DC - On Knowing One Can't

ON KNOWING ONE CAN'T You're reading a guy's writings who has been watching sportscar racing for so long that he can't remember when he saw his first race -- perhaps a first important memory, like Dan Gurney's Ford MKII sporting a "bubble" roof...


You're reading a guy's writings who has been watching sportscar racing for so long that he can't remember when he saw his first race -- perhaps a first important memory, like Dan Gurney's Ford MKII sporting a "bubble" roof or Pedro Rodriguez spinning his Ferrari Dino -- but not even a specific race track comes to mind; just racing.

So it was with a considerable swagger when this "racer" nearly 10-years ago entered the gates of a Skip Barber Racing School at Daytona International Speedway, not to learn how to race a car but - given my vast and considerable knowledge garnished from decades of watching "the best of the best of the best, Sir!"- blow away the associated other "attendees."

J.C. France (No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche-Riley DP, today) and John Pew (No. 6 MSR Ford Riley, today) were among the dozen or so attendees wearing the red-and-black, single-layer Skippy driving suits back then.

"But what if, by some strange and totally unrealistic twist of fate, I should impact a fence or T-bone some other pilgrim and gas spewed all over the place?" I asked incredulously.

"We don't give you enough gas for anything to happen like that," Skippy's charge d'affaire Terry Lee Earwood said in reply.

Well, so much for my dreams of screaming around Daytona's 3.56-mile course lap after lap, apart from the others and in a class of my own -- kinda like Ralphie envisioning his taking control with his Red Ryder BB gun in 1983's A Christmas Story.

Before our Skippy school, France had previously done a motorcycle racing school or two and had competed in Humpy Wheeler's Legends Cars series, in which his father, James C. France, won a championship, by the way.

Pew? He only twice circumnavigated the globe on a blowboat ("sailboat" to those who haven't got a handle on power-boat vernacular).

(The more amazing and dangerous part of Pew's sailing journey was that his first mate actually IS his mate, Stephanie, and not only did the two not part at journey's end, they managed to produce two sons while on the high seas -- and remain a family to this day).

After doing one of the world's best comedic routines (actually, Earwood's life is a comedic routine), Earwood summarized the three-day schedule and, all of a sudden one of the dirtiest eight-letter words known jumped from the board: "classroom."

"Um, you mean we don't just get in the cars and go? I've actually gotta sit and listen to pontifications? This really IS a school!?" I said to myself as the "fun" started fading away.

And, while I seek not to denigrate the program, it wasn't really a lot of fun, either. It was work; hard work.

Following the first group session, the attendees were split into two groups, alternating time between classroom and track.

By the end of that first of three days I was plain tuckered out. My arms, shoulders, butt and brains hurt (some "friends" kindly note the latter two are located in the same place).

And I still hadn't been able to dazzle with my brilliance.

Fact was, I wouldn't dazzle anyone by the end of those three days and when the Skippy guys actually turned us loose for a couple of real races, I flat-out got my butt kicked by France, Pew and just about every other classmate.

In the end, and while this writer was purely humbled at his lack of racing skill, he learned two principal principles: "The male child always turns-in way too early, all of 'em; it's a genetic thing" (T.L. Earwood); and, "Put your children through a driving school or two because they'll do things there that flat-out can't be done in a shopping center parking lot."

I no longer do the former but did the latter and, as one parent to any other reading this: a offspring's completion of a serious driving school provides a peace of mind unlike almost any other.

Yet, time has a way of making hurtful things a little less so, something like, "Time heals all wounds." It also has a tendency to dumb down. You remember all that Algebra II we had to take to get the sheepskin?

Such was true for me with regard to driving a race car -- until Friday evening when I got to dice with Darren Law, David Donohue, Hurley Haywood, France, Marc Goossens, R.J. Valentine, Jim Lowe and far too many other hotshoes, professional or "gentleman," to list here.

We competed on New Jersey Motorsports Park's high-performance F1 kart . track This time I was prepared, knew the racing lines and how to attack. them, too .

Have you ever been standing alongside a railroad track and have a high-balling freight train blow by you?

Well, I guess it couldn't exactly sneak up on you like those above guys freight-trained this helmet-wearing scribe last night.

One moment, in a world of my own concentrating on turn-in, apex and track out -- doing a masterful job, too, while practicing for a later race -- when all of a sudden, six F1 Karts roar past, nose-to-tail, to my left.

To say I had "no clue" would be among the world's greatest-ever understatements.

Yes, a good driver should know what's going on around him.

I was again reminded Friday that, as compared to these guys who regularly race, I ain't.

Frankly, I think most everyone needs a little humbling every now and again, whether at Skip Barber or a high speed Kart facility.

-DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com

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About this article
Series General , Grand-Am
Drivers Marc Goossens , Pedro Rodriguez , Dan Gurney , Darren Law , David Donohue , Skip Barber , R.J. Valentine , J.C. Fra , Jim Lowe
Teams Williams