I first met Ron Mathis, the subject of yesterday’s blog, when he stopped at David Brown’s Charlottesville, Virginia, home for a bowl of lentil soup. Brown described himself as a passionate cook and Mathis as “the team vegetarian.” Mathis remarked that the late-evening meal reminded him of his student days. It was a Tuesday and the team had worked especially long at the Lynchburg shop before returning to Charlottesville.
We sat at the table chatting. When it was time for Mathis to go, I walked him out to his car, said good-bye till the morning, and then retired to the guest room in the home Brown shares with his wife Jean, who’s a graduate of Ann Arbor’s University High School. (Her father was a U-M engineering professor.) She teaches elementary school in the Albemarle County district.
Brown had told me that he’s a chiropractor and sees patients on Monday and Friday. He goes with the team to the Edison2 shop in Lynchburg on Tuesday and Thursday. He’s also a Charlottesville city council member and has served two terms as president pro-tem, or mayor.
I observed that it would be possible for someone to see him for an adjustment and an easement.
“Good,” Jean said, without evident mirth.
The next morning, Wednesday, Brown declared himself an avid reader of the New York Times and talked about his love of the food section, which is always something to look forward to. He ran his fingers over the cover shot and spoke of a favorite writer’s adventures in hamburgers.
Mathis, who stays in Kuttner’s guest house during the week, arrived in a Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Brown and I got in, and we soon collected Brad Jaeger. A team member since July of 2009, Jaeger was covered in carbon dust and aluminum shavings when Kuttner found him in Doran’s shop. Jaeger brings valuable skills, being a 2007 mechanical engineering graduate of Vanderbilt University as well as a veteran driver from Pacific Formula 2000 and Indy Lights. He has also driven in ALMS. He is one of two drivers for Edison2, along with Emanuele Pirro.
Jaeger sat in back with Brown and tried to read “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work,” by Matthew B. Crawford. We stopped at a Citgo station along U.S. 29 and tanked up on diesel. Mathis stuck to the speed limit during the one-hour drive. He guided us to the team’s shop near downtown Lynchburg. Kuttner, who was born in Munich, has hung a German oil company’s vintage sign above the door. The wooden floor inside the old textile factory seemed unique for a race shop. Fabricator Le Roy White agreed when I said it had to be easier on the back than a concrete floor.
He nodded toward the car, saying, “Like a little helicopter, isn’t it?”
White, a Southern Californian, goes way back to Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing and Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, among others. In midcareer he returned to school, studying photography and cinema at Art Center College of Design, after some misfortune during a race at Milwaukee.
“I had a pit stop that didn’t work out too good,” he said, a strange and almost playfully wistful note sounding in his voice. “They took me back to California.”
Indeed, later, when I was visiting Bobby Mouzayck, White passed through and I studied his gait for some sign of a limp or past injury without seeing anything definitive.