Over the next several months, SPEED Channel will profile members of its on- air team as well as key figures behind the scenes at the nation's fastest growing sports cable network. The fourth profile in this series highlights veteran racer Derek Daly, SPEED's pit reporter for CART racing coverage and a two-time winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Daly showed tremendous versatility during his racing career, making nearly 50 Grand Prix starts and racing in the Indianapolis 500 six times.
SPEED: Looking back over your racing career, you raced in a variety of cars. As a racer, is it more gratifying to be competitive in several different series or dominant in one? A Mario Andretti or a Michael Schumacher?
DALY: There are no drivers who are competitive in multiple significant racing series anymore. Racing at the highest level is now too specialized which is why you no longer see the Mario Andretti type of career. I would say it is more satisfying to be dominant in one series like Michael Schumacher or Chistiano DaMatta and they are so busy being dominant in the one series that they don't have the time or the desire to try to be competitive in another series.
SPEED: How does your history in racing come into play in your new role as a journalist? What instincts do you use to find stories you believe people will want to watch?
DALY: Having been fortunate enough to have raced at the highest levels in the world of motor sports gives me a unique insight into the realities of the happenings that you can only get from having been behind the wheel. It allows you to talk with authority and credibility. It is very much a "been there, done that" type of situation."
SPEED: You've seen television coverage of motor sports change over the years. Where does SPEED Channel fit in the evolution of motor sports television?
DALY: SPEED Channel has brought a new energy to motor sports and television. SPEED has always been driven by a passion for the sport and that passion is felt in the viewers' living rooms. When motor sports in general needs to be supported, SPEED Channel may well be the only significant channel to give that support.
SPEED: Do you have a car collection? If so, what kind of cars do you look for? Which is your favorite?
DALY: I have a Ferrari Dino 246 GT which I bought from the Ferrari dealer in Monte Carlo the day after I did my famous cartwheels in the Tyrrell at the start of the 1980 Monaco Grand Prix. I also have a 427 Cobra component car that I built myself over a 3?-year period from 1993 to mid 1996. It is so fast it scares me. I have a Chevrolet Suburban and my wife's favorite car is a Dodge Dakota Sport Truck. My favorite car is a Ford GT 40.
SPEED: We've heard you are quite a football fan. As a native of Dublin, Ireland, how did you get to be a fan of American football? Do you have a favorite team?
DALY: I became a fan of American football when I was confined to a wheelchair in 1984 after my accident in Michigan. I was stuck in a hotel in Chicago with nothing to do except watch TV. The game I watched was Boston College vs. Miami when Doug Flutie threw a Hail Mary pass to win the game in its final seconds. Doug Flutie's opposing quarterback that day was Bernie Kosar. From that day on, my interest grew in the NFL and I have actually been on the bench with the Indianapolis Colts during some of their games as a result of my friendship with former coach Ron Meyer. My favorite team is the Green Bay Packers.
SPEED: So many things happen off the track at the races -- what meeting, conversation or event stands out as memorable at the track but out of the car?
DALY: In 1984 at the Phoenix International Raceway, for my teammate Tony Bettenhausen's birthday, I arranged for a dancer to come to the paddock to dance for him in celebration of his birthday. Little did I know that this dancer was completely uninhibited and in front of all our friends and the CART race officials the dancer took her top off and waived her boobs everywhere -- Tony loved every minute of it.
SPEED: Have you ever been afraid in a race car?
DALY: I have been downright scared in a racing car at times. At the Indy 500 in 1984, the handling of my car was so bad, and I was so spooked, that I retired after 75 laps. It was the one and only time in my career I ever retired because of handling problems. I have also had two crashes that scared me so much I fainted when I was taken from the car. One was in 1976 in a Formula Ford race in England when I had a throttle stick open and destroyed the car. The other was in 1980 at the Dutch Grand Prix when I had a front suspension failure on my Tyrrell and had a huge crash.
SPEED: What makes endurance events like Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring special?
DALY: They are unique because the history of the event makes you want to be a small part of that history. But halfway through the race, you're sorry you ever agreed to drive the car and you promise yourself that you never will again -- you can't wait to go home. However, the satisfaction of winning the Sebring race, which I was fortunate enough to do in 1990 and 1991, really was an event of immense personal satisfaction.
SPEED: As a racing journalist, if you could get an exclusive interview with anyone in the world of motor sports, whom would it be and why?
DALY: (Race team owner) Carl Haas and I'd ask, "How much does it cost per year for cigars you never smoke?"
SPEED Channel, the nation's fastest growing sports cable network, is the first and only 24-hour cable network devoted exclusively to motor sports and the human fascination for speed. Currently seen in more than 54.8 million U.S homes and 4.5 million more in Canada, SPEED Channel was acquired by Fox Cable Networks Group in July 2001.
Note: The first three profiles in the series, F1 analyst Steve Matchett, NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds and veteran broadcaster Bob Varsha, are available through our Web site archives.
Courtesy of Erik Arneson, SPEED Channel Public Relations