In 1987, Roger Penske's Indy 500 slate of drivers included Rick Mears, Danny Ongais and Danny Sullivan. 3-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Sr. was dropped from the team.
Well, Ongais crashed into the wall during the first week of practice, suffering a serious concussion, and was declared unfit to drive. Penske turned to Unser to fill in. Both the new Penske PC16 race car and its new Chevrolet-Ilmor engine had been unreliable throughout testing, practice and qualifying. Penske elected to race the backup car, a 1986 March-Cosworth, the same combination of chassis and engine that had won the previous four Indy 500s. The year-old March was removed from a Penske Racing display at a Sheraton hotel in the team's hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, and hurriedly prepared for a return to active competition.
Fast forward to that race’s checkered flag: Averaging 162.175 mph, Al bested a charging Roberto Guerrero (whom I would later sponsor for U.S. citizenship) by 4.5 seconds to win his fourth Indy 500, only five days before his 48th birthday. In doing so he tied AJ Foyt as the winningest Indy 500 driver.
So why do I e
ven bring up this piece of somewhat arcane racing history?
Monday morning I received a call from WLS informing me that due to their time commitments to programming surrounding the impending Chicago White Sox flagship status addition (and even more in the fall when then Bulls change homes to 'LS, as well) there wasn't going to be room enough for me to continue Drive Chicago on Saturday mornings--effective immediately.
OK. I've been in radio long enough to know that things like this happen and I took it all in good stride, thanked them for the call, said I'll "see you around town" and hung up.
Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross defined the stages of the personal trauma as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Apparently she was right and I went through all of those stages. But after those two minutes passed, I enjoyed a rather unexpected wave of relief.
Why? Well, because quietly behind the scenes for several months, pieces have been put into motion that I still can't talk about publicly, but the point was going to arrive in fairly short order as to whether I'd be able--or care to--continue on with my WLS show. My preference would have naturally been to keep the lines of communication open with what has been an exceptionally warm and embracing audience over a long, long run. I will miss them. A lot!
So Saturday mornings will become more available for golf as spring approaches, but you just never know where I'm going to pop up--at least until those other things materialize and you read about it here and other places like my Facebook page or if you follow me at @ThePaulBrian on Twitter which I heartily encourage you to do! They've always said I had a great face for radio, but I'll be damned if there are some who think TV screens are now strong enough to not crack with my smiling countenance, either.
The picture of me here is one of my favorites for a special reason. It was taken last summer in front the the La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy, when the little sis I never had before, Lauren Fix, and I were th
ere for the intro of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. I said, "Hey! Take my pic in front of this poster of my fave Puccini opera, "Turandot." I like that opera, in particular, because its most famous aria is called Nessun Dorma. The final lyric line of that aria is simple:Vincero! "I will win!"
And I believe to my soul that I will win. Perhaps not unlike a show car that was in a shopping center, but ten days later won the world's most important race driven by my buddy Al Sr. Over the course of two decades at WLS, I have won, and before long you'll see why the sentiment of that aria still lingers in my mind all the time.
But what's past is but prologue and because of that, I'm not saying good bye. I'm simply saying; "See you soon and stay tuned."