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On the Runoffs Drivers Probation -- from 1992

At the 1992 SCCA Runoffs I was poised to take home a National Championship. Instead, I took home a third-place podium finish...and a 6-race driving probation.

You can read JJ Gertler's write-up of the event itself here:

While many would be ecstatic at a Runoffs podium finish, 1992 was a burr under my saddle as this was my race to lose -- and I did. That event, and its ignominous conclusion, pretty much ended my racing "career" and I stepped away from SCCA and motorsports (for a while).

After the accolades, photos, wine, and post-race impound was done I got "invited" to join the Chief Steward, Sue Rothel, for "a talk" about that collision two laps from the end. I don't remember the details of the conversation but I came away with surrendering my license in exchange for a probation letter requiring me to appear before subsequent chief stewards for six National races (later adjusted to include Regionals).

But by then I was burned out and cynical about motorsports in general (finally realizing that "money talks and talent walks"); recognized that I had derailed my life for motorsports. I decided it was time for a change. I worked harder toward a career (I actually got laid off during that year's Runoffs because of my lack of focus) and I had to get out of debt. A few years later I got married and pursued a pilot's license, instrument rating, and airplane ownership. I forgot about racing and the whole probation deal.

Sometime in 2000 I began wondering where the old NX2000 was, and made some inquiries. The whole story is here. I remember going to Matt Kessler, who crewed for me in 1992, and telling him I found the car (he had a real job wrenching, I think).  He was like "no, no, NO, NO, NO!" but a few visits and quite a few beers later he agreed to help ressurect the NX for ITS, SCCA's Improved Touring Sport class.

I re-joined SCCA in 2001. But when I tried to renew/reinstate my old membership they did not have any records of the old one so they gave me a new membership number; no big deal. We prepped the NX and I got my Novice Permit (driver's schools waived) and I flew to Texas to drive a friend's SE-R at Texas World Speedway (RIP) to begin working off my Novice Permit requirements. You can follow our NX2000 exploits in those links above, but the NX years were a decent run culminating in earning the 2006 American Road Race of Champions ITA title at Road Atlanta (Panoz version, sadly). Later, I drove Integras in ITS, STL; an FG Civic Si in STL, ITR, and STU; an MR2 in HProd, and so forth.

During the Summer of 2022, I was in the basement cleaning out some stuff: old boxes, old race results, old trophies. I found a paper copy of the 1992 General Competition Rules (remember those?) and inside the cover old probation letter! I'd totally forgotten about it. Remember that membership number? The one in the probation letter (#110138) was, of course, different than the one I got when I re-joined (#287196).

However, here's the twist: around eight years or so ago I was able to purchase a Lifetime Membership in the SCCA. Part of the deal with a Lifetime is that you can choose a different membership number, as long as it's available. Many members will choose one of the first few hundred numbers - I think the first 500 or so are reserved for that purpose - but I decided that I wanted my old membership number back. I found an old membership card to prove that it was my original number and they gave me my old membership number back -- 110138.

But now as I'm sitting in the basement looking over this old probation letter, I suddenly realized that my old - and now current - membership number was actually still on a driving probation from 1992! I was amused. And I started scheming.

One of Sue Roethel's (RIP!) close buddies was NEDiv's Laurie Sheppard. I brought my probation letter to a 2023 Regional event to show her and told her the story; her response was, "Oh, we HAVE to do something with this." So for most of 2023 we came up with some ideas. We went through our histories of events together that I drove where she was a steward, and we came up with a solid six. I gave her the letter and she filled out each event with a funny comment ("washed the Chief Steward's car" or something like that) and signed off the probation letter.

But what to do with that signed-off probation letter? We couldn't just simply mail it to Topeka...

At the 2023 VIR Runoffs, Laurie and I visited Deanna Flanagan, Director of Road Racing. We walked in, my hat in hand telling Deanna "I have a problem" and then showed her the probation letter from 1992. After some initial confusion I told her the story. We chuckled and she kept a copy for my driver record; it would be hilarious if this ends up in my formal driving record.

So I'm relieved to announce that the six-race driving probation of 110138 from 1992 has finally been properly served.

I think.

See? The system works. ;)

See a scan of the probation letter here


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