Caesars Palace Grand Prix

Las Vegas, Organized Crime and the Pinnacle of Motorsport


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About the Book

The path of Grand Prix racing in America wound through raceways at Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, and finally Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. At each stop, the influence of organized crime seemed no more than a handshake away. But at Caesars the vast crime syndicate appeared deeply involved in the operations of the luxury-branded resort. The Caesars Palace Grand Prix then culminated in an unholy alliance of the world capital of gambling, the mob, and the international czar of Formula One. During its four-year run of successive Formula One and CART IndyCar events, the race hosted the biggest names in motorsport—Mario Andretti, Bernie Ecclestone, Roger Penske, Chris Pook, Alan Jones, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal and Al Unser among them. The podium celebration of the inaugural Grand Prix put the convergence of alleged organized crime influences and auto racing on public display, while the years that followed provided their own curiosities. This book traces the intertwined threads through decades of accounts, extensive interviews, and the files of the FBI.

About the Author(s)

Randall Cannon is a freelance writer and lifelong motorsports enthusiast.

Bibliographic Details

Randall Cannon

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 442
Bibliographic Info: 199 photos (34 in color), notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8377-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4282-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
I. Neighbors Upstate: Grand Prix Racing and La Cosa Nostra Are Awakened in Upstate New York 3
II. Parallel Paths: The Path of Formula One in America and the Path of Caesar to Las Vegas 33
III. Developments and Dictators: Caesar Constructs a Palace in Las Vegas, While Formula One Constructs a Czar 60
IV. Traditions and Transitions: Watkins Glen Faces New Challenges and the Empire Has a New Caesar 90
V. Crossed Paths: Long Beach Launches a Formula One Foray, While the Centurions of Caesar Launch a Foray to Long Beach 119
VI. Entanglement and Exaction: The Intertwined Formula One Fortunes of Watkins Glen, Long Beach and Las Vegas 151
Between pages 178 and 179 are 24 color plates containing 34 photographs
VII. Rumors and Rackets: The Emergence of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, the Exposure of the Emperor 179
VIII. Trumpets and Tribunals: The Caesars Palace Grand Prix That Wasn’t, the Final U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, the Many Stains Upon Caesar 207
IX. Course of Events: The Inaugural Caesars Palace Grand Prix, the End of the Emperor’s Reign 235
X. Continuum and Controversy: The 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix, the Arrest of Caesars’ Centurion, the Departure of Formula One from Las Vegas 274
XI. Running in Circles: The Caesars Palace Grand Prix III Goes IndyCar, the Departure of Meyer Lansky, the Reemergence of the Emperor 306
XII. Requiem and Reprise: The Final Caesars Palace Grand Prix and the Many Returns of Bernie Ecclestone 338
Chapter Notes 373
Bibliography 387
Index 393

Book Reviews & Awards

• Winner, Best New Motorsports Book—Book Authority

• “Cannon is a journalist, as the style of his thoroughgoing treatment shows…Excellent color and black-and-white illustrations…any motor racing enthusiast will enjoy learning about the different aspects of the sport: the good, the bad, and the very bad…recommended”—Choice

• “A compelling piece of investigative journalism that lays bare the complex behind-the-scenes maneuverings and back-story events that rivaled the actual danger and drama of the race itself. Spectators who are mesmerized by organized crime’s tentacles into the most glamourous aspects of American life, should buckle into this front-row seat.”—Jeffrey A. Silver, Chairman of the Board of the Mob Museum

• “Randall Cannon has written a superb account of some fascinating but very complicated political and financial controversies—and occasional sly maneuvers—that characterized an important but little explored era in modern motorsports. His compelling narrative and evident command of the subject make this both an enjoyable and informative read and one that is likely to interest the casual reader as much as the motorsports enthusiast.”—J.C. and Duke Argetsinger, sons of Cameron Argetsinger, founder of Road Racing at Watkins Glen

• “Randall Cannon’s Caesars Palace Grand Prix takes us through the hairpin turns of the real Las Vegas during one of its most intriguing eras. Cannon understands the nuances of Las Vegas as the crossroads of American casino culture, organized crime, and motorsports. In these pages Mario Andretti and Paul Newman are juxtaposed with Caesars sharpies Clifford and Stuart Perlman and their associations with some notorious underworld characters. For organized crime aficionados and fans of Grand Prix racing, it’s a race not to be missed. Hold on. You’re in for a wild ride.”—John L. Smith, author of Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn

• “A meticulous, detailed telling of the remarkable story of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix races on the Las Vegas Strip in the early 1980s (including the final Formula One race by legendary driver Mario Andretti) during the organized crime scandal engulfing the Caesars company involving Clifford and Stuart Perlman, Alvin Malnik and Meyer Lansky. A good read including rare photos and graphics.”—Jeff Burbank, author of License to Steal and Lost Las Vegas

• “Extremely well written and extensively researched, racing fans will love how Cannon describes the interconnectivity of all the Grands Prix that took place in America.”—Deep Throttle

• “Remarkably researched and detailed, prepare yourself an in-depth and informative read into the era of modern motorsport when organize crime revolved around Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix. The back stories to this international circus are amazing, and besides the many racing tales leading up to the four-year run at Caesar’s, there’s lots here to learn about the mob and the going’s on behind the scenes in putting on these races.”—Vintage Motorsport Magazine