Says Posey of the heaven-sent showers, "We were all so busy, but for a few moments I did think, This is great; we're getting to introduce America to the whole scope of racing emotion and strategy. It bodes well for the analytical commentary rather than the rah-rah stuff. I'd like to see more awareness of history. Indianapolis is an intriguing show because it's part of the American love affair with cars and danger. Things swirling around out there, noise and fumes. It all touches people deeply."
McKay, who called his 23rd Indy 500 this year, agreed: "It was a chance for us to get at some of the things that frustrate you because you can never find time to get to them during the running of the race."
McKay has nothing but praise for his loquacious partner. "He not only knows the sport very well, but he can communicate it," says McKay. "He's so interested in the English language, and he's always coming up with new ideas that show a willingness to go beyond simply working as an expert commentator [such as the time Posey appropriated his wife Ellen's hair dryer to help demonstrate the way Indy Cars employ 'ground effect']."
Another fan is Posey's former endurance-racing teammate Paul Newman. When a caller to Newman's house asks about Posey, the owner, who knows a few things about elocution himself, says, "It's so refreshing to find someone who serves as a spokesman for the sport on TV and has such a command of the English language and also is so knowledgeable. That's a nifty combination. He enjoys expressing himself accurately, and there is a sense of relish in the things he says."
As Newman pauses, his wife, Joanne Woodward, shouts from the kitchen, "You must be talking about Sam."
Posey quit racing five years ago when his son, John, was born (he also has a one-year-old daughter, Judy). When Posey tries hard to persuade someone that driving is no longer in his blood, he only succeeds in sounding wistful. "I'm 43," he says, "but I've still got 20/15 eyesight." Then, all in a rush, he adds, "I could be doing it now." Or he might say brightly, "Gone are the days I could slip gracefully into a cockpit." But then he'll muse, "There is nothing like the oil and fiberglass smell of a race car."
Posey's love of the sport pervades his commentary. "Before races I get just as nervous as I did when I was driving," he says. "This has nothing to do with television. It has to do with identifying with the drivers sitting down there in the cockpit, their nerves shaking. Sometimes in sport we forget how neat the doing is, and how difficult it is."
Posey works hard for his one May day in the sun or rain. "I prepare all year long," he says. "I read everything, including my mail. Viewers' perceptions of how we have done are often so different from what we think. During the month before the race, I talk to designers, mechanics, drivers, everyone. I haunt the pits. During the year, at midnight when I can't sleep, I get out of bed and jot reflections on a pad. It's neat to have that constant—sort of a novel you're always writing."
In addition to the 500, Posey's television work load this year includes five CART races, the Monaco Grand Prix, a TV essay on Foyt and a feature on Hemingway for ABC's new late-night program, Monday Sportsnite. The Hemingway piece will take him to Spain to see the bulls run in Pamplona and to Key West for deep-sea fishing. Somehow, Posey has found the time to finish the blueprints for his dream house in Sharon, and he is supervising the design of several buildings at Lime Rock Park. He's also completing several magazine writing projects. "Right now I just don't have the motivation or the energy to turn off all the spigots running in me," he says.
Over the long haul, Posey looks to painting as the means of filling the void that opened in his life when he took off his crash helmet. Says Stella, "I like his landscapes very much. He has a good sense of what to do. I wish I could drive as well as he can paint." Posey's Boca Grande, Fla., house, which he also designed, is teeming with fresh canvases.