By Curtis Kitchen
Fun and Focused, Pobst One of SPEED World Challenge's Best
April 14, 2005 - Braselton, Ga. - SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge driver Randy Pobst was in the middle of replying to a question at a post-race press conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., when, without warning, he let out an emphatic “HA!”
Randy Pobst has a laugh during the St. Pete press conference. (Click for larger)
It came in recollection of some trouble he foresaw at the race’s start as he lined up on the pole behind a thick line of paint. The trouble came and Pobst dropped back from the front, only to quickly refocus and reclaim the lead a few laps into the race and earn his first win of the season.
Whatever negative thoughts crossed his mind before the race began were gone just as quickly as the “HA!” erupted from Pobst in that press conference, and his reaction to adversity served as a shining example of the Gainesville, Ga., driver’s character.
It revealed the joy he gets from life and the joy he has received from spending much of his life as a racer. And as long as those two elements continue to drive him, another “HA!” is never too far away.
“I love sports car competition,” Pobst said. “I like the complete driving experience of a road-type course because you’re using the whole car. The turns are all different. You’ve got to brake, you have to shift. It just suits something in my personality.”
Pobst should be in high spirits this weekend with Round Three of the SPEED World Challenge series running at Road Atlanta (his home track). As an added bonus, The Tire Rack® SCCA ProSolo National Series will be going on at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, giving Pobst a chance to peek into his past, considering Solo is where his storied SCCA career began.
He started as an autocrosser in the early 1980s, hanging out at events, honing his corner-maneuvering and overall handling skills. But thanks to a competitive nature, it didn’t take him long to feel a need to move on.
“I first joined SCCA after a couple of years of autocrossing,” Pobst said. “I wanted to go to national events and run against some of the top guys, so I could see how I would do.”
Unfortunately for other soloists on the SCCA national scene, it took little time for Pobst to realize he belonged. From 1981-87, Pobst finished on the podium six-of-seven years (he didn’t compete in ’85) in several different classes at the Solo National Championships, winning a title in both E Stock (’83) and G Stock (’86).
Not done, he also twice won (1992 and 1995) what many consider the pinnacle of amateur road racing – the SCCA Club Racing National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler.
Pobst’s successful SCCA career now spans nearly a quarter-century since he became a fixture on the SPEED World Challenge radar in the late 90s and early part of this decade. To some, that would be a grind considering the time and energy invested in running a competitive car. But those folks aren’t Randy.
”Chasing racing has never seemed like work, well, except for looking for money,” Pobst said with his trademark laugh. “I didn’t see it as work because I wanted to do it so badly.
“Money is the most important part of a racing effort. And in a lot of the early series that I ran, I was able to build a car and win the prize money. I’d use that to keep racing. It was the sales part and selling sponsorships, as important as it is, that didn’t interest me or satisfy me the way building a car and racing it would.
“That’s a great thing about SCCA. It offers a beginner who doesn’t have a whole lot of money the opportunity to go race.”
Pobst has done more than enough to fund his career. But of all the pieces and parts he has purchased over the years, perhaps his most important asset is something that can’t be bought – an unshakable desire to win.
“When I’m driving, I fall into a whole other personality, or mindset,” the normally easy-going Pobst said. “My brain sort of goes unconscious into another plane and there’s a level of concentration that I find almost nowhere else.
“There are no compromises and there’s nothing about adequacy. It’s always about the absolute most I can get out whatever I’m driving, every time. And that is something I enjoy tremendously.
“It creates such a strong focus. It’s really satisfying, right down to the soul level.”
If that statement sounds a bit spiritual, that’s because it is.
Pobst spends his time away from the track exploring spiritual philosophy, an interest that he has held for some time.
“I’m very aware of and interested in the spiritual and feeling side of man as opposed to just purely the thinking and building side,” he said. “I’ve learned that being really aware of anything you do, from driving to teaching a math class to gardening, they all are similar in that the people who are really good at doing those things are fully aware of their situation to the point that they allow themselves to have the proper focus and energy.”
Pobst’s dizzying schedule lately has demanded his full focus. Signing on as a factory driver for Porsche in 2001, moving to factory-backed Champion Audi in 2003 and catching on with Tri-Point Motorsports prior to this season has kept Pobst’s racing plate extremely full. From 2002-04, he never finished lower than fourth in the SPEED GT Drivers’ Point standings while driving in at least seven races.
This year, Pobst is manning the controls of a full-season SPEED Touring Car ride for the first time in his career, piloting the No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6, and is off to a fast start after winning the SPEED Touring Car race portion of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
He hopes to make it two wins in a row this Saturday at the sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta, Round Three of the 2005 SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car slate, and continue his march toward a first SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Points Championship.
What lies ahead for Pobst after his racing days are done is unclear, but he said he thinks he has an idea of what he’d like to pursue.
“I intend to continue Pro Racing for a while yet,” the 47-year old driver said. “After that, I am very interested in doing television commentary on races. I would love to do that.”