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Friday, December 16, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Rick Roso of Lime Rock Park, Sponsored by Topical BioMedics, Inc. (Topricin)

Rick Roso

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Rick Roso is the press, PR and media liaison at Lime Rock Park, in Northwest Connecticut, and best race track in the world according to Peachy Deegan, third generation of her family to go and love it. He’s been writing professionally since 1988, when Washington, D.C.-based television and radio trade newspaper The Current brought him on board as reporter, writer, editor and special projects manager.

Prior, he had been successful in the cable television industry in Houston after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor of science in psychology and a minor in speech and communication. Rick was accepted to law school, but as he puts it, “I was there for the wrong reason! I wanted to make enough money to drive race cars, but I wasn’t great in chemistry, so I figured that ruled out med school. And I wasn’t brilliant in higher level math, so I ruled out engineering. But I knew I could write a little bit, so, what the heck, let’s go to law school!” He left after a year...

... but by the early 1990s, Rick had figured out how to get paid in an industry that was his passion – motorsports. “Well, I wasn’t wealthy enough to go racing on my own,” he says. “I figured, Hey, what if I worked for a big racing outfit? Surely I could sleaze some ‘seat time,’ as we call it.’’

Which he did. In addition to writing, reporting and editing for the world’s largest racing school, Skip Barber, Rick had worked into his contract that he could race three or four times a year for free. (“Yea, well, I gotta pay for crash damage like anyone else would!”) So he got to live his dream.

In the meantime, Rick’s writing had brought him a bit of notice and was soon recruited to freelance for magazines, newspapers and websites on a variety of subjects, from sports and music to artist and musician profiles. He’s written expository and technical pieces for Porsche, Sprint, Ticket News – even an aviation and automotive think tank and forecasting organization.

Rick has produced shows and segments for ESPN and SpeedTV, written TV, radio and commercial scripts, appeared in numerous racing-reality programs, is a professional photographer (editorial and creative), and was an on-air radio DJ for a small station.

Rick has two teenage kids, Charlotte and Ricky (“No, they’re not race car drivers. But they are avid readers and writers. I wonder where they got that from?”), and lives in northwest Connecticut. We are absolutely thrilled to present Rick Roso as our latest Mover and Shaker. Peachy Deegan interviewed Rick Roso for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first racing memory?
Rick Roso: On ABC’s Wide World of Sports, watching Lee Roy Yarbrough hit the wall at Daytona at 180 mph, then get out of the car and shake his fist at another driver. That’s also when I figured out, even as a dumb, young kid, that I was going to wear seat belts when I learned to drive.

If you could drive any car in the world around the track at Lime Rock Park, what would it be and why?
A current F1 car. It’s never been done, unlikely that it ever will happen.

Lime Rock Park is our favorite track in the world. What do you think makes it so special?
It’s a park, with a race track in it. No grandstands, no dirty paddock. Trees and grass. And the track is exactly the same as it was when built 55 years ago.

There were about 63 cars for the Rolex 24 Hours in Daytona. I think there were 23 cars at the event in May. Besides the economy, why didn't more teams come for that event?
It actually has little to do with the economy, thank goodness! The Rolex 24 is like the Indy 500, but for sports cars – dozens of small GT teams plan for just this one race, and the big DP teams will build a second car just for the 24. There were 48 starters at the Rolex 24 this year: 18 Daytona Prototypes and 30 GT cars. At Lime Rock, there were 10 DPs and 13 GTs.

What should everyone in Manhattan and everywhere else in the world for that matter know about Lime Rock Park that they probably do not know yet?
Lime Rock has a deal with Metro-North. You can buy a cheap round-trip train ticket that includes admission to Lime Rock. We pick you up from the train station and take you back, all included. New Yorkers have it easy!

What race car drivers do you admire the most over the years and why?
Ah, there are so many good guys... Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Sam Posey, Juan Pablo Montoya. They can drive anything fast, like Mario Andretti did. And in this age of strict corporate-ness, I like the free spirits of today such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Robert Kubica, Mark Webber and Vitaly Petrov.

What is the difference between people that live their dream like you, and those that cannot convert their dreams to reality?
Not accepting the word “cannot.”

Did you know Paul Newman when he raced at Lime Rock Park and what would you say he is like to everyone that never had the chance to meet him and his Corvette?
Did not know him well, no. But we interacted a few times, and he was always friendly, professional and passionate. You know, PLN truly considered himself a racer who acted – not the other way around.

What is the best-kept secret about Skip Barber?
When he was a baby in Philadelphia, his sitter was Grace Kelly...

What is your favorite Lime Rock event all year and why?
What? That’s like asking who your favorite child is if you have more than one! Forget it... All I’ll tell you is, if it’s a race car and it’s thundering through the hills of Lime Rock, I’m loving it.

What Lime Rock event would you like to invent and would this ever become a reality?
Indycars at Lime Rock Park. We have the hotel rooms, we have the restaurants, we have the parking. Only thing we don’t have are enclosed garages in the paddock, and a level run-off area in the Downhill. In theory, it could actually happen.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
Bill Lovell, Satch Carlson, Pat Bedard, Larry Griffin and Rick Reilly. All writers with unique, compelling voices.

What are you proudest of and why?
Besides being blessed with two of the world’s most fantastic kids, Charlotte and Ricky? Knowing pretty early what I really loved – then getting someone to pay me for it, pittance though it is...

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Build a race track from scratch. I used to draw ones out as a kid. Still do!

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Oh, I’ve won some trade writing awards and what-not, and those have been nice. And I’ve gotten some racing trophies, and they look good on the mantle. But when a friend of Skip’s, a very successful car guy, well known in the biz, tells Skip that my press releases and fan blasts are the only ones he reads, well, that’s satisfying. Very.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
The Empire State Building. I love Art Deco, I love the engineering of it, I love its evocativeness. So New York...

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
There are like 8 gazilion corner delis. I love them all.

What is your favorite drink?
Two fingers of top-shelf scotch with three cubes of ice. If it’s low-rent scotch, I’ll have it with a twist of lemon.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Someone was certain I was Alan Rachins, you know, from L.A. Law? I went along with it for about three minutes...

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
Remember those delis I was talking about?

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
Not a book, a magazine: A long time ago, the editorial offices of Car and Driver were in Manhattan, giving the writing that New York “eff you” – in a nice way – attitude.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
For one day, and everyone’s thinking that’s really him? Dale Earnhardt, Jr., test driving the Red Bull F1 car at Road America and going fast as stink, which is not what anyone would expect. (“NASCAR drivers can only turn left, right?”)

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
The yet-to-be-built 15-story Roso’s Parking Palace – free parking if you can prove to me you’re a true car guy or gal who has to live in the city, whatever the reason(s).

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Running away from the one Central Park mugger still in existence – and he never had a chance.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
Charlie Sheen and Chrissie Hynde. Just because.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Raised good kids and I never, ever litter. And I recycle religiously.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Overrated: Traffic. Underrated: The driving experience (pedestrians are like apexes – get close but don’t bounce off the big ones).

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I’ve lived all over the U.S. – but I like best being 90 minutes from N.Y.C.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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