Earlier today we had the distinct privilege of doing a live Q&A with Skip Barber, a motorsports legend whose very name is synonymous with speed. It was awesome. He was an absolute gentleman and gracious with his time.

Skip not only answered our questions, he also took the time to drop some knowledge about why the school of life can be better than any fancy diploma:

Going to college wasnt right for me, I had gotten a big scholarship to Harvard and I really had to go but I wasnt interested. All I cared about was cars and driving out to Wellesley (girls college) and by the end of my junior year they kind of had enough of me. They negotiated my departure ‘cause I never went to class and I had horrible grades. I spend the next year in the Merchant Marines. and that was really great for me.

He added, and this is where it gets fun:

Freshman year, the first day we were there, they bundled us all together and some dean said, you guys should all join the army or get a job. And he was right in my case, but I didnt take his advice. It turned out ironically that I loved my year in teh merchant marines and I probably learned more than in the preious three years. I certainly learned more about business, as I went into the beer business. It was a little complicated because the captain was a member of AA. But he turned the other way and I got so proficient at it that when the worlds largest tanker would arrive in Texas (presumably) the first truck that would meet the ship would be a beer delivery truck. And I spent all the time that the other guys were partying (at whore houses) loading beer up the gangway. I bartered with the cooks for use of their freezer and I learned a lot about business. The only mistake I made was I had a lot of accounts receivable when I got off the ship. to the credit of what a good bunch of people were in that crew, I was still getting small checks a couple of years later. I used the money I made from that year, along with a loan from Harvard, to buy my first race car. I was more serious when I went back and did well in my last year.

You asked about English, majoring in English. Majors were more general then and you could pick the courses you were really interested ina nd then work backwards and then find a major they fit. I had no interest in writing, I worked backwards.

That’s a great story.

Mr. Barber, it is my distinct honor to present you with today’s Comment of the Day award. You’re welcome back here any time you please.


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.