This second chapter of “Forging Ahead” chronicles the evolving credential-forging teenaged exploits of my pals and I after we graduated from Whittier High School on June 15, 1972. Several of us were determined to earn our place in racing and were inspired by the ambition and accomplishments of our heroes Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue and Roger Penske, so we aimed high. (Pictured above: Me in late 1972 when I climbed into a Can-Am championship-winning McLaren M8D showcar at the Goodyear Tire store in Whittier, Calif. Mike Vannatter photo)
My high school co-conspirator Mike Vannatter and I did what 18-year-olds do when they don’t know any better and believe anything is possible… We started a motorsports-oriented graphic design and illustration studio. This leap of faith drove an unlikely but fateful series of events that led to new relationships and ultimately laid the foundation for the development and launch of RACER magazine in 1992. It also led to my on-track and off-track adventures with a determined group of racers who would eventually climb to the top of the sport fueled by passion and total commitment.
As Forging Ahead progresses, you will see that this is also the story of multiple generations of American racers relentlessly pushing forward. In hindsight, what is most striking about this period is that so many people inside the sport welcomed a bunch of wide-eyed teenagers and gave us a chance to prove our worth. I am forever grateful to everyone who took a chance on us and nurtured us along the way.
As the story begins to unfold in Chapter 2 it becomes clear that the kindness, optimism and commitment of the people we met so long ago was the difference between living my dreams or living a life of regret at what could have been. With the recent 191% growth in 18-24 audience on RACER.com and the seven-point gain in female share of audience, I am reminded that the future is now and it is up to everyone who loves racing to welcome new fans and future participants to our beautiful sport.
The humble but no-so-innocent beginning you’ll see in Forging Ahead Chapter 2 is the true origin story of RACER magazine and RACER.com. It includes original home movie film from 1971 and ’72 as well as period promotional film footage of the early days of SCCA Formula Ford, and also Penske Racing’s quest to win the 1972 SCCA Can-Am Championship with the mighty L&M Porsche 917/10. This car inspired my first commercial endeavor that led to all that followed.
Forging Ahead, Chapter 1 began production on March 28, 1971 and took “only” 18,059 days of development whereas Chapter 2 took just 75 days to complete and Chapter 3 will premiere on Monday, November 23 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, so we are learning how to go faster while constantly improving — which is what racers do.
Additional chapters are planned and will reveal more of the origin story of the company known today as Racer Media & Marketing, Inc. that publishes RACER Magazine, RACER.com, Vintage Motorsport magazine, VintageMotorsport.com, SportsCar magazine for the SCCA and also operates the Racer Studio agency.