Mears Talks of Life Without Driving a Race Car in May at Indy


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens for practice this weekend and this will be the first time in 16 years that I'll be at Indy in May and not be driving a race car.

Indy has always been special for me, so, although I haven't really missed driving yet, it hasn't been May.

One of the hardest things for me when I made the decision to retire was telling the team that I would not be going for the fifth win at Indy. Not because I wanted the record--I never was too concerned with records--but because I knew how hard they worked and how much they would have enjoyed that win.

I've always said that one of the most gratifying moments in my racing career was pulling up to the crew after taking the pole or winning at Indy and seeing them smiling. I felt that I was giving them back a little something for all their hard work.

I was out at the speedway twice last month, once with the team testing and once with the rookies at their orientation. The changes to the track look good and I think they are going to improve the racing and make the drivers work harder on the car setup and their driving style.

With the narrower corners and the new apron, a driver is going to have to have the car set up right and get the right entry into the corners or they're going to have to lift and slow down. So I think it's going to make for some real exciting racing.

I began thinking about retirement before the '92 season started, so I spent a lot of time making the decision and there really wasn't any one reason why I stopped racing. Basically, I found that I wasn't enjoying racing the way I should have been, and I've always said that once I wasn't enjoying it and giving 110%, then it was time to stop.

If you're not out there giving your best, and the fire isn't there, then it's not fair to anyone--your team, your sponsor or yourself--to keep on racing. I never wanted to get to the point where someone had to tell me it was time to give it up.

I know a lot of people were shocked when I announced my retirement at the team's Christmas party because I hadn't told anyone except my wife Chris and Roger. I wanted to tell all the team together so that it didn't leak out and they heard it from other people.

At that point, I knew that I was done with driving, but I also knew that I still wanted to be involved in racing. So, when I told Roger Penske I was retiring from racing but still wanted to be in the sport, he offered me a position working with Marlboro Team Penske.

I really didn't know what I'd be doing for the team in '93 except helping to try to win some races.

I've been the "team advisor" for three races now, and I'm happy to say that I'm really enjoying my new job.

I'm still doing the things I loved in racing, but without the pressure associated with driving. I spend the races working with our drivers, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy, and the whole team on making the car race-ready.

So far, we've done pretty well. Paul had his first win in Long Beach and Emerson placed second in Australia.

One of the parts of racing I always enjoyed was working with the crew and the engineers on setting up the car, fine-tuning it and making it as competitive as possible. And, basically, that's what I'm doing now. It should make May an interesting month.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World