I first started attending races at Nashville's fairgrounds speedway in late 1974. My family became regulars in 1975, and we attended pretty often until around 1980.
Every Saturday night, the track gave away a boy's and a girl's bike. I never did win one of those things even though I sat on the edge of my seat awaiting the names to be drawn.
We invited two of our friends to go with us one Friday night in July 1977. The Winston Cuppers were in town for the Nashville 420. I didn't get to go to the 420 Cup race, but we did go to watch the Cup guys qualify on Friday night along with the local boys who ran their late model, limited sportsman, and mini-stock features. Incredibly, one of the friends who went with us won the bike - on his first visit! That stroke of luck and the memory of the evening has stayed with me for many, many years.
What I don't recall was I apparently suggested to my friend he become a full-fledged race fan and even join the Richard Petty Fan Club. Because I was a member in good standing, I figured EVERYONE ought to be too.
Unbeknownst to me, he apparently did join. I haven't seen him in about 25 years. However, his parents and my parents - who have been friends for about as long as I've been alive - do see each other from time to time. They visited over the Christmas weekend, and the friend from years ago was in town to join them.
My mother said she reminded him of the bike story - including the resentment and bitterness I harbored for a while that a "rookie" could win the bike. He then told her he not only joined the Richard Petty fan club back then at my suggestion - but that he also still had his membership card! He never developed into a race fan, but he had an affinity for fast cars like almost all red-blooded American males. In recent years, he dropped hints to his wife that he'd like to test drive a race car one day. For this year's Christmas present to him, she bought him a ride-a-long to the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Orlando.
He was pleasantly surprised to get the gift, and he told my mother he plans to take along his old fan club membership card in his wallet when he goes!
I've still got a couple of my cards from back in the day - including this one for the 1979 championship-winning season.
Goes to show you the power of The King.