— story by Deb Pollack
When I was 24, I would have never imagined that enjoying a simple track day could lead me into a profession I’d truly love throughout my entire career. That first time I went out to Willow Springs Raceway, I met a community of car lovers and began a yearly ritual that has endeared me to MPG for more years than I’d care to admit. But it also was the beginning of a calling for me that was less about cars, and more about camaraderie.
In the late 80s, I had my first “real” job and worked for an agency that represented Mitsubishi Motors – then the 5th largest Japanese brand in the U.S. We had a mantra then (and one that I still follow now) that said it’s the relationships we hold that make things dear. We were friends with the press and our PR peers, and knew that through this industry – no matter which brand we stood behind — together as a group we stood as one.
Being a PR gal and not a journalist, there were few cars I could drive that first track day. But that didn’t matter because I found it wasn’t actually the cars that made me feel part of the group, it was the multitude of people that I got to know. That same year our team began a tradition which went on for some time — providing long-sleeve t-shirts to everyone in attendance. These shirts were given out more as a personal “Hello, I’d like to get to know you,” rather than just a part of the goodie bags. Our annual shirts became an open door to our company, and more importantly, a token to lasting friendships.
That open door is also what I experienced with MPG right from the start. For me, it really wasn’t so much about the auto industry itself, it was about a sense of community. And, I believe our Board is building on that same open philosophy to encourage current younger journalists and all others within our car realm, to not take lightly what we can achieve together. Track Day is but only one experience we can share, and with our members’ involvement and broader ideas, we can foster the type of camaraderie of not only new-found friendships, but learning experiences that will make connections meaningful and equally long lasting.
Legacies like the ‘Dean Bachelor’ awards provide the foundation our first members longed to achieve; recognizing an authenticity found in not just a journalistic approach, but within a deep value system our current membership shares. One based on ethics and passion that are intrinsic qualities in those icons we come to know as friends, rather than as writers whom we hope to know professionally. It is because of these events, our close knit network has allowed us to embrace artistry while building relationships, offering a rare reminder that “you don’t need to always do business, to do business.”
I look back on those initial MPG Track Days and think of the friends I made then, and still hold dear – guys like Don Fuller, who took me for my first passenger hot lap in the “original” NSX and teaching me to ‘never lift’ – and Kim Custer, who taught all the girls on his team exactly how to ‘lift’ when going off-road.
Now that we seem to be keeping the old custom alive at Willow Springs, there are new friendships, traditions and memories to be made, all within the open door of MPG. And while new cars are more often than not the initial draw to this event, I hope you’ll take the time to get to know the folks that show up around you, because a decade or even two from now, you’ll be able to say “I remember when…”
Pictured at top of page: The girls of Mitsubishi “back in the day” – Maureen Nelson Willett, Deb Stearn Pollack and Lisa Dunn Lowhurst