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"There's a lot of junk out there today. If you want it straight, read Kirby." -- Paul Newman

The Way It Is/ ‘Mario’s Team’ available this summer from Racemaker Press

by Gordon Kirby
Quite a few of you have asked when the Newman/Haas history will be published. We are shooting for early summer and won't know the specifics until we've completed the photo edit and design process and got the book off to the printer. Of course, a high-quality 400+ page coffee table-type book like this takes time to put together and to print, bind and ship.

We call it 'Mario's Team--the complete story of Carl Haas Auto and Newman/Haas Racing'. The book will be published by Racemaker Press in Boston and I'm delighted to report that Racemaker's owner Joe Freeman has wholly embraced the project. The book will be fully illustrated, including a few hundred photographs and an appendix with some sixty pages of statistics covering not only Newman/Haas's history but also Carl Haas's various championship-winning Can-Am and Formula 5000 teams as well as his occasional ventures into Formula Atlantic, Super Vee, Formula Ford and even NASCAR.

I've taken a couple of years to conduct interviews, research and write this epic story which begins in 1952 when Carl bought his first car--an MGTD--and covers more than half a century of racing. I've written a whopping 250,000 words through 45 chapters including Haas's early career as a driver, car trader and American agent over many decades for the likes of Elva, Lola and Hewland as he sold many thousands of cars and established himself as the United States' leading race car and transmission parts salesman. Newman/Haas Racing doesn't come into being until the middle of the book and there's also Carl's brief venture into F1 in 1985 and '86 with Adrian Newey as his chief designer and his long tenure with the SCCA, eventually serving for ten years as the club's chairman.

© Racemaker archive/Torres
As most of you no doubt know the book publishing business has always been difficult and is tougher than ever in this day and age. Racing books occupy a particularly tiny niche market and it was an uphill push to find a publisher who would give this book the respect and quality it deserves. Some potential publishers suggested a substantial reduction in the number of words and overall size of the book but Joe Freeman stepped up to do the book in its entirety and more. So I couldn't be more delighted to work on this project with Joe and Racemaker Press.

In his youth Joe was a serious Formula Ford and Formula B racer until he broke his legs in a bad accident at Lime Rock aboard his beloved Brabham BT35. These days Joe is an enthusiastic vintage racer and collector. At last September's Lime Rock historic weekend he was selected as collector of the year and regularly runs a trio of vintage Indy cars, the well-known Sparks-Thorne Little Six, the Joe Hunt Magneto Special Watson roadster and a beautiful pale blue Kurtis-Chrysler. Similar to the car Bill Vukovich raced so successfully at Indianapolis in 1953 and '54 the Kurtis is a superbly balanced car and Joe waxes lyrically about what a pleasure both it and the Little Six are to drive.

Joe is also an extremely knowledgeabe historian and writer about the early decades of American racing. He's written many stories for Automobile Quarterly and is an equally skilled editor. He's also assembled at Racemaker Press a superb archive of historic American racing photography, books, magazines and yearbooks.

Another strength of Racemaker is the great team Joe has put together including Jim O'Keefe who is one the world's leading racing historians and statisticians. Racemaker recently published Jim's excellent compilation called 'The Winners Book' which documents the winners of thousands of races in almost every conceivable category run around the world since the sport's start at the end of the nineteenth century. Any argument you want to settle about who won what race along with the details of car, engine, race time, speed and venue is in 'The Winners Book'. To order 'The Winners Book' or put in an early order for 'Mario's Team', go to www.racemaker.com

I'm working flat-out with Joe through February editing, photo-editing, caption-writing and helping design 'Mario's Team' so we can hit our deadlines to have the book ready to go sometime in July. As I said at the beginning, a month or two down the road I'll be able to let you know specific details of the book's launch date.

I had the pleasure of talking to more than sixty people for this book--drivers, team managers, engineers, crewman, plus friends of Carl, Newman and the team. I was also able to talk to most of Carl's and Newman/Haas's drivers. Masten Gregory was Haas's first driver back in 1967 in the SCCA's United States Road Racing Championship followed by Chuck Parsons, Skip Scott and Peter Revson. Carl's first major race wins came with Jackie Stewart who drove Carl's L&M Lola T260 Can-Am car in 1971.

© Paul Webb
I talked at length with Stewart and with Brian Redman who won three straight Formula 5000 championships for Haas/Hall Racing from 1974-'76. Brian was a great driver and he's a fine fellow and beguiling story-teller too. I also talked in depth for the F5000 chapters with Jim Hall and his engine man Franz Weis. Then comes the 'new era' Can-Am years wherein the Haas team won four consecutive titles with Patrick Tambay (twice), Alan Jones and Jacky Ickx all of whom reminisced warmly for the book about those days.

All this was a precursor to the curious marriage late in 1982 between Carl and the late, great Paul Newman. As most people know Mario Andretti was the catalyst who brought Newman and Haas together and we explore the partnership and the creation of Newman/Haas in great detail. The team's original engineer Tony Cicale provides plenty of unvarnished analysis and some hilarious stories too.

Cicale provides the book's title, explaining how the team was not only founded on Andretti's shoulders but also established its way of going racing in the spirit and structure of Mario's commitment to relentless work and testing. As the Newman/Haas years unfold five or six other engineers or crewmen relate similar stories about the time, effort and discipline Andretti put into testing and how his work ethic defined the team.

Mario spent the final twelve years of his long career from 1983-'94 with Newman/Haas of course winning the CART championship in 1984 the team's second year. Mario was joined from 1989-'92 by his son Michael, who won the '91 CART title, and in '93 and '94 by Nigel Mansell, winner of the '93 CART championship. Michael rejoined Newman/Haas in 1995 and continued through 2000 with Paul Tracy as his teammate in '95 and Christian Fittipaldi replacing Tracy in '96 for a seven-year run with the team. Cristiano da Matta replaced Michael in 2001 and won the CART title in '02 with Sebastien Bourdais joining the team in '03 and going on to win an unprecedented four straight Champ Car titles from 2004-'07. Bruno Junqueira, Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson also won races with Newman/Haas in recent years.

I interviewed all these drivers for the book and quite a few of Newman/Haas's most experienced crewmen and engineers. I was also able to draw from half a dozen interviews I was fortunate to conduct with Newman over the last ten years of his life. We covered a lot of ground in these conversations and they enabled me to tell the full story of PLN's life in racing.

A good deal of the book's strength, I believe, lays in the interviews laced throughout the book with veteran Newman/Haas crewmen like Donnie Hoevel, Tim Coffeen, Colin Duff and Tim 'Dog' Homburg as well as engineers and managers like Cicale, Darrell Soppe, Tyler Alexander, Adrian Newey, Ed Nathman, Brian Lisles, Peter Gibbons, Lee White and others. I talked to these guys at considerable length and they reveal the real story of how a top race team operates, how drivers interact with engineers and how practical considerations always prevail in the end over engineering theory.

And in the opening chapters you get to know Carl Haas in his youth. Carl is a shy and very private man and he has always been a mere cartoon to many people. In this book a fuller portrait of the man emerges as he grows from selling gearbox spares from the basement of his parents home in Chicago and the back of his Ford station wagon to becoming one of America's most successful race car salesmen, team owners and power brokers. It was an epic pleasure to write and I hope you enjoy reading it equally as much when we publish the book this summer.

By the way, I'm looking for photos from the first 'new era' Can-Am race at St Jovite, Quebec in the spring of 1977. Anyone out there who has good photographs of Brian Redman aboard the Haas/Hall Lola during practice from that race please contact me as soon as possible.

Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
Copyright 2011 ~ All Rights Reserved

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