Tulsa-area booksellers, and online at www.amazon.com and www.jackzinkracing.com.
John “Jack” Zink loved to compete. Throughout his lifetime, he fulfilled that desire in business, on the racetrack and endurance course, on the water, even in politics. Historian and author Dr. Bob Blackburn takes readers for a fast-paced ride across the multifaceted life of this industrialist and auto racing pioneer in “To Indy and Beyond: The Life of Racing Legend Jack Zink.” The 206-page book chronicles Zink’s passion for racing that led him to the top of several motor sports – including two victories at the Indianapolis 500.
During his 60-year love affair with speed, Zink captured titles and set the standard in stock car, endurance, and midget auto racing. Before turning 30 years old, Jack led his team to back-to-back Indy victories in 1955 and 1956. He then took up off-road and motorcycle racing and won more than a dozen major events, including the grueling Baja 500. Never satisfied to simply let grass grow under his feet, Zink took to the water and became a well-known and highly successful figure in Lightning-class sailing.
At the same time, Jack Zink was a skilled engineer and businessman, ultimately building not one but two companies into international giants – first the John Zink Company, and later Zeeco – that still dominate the combustion industry with burners, flares, and incinerators that greatly reduce pollution.
In the preface to his book, Dr. Blackburn writes, “I met Jack in 2001 while I was working on the Oklahoma History Center, a 215,000 square foot museum and research facility we were building next to the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. In the museum, we had an exhibit area devoted to sports in Oklahoma, and I wanted a large object, a large historic artifact, to greet visitors as they came around a corner and discovered the area on sports. I decided I wanted a race car.
“I did not want any race car,” Blackburn continues. “I wanted a race car with an Oklahoma story, a story of innovation, hard work, setbacks, victories and teamwork. As I asked friends in the sports world about such a car, everyone pointed me in the same direction – Jack Zink of Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
Blackburn gave Jack Zink a call at his ranch, and the two were soon working together on the project. They had met several times when Jack’s wife, Jan, approached Dr. Blackburn about doing her husband’s biography. Blackburn’s schedule was packed and so he said he would have to think about it, but, “By that time, I was fascinated by what I already knew, and my natural self-survival instincts were overwhelmed by my natural curiosity. I said yes, I would write the biography.
“As I started working and organizing the material, the story found a natural rhythm, alternating passages that captured Jack’s personality with stories about his racing exploits and business experiences. Holding the stories together were common threads such as friendships, action, careful preparation, tenacity, self discipline, competition, and concern for others, all set against the backdrop of Jack’s world of Tulsa, the business community, and racing,” writes Blackburn.
Blackburn finished a draft that Zink himself reviewed shortly before his death in 2005 at the age of 76. The biography was later completed with the help of Jack Zink’s son, Darton, as well as his business and racing associates.
With more than 150 photos, “To Indy and Beyond” is a fascinating read for fans of motor sports – and Tulsa and Oklahoma history. It is also powerfully motivational, as Blackburn captures the essence of the energetic, competitive spirit that drove Jack Zink.
Dr. Bob L. Blackburn earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Oklahoma State University and has written or co-authored 18 books and numerous articles, journal entries and screenplays. A steady source of historical information to the media, he has appeared numerous times on the History Channel. He is married to former State Representative Debbie Blackburn, and they have one son, Beau, who is a professional photographer in San Diego. Dr. Blackburn can be reached at (405) 522-5201 or eat0@eau0eav0eaw0.
“To Indy and Beyond: The Life of Racing Legend Jack Zink” is published by Cottonwood Publications of Oklahoma City. It is available at select Tulsa-area booksellers and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway online gift shop (www.store.indianapolismotorspeedway.com). The book can also be purchased online at www.amazon.com and www.jackzinkracing.com.