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thanks to the legal types at NBC,
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We're trying to figure out what?

First off, an enormous, heartfelt thanks to all who extended their sympathy and condolences following the passing of my brother Maurice. Carol and I were genuinely overwhelmed by the number of people who responded, and it was both a great help and truly humbling to discover how many of you actually read these things and cared enough to reach out.

I cannot tell you how much it meant to us.

Thank you all!

Winter Blahs & Blues

Well, here we are in the middle of yet another Chicago winter (it was several bone-chilling degrees below zero this morning, there was a stinging arctic wind whipping at my cheeks and turning all my nose drizzles into icicles when I walked Buddy yesterday and we had something like a foot of heavy snow last week) and, to be perfectly honest, it makes me wonder just why the hell we still live here. I mean, there are places we could be biking outside every day instead of going to the blessed health club. And I've always been more of a T-shirts-and-shorts (rather than down-filled parkas and lined gloves and snow boots) kind of person. But this is great weather for cuddling (see Carol & Buddy below)

or reading Sunday papers or watching old black-and-white comedies or mysteries in bed and, yes, finishing up novels that probably should have been finished quite some time ago.
But I'm making great progress on that end, with large sections of the new tome already off to my editor & my fact-checker while I work on what amounts to about the last 25-30%. I've been in a good place where that's concerned lately, and that's not something you can always control. Sometimes you struggle like mad to get started on a fresh chapter (you try staring into a blank computer screen!) or to bring a simple exchange of dialogue to life.
But other times, as my overly macho by-current-standards and so no-longer-PC writing hero Ernest Hemingway once put it (I think in A Movable Feast)"sometimes the stuff goes crazy on you."
I remember I was on a panel at a library once with a rather more accomplished novelist and, as she described it: "at that point, you're just the tube it flows through." And I think she had it just about right. Although it's often a little out of control at that point. But you can sure fill up a lot of pages....
One of the nice things about working on the Steamroller series is that my narrator is now a writer rather than a racing wrench, and although I've lost (and often dearly miss) the innocence, blue-collar/dirt-under-the-fingernails/salt-of-the-earth character and coming-of-age adventures of Buddy Palumbo, this gives me a chance to talk about the writing process from the inside and, like driving a racing car, I believe it's something I know a little bit about from first-hand (albeit sometimes disappointing and even disastrous) personal experience.
Hey, like everybody from heroes such as Hemingway and Mark Twain to my Creative Writing 101 grad assistant (who always wore the same, frayed corduroy jacket over his Sears & Roebuck blue-denim work shirt and was really only there for the free room & board and to hopefully score with hot-looking freshmen women from small, rural towns) always said: you need to write what you know, y'know?
Speaking of the new book, we are actively and even shamelessly seeking additional sponsors (CLICK HERE for more info). Not to mention advertisers for the color section. An ad there may not offer quite as much gross visibility as a Super Bowl TV spot, but neither is it over in 30 seconds (and forgotten in 30 more?) and cost as much as a slightly used Bugatti Veyron. By contrast, ads in my books last just about forever and reach out to a somewhat smaller but far more focused, interesting and discerning consumer segment.
E-mail me at if you'd like more information.
Besides reading, writing and watching entirely too much crappy cable TV (although we LOVE "Doc Martin" on PBS), the only other things the off-season in Chicago is any good for is car-guy/marque-enthusiast dinners, banquets and special events. Carol and I attended a really good one (some marginal food excepted) a week ago thanks to Linda Daro and the MIRPA (Meadowdale International Raceway Preservation Association, CLICK HERE to visit their website) and my longtime home vintage club folks at the VSCDA. The two groups wisely combined their annual winter banquets, and Linda somehow finagled Al Unser Jr. as the featured guest and his onetime teammate and longtime friend Bobby Rahal to do the introduction.

Now Meadowdale has always meant a lot to me because I saw my first-ever sportscar race there back when "Tequila" and "My Friend the Witch Doctor" were pulsing out of your car radio and smoking cigarettes seemed like a cool thing to do. The Scarabs won that day (as they did pretty regularly at Meadowdale in both R.A.I. and Meister-Brauser livery) and that's me below in Scarab #003 something like a half a century later at Roebling Road Raceway thanks to Miles Collier, Scott George and the rest of my friends at THE REVS INSTITUTE(click for more info), and be sure to visit this incredible collection whenever you're anywhere close to Naples, FL.

In any case, to say that first race at Meadowdale changed my life forever pretty much covers it...I was hooked! And you can bet your ass I went back again whenever I possibly could. I witnessed a lot of great racing at Meadowdale along with experiencing a whole bunch of incredible cars and an amazing cast of characters that I will never, ever forget. Plus the course itself was really something special--uphill, downhill, narrow, sinuous, dangerous in some places, daunting in even more--and a real "drivers' track" with all the challenges, thrills, risks and rhythm that the term implies.
Unfortunately, the track was doomed to be something of a dead end as a commercial venture (it was too close to flourishing new housing and shopping center developments and, to be honest, the real estate just got too damn valuable) and now it's parkland with a lot of the old racetrack--although heavily and even eerily overgrown--still very much in evidence.
In any case, the MIRPA (and the HRC bunch up around Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin) are mostly just a bunch of old-fart racers/enthusiasts who grew up loving and enjoying the sport here in the Midwest long before corporate average fuel economy, air bags, hydrocarbon emissions, child-safety seats and noise pollution even registered so much as a blip on the national consciousness.
Like old-fart enthusiasts world-wide, we like to gather over food and drink, reminisce about ze olt dayz and pass around a few sets of rose-colored glasses so we can remember it even better than it was. Plus, the topic being motor racing and motor racing being forever focused on the next race and the next technical development and the next checkered flag, MIRPA folded in a few garage tours on the day of the banquet at the local Fall-Line Motorsports and Blackdog Speed Shop facilities, both of which have competed and won titles in the highly (!!!) competitive SCCA Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA Continental Tire pro series. Very, very cool.

And then came the banquet, lots of old friends, the usual schmoozing, a silent auction (you could get a hell of a deal on a whole set of my books along with some more valuable stuff from other folks) and the talk by Al Unser Jr was fantastic. I was always a Little Al fan, and they set it up as a sort-of interview format with Larry Fulhorst asking all the right questions. It was riveting stuff if you're any kind of race fan, as Bobby and then Al Jr. gave us a real, insider look at the world of professional motorsports. Plus Little Al was so damn honest, eager, modest, bemused, straight-forward and self-effacing that you just couldn't help joining in--with great enthusiasm--on the well-deserved standing ovation that followed the presentation. Good stuff and a truly wonderful time! If you ever get a chance to hear Little Al tell some of his stories and answer questions off-the-cuff, don't miss it!


February always brings the Auto Show to Chicago, and Carol and I went to theFriday The Thirteenth press day to see the cars, listen to the hype and wonder where all the legions of so-called "media professionals" are coming from these days. Then again, as the car companies (and anybody else who sells anything) have become acutely aware, the random, massive and untamed jungle of "social media" has not only grown like "The Blob" in the el cheapo Steve McQueen drive-in epic of the same name (see below) but, at the same time, editorial content in traditional news media has been damn near asphyxiated for lack of space (read: "lack of advertising revenues"). 

I'm not sure that I know where it's all heading, but the "window to the entire universe and portal to all human knowledge and wisdom" originally envisioned for the internet has instead increasingly morphed into narrow little niches, capillaries, back alleys and backwaters where we go to have whatever interests, factoids or opinions we already hold true re-stated and reinforced.
Although what's happened to the porn is pretty damn amazing. Hell, even network hair-conditioner ads are sexier than the old "staple-through-the-Playmate's-navel" stuff I grew up salivating over! And whoever thought you'd see boner-pill ads in Car and Driver or Road & Track?
Or boner-pill ads in the first place?
But that's progress, I guess (and Fiat's "blue pill" Super Bowl spot is not to be missed...CLICK HERE to see it)!
Anyhow, I digress.
Back to the Auto Show.
Can't tell you how happy I am that Mazda is quietly going back to the Miata's roots (not to mention swimming upstream against conventional automotive evolution) with their new MX-5 sports car, which is smaller and lighter than its predecessor and harkens back to the old, time-honored sportscar virtues of light weight and nimble handling as opposed to mind-boggling technical complexity (which is inevitably accompanied by mind-boggling weight!) and performance intended more to impress than enthrall.
Thank you.

At the other end of the sportycar spectrum is the flashy and exotic new Ford GT supercar (see below) which is surely a quite fantastic machine and equally surely (I hope) destined for the racetrack.

That said, the Ford people on hand kept going on and on about "lightweight materials" and "new technologies" in their multi-media presentation on the new car, yet they all played coy if you asked them point-blank how much the damn thing weighed? Or how much it would cost? Or how many they were going to build? Or where they were planning to race it?
Don't get me wrong. I think the new Ford GT is as cool as can be, and I hope they race the shit out of Ferrari, Porsche and the rest and win at Le Mans again. Hey, I'm both a Ford stockholder and the owner one of the company's fine automotive products. Or it was in 2006, anyway. But I don't much like the way they're toying with and teasing the enthusiast media.
Then again, that's how you get attention.
Ask Sally Rand.

Saw my old teammate P.D. Cunningham's new Acura racer from his RealTime Racing Team, and I doff my hat and reveal my balding head in respect. PD was always fast as stink...but there are a lot of fast guys out there. He's managed to make a genuine career, a business and a great success out of it (winningest World Challenge driver and team ever and a long-running deal as Acura's factory team here in the states). Good for him!

Speaking of racecars, Nissan had a show copy of their new Le Mans contender. It was designed by Ben Bowlby (the same guy who designed the tricycle-gear Delta Wing (see below), which has been referred to as "the lawn dart" by certain less-than-charitable motorsports insiders.

Now I must admit to being skeptical when I first saw the Delta Wing a couple years ago. I mean, it looked all wrong to me and like it would surely understeer like pig on roller skates. But it's turned out to be pretty damn fast (although it has yet to score a major result) and the drivers keep coming back, so it can't be too scary in there behind those tall, narrow front wheels.
Only now Ben Bowlby has gone equally radical in the opposite direction (with Nissan once again footing the bill) with this strange-looking, front-wheel drive hybrid Le Mans contender.

Once again, it looks all wrong to me. But, hey, what the hell do I know?

Of course there were a handful of stupid-expensive supercars on hand in a cordoned-off area attended to by leggy, bosomy models in Security Guard outfits (nice touch)

and Carol was frankly appalled that the Bugatti Veyron stickers out at...well, read it for yourself:

Now even a diehard enthusiast like myself finds this a wee bit obscene (especially in a world where there's so much hunger and deprivation get the idea) and the only response I could muster up was my usual lame argument about how many people find gainful employment building, selling and servicing these things. I mean, think about all the folks who earned their daily crusts of bread building crazy King Ludwig's castles. Or any other blueblood's castles, for that matter. And the neat thing about today is that you don't have to be an aristocrat to buy one...just filthy rich! Movie stars, hip-hop artists (so-called), Russian gangsters, payday loan moguls, pimps and drug dealers can all get in line so long as they've got the ready cash.
We'll have a tent meeting later on "trickle down" economics....

By far the highlight of the show (for me, anyway, as a diehard Alfisti) were the three cars from the Alfa Romeo Museum in Italy that were brought over to grace the Alfa display. I kind of melted to the spot as I ran my eyes over the Tipo B (the first-ever single-seat grand prix car) and the dominating 158/159 Alfetta, just kind of soaking in their beauty, history, passion and genius.

By the way, Alfa's new 4C sports car is pretty cool, too. It's not for everybody and not especially practical, and Lord only knows how many people will actually front up the cash to buy one. But it's a hell of a sexy thing to drive (I thought it felt like a smaller-caliber Ferrari 458) and it'll turn heads anywhere.


As many of you already know, the Saturday just past was not only Valentines Day, but also wife Carol's birthday as well as our 41st wedding anniversary. You might ask what we did to celebrate such a major occasion? Well, did what we love to do: we went to 8am bike class together at our health club, then went out to undo some of the good we'd just done with a nice eggs, fruit & fixins breakfast at our favorite local restaurant. Then we did some stupid errands, I made my special, "twice-cooked" chicken for dinner and we watched the movie "Boyhood" in bed. And it was really, really good and definitely worth seeing.

Now we greatly enjoy our Saturday-morning bike class, as the instructor (Wally) is truly wonderful and we've come to know a lot of the people (and they us) and so it's kind of like a social gathering, a little sweat, some really good, get'cher-blood-pumping music and a group therapy session all rolled into one. In past years (with the help of some of the club staff), I've managed to sneak flowers and hokey heart balloons and such onto Carol's bike before we come in. And, although she's always gracious about it, she thinks that's kind of hey-look-at-me tacky, and she made me promise not to do it again this year.

And I said "yes."

Only with my fingers sort of crossed.

So we arrive at class and there's nothing on her bike and everything seems normal--just another Saturday morning at the health club, right?--and we pedal and joke around with our friends and listen to a Valentines Day mix of oldies (I did the CD) and then, right at the end when we're going into cool-down, Wally puts on a CD of "Happy Birthday" and everybody starts singing to her and then one of my confederates at the club comes pedaling in on Carol's present, which is the new bicycle she'd been wanting. And I must admit it:

a) surprised the living shit out of her, and

b) looked pretty damn sharp. It was white, see, and I'd added little touches like a cheesy pink-and-white plastic basket (like you'd see on some little girl's tricycle, you know?) with a bunch of flowers in the basket and pink-and-white plastic streamers (ditto little girl's tricycle) on the ends of the handlebars and a pink ding-dong bell on one side and a pink bulb-horn on the other and...well, you get the picture.

Worked like a charm, too. She loved it!

Then, after breakfast, she took me out for my present: my first-ever his-n'-hers pedicure. Now I have to admit to the usual male opinions/prejudices about pedicures, but may I say, having now experienced one, that they are right up there with...well, never mind what they're up there with. Suffice to say I'll be sneaking in again (probably in disguise) to have another one.

Boy, do my feets ever feel good!



A lot of folks (and particularly my British and European friends and those who have visited Monaco) correctly identified the unusual car below as the incredibly radical 1935 Trossi Monaco, which now lives in a museum in the principality.

As you can see, Ben Bowlby (see section above) hardly has a monopoly on strange or radical racing car designs. Racer/enthusiast Count Carlo Felice Trossi commissioned the car back in the mid-1930s (when most people were either starving or struggling their way through the depression..see the price placard for the Bugatti Veyron above) and it featured a front-mounted, air-cooled, 4-liter, 16-cylinder, twin-supercharged, 2-stroke radial aircraft engine and, umm, rather "unusual" handling.
The amazing thing is: it never lost a single race!
Then again, it was never entered in a single race after the good count tried driving the damn thing....

In any case, it has come to my attention that far too many of these trivia questions have been either Brit- or Euro-centric, and that has given way too much of an advantage to those living on the older, more worn-down and war-torn side of the Atlantic. So:

In the picture above, please tell me:
What kind of car am I about to drive?
What sort of engine does it have?
What racing class was it originally built for?
Who is the gent on the red scooter?
Who is the gent next to him?
What track are we at?

OK, all you smartypants Brits and European types:
I'm WAITING..... 

Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: