Let's begin by setting the record straight. While it is true that Scott Goodyear's surname happens to be well-known in motor racing, he is not related to the family that started the tire company. Also, Goodyear is the first in his family to race professionally, so unlike members of, say, the Andretti and Unser clans, he is not part of a racing legacy. But when a driver named Goodyear was chasing a driver named Unser during the final laps of last year's Indy 500, more than a few fans at the Speedway must have thought they were witnessing a dual between dynasties.
In fact, Goodyear—at the time an obscure driver from Canada—started 33rd at the 500, but after 200 laps he found himself on Al Unser Jr.'s tail. Goodyear lost the race by .043 of a second, the closest margin in 500 history, and from there he went on to finish fifth in the Indy Car standings for 1992. The close second at Indy, coupled with a victory at the Michigan 500 in August, brought more sponsorship money, and Goodyear began '93, his fourth season on the Indy Car circuit, with spanking-new equipment.
With smartly cropped hair, a short but solid build, and impeccable manners, the 33-year-old Goodyear appears to be more comfortable in Brooks Brothers attire than in a balaclava, the fire-resistant hood drivers wear under their helmets. "We work for our sponsors," he says. "This is an entertainment business, and off the track is as important as on the track."
A meticulous organizer, Goodyear will show you with enormous pride the intricately detailed, color-coded calendar that he keeps at his home in Newmarket, Ont., to track his speaking, business and racing activities, which have more than tripled since Indy. Watching Goodyear talk in a business meeting about "secondary signage," "the prevention of component fatigue" and how "seat time is paramount," it's hard to imagine that this is a man who made his way around the Indy oval at ridiculous speeds, his posterior a mere six inches from the pavement.
"He's very aware of the limit," says the owner of Goodyear's team, Derrick Walker. "Unfortunately, in this business you have to run on the limit to get anything. A good driver like Scott knows how far and when you can run past that limit without causing much damage."
Goodyear began racing Formula Ford Circuit cars in 1980, but two years later he was out of money and was forced to quit. In 1984 Jack Christie, a former competitor of Goodyear's and the head administrator of a Formula 2000 series, wanted to see Goodyear in a car again for at least one race. "I couldn't help but remember Scott had accomplished a lot with very little," says Christie. By the first turn of the '84 Trois Rivières Grand Prix in Quebec, Goodyear was seventh. By the time the 20-lap race was over, he had won. Thus began his second life in motor racing.
Goodyear's third life began on Lap 193 of Indy last spring, when he chased Unser to the finish in a race that Unser would later describe as "all or nothing. Money didn't matter. Living didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was the trophy." Neither driver gave an inch during those seven laps until Unser's car got loose in Turn 4 of the final lap and he had to ease up slightly, allowing Goodyear to shoot to the inside and make his run for the checkered flag.
Says Goodyear, "When it was over, I just got on the radio and said to my crew, 'We didn't get him.' Those next 2½ miles around the track [his cool-down lap] were the loneliest I ever spent in a race car."
After parking the car in the pits, Goodyear unfastened his belts, stood in the cockpit and said "I'm sorry" to Jim O'Donnell, chairman of the MacKenzie Financial Corp., a money-management company in Toronto and Goodyear's principal sponsor. Stunned, O'Donnell shot back, "You have nothing to feel sorry for; you just changed your life."