The above existential question comes to us from the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime,” and it’s one I am asked on occasion, so it’s probably worth addressing given that this month marks my 10th year as editor of Speed News.
Ten years is a long time in one job, and I’ve only ever had one other job for that long. The difference is that my time in that other job felt like a long time at the time. This past 10 years at the helm of Speed News has flown by, most likely because of how much I’ve enjoyed it.
Not many journalists get to write about what they’re passionate about. I always wanted to be in automotive journalism, but being involved with motorsports has been a dream come true, and it all stemmed — oddly enough — from letting go. The story of how I got here is reasonably interesting, I think, and if you’ll indulge me, you can judge for yourself.
My claim to infamy is that I interviewed with the three top car magazines in the United States, had a brush with a fourth, and somehow managed not to get hired by any of them. It likely isn’t one of my crowning achievements, not to be hired by Motor Trend and Car & Driver, but in my defense, I did feel like I had the job at Road & Track sealed when the financial world imploded in 2007 on the eve of the Great Recession. After I interviewed with them a couple of times, the magazine reconsidered increasing its headcount at the time, and that was that.
The Road & Track job came up as I was finishing grad school, and when that didn’t work out, we moved back to California for a tremendous job offer my wife had gotten. We decided I would write freelance and stay home to raise our kids. We always said someone needed to be home with the kids. I didn’t expect it to be me, but you’ve got to walk the walk, right?
One of my escapes at the time was getting away for a weekend here and there in NASA’s HPDE program in my first Miata, the first of many, as it turned out. The track bug bit hard, and I began building the car and working toward a racing license as I developed as a driver. I didn’t need to work for a car magazine. I was already living a car guy’s lifestyle, so I let go of my dream to work for a major car magazine.
When I first got my rookie license and became series leader for Spec Miata, back in 2012, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, but one thing that came naturally was writing the race reports for Speed News, which was on its second editor in the first six months in its new format as an online magazine. That got the attention of Ryan Flaherty, who asked me to sign on as a managing editor for the magazine, a position I had held at a couple of different publications. Best of all, I could work from home and still look after our kids.
Unfortunately, my rookie season was cut short by a bad crash at Willow Springs and my first Miata was a total loss. To this day, I still can’t watch footage of the crash. Because I was still series leader, I was obligated to attend all NASA SoCal events, and the following month at Auto Club Speedway, Ryan asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing for the editor’s job on Speed News.
I was all set to meet him at Dave & Buster’s after the day’s racing was done. If memory serves, think we were supposed to meet at 6, which left me just enough time to get back to the hotel and get cleaned up. “Don’t be late,” Ryan said. Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of time, so when I was pulling into the parking lot, I was in a rush.
In my haste, I hit the car next to me when I was pulling into the parking space at Dave & Buster’s. Of course, Ryan and Will Faules were there to see it, but they didn’t know it was me at first. Ryan tugged on Will’s arm to pull him out of the way. He said something like, “Watch out for that drunk!” Will saw me through the windshield and said, “That’s no drunk. That’s Brett!”
I’m convinced I hit that parked car not because I was in a hurry or nervous before the interview, but because I was concussed from my crash the month before. I left a note and later paid for the damage, but not before I backed my truck into a light pole at the grocery store that same month. Yeah, I wasn’t right in the head.
As you might imagine, the interview went well enough that I got the editor’s job. Ten years later, I’m still here, doing exactly what I always wanted to do, and it all came together in a way I never could have imagined.
I live in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and I’m often behind the wheel of a large automobile. I get to work with great people and my extended NASA family nationwide. That’s how I got here, and I’m looking forward to the years ahead.