Fancy Meeting You Here

My passion for everything related to motorsports has proven to be nothing short of exhilarating, which includes having met so many legendary superstars. How some of these various introductions came to be is pretty funny.

One such legendary motorsports icon was none other than Bob Bondurant, who became a life-long friend. Bob had driven for Carroll Shelby in 1965 and won the FIA Manufacturers’ World Championship, and had personally delivered my 1968 Shelby GT500 from Los Angeles to S&C Ford in San Francisco, where I took delivery. Carroll Shelby also became a lifelong friend, but that’s another story.

One day I received a phone call from Bob, who operated the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving at Sears Point International Raceway, now known as Sonoma Raceway, where he taught competition driving, police pursuit driving, stunt driving, plus other skills. Bob also was teaching evasive driving to South American chauffeurs and bodyguards working for affluent employers who needed protection from less desirable elements within their countries. Since Bob knew I was enjoying a successful calling as an Olympic skeet marksman, and he was considering adding another element, that being a defensive shooting school, he invited me up to the track to discuss putting in a shooting school at Sears Point Raceway.

When I arrived at the track, I was greeted by Bob just outside his office building, which was located near the entrance of the raceway and adjacent to the racetrack near Turn 11. “Hello, Gary. I’m just finishing up a meeting with a client, and as soon as I’m finished, I’d like to take you up the hill to show you where I’m thinking about putting in a shooting range. In the meantime, why not introduce yourself to some of the guys working on the school racecars.”

While the crew was showing me some of the racecars they were working on, I couldn’t help but notice a racecar out on the track practicing, but only on Turn 11. He would come in too hot and spin out, get turned around and try it again. This went on for a while until he would try another line, and again, over and over, sometimes good, but most of the time getting it wrong.

Finally, he came in too hot, hit the tire wall and rolled his car completely up on its side! Naturally I was startled as I yelled at the guys working on the racecars, “Hey, you guys, that guy just rolled his car over!” Seeing what had happened, they jumped in an identical racecar and took it to him on the track. About that time, Bob came walking out and I asked, “Who’s that crazy SOB that just rolled that car?” After seeing the car on its side, with a huge grin on his face, Bob said, “Quick … jump in your car and let’s get out there!”

As we hopped in my Shelby, Bob guided me onto the track where he instructed me to pull right up beside the replacement car that the driver was already getting buckled into while the crew was rolling the wrecked car back onto its wheels. Still sitting in my car, I leaned over to try to see the driver, but all I could see was some guy fastening his open-faced helmet strap.

With a chuckle, Bob said, “Hey, my buddy Gary wants to know who that crazy SOB is that rolled that car over there?” As he looked straight over at us, while looking like the cat that swallowed the canary, the driver said, “Well, that crazy SOB would be me.”

And that was my introduction to Paul Newman.

Image courtesy of Gary Faules

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