SBRS: 2000 Could Be a Vintage Year for Jon Fogarty

Californian Jon Fogarty has been racing since the day he discovered forward- motion nearly 25 years ago. Sure back then it was crawling and later it was a tricycle, which then blossomed into bigger, faster, more complex machinery. However, it...

Californian Jon Fogarty has been racing since the day he discovered forward- motion nearly 25 years ago. Sure back then it was crawling and later it was a tricycle, which then blossomed into bigger, faster, more complex machinery. However, it was at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in early August of 1998 that Fogarty realized a dream of winning a professional auto race. There had been other victories in Formula Vee, as well as on that tricycle way back when, but this one was special to be sure. 1999 would not produce any victories and so he would have to wait until May of 2000 to revisit the top of the podium again when he won in dominating fashion the fourth round of the Barber Dodge Pro Series at Lime Rock Park. Following that race, he found himself in the heady position of leading the hunt for the Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship and the lucrative $300,000 Career Enhancement Award.

When the enigmatic Fogarty is not strapped into the cockpit of his Barber Dodge Reynard racing at speeds often in excess of 150 mph, he can be found on toiling in the family vineyard, where nature, and not his right foot, dictates the pace.

1. With so much time between your first win at Mid Ohio in 1998 and your Lime Rock Park win last May, did it feel like the first time all over again?

"Actually, no it didn't. A win is not something you wait for, it is something you are always striving toward. This constant focus really makes time fly, so while in reality Mid-Ohio was a while back, it does not feel that way. The top of the podium is a very special place and it is my expectation to be there every race. Of course this can't always be the way, but once you have been there the feeling never fades. Constant reminders are always nice though."

2. There's no doubt that this is your best season to date. What's made the difference?

"There are numerous factors involved with racing success, of which many cannot be quantified. If I throw out the black art/witchcraft/luck factors I could narrow it down to: 1) A desire to win that has reached such a boiling point that it is basically blowing my lid off. 2) An extensive off-season testing program that has been far beyond any I have had in the past. 3) I have developed an excellent relationship between Sliderule Motorsports Maestro Mike Zimicki and myself. In working with Mike we have developed a car that is very much mine, one that works for me in every which way. It is just a very comfortable situation when I am in the cockpit."

3. What made you decide to become a racecar driver?

"You could say I have been headed down this path from the beginning, ever since I could crawl I wanted to be out front and going fast, whether it was on a BigWheel, a bike, ski's, whatever. So to start racing was never really a conscious decision, but to make a career out of it was. During my sophomore year of College at UC Davis I was both studying and racing Formula Vees in the SCCA. The feeling of winning a race far exceeded that of acing an exam, and it was far more fun besides. So at age 18 I decided that I would go as far as possible with racing. Of course college also has its perks, so I finished that up as well."

4. What is the relationship you have with your sponsor Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards?

"Dr. Thomas Fogarty is my father and founder of the winery. He has always had an interest in wine and began brewing it up himself in the late70's. His profession as a cardiovascular surgeon of course took most of his time, so in '81 he hired our winemaker (and my boss) Michael Martella. From there it has grown into a business with about 14 full time employees and an annual production of about 15,000 cases of wine. I have lived on the winery property all of my life and have always had some involvement, but it was not until I finished my agricultural management degree at UC Davis that I really got my hands into it. My position is centered mostly around the actual processing and production of the grapes into wine, and this is fortunate because harvest, by far the busiest time of year, begins in early October- right as the racing season ends. Most of my seat time is on a CAT forklift."

5. How does your fork lift handle compared to the Barber Dodge Reynard 98E?

"The lift is front wheel drive, rear wheel steer, so the handling dynamics are slightly different from the Reynard, but with solid rubber tires and no suspension it is equally responsive at turn in. The hydrostatic drive on the CAT is smooth, but not quite as exotic or fun as the Hewland 6 speed. In reality though there are a lot of similarities between driving the CAT and the 98E. In both you are trying to be as efficient as possible, getting the job done in the least amount of time. In the Reynard it is hitting all your marks, getting to the power early and braking as late as possible. In the CAT you're practicing all of those things, plus timing your fork height as you approach the load you're about to move, all the while trying to decide in what order to move that particular load. Another similarity is that mistakes can be very costly with both machines. We all know that it costs a lot to fix a racecar, but the value of the loads we carry is pretty huge as well. For example, one barrel holds 60 gallons of wine, or about 25 cases (300 bottles). On the CAT we carry six barrels at a time, or 1800 bottles. At an average price of $30 dollars a bottle we are carrying about $54,000 dollars worth of wine. Risk of physical injury is always there as well. The cellar floor is a tight place to work, and often you have people performing other tasks while you are fork lifting barrel stacks. One six hundred pound barrel could put an end to you. One thing is for sure though, the Cat will lift 2.5 tons, and I am pretty sure that is more than the 98E. So needless to say the concentration level required when operating either the Reynard 98E or the CAT lift truck is quite high. But I still prefer the Reynard, for sure."

7. Your driving your road car down Highway 101 toward San Francisco and suddenly your it looses power then splutters to a stop. There are a few basic tools at your disposal. Do you try and fix it or do you call the AAA?

"I would check the fuel gauge before I did anything, then I would try to fix it. I can't understand people who won't at least give it a go themselves."

8. What is your physical conditioning regimen?

"A basic workday at the winery keeps me from going soft. Slinging around empty barrels is no easy task, nor is pallet jacking a six-stack of full barrels (3600 lbs.) across the cellar when the floors were built for drainage. To compliment the heavy work I do quite a bit of mountain biking, as well as backcountry snowboarding."

9. How did you get involved with the Skip Barber organization and the Barber Dodge Pro Series?

"My first introduction to the Skip Barber organization was when I went through the three day racing school at age 15. A few years later after winning a few West coast championships in Formula Vees, I was looking for a logical and economical next step. At that time the Big Scholarship program was gaining recognition, and after doing some research it became evident that Skip Barber was the way to go. From there it was the Formula Dodge West Coast series, an invitation to the Big Scholarship shootout, then on to the Pro Series."

10. If you weren't a race car driver, what would you be?

"Whatever I do, I will always be me. The things that one does in order to be successful in a racecar are not unique to that profession, they can be utilized in all aspects of life. I feel very fortunate that I can find enjoyment in doing all things, I just need to be able to take it to the highest level, whether it be a driving a car or cleaning a winepress. To answer the question, I would be a vintner- a farmer of grapes. Most people don't realize what agriculture is- the culture of the land. I grew up playing in the dirt, and you can't wash that out."

11. Your bother Tommy also races in the Pro Series.  He seems a little
more flamboyant than you are.  Are you two alike or not at all?

"I won't go to deep into this one because I have to room with him all season! Tommy is definitely more outgoing and social, but we both share very similar views of the world around us. We are alike in a lot of ways and I owe a lot to my older brother. Tommy is actually very much responsible for the realm of mechanical sports, but he also encouraged me to follow that path, and somehow he convinced my parents it was a good road for me!"

12. If you could only own one road car, what would it be?

"A Bucher Duro. If you know what it is you know why, if don't you probably wouldn't understand."

-George Tamayo

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jon Fogarty , Skip Barber