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For the past two years or so, you've been mostly listening to me bitch and moan about how many hours and how much effort, angst, sweat equity and cold, hard ca$h I've invested and how many seemingly overwhelming organizational maelstroms I've survived and mostly overcome in birthing this occasionally thankless but (and here's the key) stupefyingly magnificent audiobook project.
Not that I'm bragging or anything.
But I did make it sound like it wuz all I was doing, didn't I?
But now it's D-O-N-E (sound of champagne corks popping, cheers, beers, noisemakers, shouted "hurrahs," etc.) and off to wherever the little CD disc set/USB flash drive elves live that are at this very moment churning, molding and hammering it into something that folks like YOU can actually purchase ($55 for the flash dive, $65 for the CD set--including FREE BONUS VIDEO) and listen to. It's available for near-term/prompt-delivery pre-order RIGHT NOW on the website.
Click HERE to order one for yourself.
Or more than one if you have friends with ears, a receptive brain and birthdays/anniversaries/graduations/weddings/divorces, etc. to celebrate.
And--you gotta trust me on this--they're gonna flat-out LOVE it! 
So will you. It's like a movie in your head... 

Official launch will be taking place as planned-and-promised at the big Weathtech International Challenge vintage race meeting at Road America July 18-21 (two days away as I write this), and since everything, quite typically, has come down to the Last Effing Minute, we will be receiving the first shipment of CD sets and USB flash drives right there at the racetrack via UPS (and hopefully not via their Whole Foods-pricey "OVERNITE SERVICE").
Kind of fitting, actually, since the very first copies of the very first edition of The Last Open Road arrived much the same way (and likewise at the last effing minute) at the same exact race meeting precisely 25 years ago next Friday. To the day. Honest.
There's a wonderful symmetry to that, n'est ce pas?

We'll start shipping our mail orders the following week, with the very first copies going out to our greatly appreciated sponsors, then to our trusting and patient pre-order customers (who have already fronted up the money we have been living on of late) and then all of you folks out there who have once again dragged your feet while destiny passes you by. Please note that sponsors and pre-order types can also pick up their copies in person (and get them signed if that is their wont) up at Road America next weekend, but PUH-LEEZ email or text ahead of time so we can set copies aside for you. And, just so you know, we are STILL ACCEPTING SPONSORSHIPS(click on it if you dare!) simply because, well, we think there may be a few lazy, slow-to-react suckers out there who have been tardy in responding.
If you opt in now, your name will NOT be read in the deep, dulcet tones of our professional announcer (Andrew Vogel) in the spoken credits or seen in the accompanying video rolling credits ON THE FIRST 500 COPIES ONLY. It will then be added in for all subsequent copies and will also appear on the sponsor list in the color section of the NEW PRINT EDITION (and of course all subsequent print editions) of The Last Open Road coming out later this year. You will also receive a copy of the exclusive, numbered, limited-run, suede-bound 25th Anniversary Collectors' Edition of The Last Open Road (a $100 retail value all by itself) and you MAY even be able to get your favorite book number. Maybe. So don't delay (like you probably already have) as this offer will end for sure when we do the next production run of audiobooks. Really. We mean it this time. Honest.

Looking ahead to this weekend, I'll be hawking and signing copies of the new audiobook and Premiere Weekend posters alongside famous international racing champions/British-accented motorsports personalities Brian Redman and David Hobbs (both of whom, along with many other motoring notables, luminaries and loose cannons, play MYSTERY CELEBRITY GUEST VOICE supporting roles in the audiobook!) and who likewise have books of their own to sell, sign and attempt to turn into disposable income.
You'll find us at a big, messy table (hopefully surrounded by teeming hordes of fans waving credit cards and fistfuls of cash at us) in the Road America Paddock Shop during lunchtime Fri-Sun and perhaps on into the afternoon (who knows?). Also on the outside patio at Siebkens infamous bar Friday afternoon-into-evening from 5pm-8pm during and after the racecar concours (although I personally may be a bit late as I'm judging as well and my understanding is that we'll have over 150 cars to nod, grin, grimace, shake our heads, wince, fidget and accept proffered bribes over). But I'll be over directly once that much-enjoyed task is finished. The three of us will also be set up at the big MG Focus Event dinner at The Tufte Center (downstairs from The Paddock Shop) on Saturday evening. Do drop by.
And bring a little hard cash or that poor, quivering credit card that isn't up to its limit yet, as we may well be running a Weekend Special on David's book, Brian's book, a copy of the new audiobook and your choice of posters (all signed & personalized and a solid $250 value at retail) for a paltry two hunnert bucks American! Such a deal!

As mentioned above, the W.I.C. is this year's MG Vintage Racers Focus event, and once again I've been exceedingly fortunate in weaseling my way into a share of the driving chores in my longtime friend/publisher emeritus Mike Silverman's Huffaker-prepared #41 MGA (pic below).

It's a very good car looked after by a very good crew (Chris Hines' Arrow Lane bunch) and I'm really looking forward to beating the living crap out of it for Mike! Also may get a few laps in Mike's Chevy-powered Echidna special (see pic below). Three of the breed were built and campaigned by a trio of racing buddies out of the iron-country tundra of Hibbing, Minnesota (also birthplace of folk-music icon/cultural fulcrum Bob Dylan) back in the early 1960s. All three cars will be reunited at Road America for the fist time in...well, let's just say it's been a long, long time. Pic of the bellowing V8-powered monster below:

I drove two of the three Echidnas to do a VM story back when Minnesotan Jim Bartlett owned them many years ago and, at Mike Silverman's insistence, plagiarized my own self shamelessly to resurrect & resuscitate the piece for this year's W.I.C. race program. So he owes me, right?

But the point here is threefold:
1) Come by to say "Hi" and spend copious amounts of money with David, Brian and myself. I've bet most of my net worth on this audiobook deal (Carol really deserves better, doesn't she?), while back when Brian and David were making a name for themselves and winning major races and championships for top factory and privateer teams, professional racecar drivers weren't making near the kind of money they do these days. In fact, they weren't even making the kind of money well-ranked 14-year-old video-game phenoms are making in today's crazy job marketplace. Not to mention that drivers were getting killed and maimed on a fairly regular basis back then. Different time, eh wot?
2) Root for me on track and pray nothing breaks, snaps, blows up, blows out, fetches itself into the trackside scenery or bursts into flame while I'm at the wheel. You'll know it's me by the semi-heraldic (but, sadly, not yet iconic) red helmet with its asymmetrical yellow stripe (pic below).

And, of course, the blinding speed...

3) Which brings me to the point of all this (if indeed I have one, which is always a dubious proposition until the final punctuation mark of the final paragraph has been reached) which is simply this: I may have been misleading you with all this thankless, nose-to-the-grindstone, working my blessed fingers and brain to the bone/Myth of Sisyphus-style self-reporting re: the audiobook project (see illustrative pic below)

during the past six months or so. Because I HAVE managed to sneak off and do a bit of racecar mooching. Racing, even. Just didn't want you (and especially you cheri$hed inve$tor$ and $pon$or$) to know I was taking time out to have a little fun. But NOW IT CAN BE TOLD...

Sunday, April 7th: Thanks to the driven, well-connected and frighteningly energetic (!!!) Jill Swanson Peltier of the highly worthy  LEMONS of LOVE cancer-support charity (click on it for more info), I was able to score a ride in the Shit Box Racing (I am not making this up) BMW 325 in a damp and dreary Lemons "Doing Time in Joliet" enduro at Autobahn (see pix below):

It was my first-ever Lemons race and, although similar to ChumpCar, these folks take themselves even LESS seriously. If that's possible. In fact, there are ad-hoc, draconian penalties for trying too hard! And one of them was visited upon the Shit Box team in the form of sentencing them to accept ME as a stand-in replacement driver. Well-known (if not exactly respected) automotive journalist Jay Lamm started the whole "24 Hours of Lemons" thing many years ago, and it is very big fun. Lots of strange cars and strange people (see pix below) just having a hell of a good time flogging around a racetrack (even in the wet) and fixing, well, whatever needs to be fixed:

My friend Mike Besic's Alfas look entirely to nice to run with this lot (and don't be fooled by the blue one: it's an Alfa Spider mutation disguised as an Alpine A110...I think):

The race itself was a hoot. "Our" BMW (which was a pretty decent racecar, BTW) had run into, umm, "technical difficulties" on the Saturday and so was well down the order when my time to get behind the wheel rolled around on Sunday morning. Plus there was some silly issue about replacing a broken wheel stud ("does this happen often?") and, since it had been raining, but now had morphed into more of a soggy mist that looked to be passing and so: do we go with the "wets" or the near-treadless "dry" tires? The team decision was to go with "drys," and so I ventured forth for my very first laps in the car in the middle of the effing race on dry tires on a still very damp racetrack.
It was a humbling experience.
Humiliating, even.
Cars I KNEW I should be faster than (particularly that little red CAR & DRIVER Honda) were passing me while I skated under braking, wrestled with huge armfulls of opposite lock and generally cursed a blue streak through tightly clenched teeth.
This was not going to look good on my resume.
Only then, after about three fitful laps, the mist eased off and the track started to dry. And come to me. And in the space of a few more laps, as first the line dried and then, more slowly, the off-line areas where you need to go to get around people, and withing a few more circuits I was one of the fastest cars on the track! No shit! Reeled in and passed that CAR & DRIVER Honda and proceeded to get into a hellacious, long-playing scrap with some jamoke (actually a pretty good driver) in a similar silver BMW. We were passing and re-passing as we worked our way in and out of clots of traffic (nobody makes all right decisions in these deals, and just when you think you've scraped the sonofabitch off, you make a poor choice, slot in behind the wrong pair of taillights, damn near collect the dawdler just ahead and the bastard is all over your back bumper again...
What fun!
Finally did manage to get him boxed up in traffic and ease away, and by then I was about through my tank of gas and it was time to come in and hand the car over. Hated to do it, though. I thought I'd put in a pretty respectable stint (the team seemed to think so, too, since I passed a bunch of people and brought the car back pretty much the way I got it) and that's a very special sort of feeling indeed. Those who've never experienced it will never know what that all-consuming tunnel of effort, emotion and concentration feels like when you're in a great race and have a decent racecar under you. Even if it is just a raggedy looking shitbox of a Lemons car and nobody but you and the folks you were racing with gives a good God-damn about "How was it out there?"
But you tell them anyway, don't you?
I sure did.

Three weeks later I got some laps in co-driving the HSR Enduro in SuperDave Bondon's second-fastest Morgan (PhD daughter Stacey gets the indecently quicker and lighter Lotus Twincam-powered example) where we persevered and won our class thanks to great skill, gallant effort and all the  faster cars running into problems (but fortunately not each other) at The HSR Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta:

Good fun, great car, excellent result that we probably didn't deserve and the subject of my last-ish column in Vintage Motorsport. So I need not dwell on it here. Also hawked books, of course and, as shown before, we seem to be attracting a more, shall we say "diverse" clientele these days:

You'll notice that the ladies pictured above differ from my more typical fans and readers in that:
a) their hair is long and silky rather than grizzled & gray or absent entirely
b) their various and sundry anatomical/topographical bulges are not hanging and/or sagging over their beltlines
c) they are not as yet able to have their dental work done via parcel post

Barely got back from Road Atlanta and I was off being sage, ad-hoc guru and wily instructor for the VSCDA's Drivers' School at Gingerman. Helped out with a couple students with MGBs, and although they amounted to a massive contrast in styles, presentation, nascent speed and approach, I'm happy to say that they both did well and made great progress as the weekend unfolded. I knew Alan Kremzar a little from my friend John Rockensies' Alfa ChumpCar team (which I have happily driven for on several occasions and which has been described and reported on in these missives many times before), and you'd have to say that his MGB looked a bit, um, "unfinished" when he arrived:

But let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and I'm forced to admit that I started out much the same way at my first drivers' school...only with me the unkempt presentation lasted for several seasons. But Alan's car was pretty sound mechanically and Alan knew what he had to do both in the garage and on the track. You could see he'd been bitten hard by the racing bug, and no question we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
By contrast, Bert Baurle's MGB was, in a word, exquisite. And no surprise, since his brother Ken runs a well-respected prep shop and his father was a top-flight Chicago-area racecar designer, engineer and builder. Bert restored his father's wonderful, fast and beautiful LaBoa/Alfa sports/racer that Mike Besic and I have co-driven a couple times with excellent results. See pic below of me blowing past my friend George Olsen's Austin Healey 3000 in the Road America Carousel. It may look like I'm waving to him, but I think I'm just giving him the finger with a little camouflage around it...

But the point is that the resto job Bert did on his dad's sports/racer was worthy of a concours trophy. More than one, in fact. And his MGB was no different. Plus he had brother Ken along the first day to help him find his way.

But, in the end, a lot of the magic in racing is that you're in there all by yourself once the engines fire and the visor comes down, and no question Alan in the scruffy-looking MGB already had some racing laps under his belt(s) when we started, while Bert was pretty much a virgin. And that's what puts all the frustration, satisfaction and golden little reward moments in any kind of teaching. Each student is like a blank canvas when you start. What was it Michelangelo [I think] said: "The sculpture is already there inside the stone. All I have to do is uncover it."
That's why I still love teaching this stuff. Good for the old ego, too...

The following weekend Carol & I were back at out beloved Saturday morning bike class, then on to Lou and Abbie Natenshon's yearly and regularly incredible car-people party. Weather was a little drizzly, but lots of neat machines and fascinating old relics (not talking about the participants here) scattered everywhere you looked. Lou collects all sorts of things that collect dust, and wife Abbie (like my wife Carol) somehow puts up with it. Here are just a few examples:

VERY cool! But a little creepy, right? Can't stop thinking about Kathy Bates and her blessed penguin in Misery. Remember when she tied James Caan to the bed and smashed his ankles with a sledgehammer? Brrrrr. Still gives me the willies.
Lou's garage is no less impressive:

And here's the Riley he just finished (with coachwork inspired by Carrozzeria Natenshon).

Beautiful, right? And the week after the W.I.C., Lou's taking it to the Concours of America near Detroit to show it (and show it off, too). I'll be tagging along since I learned last week my columns in Vintage Motorsport are being honored with an Automotive Heritage Foundation Journalism Award to be presented at the concours. Really proud of that. Especially since the award is based on five column examples from calendar year 2018 and, VM being a bi-monthly, I only wrote six. First time my stuff was entered, too. Nice.

But the best thing about Lou and Abbie's party is the incredible collection of cars and characters it attracts. If you like lively conversation on a hodgepodge gamut of subjects, arcane facts that nobody but this crowd cares about, intellectual stimulation like shock therapy and wit from razor-sharp to half-, it's surely the place to be. You'll overhear or participate in discussions, deliberations, differences of opinion, outright diatribes or, in the case of the late and sorely missed Henry Adamson, full PhD thesis dissertations on just about any topic you'd care to bring up.
With Henry gone now, my racer friend Scott Fohrman has been doing his level best to take up the slack. Scott is a very good racing driver, has a brilliant and inquisitive mind and regularly goes after the true essence of any subject, topic, quandary or conundrum like a stray dog goes after a discarded soup bone that still has a little sweet marrow inside.
He's also a prototypical enthusiast and a great lover of classic MGs. Like the lovely and tiny 1935 edition that he races sometimes and also drives on the street on occasion. He drove it to Lou and Abbie's party, for example. And then a chilly rain squall came up and Carol and I wound up following him for quite a distance, heading south on Sheridan Road from inside out warm, dry and comfy Honda Odyssey minivan. Couldn't resist snapping a picture:

Scott claims he enjoyed it!

Now Scott's love affair with his tiny prewar MG can be problematic, since Scott is of the taller persuasion and...well, why don't I just show you?
Click link below:
Hawked books at SVRA Road America the following weekend, but turnout was low, the weather was borderline shit, I couldn't land a blessed co-drive and we didn't sell many books. Oh, well.

Back at Road America the following Wednesday for the Midwest Automotive Media Association's annual Spring Rallye, where journalists, media types, manufacturers' reps, etc. get together to listen to the latest PR buzz about the new crop of cars and then proceed to flog the crap out of them around Road America, tour them on the surrounding scenic back roads, eat all sorts of wonderful meals, autocross a bit and race go-karts. The new Acura NSX was extremely poised and impressive,

the VW Jetta understated, under-appreciated and refined, the BMWs taut yet supple (but a bit heavy) and the Monster-Power Dodge Hemi-powered Hellcats awesome in a highly American, red-white-and-blue sledgehammer sort of way. Have to say I was gratifyingly quick in the karts (particularly for an older guy), but ran consistently second to my friend/VW rep Mark Gilles, who is a highly accomplished and experienced racing driver, speaks with a genuine, unaffected British accent, has won races at Goodwood and elsewhere in prewar cars, is younger than me and BTW weighs about as much as a canary. Not that I'm making excuses. We did have a bit of fog the morning of the first day:

What a great event. Drove a lot of wonderful new cars and am constantly and continually amazed by not only how good they are and how well they perform,  but also by their amazing stamina and durability. Try this same event 50 years ago with MGBs, Stingrays, Jaguar E-Types, Olds 442s, Plymouth Superbirds and Pontiac GTOs and nothing would've still been running come lunchtime.

Come Saturday it was Spamstock time at my neighbor and fellow Alfisti
Steve Crowley's house (Spam: you can turn it into as many different dishes as the parts of the pig it's made from) which is always great fun.

Weather looked wet and grim Sunday morning, so Carol and I took a pass on our annual Bike the Drive charity pedaling pilgrimage to the Chicago lakefront and so I worked on the audiobook (really I did) and watched a bunch of racing on TV. 

Following weekend I was Honorary Grand Poobah/Guest Speaker at the Champagne British Car Festival in Bloomington, Illinois, and Carol's brother Tony and wife Debbie (who live in Bloomington) joined us for a really good time. The speech went OK, too. And the check cleared!

Hawked a few books at Fuelfed's Cars&Coffee in Dundee, which attracted some cool stuff I'd never seen before:

LOVED this Jensen!
Then, the following Saturday after bike class, I stumbled down the dark, narrow basement stairs of my brother-in-law Vince's soon-to-open new restaurant (Mancinis on Lake Street in Oak will NOT be disappointed!) on my way to see his effing gelato machine. Banged the living shit out of the Achilles tendon of my left ankle (there's a big, fat nerve running down the back of that thing that you REALLY don't want to mess with!) and I've been hobbling ever since. Thing swelled up to about the size of a cantaloupe and hurt like hell. Which made things highly problematic a few weeks later when I took my Texas Formula Vee friend/"Bigger Hammer Racing" team-owner Bill Griffith up on his offer to drive his semi-antique Autodynamics Formula Vee at the VSCDA's annual, Fathers' Day Blackhawk Vintage Fest. Turned out to be great fun and a great challenge, too, since the first time I got in the car and tried to push down the clutch, I saw stars. And comets. And it hurt like hell. In fact, on the Friday I only used the clutch to get rolling and shifted without it for the rest of the sessions. But I shouldn't complain, since team-leader/Vee guru Bill had a tank accident in the Army and wound up with a prosthetic left leg that they have to rubber-band to the blessed clutch pedal (and he still wins races that way!).
Don't want to go though all the dramatic, fascinating & oft-humbling details of the weekend here (Vees aren't as easy as you may think!) since I'm writing it up for my next column in the magazine (do buy yourself a subscription toVintage Motorsport and find out!), but here is a fine Bill Nesius pic of me arm-wrestling with the Vee after I got my swolled-up foot all tangled up in the damn pedals. I did go off, but fortunately didn't hit anything. 

It was a truly fraught weekend with LOTS of folks to race with (see below)

and, by the end of the day Sunday, I'd met a bunch of wonderful new friends and gained a whole new respect for Vees and the people who race them.
Had a whole lot of fun, too.

Hobbled around hawking books in The Paddock Shop at Indycar Road America June 21-23. What a fabulous, competitive race series! In effwun, the cars tend to qualify two-by-two by team, like the animals heading up the gangplank to Noah's ark. We've been blessed by some really storming GPs this year, but running up front is still so bloody car-and-team dependent. In Indycar, by contrast, you may have a dozen drivers in with a decent shot (maybe even more!) on any given weekend. And they're NOT ALWAYS THE SAME BLOODY FOLKS! Makes it pretty damn interesting to watch and follow. And speaking of watching and following North American pro racing, I am just SO thrilled that my great friend John Doonan's Mazda Prototype team finally closed the deal and won a race. No, make that TWO FREAKING RACES IN A ROW! And up against Penske, Honda, GM and all the rest. I've known John since he was in knee pants since I used to race with and against his dad (albeit in different classes) back in the old Midwestern Council days, and he is just about the nicest, straightest, most honorable, enthusiastic, hard-working and dependable person I've ever met in my life. Talked to him last week when he was, on one of his very rare weekends off, on a church mission with his son and daughter building stuff and helping out for people who can really use the assistance.
BTW, son Alex Doonan is an aspiring actor/song-and-dance man, and does an excellent job playing "Young Buddy" in our new audiobook!

Signed a few more books/took a few more pre-orders alongside now-habitual motoring author/sidekick (oh, wait...I think I'M the sidekick!) David Hobbs at Linda Daro's MiRPA Cars and Coffee in Dundee on Saturday the 6th, and then, last Friday, journeyed up to the fabulous and yet still insider-secret Millers at Milwaukee event at the storied Milwaukee Mile racetrack at State Fair Park. Used to race there a couple times a year in the old Midwestern Council days, but for this event they run the oval (as it should be) and you wouldn't believe all the amazing old front-engined Indycars that show up. See pic below:

Wonderful time! And (eat your hearts out, fellow racers) I actually got to hot lap at pretty decent speed in (ahem):

The #16 Simoniz Special Watson/Offy roadster that Jim Rathmann (who was actually Dick Rathmann, but that's another story) took to second place in the 1959 Indianapolis 500. Thanks SO much to owner/regular driver Larry Pfitzenmaier and to my great old buddy Sam Smith, who talked him into it. Fabulous thing to drive (although the brakes were not what you could call "confidence inspiring") and surely worth a story in the magazine. And if that wasn't enough for one day's fun:

That's me getting comfortable in Jim Freeman's Hilborn-injected, Chrysler Hemi-powered Kurtis 500A. Jim Freeman (on the left) runs Racemaker Press and publishes all those great books that have a small but rabidly appreciative enthusiast audience. And the car is a wonderful story. Seems the rulesmakers, in an effort to get the Detroit manufacturers (and their MONEY) involved in Indycar racing, decided to accept modified, pushrod production V8s of up to 5-1/2 liters to run against the 4-1/2-liter pure racing engines (read: "Offenhausers") that were filling the entire grid at the Indy 500. The car above was built to that spec. Only then there was an entirely too-public test where the Hemi-powered car proved waaaaay  to fast and powerful. So the rulesmakers, as they are wont to do even today, did an abrupt about face and said: "We were just kidding about the extra liter of displacement. Sure, you can run the Hemi engine, but you gotta bring the engine down to 4.5 liters (275 c.i.), same as the Offies." Since the Hemi V8 was a lot heavier than the Offenhauser straight 4 and would be hard-pressed to make equal power, all the air leaked out of the deal right there and no suce car ever ran in The 500.
But, jeez, what a great thing to drive! Tons of torque, really nice, stable handling and superb brakes. I was having so much fun I had to stop myself after a dozen laps or so, as I didn't wish to venture outside the intent of the event. Or good judgment. But I'd love to drive that thing again...

So that's what I've been up to besides flogging away on the new audiobook. NOW IT CAN BE TOLD!

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: