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Did IndyCar Break Up Motley Crue?
On February 14, 1992, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx issued a press release ousting Vince Neil from Motley Crue contending that:
"Race car driving has become a priority in Neil's life, and he's dediciated much of his time and energy to it. The Crue's relationship to VInce began to deteriorate because his band-mates felt that he didn't share their determination and passion for music."
The race car driving that the band was referring to--and the alleged cause of Motley Crue's infamous break-up--was Neil's participating in the IndyCar Lights Series. This, and Neil's standing offer to kick the shit out of Axel Rose at The Staples Center for all to see, is just one of the new Motley Crue factoids I learned while reading Neil's autobiography Tattoos & Tequila.
Like most professional race car drivers, Neil started out karting. After receiving a gift certificate to the Skip Barber Racing School at Sebring International Raceway and running the Formula Fords there, Neil was hooked on speed. When someone suggested racing Indy Lights to him he eventually became co-owner of the P.I.G. Racing Team with Eddie Chiva, an ex-Formular One driver, fielding the No. 69 entry (natch) under ironic "Say No To Drugs" sponsorship.
With a lighter post-Valentine's day schedule, in 1992, Neil participated in four Indy Lights races (Long Beach [DNF], Milwaukee [10th], Phoenix [12th] and Portland [DNF]) earning $6,900 during the course of his short-lived racing career.
In Tattoos & Tequila, Neil explains how, at Long Beach, he came to be driving down Shoreline Drive without any downforce. After getting loose and losing the rear wing in the first lap, Neil enthusiastically, stubbornly and naively attempted to defy the laws of physics and gravity on the second lap.
"So I pulled in the pits. And my crew chief is like 'You're done. You can't drive without the wing and we can't replace it here.' And I said, 'Well, fuck it, just take it off, I'll keep going.' And they were like 'The car is going to be loose out there,' meaning it wouldn't have good traction. But I decided to do it anyway. It's hard to argue with a rock star who wants his own way," he wrote.
Neil didn't have it his own way for very long or far. He barely made it down the straightaway and into third when the car spun out.
Sadly, Long Beach is also the venue where Neil first learned that his four year-old daughter, Skylar, was gravely ill. Having finished second in the 1995 Pro/Celebrity Race, Neil was in a nearby hotel celebrating his podium finish when his ex-wife had him paged and told him that Skylar was in the hospital. A cancer diagnosis followed, and after a brave battle, Skylar passed away later that year. Today, he hosts an annual golf tourneyment (http://www.skylarneil.org/golf/) to honor her life and memory.
For a brief time, Neil enjoyed the adrenaline rush and life that the Indy Lights circuit provided, but reality eventually gave way.
Acnknowleding that professional racing is a full-time occupation and commenting on the end of his racing career Neil has said, "That was a blast. That was a lot of fun. But the thing about racing is that you really have to be in the seat every day and drive constantly, and I just ran out of time. I'm glad I did it and wish I could have done more, but it's either spend a lot of money from driving or make some money singing in the band, [but] you couldn't do both."
Motley Crue eventually reunited after surrending to the understanding that the John Corabi experiment had gone terribly awry and that the sum of its parts had more financial worth than the individual pieces (something the IRL and CART learned years later) . To this day, the band still disagrees over what or who caused their split in 1992 and Neil repeatedly makes it clear in his book that animosity still plagues the quartet.
Neil, a longtime resident of Las Vegas (who can frequently be found on Sundays at the Red Rock's Race and Sports Book during football season), will be on tour all summer with Motley Crue, Poison and the New York Dolls.
Assuming his schedule is open, and in light of his Indy Lights participation, it would be fitting to invite him out to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16 for the IZOD IndyCar World Championship. How about it, Randy?
Check out this vintage MTV coverage of Vince's Indy Lights days in which he likens Unser and Andretti to Robert Plant and Mick Jagger and stresses over sponsorship and a busted gearbox. It's surreal to hear the announcer saying, "And Vince Neil has gotten back to speed...."