Every so often in this business, you get to recognize good deeds and great accomplishments. Here’s what we mean. The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a vehicle to give leading drivers a greater say in the evolution of their sport, particularly as it involved safety concerns. The RRDC, led by president Bobby Rahal, therefore marks 70 years in 2022. The group also presents a series of banquets, held in conjunction with the Long Beach Grand Prix and sponsored by Firestone, that devote an “Evening,” as it’s called, for a racing driver who has achieved an exceptional career. The last two Evenings were claimed by COVID but this week, the RRDC presented a memorable evening with the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Rick Mears.
After a video on his career produced by Emmy-winning racer Sam Posey, Mears got to hear some of his mentors in the sport talk about his unquestioned greatness as a driver in off-road racing, road racing and the hyperfast ovals of IndyCar. The guy on the left in this Albert Wong image, Roger Penske, somehow recognized Mears’ innate skills when practically nobody had ever heard of the guy. Very soon, his likeness was on the Borg-Warner trophy for the first time. A quiet, unassuming guy when he isn’t strapped in, Mears was joined by fellow RRDC honoree Penske, his former, boss, along with the similarly recognized Mario Andretti and the great engineer-constructor from Texas, Jim Hall.