Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy Schaef Year!

Welcome to 2014. For most, the start of a new year for whatever reason seems to be THE time to look forward with goals and resolutions - and look back at events of the past year.

In keeping with that tradition, how about a tour through some of the fun times had by the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor over the last six months of 2013.

TMC, Bruton and his brother extended the 4th of July holiday into a long weekend with a 2-day trip to Daytona Beach and back for the Coke Zero 400. The summer race was my first at Daytona since 1992 and my first at the track since the 1997 Daytona 500.

In preparation for the long ride there, we all agreed it was going to be a great trip where Schaefer would be enjoyed - once we arrived of course.

We crafted our own sort of public service announcement with a warning not to drink and drive - or else.

But since we were drinking and racing, the PSA really didn't apply to us.

Bruton and I did our best to proudly represent the Schaefer Hall of Fame - though there were plenty of empties around us - seats and cans at our feet. We never did quite figure out Roxy's deal, and we're pretty sure her significant other was thinking "Never ever will I order a race date from Craigslist again."

I switched over to Schaefer Light because I was trying to maintain my figure: round.

In August, SHOFer Kuzzin Kari traveled to Groton, Connecticut and eye-spied Schaefer at a convenience store. Incredibly, however, beer isn't sold on Sundays there. She had to pull back a curtain to snap the pic, but she couldn't walk out with a 12-pack in her hand. Madness!

Having relocated the Cleveland, Ohio SHOF chapter to south Florida, SHOFer Uncle Dave is clearly hating life amongst the sun and surf. Life truly has taken a turn for the worse when you get to wear cargo shorts year-round and catch a nice hug from a roller derby chickie. We feel for ya Uncle D.

SHOFers Paduch and The Rev took in the final Cup race of the "regular season" at Richmond in September. They Schaefervangelized many at the track. Within a matter of a few sips, they had many Schaefer noobs proudly declaring the SHOF slogan: Hey, its not that bad!

On September 22nd in the Sylvania 300 at Loudon, Matt Kenseth became only the second NASCAR Grand National / Cup driver to win in his 500th start.
  • The first? King Richard Petty. 
  • The race? Yep, the 1970 Schaefer 300 in Trenton, NJ.
Also in September, SHOF co-founder Philly attended his annual White Trash Weekend near Athens, Georgia. He talked Brad Keselowski into giving up a Miller Lite for a Schaefer. Hey, ITS A JOKE! OK? C'monnn mannn.

He also got to take in the Georgia Bulldogs vs. South Carolina game - much to the disdain of fellow SHOFer and Dawg-For-Life Rookie who couldn't attend.

In late September, TMC made a work... err, leisure... yeah, work visit to Phoenix. Ya know, to get acclimated to the weather and all for a November race trip with the SHOF...and to get some work done.

The Schaefer Hall of Fame hit the big time on the small screen in October. The SHOF was included in a FOX Sports South episode spotlighting the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. FSS used footage of the SHOF tailgating experience recorded in May 2012.

SHOFers Philly and Cuba hosted the tailgating festivities at Charlotte for the fall race, and they ended up expanding the Schaefer Ring of Honor to another country and a U.S. territory!

T-Mart, son Squirt and others in their family traveled from Australia mate to spend an extended holiday in the States. While here, they went to races in Dover and Charlotte. Naturally, they are Marcos Ambrose fans - and now T-Mart is a Schaefer fan and in the Schaefer Ring of Honor and chairman of the Australian Chapter.

He fit right in with other blokes from the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor.

North Carolinian by way of Puerto Rico, Big Mo, and friend Nelson (who needs a nickname) happened upon the Schaefer festivities and affirmed Puerto Rico's love for Schaefer. Big Mo now oversees the Schaefer Ring of Honor Puerto Rico Chapter. With his size, I believe his leadership will go unchallenged.
Cerveza Schaefer, es la mejor cuando se toma mas de una
Schaefer beer is best when you drink more than one

As 2013 hit turn four in October, Bruton headed back to the beaches of central Florida for fall break. Ormond Beach was once packed with daredevils looking to set speed records on the packed sand. Today, its a relaxing locale to savor a cold Schaefer.

Or perhaps a Schaefer Light if the sun's rays get a might too warm.

Being a lifelong, die-hard Petty fan, Bruton couldn't resist the opportunity to have his pic made with a Schaefer alongside the King's car number and current manufacturer choice, Ford. That is until the proprietor of this froo-froo dining establishment yelled the business equivalent of "Hey kid, get off my lawn!" (Not really - but it sure would have made the photo-op a lot funnier.)

I'm not exactly sure the message Philly was trying to convey with this can of Schaefer. But it was Halloween, and Philly had likely enjoyed a prodigious amount of Schaefer. So message received: loud and obscure.

And then came November. Four Horsemen of the SHOF rolled into Phoenix, Arizona for a fantastic weekend of racing.

Once three of us landed, the brainstorming commenced. Our fourth would not arrive for four more hours. Our hotel would not be ready for three more hours. What to do? Where to go? Where else - a racing bar! We found Starters, a great local watering hole in Tempe who boasts J├Ągermeister as its house wine. The bar is owned by Doug and Marcia - a fun, feisty couple who wisely retired to the desert from the winters of Minnesota with a deliberate plan to open a racing-themed sports bar.

As expected, Starters doesn't serve Schaefer. So we settled for PBR and an explanation of the house rules for race day. During a race whenever the yellow flag waves, someone in the bar yells CAUTION! The house is then served their choice of a shot of J├Ąger or Fireball. We could only imagine the place on days when Bristol or Martinsville are run.

Having now understood the tradition, we were asked our preference. Before we knew it, a practice run was on. From the bar, someone yelled CAUTION!, a miniature yellow flag was displayed, and shots were set before us in addition to the PBR. The place was great fun in the limited time we were there.

Knowing we still had to rendezvous with our fourth horseman, we parted ways at Starters, said we might return, and started getting our race and beer strategy together. Our recon and intel gathering in the weeks prior to the weekend revealed Arizona had no Schaefer for us. So what do SHOFers do in such a situation? We took the Schaefer to Arizona! Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were greeted by a case of Schaefer tallboys shipped from the east. Not a single one was lost during the 2,000 mile long journey.

Next stop: Phoenix International Raceway. We were in high cotton all weekend with complimentary tickets and hot passes that ensured we could go anywhere we wanted - or at least we convinced ourselves as much.

At Friday night's truck race, SHOFer Rookie was delighted that his favorite race meal turkey legs were sold in Arizona even if Schaefer wasn't.

The Schaefer Hall of Fame shirts were sported on Sunday morning, and we invited some nice folks to enjoy a cold one with us. Marc and Robyn drove a couple of hours to take in the race. Two great folks who were relatively new to racing and brand new to Schaefer. Marc, as is his prerogative as the chairman of the newly formed Schaefer Ring of Honor Arizona Chapter, created a new slogan after trying one: Schaefer...It tastes kinda like a Coors.

I love traditional NASCAR racing in the south. But for wonderful weather, incredible scenery, and track hospitality, Phoenix ranks right up there amongst the best race trips I've ever experienced.

Following Sunday's race, there was only one logical place to go - back to Starters. We wanted to see how many folks were left after a day of racing and cautions. Turns out the place had a different vibe than we expected. Doug and Marcia had left for the evening, and most of the race crowd was gone as well. But think that stopped the Schaefer Hall of Fame? No way.

Besides, this guy from Cleveland was there. We wanted to put him in the Schaefer Ring of Honor simply based on the coolness he exuded.

As 2013 reached its end, Big Mo celebrated with a return to Puerto Rico. Though we're having a tougher time than ever finding Schaefer in the US, Big Mo let us know its still available if you just know where to look for it.

He had a full case shipped back home to North Carolina. Twenty-four TEN ounce cans - apparently the norm for beer cans in Puerto Rico. Who knew?

So now that the calendar has flipped to January, may you have a Schaefer-filled 2014.

If you've made it this far - and are a fellow fan of Schaefer - and know where to buy it - please email me at toomuchcountry (at) gmail (dot) com. Its more challenging than ever to find Schaefer these days, and the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor will appreciate every available tip available to restock our supply.

Now if only this winter weather would quickly end, I'll return to wearing my pink Schaefer thong.


Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29, 1981: Petty 3 of 4 at Phoenix

Having completed the Winston Cup season's final race at Riverside International Raceway's road course, most teams returned south. Bobby Allison celebrated his race victory, and Darrell Waltrip's Junior Johnson team likely had serious morning headaches for a few days after the Mountain Dew team won the 1981 championship.

A few teams, however, made a side trip on the way home. Richard and Kyle Petty and representatives from the Alabama Gang - Bobby Allison and Neil Bonnett - stayed over a few days out west to participate in the Warner Hodgdon 250 Winston West race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Bonnett won the pole for the race - his second in seven Winston West races at the track from 1977 through 1982. Not surprisingly, Bonnett along with Richard Petty and Allison had the most success in the string of annual races during that period. Petty had three wins in the six Phoenix races he ran. Bonnett and Allison each had a win in the seven races they ran, and both finished in the top 5 all seven times.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
When the green dropped, Neil took advantage of his top starting spot by leading the first 33 laps. He surrendered the lead for a handful of laps - presumably during a cycle of pit stops. But soon after, Bonnett's #21 Ford - coincidentally also sponsored by Warner Hodgdon - went back to the point for another 34-lap segment.

After Kyle Petty led for 2 laps - again likely because of a Bonnett pit stop - Neil took the lead for a third time to lead for 17 laps. On lap 94, however, King Richard who had been running with Bonnett all day took the lead and never gave it back. The 43 STP Buick led the final 63 laps to take the win in the 156-lap, 250-kilometer race.

The victory was the King's third in four races at Phoenix having won previously the 1978 Arizona NAPA 250 and 1980 Arizona Winston 250. He led the most laps but finished third to Bonnett in the 1979 race - otherwise, he could have possibly "four-peated".

Although Richard won the race and Cup regulars claimed the top four spots - Richard, Neil, Kyle and Bobby - there was still the "race within the race". Canadian Roy Smith finished sixth in the race and secured the 1981 Winston West series title.

The win capped a pretty nice year for Petty as victories for him became more scarce as he chased #200. He started the year by capturing his seventh Daytona 500, won his final career short-track race at North Wilkesboro, pocketed another win at Michigan, and picked up some walking-around money by free-lancing at Phoenix.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26, 1978 - The desert ends the drought

Richard Petty won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona on July 4, 1977. The win was his 5th victory of the season, it was his 185th overall, and he was challenging Cale Yarborough in pursuit of his 7th NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National title.

Instead of the Big Mo' continuing, it just stopped. The 43 accumulated up a few more top 5s, poles were won at Wilkesboro and Ontario, and Petty finished second in points to Cale - though the chasm between first and second was huge. But after Daytona, Petty couldn't find victory lane the remainder of the season in his venerable 1974 Dodge Charger.

When the 1978 season began, Petty Enterprises had to mothball the beautiful Charger and trot out the sled-like Dodge Magnum.

Compared to Petty's historical norms, the car was underwhelming to put it mildly. Petty's losing streak grew - finally hitting one year at the 1978 Firecracker. A few weeks later, the announcement was made that Mopar was out and Chevy was in. Playing from behind, Petty Enterprises acquired a couple of Monte Carlos and then began building their own.

Yet the losing streak continued. In the next-to-last race of the season, the crowd went crazy when Ol' Blue took the checkered flag. Petty nipped Dave Marcis at the line to take the win ... or so it seemed. Donnie Allison, however, was ruled ahead of both cars and awarded the win.

Petty extended his losing streak with a dismal 34th place finish in the season-ending race at Ontario the following week. The King's winless 1978 season was his first ... since 1959! But the King had another racing obligation before calling it a year. On the way back from Ontario, Petty and a few other Cup regulars elected to participate in the Arizona NAPA 250 Winston West event at Phoenix International Raceway as some had done the year before.

Though he lost an engine and finished 34th at Ontario, the Petty crew installed a fresh one for Phoenix. In his first time on the track, Petty won the pole. Fellow Cup ringers Neil Bonnett and Bobby Allison started second and third. Winston West regular Bill Schmitt timed 4th in his Old Milwaukee Oldsmobile.

When the green flag flew, Petty began his domination of the race. He led the first 36 laps, the final 25 circuits, and 48 others in the middle for a total of 109 of the race's 156-laps, 250 kilometers distance.

The big guns are shown here working traffic as they come out of what I think is turn 4 - at the base of what is known as Rattlesnake Hill. Petty is followed by Bonnett in the Armor All Monte Carlo. Allison is behind Bonnett in his #1 AMC Matador racing alongside Winston West regular Ray Elder in one of the albatross Dodge Magnums.

Though the victory was scored as a Winston West (now K&N Pro Series West) series race and not included as part of Petty's record 200 Cup / GN wins, at least the year-and-a-half long losing streak was over. A win - any win - helps raise the spirits and morale of a team.

The win had the likely extra bonus of putting the King in a better mood health-wise. Having suffered from stomach ulcers for some time, Petty could stand them no longer. About two weeks after his Phoenix victory, he had the needed surgery.

Source: Florence Times Daily via Google News Archive
He was able to recuperate well enough to answer the bell when the 1979 season opened at Riverside. A few weeks later with additional healing, Petty's CUP losing streak ended when he captured his sixth Daytona 500 in the legendary race in which Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecked on the final lap.