Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Business of Racing

by Tammy

I've said it before, but it's proved again at every race I attend: the business of racing happens at the races.

Sure, people make deals and connections in the off season or the down weeks. But the real activity happens in the paddock on a race weekend. I'm always surprised by how many people I reconnect with, meet for the first time, or ask questions of. But even above and beyond conversations, it's sometimes important just to be seen in the paddock.

That's why racers looking for rides and sponsors show up in the paddock on a weekend they're not racing, in a series they're not racing for (but probably want to be). That's why suppliers show up in the paddock to talk to teams about what their product can do for them.

That's why I walk around the paddock, reinserting my face into the memory banks of the racing world. Reminding people I exist. Saying hello to the people I've met in the past and only occasionally brush up against in social media the rest of the year. (Like Beaux Barfield, above.) And giving away a few copies of my book to some of my subject matter experts, including Joe Foster of Dempsey Racing and Pattie Mayer, safety car driver (with me, below).

And occasionally, I sneak a few minutes with a friend who gives me a vital piece of information for a future book or a great story of real-life shenanigans in the racing world. I won't spill those beans, because they're likely to end up in a future book, with names changed to protect the innocent (by which I mean my informants). But it's true ... truth is stranger than fiction!

Alas, now that the circus racing world has left town, I'm not sure when I'll get to another race this year. Perhaps not until Petit Le Mans. I'll be watching on TV, but it won't be the same. What about you all? What's the next race you'll get to?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fast Times in Long Beach

By Simon

Like Tam Tam, I was at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend.  I rarely go to a race these days.  I want to race—not watch.  Nevertheless, I had a nice time hanging out in the paddock in the grandstands.  I enjoyed listening to the paddock gossip.  It’s good to see some things don’t change.  :-)

The interesting thing about my trip to the races was the racing flashbacks.  Watching the cars on their formation laps, I remembered things that I’d forgotten all about when I raced.  I remember being taught to drop the car into first gear as I rolled up to my grid position and make sure it was in gear and the right one so I didn’t blow my start.  I’d forgotten that if I was near the back of the grid I would really slow my pace to a crawl when I rolled up to my grid position to make the guys in front of me sit on their clutches and nerves for longer than really needed.  Also I would over brake in an attempt to force the car behind me to pass me and pick up a penalty for overtaking on the formation lap.  Now don’t think less of me.  We are talking about racing and you win at any way you can.  :-)

I listened to the chief scrutineer for the ALMS talk about his job and went into a cold sweat.  The scrutineering bay is the longest 100 feet of road any car and driver goes through.  The scrutineers have the power to stop you from racing.  Brrr…

All in all, I had a fun day at the races filled with good sport and better memories.  Now when am I driving that stock car?


Monday, April 22, 2013

My Long Beach Highlights

by Tammy

It was a long (loooooong) and really fun weekend for me at the Long Beach Grand Prix and the LA Times Festival of Books. If you see me the next couple days, I'm not talking to you ... because I'm not talking to anyone, as my throat is about to give up. But I had a ton of fun catching up with race friends and mystery fans, and in the meantime, here are a few pictures.

Winners of the action for a signed book and named characters in the next Kate Reilly Racing Mystery: Tommy Kendall (racecar driver, auctioneer), me, Chris Syfert (ALMS scorekeeper)

(left) the view on the way into the track on Thursday
(right) ALMS Technical Director Charlie Cook giving a talk on inspection processes

 Me and Pattie with her pace/safety car

Simon, mega-fan (of racing, mysteries, and authors) and friend Barb Kreisel, and me in the bar at the convention center, taking a break from the race-day sun

My view for the first part of the race (Turn 6) 

My view for the last part of the race (Turn 10, from the ALMS Patron VIP terrace)

Still sporting my racewear on Sunday at the LA Times Festival of Books!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Slippery Slope

By Simon

Just as I think I’m out, they drag me back in.  And by “they,” I mean motorsport.  I’ve kept motor racing at arm’s length since I stopped racing.  There's something about being on the wrong side of the pit wall.  But this weekend, I’ll be in Long Beach for the IndyCar Grand Prix—partly for fun, partly in connection with Bouchercon 2014 which will be in Long Beach.  Hopefully, I’ll be up close and personal with the action.  To compound matters, I’ll be driving a stock car on an oval circuit as part of a birthday gift.  Never driven a stock car and never driven on an oval, so that should be exciting.

The problem with all this re-acquaintance with racing is where it could lead.  More track time?  Going back to racing?  Part of me things that would be fantastic and part of me says remember all the sacrifice and time racing demanded. 

And I do. 

As much as I would love to race again took.  It was a lifestyle and not a hobby.  It took up everything I did, which was fine, but I have another vocation—writing—which is just as demanding and I’m not ready to turn my back on it.  So I have to be careful not to get carried away by the moment…

…That’s not to I won’t enjoy it and I won’t turn any opportunities that fall my way.  :-)

And if it looks as if I’m slipping from my racing abstinence, you will tell me, won’t you?  I may not listen, but you can still tell me.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Head Troll

by Tammy

Here's what I've been thinking about this week ... and I know I've covered this topic before, but fresh fodder  has me scratching my head again and wondering, "How does this guy pull it off?"

I'm talking about Bernie Ecclestone, of course, the head supremo and dictator (can't call him benevolent, except perhaps to Vettel) of Formula 1.

An article popped up on Sunday on Racer's site about how F1 drivers now face a longer walk in the paddock thanks to Bernie: F1 Paddock Set for Motorhome Mix-Up. The short version: Bernie ordered team motorhomes to be arranged differently in the paddock, forcing drivers to traverse a longer distance between their team hospitality setups and garages. On one hand, I can't argue with what seems to be a means of making the drivers more accessible (though to whom? media? who else is allowed into that rarefied area?). On the other, I wondered why this is news. Though the last line of the report does hint at the reporter's own thoughts on the situation ... "forcing drivers and team personnel to walk further and face more interaction with each other and paddock members."

Indeed. As they should.

But the prize of the week was the article on Jalopnik, and really, I want to make sure none of you miss it. It's The Hater's Guide to F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and it reminds us of these gems of Bernie's:

Bernie on Danica: "You know I've got one of those wonderful ideas ... women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

Bernie on Hitler: "... apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done."

Bernie's 82 and currently involved in a bribery suit that could land him in jail (it goes to trial in October). Either way he won't be around forever. I wonder the same thing the author of the article does: what will happen to F1 when he's gone?

What do you all predict?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Don't Be Yellow

By Simon

A few weeks ago, Tammy talked about green and white checkered flags for finishing races that end under caution. The gears turn slowly in my head these days and I remembered something. Okay, race fans don’t want to see a race finish under caution, then why not take a page out of the British Touring Car Championship’s flag book. When the safety car comes out, the lap count goes up. For argument’s sake, say a race is twenty five laps long, if the safety car is out for five of those laps, the race length is adjusted. It’s now a thirty lap race and not a twenty five lap one. Essentially safety car laps don’t count. Now there's a concept.

I think this is quite interesting as it changes the dynamic of the race. Whereas an IndyCar or NASCAR race, the teams use safety car to conserve fuel, get a jump on tire changes. It wouldn’t quite work for them anymore and teams with a damaged car would have a shot of getting back in the race. The strategy would have to change.

I would like to say them try this out in the US. It would make for some fun pit road head scratching.

Thoughts? Good idea or a bad one?

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Real Stuff

by Tammy

Back in the day (not so long ago, really), they used to race the Daytona 24 Hours without the lights that make the front stretch as light as day and provide a lot of visibility in the infield throughout the long night hours. (It didn't look like this photo, that's for sure.)

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit with "Uncle Stan," Stan Laughlin, a great guy who was a crew chief for a lot of different racers over the years (thanks to Barb and Mary!). He told us that Daytona was his favorite race of all, and he had enough data to back that up: he was crew chief there 18 times, from 1969 to 1986.

He repeated what others have said, that the big thing is daylight. You start the race mid- or late-afternoon on Saturday, and by the time the sun comes up the next morning, he said, "you feel like you've almost won the race." Even though there are still nine hours left to run....

When I confirmed his experience was all pre-extensive-lighting, he laughed (almost snorted) and said, "of course, we did the real stuff!" I believe him.

He has tons of great stories, ranging from stories of rule-pushing among different teams in the paddock (things were a lot less regulated then, let's just say), to fans with (let's call them) interesting ambitions, to wild stories of daredevil pilots and the injuries they had to live with after wrecking.

Also, you should watch a race with a crew chief, because it's a whole different experience. The guy he likes the most in NASCAR? Chad Knaus. And we bonded over appreciating Tony Stewart.

I'm not going to say a whole lot because a) they might end up in my writing in some form, and b) I'm hoping Stan himself will write about them. But I learned a lot about how a crew chief ultimately needs to be a problem-solver ... as well as a smooth talker. (Did I mention he was crew chief for John Paul?)

I'm telling you Uncle Stan, you need to write this stuff down! Or let me return with a tape recorder. Either way, I'm game.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Team Orders

By Simon:

The Malaysian Grand Prix got a little ugly...if you listened to the radio transmissions.  Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to let his teammate Mark Webber win the race and Nico Rosberg was getting hot under the collar because Mercedes wouldn't let him pass his teammate, Lewis Hamilton.  Oh, the joys of team orders.

I’m not a fan of team orders. For those that don’t know, team orders is where a team will ask one of their drivers give away to their teammate to enable the other driver win or score points.

I don’t like team orders because it’s not right. Sport is about the best competitor winning. I get having teammates work together to benefit the team by slipstreaming during qualifying to help get a better time or not taking each other out, but actively telling one driver to sacrifice their position in a race for the betterment of their teammate is wrong. It cheapens the results, the sport and the spectator. I don’t care if a teammate doing better than the other will ruin the other teammate’s championship position. That’s racing.

And even if you benefit from team orders, it’s no fun because everyone knows your win is handed to you, so it’s a hollow victory. Who wants a championship title that comes with an asterisk next to it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Racing in Braking Points

by Tammy

My second Kate Reilly Racing Mystery, Braking Points, will be officially released tomorrow! I thought I'd share some of the videos I watched to check my details, recreate crashes, and immerse myself in the feel of turning race laps. These and more are posted on my Pinterest page for Braking Points, Kate Reilly #2.

Road America: Braking Points starts in the middle of this race, with rain and a big wreck in the Kink. The video is in the car with my friend, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long.

Road Atlanta: A week and a half (and a whole lot of chaos) later, Kate and the American Le Mans Series arrive at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans. The single greatest video I've found to date is this one, a helmet cam on Tommy Milner for night practice in the Corvette. Talk about a perfect view of the track and the wheel/dash! Just pretend this is Kate giving you the ride-along....

If' you're interested in more of the videos--including the book's theme song and a great video on driver fitness--and photos of people, places, and accessories (shoes!) that inspired me while I wrote the book, check out Pinterest. And I hope you'll check out Braking Points!