Sam Posey

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Last updated: 6-December-2001


Biography

Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1
1959-66

Drives Porsche with Harry Theo in Daytona 24hrs and Sebring 12hrs

Over the past three and a half decades Samuel Posey, a New Yorker by birth, became one of the most well-known figures in American motorsport. This was largely a result of his versatility and seeming omnipresence at US tracks, and his participation in most of America's most popular categories. Although his father was killed in World War II, he was raised as an only child in Connecticut by his mother, who taught him how to drive. By 1959, he was already racing a Jocko Special Formula Junior car.

Mike Toothman tells us that by the late 1960s he was a successful sports car competitor in the USA, having started in Formula Vee in 1965. We know, for instance, that he campaigned a Porsche 904 GTS in 1966, including at the International Sportscar Championship round at the Daytona 24hrs, where he came 11th with Jim Haynes and Harry Theodorocopoulos. In another WSC round, he retired at the Sebring 12hrs in a Filippo Theodoli Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2 shared with Theodorocopoulos.

1966

Versatility shows with berths at Le Mans, Can-Am and Trans-Am

1966 also saw Posey make his first start at Le Mans, where he drove a Prototipi Bizzarini GT Strada 530 with Massimo Natili, but the pair were disqualified when the car illegally crossed a white line in the pits (shades of Ralf Schumacher). That year, he also began competing in a variety of America's big-banger sports car categories, for example the Can-Am prototype series, where he raced a McLaren M1B Ford for the Caldwell team, with a best of 8th at Bridgehampton.

While Can-Am was a prototype championship, there was also the Trans-Am championship for stock-standard cars. In 1966 he tasted immediate success when he won a race in Marlboro, Maryland, sharing the car with Theodorocopoulos. Such an ability to race in many different machines, and race competitively, would prove to be something of a Posey hallmark in the years to come.


Posey driving for the Autodynamics team at Elkart Lake in 1968 Can-Am, in which he took four top-10 results.
Posey driving for the Autodynamics team at Elkart Lake in 1968 Can-Am, in which he took four top-10 results.

1967-68

Four top-10 finishes in Can-Am prototypes in his Lola Chevrolet

In 1967, Posey made one more start in the ISC, again in the Daytona 24hrs, again with Theodorocopoulos, in the latter's Alfa Romeo GTA Junior, but the car retired. In Can-Am, he drove the Caldwell D7 Chevrolet designed by Ray Caldwell and financed by Posey himself, but the car was not a success, with 12th at Mosport and 13th at Riverside being the only moderately positive results in an otherwise disappointing campaign.

1968 brought an upturn in fortunes. In Can-Am, he did one more race in a Caldwell D7C Chevrolet for the Autodynamics team, coming 10th at Road America, before exchanging the car for a Lola T160 Chevrolet. It brought four top ten results, including 4th at Edmonton and 5th at Las Vegas. This earned Sam 9th in the championship with 5 points. Trans-Am racing also saw Posey take a podium finish for 3rd place at Meadowdale.

1968-69

Joins NART for the enduros, takes a GT5 class win at Daytona

That year, Posey had also once again competed in the Daytona 24hrs and the Sebring 12hrs, both rounds of the renamed International Championship of Makes. He did Daytona in a Ford Mustang with Jim Kauffman, and came a lowly 21st. At Sebring, where he raced a Mathews Racing Team Ford Mustang with Milt Minter, he was forced to retire. But by the start of 1969, in something of a coup he had agreed terms to join the North American Racing Team for several of the major enduro ICM events.

At the Daytona 24hrs, in a Ferrari 275 GTB/C with Riccardo Rodriguez, Posey only came 23rd, but 1st in GT5 class. Sebring saw a retirement in a Ferrari Dino 206S shared with Bob Dini, while at Le Mans, Posey and team-mate Teodoro Zeccoli were saddled with the same Ferrari 250LM which had won the race in 1965, a full 4 years earlier! Although the combination came a fine 8th in the La Sarthe classic, it was a result that did not come without incident.


After a one-off win in 1969, Posey was picked up for a full season of Trans-Am in 1970 with Dodge. His teammate/rival was Dan Gurney.
After a one-off win in 1969, Posey was picked up for a full season of Trans-Am in 1970 with Dodge. His teammate/rival was Dan Gurney.

1969

A foggy fright at Le Mans, for both Posey and Schutz

As a thick fog descended on the track just before dawn, Posey was forced to stop his car in the middle of the long Mulsanne straight when he was blinded by what he described as a "pink light". Jumping out of the car and climbing over the armco for temporary safety, he found German driver Udo Schutz wandering in a daze. Upon further inspection, Posey found that the pink light had been created by a combination of thick fog, and the burning wreck of Schutz's crashed car.

After he ensured that the marshals tended to the German driver, Posey then got back into his car and continued, but the fog got worse on the Mulsanne straight. In his own words:

"If I slowed down and it turned out to be a harmless wisp I knew I would feel like a fool; so long as my nerves could stand it I would roar into the fog at full speed, travelling the length of a football field every second into fog so thick that I could not see more than two car-lengths ahead."
1969-70

A great win for Shelby at Lime Rock leads to a full season with Dodge

However, Posey's single highlight of 1969 was arguably a one-off drive in Trans-Am. That season, the famous Carroll Shelby was running Ford Mustangs for the last time. At the second race of the season at Lime Rock, regular driver Peter Revson was racing at Indy, so Posey filled in. He took the lead at half-distance, but broke a valve near the end, allowing Swede Savage in another Mustang to catch up. Savage then cut a tyre on some debris, and had to settle for 2nd.

As a result, Posey posted the Shelby team's only win of the year, and Shelby's last ever victory for Ford. Liking what they saw, the Dodge motor company contacted Posey's Autodynamics team about a full-time Trans-Am drive for 1970, and sure enough Sam entered the 1970 season in a Dodge Challenger. Dodge had also signed up Dan Gurney to drive a Plymouth Barracuda, although eventually both Posey and Gurney were blown away by the dominant Mark Donohue.


Driving with NART, Posey and Ronnie Bucknum took their Ferrari to a fine 4th spot, in the rain and low on power at Le Mans in 1970.
Driving with NART, Posey and Ronnie Bucknum took their Ferrari to a fine 4th spot, in the rain and low on power at Le Mans in 1970.

1970

Acidic year for Dodge, thanks to an invincible Chrysler engine

Not that Posey's 1970 Trans-Am season was any less interesting or eventful as a result. Firstly, there was a strong rivalry between Posey's team and Gurney's team. Posey discovered that Gurney was acid-dipping his car, a technique to make it weigh less, so he decided to do the same, and he nearly got away with it. He was found out only when, having passed scrutineering, his team invited chief technical inspector John Tomanis for a beer. Relaxing, Tomanis leant on Posey's car, and put a big dent in it!

The strongest part about Posey's Dodge Challenger that year was its engine, built by Keith Black. Well, at least Sam had to tow the company line in saying that the engine was strong! As he explains himself:

"If the engine blew up and parts were littered all over the place, you'd come in and you'd say 'stuck throttle', or you'd come in and you'd say 'ah, the transmission let me down' or you'd come in say 'the rear view mirror fell off', but you would not say the engine blew. Chrysler engines never blew."
1970-71

More success with NART, including 4th and 3rd at Le Mans in successive years

1970 had also seen Posey continue racing in the ICM for the NART. At Daytona he teamed up with Mike Parkes in a Ferrari 312P Coupe, finishing a fine 4th outright. He was then joined by ex-Honda F1 driver Ronnie Bucknum at Sebring and Le Mans, where they drove a Ferrari 512S. Although they retired at Sebring, Posey managed to repeat his Daytona result at Le Mans, coming an excellent 4th despite the rainy conditions, and despite having lost two cylinders which reduced their top speed by some 30mph.

There were more outings for NART in 1971. At Buenos Aires Posey came 8th in a Ferrari 512S Spyder with Nestor Garcia-Veiga, but in a Ferrari 512M retired at Daytona with Revson, Chuck Parsons and Luigi Chinetti Jnr. He also retired at Sebring in a 512S with Bucknum, but came a brilliant 3rd at Le Mans in a 512M with Tony Adamowicz, despite being delayed at the start. At one stage Posey even broke the lap record. Late in the year, Sam again drove a 512M at Watkins Glen with Bucknum, but retired once more.


Posey's best result in 1971 Can-Am was a 4th place at Riverside, in a Roy Woods McLaren.
Posey's best result in 1971 Can-Am was a 4th place at Riverside, in a Roy Woods McLaren.

1971

Open-seater prosperity beckons, with a fine 2nd overall in US Formula A

After his somewhat unsuccessful year in Trans-Am in 1970, for 1971 Posey turned his back on that series, and returned to do some Can-Am races, having missed them for two years. At Watkins Glen he came 6th in a NART Ferrari 512M, while at Riverside he went two better, placing 4th in a Roy Woods McLaren M8E Chevrolet. These results left him 11th overall with 16 points.

As if that wasn't enough, in 1971 Posey also took to open-wheelers. He drove in the US Formula A championship, the forerunner of US F5000, and came 2nd overall in his Surtees TS8 Chevrolet behind David Hobbs' McLaren. Thanks to Tom Prankerd, we also know he took part in an F1 vs F.A event called the Questor Grand Prix in Ontario, where he took his Surtees to 15th on the grid. But in the first heat though, his car overheated.

Formula One
1971
Surtees

Wins shoot out with van Lennep for the third car at US GP

Having enjoyed his taste of single-seater action, Posey set his sights on F1, the highest echelon of all. He had previously spoken to 1964 World Champion John Surtees about the possibility of driving one of his cars at the USA GP at Watkins Glen, and sure enough in 1971 he got the chance to do just that. However, the Surtees team had entered both himself and Dutchman Gijs van Lennep in the same car, so in effect practice would be a shoot-out between them to see who would get the drive.

Probably to his relief, Posey made much better use of his Surtees TS9 Cosworth than van Lennep did, but perhaps local knowledge helped. He was 18th fastest out of the 35 entrants, and only 2.625s off Jackie Stewart on pole position. More to the point, he was almost three seconds faster than van Lennep, and there was little doubt who would race the car. In fact, Posey got a bonus when he was bumped up a spot on the grid.


Sam didn't get too far into the 1971 US GP, after a bad start, the Cosworth V8 in his Surtees soon gave up the ghost.
Sam didn't get too far into the 1971 US GP, after a bad start, the Cosworth V8 in his Surtees soon gave up the ghost.

1971-72
Surtees

Engine failure ends the dream, but he's back next year certain of a drive

Mario Andretti had qualified his Ferrari in 6th, but since Andretti and Donohue also took part in the sanctioned USAC event, neither were allowed to start the Grand Prix, and Posey got to start 17th. In the end it came to nothing, as a poor start dropped him way down the field, although he had begun to claw his way back up when he retired after 14 laps with a Cosworth V8 engine failure.

Although 1972 was spent once again racing in many different categories (see below), come the US GP once again Posey got himself a drive. This time, his US sponsors and his Indy Car Champcarr team obtained a Surtees TS9B Cosworth for themselves, and entered our man. With the knowledge that he was safe in his seat, unlike in 1971 when he had to compete for the drive, Sam could afford to adopt a more methodical approach to the race.

1972

Great showing sees him qualify and race well, but he's pipped by Hill at final turn

This time he was 23rd fastest in qualifying out of 32 cars. He was faster than the works March cars of Niki Lauda and Ronnie Peterson, the works Surtees TS14 of John Surtees himself, the Brabham of Graham Hill and the BRM of Peter Gethin. Posey had actually gone faster than he did the previous year, but Stewart, on pole again, had also gone much quicker, such that Posey was now over 4 seconds off pole pace.

But at least this time he finished, coming 12th out of 18 finishers, 2 laps down, ahead of the likes of Revson, Chris Amon and Mike Hailwood. He had been running in the midfield for most of the race, and was heading for a top ten finish, but Hill passed him at the last corner! Nevertheless, despite this solid effort, Posey would never get another F1 chance again. Not behind the wheel, at least.


The 1972 US Grand Prix saw a much better display of Posey's single-seater talent. Qualifying well, he drove a good race, finishing a solid, if unspectacular, 12th.
The 1972 US Grand Prix saw a much better display of Posey's single-seater talent. Qualifying well, he drove a good race, finishing a solid, if unspectacular, 12th.

After F1
1972

Takes his one and only Indy 500 start, finishing a brilliant 5th

Throughout 1972, before the US GP, Posey had once again been racing in a variety of categories. He once again drove a Surtees TS11 Chevrolet in the US Formula A championship, but like in 1971 he was pipped for the title, this time by New Zealander Graham McRae, in his self-built McRae Chevrolet. In total, throughout 1971 and 1972 he had won three races in the Formula A category.

That year Posey also made his debut in the other main American open-wheeler category, racing in USAC Indy Cars, driving an Eagle Offenhauser for the Norris Eagle/Champcarr team. His highlight was at the Indy 500, a race for which he had DNQed in 1970, and been bumped in 1971, where he qualified a sensational 7th and came home an excellent 5th, albeit two laps down, although ahead of Mario Andretti. However, it would be his one and only Indianapolis start. In terms of other results that year, his best was another 5th place at Pocono.

1972

Continues with NART in WCM, before his debut in IMSA

1972 had also seen Posey continue in sports car racing, firstly in the renamed World Championship for Makes for NART. Driving both a Ferrari 265 GT and a 365 GTB/4, he retired at the Daytona 24hrs with Bucknum and at Watkins Glen with Hobbs, but came 13th at Sebring and 6th at Le Mans with Adamowicz. He also competed in the last two Can-Am races of the season in a Vasek Polak Porsche 917, coming 5th at Laguna Seca but retiring at Riverside with a gearbox problem, leaving him equal 17th with 8 points.

In 1972 Posey had also made his debut in the IMSA championship. He drove at Lime Rock in a Denny Long Chevrolet Corvette with Long himself, placing 24th, and he had another solo drive in that car at the Daytona 250 mile race, but retired. But his best result was when he drove at Mid-Ohio in the Peter Gregg Porsche 911S with Hurley Haywood, coming a superb 2nd.


Posey had his one and only Indy 500 start in 1972, coming home a brilliant 5th place in his Eagle Offenhauser.
Posey had his one and only Indy 500 start in 1972, coming home a brilliant 5th place in his Eagle Offenhauser.

1973

Bars F2, but still in single-seaters driving Indy Cars and F5000

In 1973, Posey could have raced in F2, but found a realistic appreciation of his own ability, safety concerns and a sense that he had already fulfilled his dream by driving in F1 too great. Instead, he spent a second season in Indy Cars, coming 6th at Ontario. He also raced in US F5000, and in the WCM he made his last starts for NART, joining Minter in a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 at Le Mans, where piston failure put them out after 21 hours and 254 laps. At Watkins Glen, in the same type of car, he came 14th with François Migault.

Elsewhere that year, he made one start in Can-Am at Riverside, finishing 16th in a Ferrari 512M. He also raced in two IMSA events, although he and co-driver Harley Cluxton failed to start the Sebring 12hr enduro in their Grand Touring Cars Inc. Ferrari 365 GTB/4. At Lime Rock Posey did a lot better, driving his John Greenwood Racing Chevrolet Corvette to two 3rd places in the two races there.

1974

Quiet year sees Sam's first stint behind the microphone at the Indy 500

1974 was a relatively quiet year for Sam. He still raced in US F5000, but switched to a Talon Chevrolet car, although the move brought little by way of success. In the WCM, with NART dissolved he found it harder to found drives, but raced at Watkins Glen in a Ted Trudon Porsche-Audi Porsche Carrera RSR, taking it to 8th place with Hobbs and Elliot Forbes-Robinson. He was also entered for the race at Kyalami in a works BMW 3.0 CSL with Jody Scheckter and Ronnie Peterson, but he didn't take a stint in the car.

In IMSA he had two starts, one at Mid-Ohio where he shared Greenwood's Chevrolet Corvette, and one at Lime Rock where he drove a Porsche Carrera. However, 1974 had also seen Posey embark on another venture for the first time, when regular ABC Indy 500 commentator, the great Jackie Stewart, couldn't make it, and Posey was asked to fill in. It was his first taste of something which would dominate his post-racing career.


Posey still soldiered on in Can-Am through the early-70s. Here he takes his Vasek Polak Porsche 917 to a 5th place finish at Laguna Seca in 1972.
Posey still soldiered on in Can-Am through the early-70s. Here he takes his Vasek Polak Porsche 917 to a 5th place finish at Laguna Seca in 1972.

1975

Victory at Sebring with Stuck, Redman and Moffat in great IMSA season

For 1975, apart from plugging on in his Talon in US F5000, he joined the works BMW squad in sports cars. In the WCM he retired with engine failure at Daytona in a BMW 3.0 CSL with Hans-Joachim Stuck, but came 6th with Brian Redman at Watkins Glen. The Daytona race was also a round of IMSA, in which Posey virtually drove an entire season, coming 9th overall with 56 points after a series of consistent performances.

The major highlight was victory in the Sebring 12hrs with Redman, Stuck and Allan Moffat, while other good results included 2nd at Riverside with Redman, two 4ths at Lime Rock, 2nd and fastest lap at Mid-Ohio, and 3rd in the Daytona 250 mile event. Also, at Le Mans, which was not a round of the World Championship, he drove in Hervé Poulain's BMW 3.0 CSL with Poulain and Jean Guichet, but the combination was forced to park the car after 9 hours with CV joint problems.

1976-77

A second at Vallelunga the highlight of a down year

1976 was Posey's last year in US F5000 in the Talon, as thereafter he ran out of funds to continue in that series. In yet another quiet year he had one IMSA start at Daytona in a Ford Mustang II Cobra with Charlie Kemp and Baird. He did two WCM rounds, one at Mugello in a BMW Faltz Alpina Essen BMW 3.5 CSL with Harald Grohs, and one at Vallelunga where he finished 2nd in the same car with Grohs and Baron Hughes de Fierlandt. The same trio also raced at Le Mans, placing 10th outright.

The next year, Posey was focussed mainly on IMSA. At the first round in at Daytona (also a WCM round) in a works BMW 320i Turbo with Hobbs and Peterson he retired with engine failure, but thereafter drove both a Datsun 260Z and a Datsun Z. This was a midfield car at best, and with 8th place at Brainerd being his best result, he was 61st overall with 4 points.


1973 brought just the single start for Posey in Can-Am, at Riverside where he finished a lowly 16th.
1973 brought just the single start for Posey in Can-Am, at Riverside where he finished a lowly 16th.

1977-78

Stunning return to form with three GTU wins and six podiums

However, the Datsun was a major contender for class honours, and Posey proved that in the IMSA GTU championship, where he won at Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio and Daytona, took 2nd plus fastest lap at another Road Atlanta round, finished another 2nd at Sears Point and 3rd at Hallett to finish 2nd overall with 175 points. At Le Mans he retired with fuel pump problems after five hours in his Grand Touring Cars Inc. Mirage GR8 Renault shared with Michel Leclere, and he was also the inaugural winner of the Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race.

In 1978 he rejoined Grand Touring Cars at Le Mans, where he came 10th in a Mirage M9 Renault with Vern Schuppan and Jacques Laffite. In IMSA, he raced a Datsun 260Z at Brainerd and Daytona, but in IMSA GTUs, where his car was much more competitive, he joined Bob Sharp Racing, finished 4th at Sears Point, 2nd at Laguna Seca and 1st (plus fastest lap) at Lime Rock. Posey was classified 4th overall with 67 points.

1979-80

Winding things down, he still has time for a win at his beloved Lime Rock

Starting to wind down his racing activities, in 1979 he only competed in IMSA, retiring his Datsun ZX at the Riverside 6hr event. In the IMSA GTU championship, he slipped to 5th despite scoring 67 points yet again in his Bob Sharp Racing Datsun Z and ZX, having come 2nd at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca (where he also recorded the fastest lap), and having won again at Lime Rock.

Posey started in four more IMSA events in 1980, in both a Datsun 240Z and a Datsun ZX Turbo at Sebring, Riverside, Daytona and Road America. He shared the drives with people like George Alderman, Fred Stiff and the legendary Paul Newman. In IMSA GTUs he was 22nd overall with 20 points, his best being 5th at Golden State. He also made one more WCM start at Mosport with Stiff in an NTS Racing Datsun 240Z.


1975 saw Posey's second last year in a series where he was more than just a familiar face: here Sam pilots his Talon in US Formula 5000.
1975 saw Posey's second last year in a series where he was more than just a familiar face: here Sam pilots his Talon in US Formula 5000.

1980-81

Thunders on the Mountain, before a last hurrah at Elkhart Lake

Somewhat strangely, 1980 also saw Posey take the adventurous step of tackling Australia's classic Bathurst 1000km touring car race on the Mount Panorama circuit. He raced in millionaire Dick Barbour's Chevrolet Camaro, when it was originally thought that movie star Newman would drive the car. However, this American attempt went largely unnoticed amongst other dramas during the race, namely Dick Johnson hitting a rock whilst leading the race, handing victory to Aussie legend Peter Brock.

Finally, 1981 was Posey's last full year behind the wheel. He continued campaigning his Datsun ZX in IMSA, 3 rounds of which doubled as World Championship for Drivers and Makes rounds. He also raced in the WCDM round at Mosport in a Z&W Enterprises Mazda RX-7 with Stiff and Pierre Honegger, before one last hurrah when he joined Kent-Cooke/Wood Racing to pilot a Lola T600 Chevrolet with Redman to 2nd place in the IMSA/WCDM round at Elkhart Lake. That left him 26th with 15 points in IMSA, and 78th with 30 points in the WCDM.

1980-96

A stalwart of ABC's Indy 500 coverage, also a brief cameo on film!

With that, Posey's driving career was over, but he had plenty of other things to keep him busy. In 1980 he had rejoined ABC's Indy 500 commentary team, reporting from the pits and garages before entering the commentary booth proper from 1982 to 1996 alongside the likes of Jim McKay, Jim Lampley, Paul Page, and American racing legends (but F1 rejects) Danny Sullivan and Bobby Unser.

Sam also made his silver screen debut in 1983, starring as himself in Jonathan Kaplan's "Heart Like a Wheel", a movie about someone who wants to become a top-fuel drag racer. Posey has also kept in touch with motorsport in other ways. Popular and accessible amongst car clubs and organisations, he is regularly invited to speak at functions. In 1992 he was made the Honorary Chairman of the annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. His son John, at one point also begun to take up racing, attending the Skip Barber racing school.


A qualified architect, Posey designed the state-of-the-art timing tower at his beloved Lime Rock track in 1998.
A qualified architect, Posey designed the state-of-the-art timing tower at his beloved Lime Rock track in 1998.

1998-2001

Contributes more to Lime Rock, before becoming the US' voice of F1

Being also a noted artist and qualified architect, in 1998 Posey and his brother David Moore also designed a building for the start/finish straight at Lime Rock. Called the Michelin Tower because of support from the tyre company for the project, to fit the setting of the track the building looks more like a town hall than a tower at a racetrack. As well as raceday facilities, the building also includes a steeple, a green steel roof, classrooms for the Barber racing school, hand-drawn tiles by motor-racing artists, and porches for better viewing.

Back on the commentary front, in 1998 when two cable networks, Fox Sports Net and Speedvision, won the rights to broadcast F1. Posey was snatched up by Speedvision for its various programs, joining Bob Varsha and David Hobbs in the Speedvision F1 commentary team - but they only made their comments watching the race from a studio in Connecticut. Posey, popular with many viewers, continued in this role successfully, but not without some criticism for his style and accuracy (and rumours of his ill-health), until the end of the 2001 season.

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