Perhaps the only downside of Sam Posey’s “Where the Writer Meets the Road” is that upon reading it, as a writer yourself, you know your own words can’t quite measure up.
Your goal, then, is to come as close as possible to matching the prose, poetry and poignancy of the chapters and stories Posey outlines within his third book.
The simple description of “Where the Writer Meets the Road,” published last March by David Bull Publishing and named the Best Book of 2015 by The Motor Press Guild, is that it’s an archival history of some of Posey’s career both behind the wheel and behind the microphone over the last 50-plus years.
The more elaborate description is that Posey has, in words more than pictures, managed to bring so much to life – whether it’s the cars themselves, the people he interacted with, the places he’s been, such as the forgotten and now-gone Speedway Motel in Indianapolis for instance, or the time period which the story took place.
The flow of the book is effortless, even as it mixes some of Posey’s driving career with his commentary career and then occasional interruptions with the brief “teases” that have become staples of the last 20 years of Formula 1 broadcasts in the U.S., including the last several years on the NBC Sports Group channels.
Included are a number of Posey’s introductions to legends for the Road Racing Drivers’ Club, a dinner of which is held in Long Beach every April. Those feted by Posey included Mario Andretti, Jim Hall, Roger Penske, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones and Brian Redman.
Humor is interspersed at the right moments. For instance, there’s a classic story after Posey made his final major sports car start and helped as Redman secured a championship in 1982, and ended with a trip to Siebkens and a cameo from David Hobbs. We’ll leave the rest of the story to the imagination.
Redman, himself, is among the drivers truly highlighted in the book. Posey seeks to remove the “underrated” term as it’s seemingly been perpetually attached to his name.
The romance and thrill of Le Mans is captured in a handful of essays, including two notably stark and different ways year-to-year for two different outlets. A Sports Illustrated piece outlines the challenge of driving at night; meanwhile a piece for Road & Track the following year describes the buildup to the race itself, and how as you see if you ever get to Le Mans, the week is so much more than just the 24 hours.
Posey recalls glory days in Trans-Am, the rise and later fall of Mark Donohue with Penske Racing, and his own love-hate relationship with Porsche – only Posey, seemingly, can get away with the essay he penned for R&T in 2013 as a rare dissenter in a sea of praise. Then again, with Posey having contributed to R&T since 1968, he pretty much has carte blanche at his disposal with his pen and paper… or keyboard and laptop.
A story I took particular appreciation in reading was Posey’s notes on what it meant to commentate the Indianapolis 500. Fans of a certain age will remember the classic Posey/Bobby Unser banter in the ABC booth with Paul Page the lead announcer split between the two.
To see the intense amount of preparation revealed, then explore how quickly you have to adjust on in the fly in the race itself, all while communicating back and forth with the production team and not saying the wrong thing at the wrong time was simply fascinating to read.
Lastly, of course, are the teases. I touched on them briefly in one of the earlier grafs but you get to see how Posey can take several key tidbits – Monaco, for example always will have the mix of yachts, glamour, history and the knife edge of adhesion – and find a way to make the story new, fresh and captivating at every opportunity.
Posey was one of a helluva driver, but he’s also one helluva wordsmith. And for any fan of racing, or if you could care less about racing and just love a great storyteller, “Where the Writer Meets the Road” is a must-read.
Fittingly, Posey will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America this June, for his splendid career.