Good Decision For Goodyear
February 3, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
“I feel like the Texas race in 2000 was really my last race because I didn’t really even get going in the May race last year at the Indy 500 because, as you recall, we had a yellow flag in Turn 1 with an accident and then we got the green flag,” Goodyear said. “I got, I think, one lap and two turns of green flag racing in, which was a little bit disappointing, but like I said, I always believe things happen for a reason.”
That reason? It was time for him to retire.
On Lap 9 at Indy, Sarah Fisher spun her car into the path of Goodyear’s No. 52 car on the exit of Turn 2. The two cars collided, and Goodyear injured his back. And he knew it.
“When the accident happened, I knew something had happened,” Goodyear said. “I didn’t know the extent of it, but I was disappointed and probably a little bit shocked later on to know that I had broken it.
“With that injury and being out for the summer and not cleared to drive until like Sept. 15th, I had a lot of time to think throughout the summer, and I found myself enjoying spending time with my family, which I was trying to do that year anyway. Leslie (his wife) and the kids were up at the cottage. We just had a great time, but I was finding myself not missing being at the race track and driving a race car as much as I thought that I should have. I guess that was really a signal for me or a light for me that, boy, I really need to start dissecting this and looking at it and really seeing if that spark is going to come back that I was looking for.
“The reason I say that spark is that I noticed in 1999 I probably was not really enjoying it as much as I probably should have. In 2000 that was very evident to me, and in 2000 I said at the 2000 press conference that I found that I wasn’t eating, breathing and sleeping the business anymore like I know that I had to. If I was away most of 2001, I was hoping that that would come back, and I’d find myself just missing it and wanting to be at the racetrack and in a race car. That just didn’t surface.”
Goodyear officially retired from the IRL this month. He’ll spend this year in the broadcast booth as part of ABC’s and ESPN’s coverage of IRL races. Paul Page and Bob Jenkins will be his new teammates.
He’s excited to be starting a new part of his life, but he acknowledged the move to television came a bit earlier than he expected.
“I’ve used this quote many times that I’ve always wanted to be like Arie (Luyendyk) because he’s sort of retired and just goes and does the 500,” Goodyear said. “I thought that’s exactly what I would do, so this is probably coming maybe a year or two sooner than I though it would be as far as getting out of the seating and then getting into the television booth.
“I’ve had a little bit of experience, very limited - only probably a handful of times being in the booth to do a couple of races - and I enjoyed it from the standpoint that it’s very exciting. Once the green flag goes, you’re on it for two or three hours. It’s almost like a motor race. When you’re in the booth they tell you you’re live in 10, nine, eight, seven to countdown, and it’s sort of like taking the green flag in a race where they’re talking to you in turn three coming into four and they say, ‘Hang on, hang on, hang on,’ then, ‘Green, green, green.’
“The adrenaline flow is there. I enjoyed it, and it’s very much a team atmosphere that I’m finding out even more so now that I’m involved in some ABC teleconference meetings. It’s very much a team effort also, just like motor racing.”
In May, Goodyear returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for ABC’s broadcast of the Indy 500, a race Goodyear almost won in 1992, 1995 and 1997. He doesn’t know what to expect, but he knows is will be difficult.
“Not winning Indy probably will be the most frustrating time for me throughout this year being in the broadcast booth,” said Goodyear, a resident of nearby Carmel, Ind. “I think from the standpoint that the month of May is, obviously, you’re there week in, week out, and it won’t be like going to a race track for two or three days and coming home and getting away from it and then going back the following week. Indy being so special and the fact that you are there for three and a half weeks will be the most difficult time for my transition period or season this year, if you will.”
Difficult, maybe, but if he performs in the booth as he did on the track, Goodyear will have a good year indeed.