No one could ever forget Gene Simmons’ iconic I Am Indy promo song for the 2007 IndyCar season, but lost to the annals of time is the fact that another 1980s hair metal legend also had some ties with the American open-wheel scene. Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil did, in fact, have a brief stint as a part-time race car driver in the 1992 Indy Lights season.
A friend mentioned this mind-blowing fact to me last night, and it genuinely kept me up at night, much to my husband’s dismay (“Literally everyone who gave a fuck about open-wheel back then knew this. Everyone,” he told me, as if he was not a tiny baby fresh from the womb at the time and therefore would not know what it was personally like).
Back in 1984, Neil was convicted of vehicular manslaughter after killing Razzle Dingley, drummer of the band Hanoi Rocks, while crashing head-on into another car while driving drunk. While he did admittedly get the rich person treatment of a mere thirty days in jail alongside $US2.6 ($4) million in lawsuits, it still serves as a pretty dark mark on the singer’s record.
But by the time he made his racing debut at Phoenix International Raceway on April 4, 1992, Neil was clean and sober (yes, the first race track they sent this man out on was a goddamn oval). Jim Kofakis, vice president for the sanctioning body in charge of Indy Lights, assured everyone that Neil has passed all the requisite medical examinations and drug tests and would have to pass plenty more random tests throughout the season.
But Neil made damn sure no one could think him the coked-out star he was just mere years ago. His P.I.G. Racing car was sponsored by Say No To Drugs, according to Racing Reference. But, just so no one could forget the crass cheekiness that hair metal artists were known for, his car number was #69. (Nice.)
Neil started four races (Phoenix, Long Beach, Portland, and Milwaukee) in 1992 and finished three. With a best finish of tenth in Milwaukee, Neil took home five points at the end of the season, which saw him finish 23rd overall in the final championship standings. He earned a total of $US6,900 ($10,099) (nice) and called it quits.
What blows my mind most about this whole thing is the fact that I spent most of high school being a massive Crüe fan. I read all the autobiographies, listened to all the music (yes, even Generation Swine), and even dressed up as Vince Neil for Halloween in like 2011. Somehow I remained entirely oblivious to the fact that my two main interests—race cars and hair metal—had actually briefly intertwined.
So, for all of you out there who had no idea this brief moment in motorsport had happened—now you know.