'Dean of motorsports writers' honored By Dave Rodman LOS ANGLES (April 3, 2000) Shav Glick has crossed a lot of paths in his 45 years with the Los Angeles Times, and by his passing has turned a good many of them into "Yellow Brick Roads." On ...
'Dean of motorsports writers' honored
By Dave Rodman
LOS ANGLES (April 3, 2000) Shav Glick has crossed a lot of paths in his 45 years with the Los Angeles Times, and by his passing has turned a good many of them into "Yellow Brick Roads." On Monday night Glick, 79, sat with his peers at the Times' annual anniversary celebration. Even though his true 45th anniversary passed last November, the 31-year motorsports writer for one of the world's most respected newspapers was officially feted at the ceremony at the Biltmore Hotel here.
He took the delay with the same calm, good-humored demeanor he has displayed to countless participants and readers in his chosen field over the past three decades.
He had an opportunity before the ceremony to reflect on his time covering motorsports, and more specifically, covering the rise of NASCAR's presence on the West Coast. Not surprisingly, despite chronicling a sport for so long that so deeply involves grease and gas and mechanical intrigue; Glick said a different element had enthralled him and kept him involved in it so long.
"I have no regrets," said Glick, who began his career as a high school intern, as many writers do -- in the midst of a career participating in a variety of sports. "I never drove a race car, that's for sure, but I never regretted for a minute the decision I made in 1969. The people in auto racing are so much more interesting, and I have covered baseball, football, track & field, golf, the Olympic games -- all sports.
"There are just more interesting people involved in automobile racing, and not just NASCAR but also the Indy car guys and motorcycle racers. That is one reason I continued working past what most people would consider retirement age -- I still enjoy the people."
As one might expect, the feeling through the years has been largely mutual.
"This is my 21st season as the AP motorsports writer and my 31st with the Associated Press," said Mike Harris, the respected wire service writer who has known Glick for more than 30 years. "This year will be my 31st Indy 500 but I'm a piker compared to Shav."
Their age difference, more than 20 years, and Glick's position with the Times set him up as an icon to be revered in a clannish business. But rather than remaining starkly aloof, he always fostered a sense of camaraderie and togetherness.
"We met at the 1970 Indy 500 -- my first -- and he had first come to the race in about 1967," Harris said. "He was one of the guys I looked up to and got to know over the next few years when we would see each other every May at Indy.
"Shav was a really friendly, optimistic, decent human being who always had a smile and was always willing to share information or help you meet someone if you needed an introduction. He hasn't changed a bit -- he is still the same as he was.
"Shav is a total professional -- the kind of guy who always covers things in a total manner. He's fair, he's a wonderful writer; he knows how to tell a story, how to do the business and he is very readable. Some guys get older and lose their skills -- they're not the writer they once were because maybe they're living in the past too much.
"Shav has not had that happen and I really enjoy reading his stuff. He still writes like someone who is on top of their game. He still has the kind of energy a lot of young guys wish they had. I enjoy reading his prose because he is so smooth and consistent. He is in the top 10 percent of people in our business."
Glick's subjects also lined up to pay him homage.
"That's outta sight -- he really has had a good, long career," said former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Bobby Allison when told of the celebration. Allison, of Hueytown, Ala., was one of Glick's subjects on many occasions. "I did have a few pretty good times with Shav on the West Coast, particularly. Real early, before there was a Winner's Circle (NASCAR award program), Les Richter and Jack Matthews, the PR man at Riverside would get me to come out and fly or drive around and see people.
"I got to visit with Shav and of course we'd see him at the race track. He really was one who followed the racing. He had an interest in it and a real good feel for it. He came to Hueytown and visited me and I got to show him around some and I certainly enjoyed it."
Glick said his affinity for auto racing began with a fine professional bent he established early in his career.
"The business has always been a labor of love for me, because I covered all sports for a long time before I started with auto racing," Glick said. It was a gradual process for Glick to fall into the motorsports beat.
"It (auto racing) really was no interest of mine, but I started going to Riverside in the '60's because the Times sponsored sports car races there," he said of the L.A. Times Grand Prix at the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway also a site of NASCAR races for a lengthy period. "I never was the race guy. I would just do some sidebars. You know, it was pretty much party time out there, around the Mission Inn."
But somewhere along the way, Glick got "the bug." In 1969 he was working in the Times' office as a "desk man," designing pages and editing copy along with his writing assignments.
"The guy who was the race writer got a better offer and quit rather abruptly," Glick said. "They wanted to replace him in-house, so they said 'you go try this one and you try that one.' I got it. The other guy didn't really like to write, it turned out."
The epitome of his attraction to the sport came in the 1980s, when he had to make a decision. He had been covering both the racing beat and the professional golf beat, but he found himself caught between too many conflicts and had to choose one or the other. For Glick, an avid golfer, the choice was agonizing.
"I chose auto racing, which shocked my friends that I golfed with," Glick said, chuckling as he repeated a common theme. "It's the people. The people have been all the more fascinating. I'm not a gear head and I don't pretend to pay attention to that aspect of it other than when I have to write about it.
"I'm more interested in the personalities to this day. I think they are fascinating."
Allison said that has been part of a grand plan and he is glad he had a part in its success.
"Well, I think NASCAR really, really brought that idea to the front," he said. "That helped people to love NASCAR because it proved they were a bunch of people who could still function as individuals while still pursuing a common goal, and that was the success of racing. If that showed through and if Shav was impressed by that we were doing at least as good a job as I thought we were."
They were successful, the veteran writer said, while still acknowledging the changes in the sport.
"Oh, God it's been incredible," he said of the West Coast growth of NASCAR he's seen in his career. That included Riverside, which was first threatened and then closed by development; the construction and demolition of Ontario Motor Speedway; and the flourishing of the new California Speedway in Fontana and Sears Point Raceway north of San Francisco.
"The sport is really growing, but it's definitely different," he said. "I think the personalities have purposely changed and become more programmed. (Jeff) Gordon and young (Dale) Earnhardt (Jr.) and Bobby Labonte -- God they've gone to charm school. They don't say outrageous things -- they used to make dramatic statements about other drivers -- they'd just blast each other. There were a lot of colorful characters.
"I did a story with Richard Petty a year or two ago and he said it just isn't as much fun as it used to be. You could walk through the garage and jaw with the drivers for a while. Now, they don't have as much time to do that. As time goes on it has become more family-oriented, with more second- and third- and fourth-generation drivers.
"It doesn't mean it's worse -- just different. It was easier to know the guys more personally. I'm not talking about socially, but they would see you in the garage and they would say 'hi' to you as quick as you would see them. It's not that they are any less friendly now, but they have to protect themselves because there are so many people after them because of the growth of the sport."
"At Riverside there used to be me and a guy from New York and maybe a couple Southern guys covering a race," Glick said of the 'good old days.' "Now, you've got hundreds of media at the races. It's good for the sport, but from my perspective it takes away a bit from the personal touch."
And that, without question, is the part that Glick cherishes the most. Of all the trips he has made and all the pieces he has "penned," a couple trips stand out in his mind. One was to Wilkes County, N.C., for a story he wrote on NASCAR legend Junior Johnson. The other was the trip to visit Allison, as well as a couple memorable visits to Speedweeks at Daytona.
"The one I have the most pride in came from when I spent a day or two at Junior Johnson's place in the mid-70s," Glick said of his most fulfilling story. "Ralph Seagraves (former Winston PR man) took me up there and I did a story on Junior and (ex-wife) Flossie and his whole life.
"I took a lot of personal pride in that thing. It ran on the front of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) paper and on page one of the Indianapolis News on the same day. Tom Higgins (respected Charlotte Observer motorsports writer), every time I saw him for a couple years after would compliment me on it, and that meant a lot to me.
"In my mind it was the best I have ever written, but I have always said good stories are only as good as who you're talking to -- you can't make up stuff."
Glick has also attended more races than he can count, but still gets fired-up, as he will for such big events as the upcoming Indy 500. But it is stock car races that propel his memory the farthest.
"The two that come to mind are Bobby and Davey Allison going one-two in the (1988) Daytona 500," Glick said. "One of the best stories I ever wrote was a year ago after the 500 when Gordon and Earnhardt had that incredible finish. I wrote a piece on the young handsome corporate darling going against the old cuss. Mentally I really got into it and personally I felt it was a great story."
To hear his peers tell it, it was one of many. And to the benefit of the thousands of race fans that have read his material, they maybe don't know how lucky they are.
"Shav once told me early-on he didn't really want to be the beat guy -- but nobody else wanted it," Allison said, voicing the thanks of many. "I'm glad he did -- he really is a neat guy."