"I accepted the fact that Gary could win the plate up till the last race," O'Brien admits, "but what could I do about it? Naturally I knew if Gary had won, he would rub it in hard. I wasn't looking forward to that part of it."
Whenever Springsteen saunters by, O'Brien's eyes light up. He grabs the youngster in an affectionate headlock and says, "Boy, where you been? I been looking for you."
Damn right O'Brien had been looking for Springsteen. Even before Scott quit, O'Brien had made up his mind to hire the youngster. Springsteen is O'Brien's dream—any racing manager's dream. He does what he's told, smiles while he's doing it, never complains, never challenges orders—and he goes fast. Put a Big Mac in his hand, a clean T shirt on his back and a van with a tape deck over his head and he's in heaven. He's got everything he wants; he is so happy throwing a motorcycle sideways into a turn at 140 mph he'd do it for nothing. Springsteen is not going to go to O'Brien this winter, as Scott did last winter, and say, "Hey, I risk my life so your company can sell motorcycles, and I just won the national championship. I think I'm worth more to you than you're paying me."
"Springsteen is the easiest rider I've ever worked with," says Werner. "He hasn't discovered greed, power and lust."
"That's because he's not smart enough yet," cracked a bystander.
More likely, it's because he hasn't had time. This year was only his second in the expert class, and he still didn't have enough experience to have an expert license for 750cc point-paying road racing, not that it mattered much in the absence of a competitive 750cc Harley-Davidson road racer. He had been third, behind Scott and Roberts, his first year, which made him Rookie of the Year.
"He's just 19 years old and happy-go-lucky," says O'Brien. "He's as loose as a goose, concerned about nothing. If he wins, he wins, if he doesn't, he doesn't; he doesn't know what pressure is. It's almost unnatural; he goes as fast in practice as he does in the race. He's got the will to win. He's a full-out fighter to the flag. We don't see very many riders coming up through the ranks like Springer. He'll ride way out up against the fence, places where few men will."
Loose as a goose is an understatement. Springsteen's entire comment on the Scott situation was, "It's just Gary's way of goin' about it, I guess."
Same on the pressure: "It ain't no big thing. I just go out and go as fast as I can. I'm just out to have a good time. That's all I can say. I'm having fun."
Springsteen led the series into the season's final race, the Ascot half-mile in Gardena, Calif., but both Scott and Roberts still had a chance to win the plate. There was some talk that maybe the Harley-Davidson team would try a stop-Scott gambit. One man surrounded by three—two of the five factory riders were out for the season—and if they all were to crowd Scott at 100 mph, it could be fairly intimidating. But Scott wasn't worried. "There isn't one of them that's on a 'team,' " he said. "They're all out for themselves. They don't even like each other; they could never get together against me."