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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #111: He's a lousy racer, but you don't know that, do you?

My long-time readers, if they actually exist, will recall that I was not to the sedan-racing manor (or manner, thankfully) born. Rather, I came to it only after it was painfully obvious that my career as a semi-pro BMX competitor had gone from "never gonna make the Olympics" to "never gonna make it around the track within five seconds of the winner" well before my 32nd birthday.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact/avoidable-contact-111-hes-a-lousy-racer-but-...
20 REPLIES 20
MeJ
Detailer

Cool article. I don't follow racing for the most part but recognized a few of the racer's names.
I was wondering what your thoughts were on Randy Probst. I always liked him when he worked for Motortrend (does he still?) giving his opinions on various cars they track tested.
OptimusPrime
Intermediate Driver

I'm guessing Jack's not a fan. Jack threatened to beat the crap out of whatever Motortrend journalist showed up at an automotive press launch years ago. Why? Who knows.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Regarding Randy: I think he's great on video!

Regarding Motor Trend: I think they're doing great work!
S2kChris22
Pit Crew

Someone didn’t see Jack’s Instagram story response to Randy’s commentary on Hamilton/Verstappen the other day.  That whole paragraph about a driver not making videos if he’s good was presumably about…Randy. 

That said, I do find some value in a Randy or a Stig in that they are a consistent, known quantity and so if you view a car review against their body of work, not just in a vacuum, it tells you something. Not everything, but something. 

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

I would never say that about Randy; he's a Grand-Am champion and a fine producer of videos!

hyperv6
Engineer

Actually there are a small few out there that can drive about anything and even in a bad car be a winner.

Anyone recall the race where Gilles Villeneuve in the race where he lost the front wing on his F1 Ferrari and still finished the race in 3rd place? He was just a guy named Joe from Canada that had been racing snowmobiles till he got a chance. 

 

These drivers are all around us and many never had the chance to show what they could do. 



We have seen this in a few drivers over the years. Foyt. Stewart, Earnhardt, Pearson, Gurney Unser, ETC. These drivers can be a real factor in not just being fast but also making up for what a car may lack. I have seen people get into cars that Earnhardt and Pearson drove and they wonder how they ever got the car around the track as they were so loose.

Today we see too few of these drivers as they are not permitted to drive more than one type of car and often they lack the face and the skill of marketing that brings the funding.

If we has a Foyt come along today he would be rejected because he raised hell. Tony stopped driving as racing was not a major part of the job anymore.

We should braise Rick Hendrick for embracing and letting his drivers do racing outside NASCAR. Larson is very long on skill and Chase Elliot learned to take care of his car from his dad but he wants to learn more an just one car. I would love to see Hendrick field a GT3 Corvette at Daytona for his crew.

For what funding drives racing. Nearly anyone can make fast laps with enough practice but few can really race when it comes to race day. To know when and how to make the right moves and to know how to carry a poor handling car when they happen. Funding often is not included with these kind of drivers as too often they are people never given a chance today to race.

RokemRonnie
Advanced Driver

I think Mario Andretti has won in more kinds of race cars than just about any other driver I can think of. He even went drag racing, doing an appearance for a Ford dealer. Richard Petty was actually serious about drag racing. When Bill France banned the 426 Hemi in 1965, Petty left NASCAR for a year, put the Hemi in a Barracuda and went drag racing.
hyperv6
Engineer

Yes I neglected Mario. He is for sure on the list. 

Richard mostly was just stock cars and he held an advantage of not just being good but also in the best cars for nearly a decade.

 

The drag racing was just a brush up on NASCAR rules against the Hemi. But it was cut short with a horrific crash that killed a Spector. Unstable car on a dangerous track. Richard never went back after that. It still shakes him today. 

61Rampy
Advanced Driver

Two other drivers who could drive anything were (my fave) Jim Clark and (another fave), Dan Gurney. They could drive anything, and seem to do it so smoothly and quickly. They are my personal heroes.
Dejal
New Driver

His nephew John did drag racing for a bit.
Dejal
New Driver

GV? I was at that race. It was amazing. Me and people I was with were going nuts.
genethemachine
Pit Crew

Great article Jack! Very good points! You have no idea (actually you might) how many times at a local track day or time trial, a newb gets out of a veteran ride along, and says something like, “I’ve ridden with pros, and they don’t have anything on him/her!” Referring to the club racer. But there is something to be said about the racers that make it with self promotion, relationships, networking, and other connections. Being a great driver is like having a great business idea, but no one around to appreciate it. The guys that self promote have something figured out if they can turn their passion into a business.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

All of this is true, but it's a shame that motorsports rely so much on that side of the business. Imagine telling a twelve year old kid that he'll need $250k a year for the next three years, and $1.5m a year for three years after that, to play in the NBA. But that's the reality for American kart kids who want to try an open-wheel ladder.
genethemachine
Pit Crew

I completely agree. Motorsports is a crazy expensive hobby. Even at local track nights, I don’t remember running with so many $50-100k cars. It’s quickly becoming a (wealthy) gentleman’s sport.
PDMRCAING
Pit Crew

It always has been a wealthy mans game if you want to win.
PDMRCAING
Pit Crew

The most disappointing moment of my lengthy driving career was getting a pro drive. After years of club racing I was finally getting a shot to race against the Pro's. There was a book by Sam Moses that summed up the experience in "Fast Guys, Rich Guys, and Idiots". Unknown club racers given the opportunity & funding would eat most of these cats lunch in any venue. Today's cars with downforce, paddle shifters, AC, Traction control, & antilock brakes make a so so driver look great. There was a time @ Road Atlanta for example , if you were 6 inches off the apex of T12 you would be in the wall, now you can be 4 feet off line & be a hero. If you think money doesn't trump talent I have 2 words, Scott Tucker Didn't he earn his championships driving 2 cars in the same 4 car class during the ALMS days?
ccrvtt
Pit Crew

Highly informative, as usual. I've never raced cars but had the opportunity to ride go carts in a team building event. The first heat I went to the front and increased my lead for 5 laps. Thought I knew what I was doing. Then the carts were shuffled and the results were predictable.

Same for running track in school - genetics gave me the physical gifts but I would have won a lot more races if I'd trained harder.
Ssherman
New Driver

as usual Baruth is half right and half BS. If Alfonso was that good he’d be in the Mercedes. If it’s only about $ then why does Hamilton always beat  Bottas when they’re in the exact same car. In the end the cream rises to the top and very few amateurs could compete with the top drivers in most racing circuits! These guys have extraordinary athletic reflexive skills. 

Gary_Bechtold
Technician

Money is unfortuantely holding back any/all of us from having a great racing career if that is what we wanted. it is true that a lot of Youtuber's look better than they really are thanks to nice camera angles and fancy editing. But you can tell those who are good drivers. They may not be "pro" in their skills but for youtube it doesn't matter. I will never have that money to be/look that good. All I care about is having a nice track day if I do one again or just going on a fun ride somewhere.
kineticdg
Pit Crew

The article in which Jack Baruth explains that Fernando Alonso is nothing special.

Hmm…