Wednesday, October 07, 2009


In one of the best The Race Reporters shows yet, Gil de Ferran was the Newsmaker guest Wednesday night on Power Up Channel. Gil is retiring -- for the second time -- after Saturday's ALMS season finale at Laguna Seca to focus on team ownership. Ten years ago, I wrote a column calling Gil "The Most Interesting Man in Motorsports," and he proved it again on my show.

We had a great journalists' roundtable with Mike Harris and Gordon Kirby, who stayed on to help interview Gil. Actually, what we had was a good conversation. Among the questions Gil answered: Having gone through retirement once before, will it be easier for him to deal with his emotions at Laguna? What's more fun, driving an Indy Car or ALMS Acura? What's the status of his team for 2010? What was the difference in driving for Jackie Stewart vs. Jim Hall? Does he regret not driving in Formula One? What should the next generation of Indy Cars be like? (Hint: GREAT answer and I agree with Gil completely on this!)

In a question you couldn't put to a lot of people, I asked Gil, as a team owner in an American series, is his responsibility to hire the best available driver for his team and sponsors, or, perhaps, to help build the series by taking on a qualified American?

"I think my greater responsibility is always to put the best available driver behind the wheel. As a team owner, I've always thought that way. Even in the sports car program, we always felt that way. I have to say, as a driver, and not American born, I actually benefitted from that attitude from several team owners and two American team owners. One was Jim Hall and the other was Roger Penske. My opinion is a simple one: I think there are some very good, very talented, American drivers. In fact, some very good ones currently racing in Indy Cars. The one who particularly comes to mind is Graham Rahal, who is extremely young, and extremely talented. He's already getting some great results. I think the reason you don't see more American drivers coming to prominence is a simple one. It has to do with the success of NASCAR, and the draw NASCAR has in the younger generation. From an early age, many of the drivers who would have the potential to be successful in Indy Car racing, takes to a different branch of the sport and grows toward finding a ride in NASCAR. Hopefully, if Indy Car regains its rightful place in the world of motorsports, that will change."

Listen to the entire show using this link:

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

October 14 -- Bryan Sperber (president, Phoenix International Raceway). Panelists: Terry Blount, Ron Lemasters Jr.

October 21 -- Antron Brown. Panelists: Larry Henry, Bobby Bennett, Corinne Economaki.

October 28 -- A.J. Allmendinger. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Lewis Franck. Plus, Paul Page.

[ more early next week . . . ]