It has slowed down slightly, but on Thursday and Friday here at COTA, about every ten minutes a person with a European accent would come up to me, look me square in the eyes and ask, "Dean, is this true, this story about Kevin Schwantz? They won't let him in the track for a Grand Prix by his home? How can this be?"
"How can this be" is a question that has a very long answer.
Imagine for a moment that today you're Kevin Schwantz. By all rights, today should be one of the happiest days of your life; there is a MotoGP race in Texas. Three years ago, the mere suggestion of this would be considered absurd. The track isn't some goofy "road course" inside a NASCAR oval, this is a purpose built real road course with a nice mix of corners and a very unique turn one. Kevin had a hand in designing the track. How good is it? King Kenny Roberts came here before the F1 race last year and he gave it a thumbs up. Roberts, suffice to say, does not give false praise. The track is challenging and complex--a rider's track.
I always try to fall back on what I know with certainty. I've known Kevin Schwantz for twenty years. Honestly I didn't know him that well when he rode Grand Prix; it was only after he returned to the US after he retired that I got to know him, and worked up the nerve one day to ask him to write a column for the site. In doing so I'd get to talk to him every few weeks. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that almost every time when I'd be talking to him on the phone that I'd think to myself 'Oh my God, I am talking to Kevin Schwantz.'It was a 'pinch me' moment, every time.
Sometimes, people ask why we don't edit his columns more, make them sort of fit the glossy magazine style where the first and last paragraph meet in some kind of lame pun, where every paragraph is edited and re-edited to meet the criteria of what some chin-rubber thinks a world champion should sound and write like. I never changed a word, rarely anyway. Because from my perspective, I am not qualified to re-write or edit anything written by Kevin Schwantz. It's a matter of respecting a legend. Gods don't answer letters. This is a man who was a global racing sensation, the Rossi of the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, I was chatting with Valentino one time and we were discussing 500 era riders. Rainey, Lawson, Roberts and the rest, he talked of them with his eyes dead like a carp in the sand. Then I mentioned Schwantz. "I loved Schwantz," Rossi said, saying he'd grown up with Schwantz posters in his bedroom, "because Kevin was fantastic. He was f*&king crazy."
I don't like a lot of things about this conflict between COTA and Kevin Schwantz. The thing that bothers me the most about this is how it has changed Kevin Schwantz. I could tell that the death of his friend Marco Simoncelli brought the 1993 world champion to his knees, but he recovered after some time passed. However, this COTA situation has turned a portion of Kevin Schwantz's heart dark. I can stand ten feet from him and tell that he is a different person because of this. That a man that was once so open and friendly to friends, fans and strangers now doesn't know who he can trust, what the next person who walks up to him has in store. He can't come to a racetrack 20 minutes from his Austin home. Wherever he turns he probably sees a person with the same damn question that they ask me: "how can this be?".
COTA? The notion that COTA is populated with bandits and bad people isn't true. There's a lot of good people here and they feel just as badly for Kevin as we do. They are in a difficult position because of decisions made well above them in the chain of command in Texas. Kevin has good friends who actually work here at COTA and this has got to be painful for them as well.
This will undoubtedly be a difficult day for Kevin Schwantz. He will watch the race on TV, probably less than a half an hour away from the track.
I've asked Kevin to release one of his email addresses so that on this day his many fans around the world can reach out to him, if they wish, and give him some support.
You can e-mail Kevin Schwantz here if you so desire. He says he will read every one.