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Uncensored CΛRT Commentary
by Ed Donath

Age Before Beauty

ATHENS, NY—George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote “Youth is wasted on the young” has been my personal motto since being thrust into independent living and bachelorhood with the passing of my wife several months ago. 

It’s not that I haven’t been living youthfully for what many people would consider a lifetime…

[Editors Note: Donath’s official bio lists him as a non-smoking, red wine-drinking, aerobically weight-controlled vegetarian driveboy and roadrager. Ed is 5’8”/153 lbs and fits neatly into any formula car.]

…but doing almost anything fun at my chronologically-advanced age requires one to be ready and able to use muscles that a man half my age might take for granted—merely being willing, at age 54, counts for naught.

New Age motivational shrinkazoids say that it is impossible for anyone to achieve personal success, enact lifestyle changes, or overcome vices without first visualizing the accomplishment of any particular goal.  In a rare agreement with such touchy-feely conceptualizations, I offer my own simplified gestalt:

“You’ve gotta see it to be it!”

During the summer of 1995, Bryan Herta was a PPG IndyCar World Series sophomore with merely a handful of starts under his belt.  He had suffered serious leg and pelvis injuries in a mid-season practice crash at Toronto during an abbreviated-yet-promising rookie stint with, of all difficult people, AJ Foyt. 

As a result of his impressive Indy Lights and Barber Saab series championships and pre-crash CΛRT performance, the limping Herta was offered a unique opportunity—a sponsored, full-season ride with Chip Ganassi and champion-making engineer, Mo Nunn.

Having had a reasonably close vantage point from which to observe the youthful Herta that summer, you can believe me when I say that he made the perfect poster boy for George Bernard Shaw’s adage.  Suffice it to say, the immature hot shoe was far too youthful then to appreciate the career enhancements that toeing the mark for the Ganassi brain trust would certainly have provided.

Nunn and Ganassi appeared frustrated, perhaps because they perceived Herta to be disinterested and/or uncooperative.  Bryan’s work ethic, apparently, fell short of their expectations and they set him free.

While Herta showed flashes of brilliance in subsequent seasons—not the least of which was his “Herta-Mania” dominance at Laguna Seca—he eventually became the odd man out after losing his Team Rahal Shell Car seat to Kenny Brack.  With such outstanding supersubs as Pupo Moreno and Memo Gidley carrying helmet bags around during most race weekends, Bryan’s Champ Car-driving opportunities became fewer and farther-between.

Of course, just being a family man—not to mention maintaining the upscale real estate, automobiles, toys, and home furnishings that Champ Car drivers are known to accumulate—is usually more than enough to morph almost any callow youth into a mature adult.  Bryan Herta’s ambition, maturity level and work ethic undoubtedly got kicked up a notch as a result of the war between his personal responsibilities and the lack of steady work. 

To his credit, the 33-year-old Herta has been accepting racecar-driving jobs whenever and wherever possible.  From a ForMoola One test last year to competing in this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring to driving a Winston West stock car to f-inheritor sub work to this past weekend’s Laguna Seca Champ Car deal, Bryan has established an admirable reputation as a quick study who provides better-than-expected feedback and respectable results in a pinch.

Make no mistake, that type of relief pitcher’s performance requires the acquisition of a great deal of discipline, savvy and confidence. Obviously, Bryan has mastered the “You’ve gotta see it to be it!” concept much earlier in life than most of us—this renegade scribe included.

There is a good possibility that Bryan Herta will return to Champ Cars for the remainder of this season by continuing what began with his one-off Laguna Seca ride in the #27 PK Racing Lola.  In Bryan’s case, “age before beauty” is a fitting motto and having him back where he belongs would, indeed, be a beautiful thing.

Copyright © 2003 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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