Friday, November 19, 2010 03:26
The headline was an actual coded airport telephone page for Paul “Leonard” Newman. It was Bob Sharp Racing’s way of contacting Newman when he was traveling, long before the advent of the cell phone.
Newman shunned his stardom when he was at the race track. In his racecar, he was not playing a part. Old “blue eyes” could drive the wheels off those red, white and blue Nissan Z cars.
He started racing in his middle-40s, showing a natural talent for driving. Racing school guru Bob Bondurant said Newman could have gone a long way in racing had he started earlier… but we all know what came first. Newman’s very first SCCA Championship came at the wheel of a Triumph TR-6 at Road Atlanta.
Newman was also the consummate jokester. He hired a pilot one year at the SCCA National Championships to tow a banner around the Flowery Branch Georgia track that said: “Tullius, call your mommy.” The “Tullius” he was poking was Bob Tullius, the owner of the legendary and successful Group 44 racing team. They raced Jaguars, among other things. Tullius got him back a couple years later when he had the Hall County Georgia sheriff arrest Newman for “impersonating a race car driver.” Newman was cuffed, read his rights and hauled off the track premises in the sheriff’s squad car.
But it was Newman’s kindness, both on and around the track most still remember and sorely miss. He insisted on being “just another driver.” I will never forget sitting in a friend’s motor home at Road Atlanta when someone pounded on the door. My friend yelled: “C’mon in.” It was Newman. He plunked himself down across the tiny Winnebago table. I was two feet away from NEWMAN. It took me awhile to get used to the fact that Paul just wanted to shoot the breeze. And yes his eyes were “that blue.”
Another friend recalls a weekend at the Road America Trans Am in the ‘80s. None of the principals were available to corroborate the exact date, but here’s what went down: Newman, Chris Kneifel and Wally Dallenbach Jr. had a season-long game of one-upsmanship going. Kneifel and Dallenbach posted a sign at a nearby nursing home to sign up for the “Paul Newman Fan Club” at the track. A day later a school bus full of white-haired ladies showed up at the track to meet Newman. Ever the gentleman, Newman graciously signed autographs (which he never did for anybody) and posed for pictures with his new fan club members.
I am sure “The Big Boss” in Newman’s new reality is more impressed with the millions Newman’s Own continues to donate to those in need than with those stunning blue eyes.
Monday, November 8, 2010 02:10
Checklists. Lots of checklists. There was also duct tape with critical notes written in Sharpie attached to the steering wheel. That’s what it was like when I was largely a one-man-racing band. (I often had some key assistance, from my mentor, championship team owner Bob Raub, but just as often I was alone.)
The reason for all these reminders: You can lose a race because you forgot to fill the fuel tank or you can lose a race because you forgot to fill the transmission with gear oil. One’s a bit more expensive than the other. You can crash because you forgot to torque the wheels or you can crash before you forgot you’d just installed new brake pads. And you can make yourself an idiot-for-life by leaving your fishing tackle in your car’s trunk. (I didn’t do that. Pete, your secret is safe with me. Actually, no secret is safe with a journalist, so scratch that.) More...
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 03:05
Want to see your name mentioned alongside Travis Pastrana, Rhys Millen, and other rally superstars? Here’s the recipe: Take one Ford Fiesta. Add an elaborate kit from O’Neil Motorsports. (The kit, offered with Ford’s blessings, brings the car up to competition specs.) Top it off with your spectacular driving skills. Bake until you win the Fiesta Sport Trophy Championship. Enjoy the opportunity to become the next rally superstar.
If you just said, “Huh?” … Rallying is like racing but on closed public roads. None of those sissy SAFER barriers to prevent you from falling off cliffs or crashing into trees.
The Fiesta rally kit is highlighted by engine modifications that up power to 168 hp. Other parts include a racing transmission, suspension upgrades, and racing brakes. Just in case you miss a turn and wind up in tumbling down a cliff or smashing into the woods, there’s also a steel rollcage. All this brings the car up to Fiesta R2 specs.
The catch: To be eligible to compete in the Fiesta Sport Trophy Championship, the kit must be purchased from and installed by Team O’Neil Motorsports. The Fiesta championship is part of RallyCar’s Rally America National Championship.
Price for the kit had yet to be announced. Cost to compete in a full season of Rally America: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
Win the championship and you earn a drive in the Wales Rally in the U.K. Then it’s on to another competition—the Fiesta SportTrophy International Shootout.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 03:34
In this case, my normal advice in a traffic emergency didn’t hold true.
It appears all the bystanders reacted quickly and all went in the same direction. Usually humans act more like deer in the headlights than deer in the headlights.
When I was doing the photo driving at Motor Trend, I quickly developed a mantra for photographers: Don’t Run. You’ll Only Die Tired. (I borrowed this from the U.S. Marine Corps sniper unit.) In my first major event for Motor Trend, I almost killed photographer Scott Killeen. I didn’t lose control; I just got a little bit behind in my steering. I decided the best action was to allow the Ford F-150 to spin counterclockwise, thus eating up a lot of energy and avoiding Scott. Unfortunately, at the last second Scott made like an unmonitored third grader (or his parent talking on a cell phone) and ran to the exact point I’d planned to place the truck. I do not know how I missed him. More...
Monday, September 13, 2010 02:16
Do you envy the mechanics as they perform a pit-crew ballet around a NASCAR Sprint Cup car, changing four tires and filling the tank with fuel in 14 seconds? Or maybe you’d like to be an inscrutable race strategist who figures out a tactic that steals a win from faster cars. Or maybe you want to be an engineer helping develop suspension packages that’ll give your car an edge. Hate to break your bubble, but if you move to Concord or Mooresville, N.C. without extensive mechanical skill, racing experience and, for engineers, a degree from a prestigious university, you’ll probably be delivering pizzas to the race shops.
“It takes a long time to work your way up,” said Mike Shiplett, crew chief for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford driven by A.J. Allmendinger. “No one can come down here and expect to be crew chief for the 24 (Jeff Gordon’s car) in a year. More...