Driven to Fail Podcast #7: The 200-mph psychologist


How much can you learn from teaching someone? If you put everything on the line and nearly lost it, would you try again the next day? 

Earlier this year, Hagerty launched a new podcast, Driven to Fail. The show is about what happens when things go wrong—what we do when life falls apart, and what we learn by trying to put it back together. Each episode is an hour, give or take, a candid conversation with a single guest.

I’m Sam Smith, the host. You can read more about the show here.

Episode 7 begins streaming today. Our guest is Ross Bentley—a pioneering driver coach and bestselling author who nearly burned alive while trying to qualify for the Indy 500.

Ross Bentley driven to fail podcast

Bentley is a storyteller, a professional listener, a Canadian, a writer, a teacher, and a man who makes his living by studying the human condition under pressure. Much of his year is spent on the road, coaching elite-name drivers in some of the most competitive environments on earth. His Speed Secrets books, first published in the 1990s, reimagined the mental side of motorsport without losing focus on the gritty mechanics of fast driving.

In short, an interesting guy. He also owns an old Lotus Elan, which means he is full to brim with brave patience. Smith’s Model Human.

Bentley lives in Washington, near Seattle. I met him several years ago while living in the area and working for another outlet. We eventually began getting together semi-regularly for coffee, in the rare weeks where our travel calendars intersected. Those conversations often began with cars and motorsport but always gravitated toward certain concepts—learning and self-improvement, and the nature of good and bad days.

In other words, the topics at the core of this show.

Why, I once asked, is this stuff so compelling? Not just racing—introspection, trying to get better?

“I don’t know,” Ross said. Then he shook his head, smiling. “Well, that’s not true—I have a few ideas. But either way, I can’t get enough.”

As a younger man, he was a BMW factory driver; he won the 24 Hours of Daytona; he won a USRRC title; he ran 25 IndyCar races over six years. He invented his current job in the wake of all that, from whole cloth.

In motorsport circles, Ross is lightly famous. Several years ago, as I was standing on the wall at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, my friend Zack saw his name on a nearby car.

“What’s he like?”

“Easy,” I said. “Imagine a 200-mph psychologist.”

“I bet that dude is fascinating.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

Driven to Fail can be downloaded or streamed wherever you get your podcasts. This link will take you to the show’s Apple page. Its home on Spotify is here.

If faces are more your thing, a video of each episode lives on the Driven to Fail YouTube channel.

If you try our show and like it, please tell your friends. Even better, share a link or leave a positive review. A warm response will help make a second season happen, so hearing from you matters.

Barring all that, drop a line directly: I’d love your thoughts.

Thanks for listening!




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    Greatly enjoyed the Bentley episode. I still think that the Krewson episode was No. 1, but only by a whisker over Bentley. The latter was the most informative, for sure, and it’s hard to underestimate the man after you hear the Human Torch story, especially the recovery, such as it was, and the incredible effort to get back on the track. So good to hear about the Social Hour with the sponsors at the end; it’s a rare podcast or interview when you get such a rich amount of genuine human interest. (Cf. the Krewson episode.)

    Will Sam be brought back for another season? I hope so. The only quibble I can think of? I’d sack the bit of the question at the end. I’m not positive, but I think that Mr. Bentley was surprised, and not in a good way. So, ditch the “Last Question,” but for all of our sakes let Sam keep bringing the lumber. He’s a hit machine. (Sorry about the metaphor: it’s Opening Day. Go Dodgers!)

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