When motorsports caught my attention it was the drivers as much as the cars. They were like move stars in a way. The American drivers all seemed to come from a local gas station and the European drivers all seemed to be aristocrats.
Jim Clark was the man who could drive anything in any kind of race. It was tragic to see him disappear in an accident in 1968. It would be tragic again to have Mark Donahue killed in a Formula 1 practice in 1975.
Every driver had a very different personality and style, but they all had the character of a hero. Some drivers left the seat behind the wheel but stayed to dominate racing and cars from a different place. Roger Penske, Carol Shelby, Bob Bondurant, to name a few.
Jackie Stewart was world champion as well as a talented skeet shooter. He retired at the top of his game and became known as a top announcer and commentator. He also pushed for safety improvements in race tracks and racing.
Dan Gurney, A. J, Foyt, Phil Hill, George Folmer, Danny Sullivan, Parnelli Jones, Sam Posey, Mario Andretti, were the names that I would see at Indy and the Trans-Am road courses.
Jim Hall was a talented driver but became known for creating some of the most technically advanced race cars that were also beautiful to see and watch. He applied his training from Cal Tech to race cars and suddenly there were wings and ground effects.
Then there was NASCAR when it was not just a spec race, but consisted of cars that you could actually find in a showroom. Junior Johnson and Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty and David Pearson, driving cars that were based on what you could buy at the dealerships and filled with roll cage tubing, heavy duty police parts, and of course, the inventive rule bending advantages of the likes of Smokey Yunick.
So who are the great race car drivers that come to your mind? What made them special to you?
Many are gone, but many are still around and have stories to tell about the golden age of racing. Should we let them fade away or should we invest in capturing their thoughts and memories to share with current and future motorsports enthusiasts?
Please feel free to leave your comments on this post.