Through The Esses - John Pew - From Sailing On The Sea To Speeding In A DP
Page: 1 Links
© Andrew S. Hartwell

Recently a press release came to us announcing that a man named John Pew would be joining the Michael Shank Racing (MSR) Daytona Prototype team in Grand-Am. Pew ran in the Laguna Seca round of the Rolex Sportscar Series co-driving the #6 MSR Lexus-Riley with Ian James. They managed a 7th place finish in Pew's second drive in a Daytona Prototype.

Our interest piqued by this new name on the entry lists; we decided to contact Pew and try to learn about him and his background in racing. During our conversation it became clear that this gentleman driver has lived a most unordinary life, with a good portion of his adulthood spent riding the waves of the Earth's oceans.

And he raised his family on the water as well.

We will come back to that shortly. First, let Pew tell us how he got started in road racing.

It was not that long ago, around 1999 / 2000, that I got started in racing. I was into sailing and sail boat building and my family - my wife and two sons - and I did a lot of sailing around the world. We got land bound again when my older son Travis was about 16. I figured I would have to teach him how to drive and the best way to do that was to have him learn how to drive a race car. So we both took the Skip Barber racing school at Lime Rock. This was about 2000.

I got hooked on it! I sold my sailboat and I have been involved in racing almost full time ever since! Travis raced a little bit but he became too involved with college and decided not to continue on.

But the elder Pew did carry on, in open wheel racing, and convinced himself he was probably as good a race car driver as he was a sailboat captain.

I met a lot of really good people at Skip Barber. Many are still friends. I started racing in the Skip Barber Southern Series in the winter and then joined the Masters Series for the summer. They also had a series called the Challenge Series which was for people who didn't want to race the pros and I did that for two years. The Challenge Series used the Barber Dodge Pro car off-season. It was for people who wanted to race that car but not do the Barber Dodge Pro Series. That wetted my appetite to go beyond Skip Barber and so we raced a BMW M3 in the SCCA Kumho 12 hour race. That was a good experience and from there we signed on with Mike Baughman for the Rolex.

I ran with Mike after Mark Patterson and I came out of Skip Barber and we were looking for something else to do. We did the Rolex 24 with Mike, in his Corvette, which was the first 24 hour race for both Mark and I. We had a great time - Mike is a great guy - and so we raced with him again at Watkins Glen the following year. We ran in the Corvette and in his Firebird in the Grand-Am Cup.

Pew had his taste of sportscar racing now, but he wasn't yet quite finished with his open wheel experiences. Unfortunately, those experiences went from the high of a championship to the low of a serious injury.

As soon as the Star Mazda cars came out, I got into that series. Compared to the Barber Dodge Pro car the Mazda was a much easier car to drive. And it was a faster car. The first two years in Star Mazda were really great. I ran against guys like Graham Rahal and Rafael Matos and Marco Andretti. The 2005 season was my best. They had a competition within the competition called the Masters Series, for guys who were over 45. I won that series and was really happy about it. At that time the series was very competitive. There were some very good guys in that series.

The following year, 2006, I started to develop a shoulder injury. My rotator cuff was rubbing on a bone spur and it kept wearing away. Then I was in a big crash in Montreal. There were 16 cars involved in the first lap. My car got launched in the air and speared the tire wall and bounced backwards up in the air and spun around with people driving underneath me. I was hit three times and that sort of finished off my shoulder.

I didn't know wha