He’s a man with many talents and you might say has everything, including Parkinson’s.
I have two books by Sam. Mudge Pond Express, an autobiography published in 1976; and Where the Writer Meets the Road, a compilation of his writings, broadcast introductions, and recollections of fellow drivers and events.
I bought Mudge Pond Express as soon as it came out and devoured the pages, soaking up all the information on Sam’s life that it contained. For me he was one of the hero’s of racing having competed in many series, including Can-Am, Indy, Formula 1, and Trans Am.
In 1968 he teamed with Mark Donohue on Penske’s unbeatable Trans Am race team. He competed in the Can-Am series which was practically unlimited in terms of rules. The cars had to have two seats, have the bodywork enclose all the wheels and meet the minimal safety standards of the day. The engines were unrestricted and could be supercharged or turbo-charged. Tires could be as big as you could fit and aerodynamic bodywork was open to just about anything. Jim Hall even introduced a vacuum system to suck his car to the track. It was one of the rare times technology was banned by rules. While it created a huge advantage it also blew huge amounts of road debris into any car unlucky enough to be in its wake.
Sam was no second string driver either. In 1969 he won the Trans Am at Lime Rock in Connecticut. Posey was a driver at Le Mans 10 times and won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1975.
Sam is also and architect, designing the timing tower at Lime Rock Park. The front straight there is named Sam Posey Straight.
Friday I was on my way to see the man of legend and have him autograph my copies of his two books mentioned above. He has also written a book about model trains (Playing With Trains) as he is a collector and aficionado of same. I had been reading his latest book, Where the Writer Meets the Road, and it brought back so many memories as well as filled a couple of pages of note paper with questions that I hoped he would have time to discuss.
I was about an hour away and called to let him know my ETA. His wife Ellen answered and let me know that he would be engaged painting a model (he still paints nudes) and would I be able to time my arrival with the model’s departure. Not a problem, of course.
I drove up to his studio and parked the P71. Ellen greeted me and let me in and Sam was in the back of the studio contemplating his art work. He transferred himself to a electric chair and we moved to a sitting area where he transferred to a regular chair and we talked.
It was so nice to be able to meet with Sam that I almost forgot my notes full of questions. He shared his feeling on the current state of Formula 1. It is not in a healthy state and time will tell if there are any changes that can be made that will facilitate a turn-around. Mixed with that were the memories of the era of racing where death was a constant specter, removing some great and talented from the ranks of drivers. Jimmy Clark and certainly Mark Donohue. With Mark’s accident Sam realized that no matter how talented or lucky a driver might be there would be a bad day to come and with that he let his wife know that open wheeled racing was no longer an option for him.
We talked about his time as a color announcer with ABC sports at Indy and even the F1 races. He asked for my pen and notebook and traced the first and second turns at Monaco where he explained how Aryton Senna’s driving took him through those turns, looking as if he was colliding with the guard rails, but instead slithering his car in impossible fashion through them with equally impossible speed and grace.
I asked him what movies he found that represented the true feeling of racing. Heart Like a Wheel, the 1983 movie of Shirley Muldowney who became a top fuel dragster champion driver, was the answer. Then Sam got a twinkle in his eye and asked if I liked Red Line 7000. This is a 1965 film directed by Howard Hawks. Clearly he enjoyed the movie.
Soon I was feeling guilty about how much of this man’s time I was taking up. I probably could have pestered him with questions for days. He bent over and signed both my books and explained what he wrote and why. I was honored. Then he asked me if I liked coffee. Of course I said. “Well over there I have some coffee cups that I’ve painted and designed, go an pick out one you would like”.
I was all smiles and felt like a kid at Christmas, trying to choose one of the many personal designs. The red hand caught my eye. “This one,” I said. “That’s a good choice,” said Sam. I suggested that he should do one with his iconic helmet design on it, “great idea,” he said.
I bid farewell and thanked his wife for the time and floated out the door to the P71. Ready to get on the road once again.