To motor sports fans the Indianapolis 500 resounds with tradition, but to associate writer Sam Moses its preliminaries signal a time for transition. Each May, Moses moves from his winter home in the Florida Keys to his summer place in New York's Catskill Mountains, with an extended pit stop in Indianapolis. When he goes north, he gives up windsurfing for rock climbing and shifts automotive gears from his 72 Catalina convertible with rats nesting under its hood—they bail out when he goes for a spin—to a '77 Chevy pickup with a 350 stock-block engine.
While at Indy, Moses makes do with a motel room and a rental car. His 1985 Indy coverage begins with this week's story on the run for the pole (page 30). Moses well remembers the first 500 he saw, in 1976. It also happened to be the first one he covered for SI. "What it was," recalls Moses, "was overwhelming. It wasn't the pressure of being a rookie reporter and having to cover 'the world's largest sporting event' on deadline. It was the people. There were so many of them. After the race, they just chased me into my hotel room, and I didn't come out until I sent in my story."
Moses knows about getting locked into stories. In March 1982, at the suggestion of senior editor Bob Brown, he got his competitive-racing license. The idea was for Moses, who had been a motorcycle racer for nine years, to write a first-person piece on his baptism into the world of racing on four wheels. For two years Moses drove a Renault Le Car on frozen lakes and Formula Fords and stock cars on tracks from Connecticut to California, winning three races along the way. For another year after that, he got behind a word processor, and what had begun as a 15,000-word assignment blossomed into a 120,000-word book—yet to be published. Fast Guys, Rich Buys and Idiots is a penetrating look at the racing life and its author's adventures in the fast lane.
"I discovered there's such a thing as an addiction to going fast, and I have it," says Moses. "When it comes to athletics, I'm a teeth-gritter. But when I was driving a race car I felt as fluid as a big drop of water in the seat." Though Moses, 37, races no more, he has a candy-apple red Honda CBX six-cylinder motorcycle in upstate New York ready for ignition after the 500.