Last fall his father Michael Brockman — a longtime Westport, road test editor at Motor Trend Magazine, former 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans pro racer, film actor, stuntman, and owner of Mazda of Milford — died. He was 74.
Then came COVID. For Spencer — a 2018 Staples High School graduate, and like his dad, a professional driver who could no longer race — that added to his sadness.
But the racing world has gradually opened up. And Spencer has had an exceptional year.
First he was invited to join the Bryan Herta Autsports IMSA team, where he found success.
On Friday — after years of being inches from victory — Spencer and his Formula Atlantic achieved his goal.
He took 1st place at the 57th SCCA National Championships in Wisconsin — an exceptionally difficult race. Last year, he placed 3rd.
He dedicated the win to his father. Click here for a full report. (Hat tip: Ian Warburg)
Michael Brockman — a longtime Westporter, with unique interests and talents — died recently. He was 74 years old.
In the Army, he was a nuclear weapons specialist. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1975.
Michael worked as road test editor at Motor Trend Magazine. He began racing professionally in 1979, and competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans.
He went on to work as a film actor and stuntman in “Harry & Son,” “Fat Man And Little Boy” and “Road to Perdition,” among others.
After moving to Connecticut, Michael lived and worked here until his death. He was, most recently, the owner of Mazda of Milford.
Michael’s friend for 30 years, Ian Warburg, writes:
“Brock” was a legendary character. He came to live here because of his best friend and partner in crime, Paul Newman. He stayed because of his marriage to Westport native, Jennifer O’Reilly, and their children, Keleigh and Spencer. Spencer is now a noted race car driver too.
Brock was a class act through and through. A true southern gentleman with a warm heart, an easy smile and always a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Cooler than cool, this humble Florida boy packed his life with fun and adventure that took him to every corner of the globe, and had him raising jars and rubbing elbows with some of the most notable and interesting people of our times.
Michael Brockman (right) and friend.
His stories, and the telling of them, were legendary. Just ask Jack Nicholson. Or everyone who knew him, and was lucky enough to have called him their friend.
He lived a life most men might well have dreamed of, “working” as a professional race car driver, a writer for Motor Trend, an actor, a stuntman, camp counselor at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and a businessman, owning and operating Connecticut Volvo and Mazda dealerships for the better part of the last 25 years of his life.
He was a great friend to his friends, and a loving husband to his former wife, Jennifer, with whom he enjoyed a warm and caring relationship that extended beyond their run as a married couple.
More than anything he delighted in his role as the father to Keleigh and Spencer, something we often talked about over a cold Budweiser. He revolved around them with absolute joy, celebrating and supporting their dreams and wishes.
With Keleigh he shared his love of acting, and joined her as a cast member of “Blue Bloods” from time to time.
With Spencer he delighted in celebrating his “gift” for making race cars go fast — very, very fast — besting racers with more money and newer technology, and watching him stand on the podium almost every time he raced.
Michael and Spencer Brockman.
And with both he shared his love of so much, including sushi, enjoying weekly feasts as fixtures at the sushi bar at Sakura.
Brock and I got together late summer with another pal, Ian O’Malley, for what would wind up being our last beer at the Black Duck. We had a heck of a good time, raised a little hell, and traded stories and laughs, toasting to the next time we’d be together. Turns out, it won’t be at the Duck.
Until we meet again, my friend: This Bud’s for you! Cheers.
(A celebration of Michael’s life is set for Sunday, December 8, from 2 to 6 p.m. at his dealership, 915 Boston Post Road in Milford. If you plan to attend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, friends may consider a contribution in Michael’s memory to the Boggy Creek Gang Camp, 30500 Brantley Branch Rd., Eustis, FL, 32736.)
Plenty of Staples students follow their parents into the same profession. I-banking, the corporate world, arts and entertainment — it’s natural to keep doing what you’ve been brought up around.
Spencer Brockman is a race car driver. Quite a switch for a Westport kid, huh?
Spencer Brockman in action.
Not really. Spencer’s dad — Michael — raced nearly every form of car and truck from Watkins Glen to Baja. He was a teammate (and friend) of fellow Westporter Paul Newman. Michael later served as chief test driver for Motor Trend magazine. Today he owns a Volvo dealership in Milford.
But that “family business” angle isn’t the most impressive thing about this story.
It’s that Spencer is still only a freshman at Staples High School.
Spencer Brockman — or Doogie Howser?
At age 9 — just a few years ago — Spencer raced go-karts. He won the first race he was in, and was named Rookie of the Year. Now he’s moved up to full-size Formula cars.
Spencer looks like — well, a high school freshman. The kind you’d want your kid to hang out with (or date).
But his polite, cherubic demeanor grows animated as he talks about racing. “I love the adrenaline rush,” he says.
Though only 15, he already has his Sports Car Club of America license. He got it after completing a training school in California last year. He learned how to control a full-size race car.
In his case, that’s a Formula 2000, 2-liter, 4-cylinder, 210-horse vehicle. It goes 150 miles an hour.
He’s raced from New York and Atlanta to the West Coast. He’s in the middle class in his series. There are minimum ages, but no maximums. Most of his fellow racers are in their 20s. One — in his 50s — was racing loooong before Spencer was born.
None are younger than Spencer.
Spencer and Michael Brockman, in a quiet moment. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
He finished 4th in his first pro race, at Palm Beach this past February. He admits he was nervous — but he was hooked.
He won his very next time — in the rain.
“I just try to learn every track,” Spencer says. As if that explains how a 15-year-old kid from Westport can be one of the top drivers in his series, a mere 3 months after he began.
His father helps, of course, with tips. His mother “loves what I do,” Spencer says. But she does not watch him compete. (He calls her after every race.)
His friends don’t realize how difficult auto racing is. “I’m not just sitting in a car,” Spencer notes. “It’s very physical. There’s no power steering. When you’re trying to force the car into a turn at high speed, you need a lot of physical strength. And cardio.” He goes to the gym every day, paying particular attention to his neck.
Balancing schoolwork is not easy. There are weekday races, as well as weekends. “I know I have to keep my grades up. Otherwise I won’t be able to race. That would be really bad,” Spencer says.
Spencer Brockman, doing what he loves.
He’s learned plenty of non-school lessons on the track. “Focus is huge,” he says. So is sportsmanship. “Racers are really respectful. We’re all friends. But that fades once we start.”
His first bad wreck came a month ago, in Atlanta. He went into a turn too fast. The car slid badly, on wet grass. Spencer hit the tire barrier.
No biggie. His crew fixed the car, and he’s back for more.
Spencer Brockman in a racing Camaro’s driver’s seat. The car — originally co-owned by his father and Paul Newman — is now co-owned by Michael and Spencer. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
His goal is Formula 1 in Europe — the “creme de la creme,” he says. To do that, he’ll have to keep improving.
Spencer also needs sponsors. He and his dad are searching for them right now. Maybe they can hit up some i-bankers — you know, that other type of father-son duos in Westport.
(To learn more, search for “Spencer Brockman Racing” on Facebook. For sponsorship information, email email@example.com)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome, appreciated — and tax-deductible! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)