This is my 43rd year of covering professional motor racing for magazines and web sites. Currently, I write for RacinToday.com, a terrific site run by my colleague Jim Pedley. Then there’s the craft beer magazines such as The Beer Connoisseur, where I regularly contribute on the subject of, yep, beer.
In 2019, there will be three books released on the subject of racing where I’ve had a hand. I was a contributor to two books on the 50th anniversary of the IMSA, the sanctioning body for professional sports car racing in America. In addition, my history of how the HANS Device helped save auto racing – CRASH! – appears in September . A tenth book, Winning in Reverse, is a motivational memoir co-written with Bill Lester, for ten years the only black driver in NASCAR’s three major professional series. Bill has recently signed with the Serendipity agency in New York City and we are excited about the prospects for this extraordinary memoir.
I guess racing started for me like most everyone else – as a result of my family’s interest, in particular my older brother Bill. I loved riding in his hot-rodded, street legal and very fast ’55 Chevy to the Beltsville Speedway in Maryland to see the Late Models race and drivers like Bobby Ballentine and “Rapid” Ray Hendrick. That’s where I first heard the name Richard Petty – although I never made it to the Grand National events at Beltsville in favor of watching slugger Frank Howard and the Washington Senators play baseball at RFK Stadium.
Once upon a time, I played shortstop for the Duke University team (literally – when the star shortstop was sick) and harbored ambitions to play professional baseball. But an injury to my throwing shoulder my sophomore year and a steel pin meant my prospects for making the major leagues were far better in the press box than the batter’s box. Absent baseball, I turned to covering Duke in the ACC for The Chronicle, the student daily. I certainly could not foresee that my writing ambitions would soon lead me into a sport I was only vaguely familiar with, but one that was, in the words of one racer, “a crucible of life.”
After graduation from Duke in 1976, I nearly jumped out of the chair with enthusiasm when I was asked about covering stock car racing in a job interview with the Durham Morning Herald, where I was anxious to get started as a fulltime sportswriter. “I used to go to the races!” I replied. More than a little of my response had to do with two other options, which were covering golf or not getting the job. I used to caddy at a local club and quite frankly didn’t like too many of the people I met there – beyond the other caddies. Prior to the interview, on the other hand, I had recently read a story about “King Richard” in Sports Illustrated by Robert F. Jones on his prospects for another NASCAR championship. No way could I foresee one day writing for Sports Illustrated about the title-winning ways of a driver named Dale Earnhardt.
Nor could I foresee being the only author to work on two biographies of Earnhardt – and the only person to write an unauthorized biography of America’s most famous female driver, Danica Patrick.
What’s next? If all goes well, a book on beer.