Having paid his touch of lip service to pessimism, Stewart went back to being an enthusiast the next day. The Elkhart Lake Road America course is a rural, lavishly beautiful spread, with 13 corners snaking through rich meadows and trees. And Stewart, after eight or nine runs around it to figure out his downshifts, then took one more turn around with a tape recorder, dictating his impressions of the course so they could be broadcast over the P.A. system to the crowds on race day. A romantic touch.
The actual race was something else. As a champion, Stewart can command the best of cars, but his L&M Lola, outfitted with a 750-hp Chevrolet engine, is still not as quick as the brutish McLarens (which also have Chevy engines but apparently unlimited and practically indecent horsepower). In fact, the only reason Stewart had won at the Mid- Ohio the week before was because Hulme had not lasted through the opening lap, snapping a drive shaft just after the getaway. "When you are going into the first corner and the car spins directly in front of you, there are some fairly quick decisions to be made," Stewart said later. And he had decided to drive steadily, if not spectacularly, winning that one by attrition.
Now, at Elkhart Lake, chief competitor Hulme showed up late and grumpy over a sore knee. Not only that, he announced that Peter Revson, his Team McLaren partner, would show up even later, too late to qualify, and probably would be forced to start at the tail end of the pack. Then Hulme climbed stiffly into his car and cranked out a ferocious 113.688-mph average to take the pole position. Try that one on your romantic instincts.
Stewart did: he fired up the Lola to an average 111.561 mph and rolled it into the third starting spot, just behind Oliver, who was running only a fraction faster. Not bad, considering the fact that the day before the race, Stewart's crew had trucked the Lola over to a nearby Chevrolet garage and installed a new engine. Untested engines can be very tricky and—just before the race began—Stewart was unromantic enough to lean over and confide to a friend at pitside, "I'll be back here in 10 minutes."
The champ's sense of timing was not far off. With 11 laps completed in the 200-mile, 50-lap race, Stewart's red-and-white machine whispered back into the pits with water spewing from the engine seams like a leaky, sinking boat.
Meanwhile, what of the mighty McLarens? Out on the track, Hulme had given up with another broken crankshaft, an event calculated to make him more grouchy than ever. But up roared Revson, who had started from the back of the 32-car pack, as promised. In early going, Revson zinged right to the front and rolled home easily, winning at an average of 109.012 mph for a new track record.
Nearby, in an air-conditioned trailer, Stewart peeled down to his flame-resistant long Johns. He pulled off a racing shoe and looked at the sole, pointing out that if the brake pedal wasn't fixed on his car it would soon wear a hole in his foot. Then he sighed: "This is the point in the movie where the winning driver is getting the check and the accolades," he said. "And the other driver is back in the trailer getting some girl. That's the way it is in the movies. Well, Jackie Stewart wants to know why it isn't really like that for Jackie Stewart."
He thought it over some more. "You know," he said, "I'm a romantic, all right. But to tell you the truth, I don't know whether I'm a romantic or simply harebrained. I guess if I were to describe myself, I'd say I was a harebrained, romantic young man."
Stewart changed into a pair of shorts and began searching around the trailer for the rest of his clothes. "Buddy, buddy, buddy," he sang to nobody in particular, "what do you suppose has happened to my clothes? I can't leave town dressed like this."
Outside the trailer, a sheriff's car waited, motor running and red light flashing compellingly. It was there to rush the champ to a private jet. Stewart was off again—to Monza, Italy and the next Grand Prix. But this time there would be a stopover in Switzerland for a very important event in his life. He was going to take one day off.