Our newest senior editor, Steve Madden, might seem an unlikely NASCAR nut. An Ivy Leaguer from Boston, he spends much of his free time climbing mountains, kayaking rivers and winning masters' swimming medals. His ride? A mud-caked 1991 Honda Civic wagon. But Madden knows auto racing inside out, having spent a good part of his 10-year journalism career covering cars and drivers. He is, by his own admission, "a racing junkie."
Thus Madden was the ideal person to execute the production of our first auto racing annual, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED PRESENTS: The 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship, a 160-page magazine that commemorates the 1996 Winston Cup season, previews the 1997 competition and celebrates the series that draws the highest average attendance—172,000 fans per event last year—of any sport in the U.S. "We knew that the person to launch this project needed a crewman's understanding of the technical aspects of the sport, a fan's enthusiasm and a vision of how to blend those together," says SI PRESENTS editor David Bauer. "Steve has all of that."
The issue, which will be available on newsstands throughout the country starting next Monday, covers this year's 31 Winston Cup races, from February's Daytona 500 to this month's season-ending NAPA 500, and profiles each of the top drivers. It also describes changes that are expected to affect the series in '97, such as new rules and new tracks. All of this is accompanied by the dramatic photography that is an SI hallmark.
Madden, 33, evolved into a racing diehard after his 1986 graduation from Cornell. In his first job, as a reporter for FORTUNE, he covered the auto industry for three years. When he moved to the now-defunct men's lifestyle magazine M as a writer in 1989, he was assigned to follow driver Emerson Fittipaldi during a racing season that would see Fittipaldi win both the Indy 500 and the CART title. The highlight for Madden came at that year's Detroit Grand Prix, when Fittipaldi went from dead last to the checkered flag after puncturing a tire in the first lap when he and Mario Andretti collided. "It was an incredibly exciting race," says Madden. "That's when I became a huge fan."
Before beginning a five-year stint as the editor and then editor-publisher of Cornell's alumni magazine in 1991, Madden spent a summer hanging out with CART star Danny Sullivan with an eye to collaborating on an autobiography of the driver (a project that never came to fruition). Madden, an endurance swimmer who has three times traversed Chesapeake Bay and a mountaineer who has climbed Kala Patar in the Himalayas, gained from Sullivan a new respect for the rigors of motor sports. "I was one of those guys who didn't think of race-car drivers as athletes," he says. "But Danny changed my mind. Driving on an 18-degree angle at 195 miles per hour for three hours through heavy traffic—that takes enormous skill, stamina, concentration and knowledge. Not to mention acute vision."
As the driver of our NASCAR issue, Madden has displayed no small measure of skill, stamina, concentration and knowledge. And we think fans will like the results of his vision.