Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Coke 600 - Getting the itch

One month from tonight - May 30, 2010 - the green flag will unfurl on the 2010 Coca-Cola 600 at the re-renamed:

I realize most folks caved and for many years called the track by its now-gone hardware store name. But for me, its always been just "Charlotte".

If the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be at the 600 for the fifth time in six years. It'll be my seventh 600 and my ninth Charlotte race overall with visits to the fall race in 1992 and 1993.

My first 600 was in 1994 when Jeff Gordon won his first career Cup race. Look at about the 2:17 mark. Right in the center of the picture. Did you see me? I was the one booing.

For my first two or three 600s, my friend and I didn't get to do much tailgating. Oh, we had the celebratory Schaefer - no question. But we didn't take the time to do the full set-up.

That all changed about five years for me. We hooked up with a great crowd of folks from all over the place. Though I barely know any of them and only see them once per year, we always easily fall right back into having a great time.

So what do our plans look like? Maybe a bit like this:


Listening to NASCAR stories and some purty-good original songs by syndicated NASCAR writer, Monte Dutton...

Nationwide race after lunch...

After the Nationwide race when the sun goes down? Well, Charlotte isn't Vegas. But in this case, what happens at the track will stay at the track.


Super-competitive, no-holds-barred, knock-down-drag-out, steel-cage-match cornhole tournament...

Indy 500 on tailgating TV (just happened to think...when Danica falls out early ya reckon she'll make a beeline for Charlotte to see how the Cup guys git 'r done?)

Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race...

The racing, story swapping, song singing, back slapping, and food eating are all critical elements of a top-shelf race weekend. And the reunion of the Schaefer Hall of Fame members is always a highlight of my visit. To complement all of the festivities, however, its a must-do to break out all the Schaefer swag including but not limited to...

Inflatable cans!

Schaefer koozies!

The race debut of the custom-painted, die-cast, Schaefer Buick of Al Loquasto built by the GaPettyFan!

The well-traveled, much-autographed, Schaefer ring of honor sign!

And the brew itself? Absolutely. Whadda have? Fully loaded? Or light on the calories?

And you better believe it'll be flowing freely. One of our HOFers has hit the jackpot in landing a Schaefer gold mine connection.

After cobbling this thing together, I'm jacked up and ready to roll! Can we head to the track right now?


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 28, 1995 - The arrival

Fifteen years ago, a pretty amazing, prideful, humbling, and scary event occurred - the birth of my son. From a blogging perspective, I generally refer to him these days as toomuchtexting.

I still vividly remember the nurse weighing and measuring the future TMT in the Chattanooga, TN hospital where he was born. Those key metrics every mom can't wait to hear (after hearing "ten fingers and ten toes") were captured in this cross stitch craft my wife did.

My wife is no race fan. She gave it a valiant effort by attending three races - one at Talladega and two at Atlanta. But I didn't convince her to join the legion of fans. Plus, on April 28, 1995, she had just delivered her first child. So I guess I shouldn't be altogether surprised - even to this day - when she shot me first a stunned and then an angry look as I exclaimed to the nurse: "Hey! Did you just say 7 lbs, 11 oz and 21 inches? That used to be Kyle Petty's sponsor and car number. That's awesome!"

Unimpressed doesn't even begin to describe her mood as I naively endorsed the results from the scales and tape measure.

To date, I suppose her attitude towards racing has prevailed in his rearing. Despite my passion for racing, he doesn't particularly care much for it. He did stop by the TV briefly Sunday as he saw three columns of thundering cars during the Talladega race. That stunned him a bit watching it.

So maybe there is a possibility yet he'll climb aboard. Keep hope alive, and I love the little rascal more than ever before.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review: He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back

Good racing books and good racing movies are in short supply. Great racing books are even more rare. Links to my favorite racing books have been available since day 1 of this blog. Until about a couple of months ago, the list was static. But I recently added a new one - Mark Bechtel's He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back.

Many who have followed NASCAR for a long time often claim 1992 is still the most memorable Cup season. It included a tight points battle between Davey Allison, Bill Elliott, and Alan Kulwicki; Richard Petty's last season; Jeff Gordon's debut; The Winston's One Hot Night finish; etc. The late David Poole from the Charlotte Observor wrote a fantastic, now out-of-print book about that lauded 1992 season.

In Bechtel's book, however, he presents a very compelling case for the 1979 Cup season to at least be in the discussion. After reading his book, I have to admit its tough to debate 1979 isn't #1 or at least #1A.

Without giving too many of the neat stories away form the book, consider some of the historical facts from that season:
  • Cale Yarborough was attempting to win a 4th straight championship driving for Junior Johnson.
  • Richard Petty's driving future was uncertain. His winless streak extended from mid-1977 through all of 1978. In addition, he had surgery for stomach ulcers in the 78-79 offseason. No one was quite sure what to expect from the King as the 1979 season opened at Riverside in January.
  • Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough wrecked on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Richard Petty passed them both and ended his winless streak.
  • CBS Sports was there to cover the famed finish.
  • Kyle Petty debuted as a race driver in the Daytona ARCA 200 ... and won!
  • David Pearson's unbelievable run in the Wood Brothers Purolator Mercury from the early 1970s through 1978 came to an abrupt end after a pit miscue at Darlington.
  • Ralph Earnhardt's boy, Dale, showed up with a mop of unkempt hair as a rookie in 1979. It didn't take him long to tell the veterans who he was.
  • Franklin, TN's Darrell Waltrip had finally arrived. He said he came to Cup to not only beat Richard Petty but to knock the King off his throne. As the season wound down, it looked like his rhetoric may become reality. In the end, however, the King rose like a Phoenix, pocketed five wins and the championship.
  • The King and DW battled like two heavyweights in the spring Darlington race. They passed each other multiple times in the last few laps - including passes in places on the track where it simply can't be done. Waltrip won the battle and got a nice trophy that day, but in the end it was the King who won the war.
  • ESPN was not yet a household, cable network. The Daytona 500 was the first big-time NASCAR race shown in its entirety.
I thought I had a pretty good inventory of trivia in my noggin and scrapbooks about the 1979 season. But this book included many anecdotes I'd never heard before.

Because many of the stories were fresh to me and based in part with interviews with varying drivers, owners, promoters, etc., Bechtel could have made an error without my knowing it. However, the only obvious one I spotted was his reference to Holly Farms Chicken as Cale Yarborough's sponsor in 1979. As many times as the Daytona 500 last lap wreck has been replayed, you'd think he and his editors would automatically remember Busch beer as Cale's sponsor. Otherwise, the book is well researched and well written.

Top honors in my book! A full 6 pack of Schaefer for He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Schaefer Shuttle launch

The oft-mentioned, self-created NASCAR Schaefer Hall of Fame has 5 members:
  • One in Charlotte NC
  • One in Wilmington NC
  • One in High Point NC
  • One in Cleveland OH
  • and yours truly.
Uncle D is the most recent inductee into the HOF. His induction ceremony was at the Coca-Cola 600 in May 2009. While not a huge beer drinker and not even my own uncle, he is a fervent supporter of the HOF, always enjoys the ceremonial Schaefer brew at each race weekend we gather, and is a great ambassador for the Schaefer tradition.

Earlier this week, he raised the bar for the rest of us. He and his nephew-in-law made the road trip from Cleveland to Cape Kennedy, FL to not only witness the launch of the space shuttle Discovery but also to commemorate the occasion with a Schaefer.

Of course, what would a road trip be without quality side trips. After a a brief stop at a fellow HOFer's house in Charlotte, they were on their way.

First stop: Old school. Rockingham in the sand hills of North Carolina. To paraphrase former boxer Larry Holmes, California Speedway couldn't carry The Rock's jockstrap.

After a Schaefer and a photo op, it was back in the truck and on to the next destination: Darlington. Uncle D told the ticket office folks what he wanted to do. They told him the track wasn't open for tours. They also advised him, however, the Buck Baker Driving School was open. So he thought it was worth a shot to schmooze them to see if he could pull it off. Success!

Because they were already in the neighborhood, the war cry of "why not?" sounded. So off to the Buck Baker school for a short run. (Notice the absence of Schaefer in the following photo. Even Uncle D knows you'll run a'foul the law if you drink and drive a (race) car. Take note of that kids.)

After what I'm sure what was a rush to drive around the lady in black, Uncle D got back in his Chevy and headed way Daytona Beach!

He was there...almost. Just a short hop, skip, and jump to the Cape. And he still needed to make sure the Schaefer made it to the viewing area with him. He did a dry run the day before the launch. He met a security guy and explained the Schaefer tradition. Upon hearing it, the guard laughed and started singing the Schaefer commerical jingle:

Schaefer... is the... one beer to have
When you're having more than one

Uncle D told him he wanted the photo op at the launch. He was greeted with a smile and the OK to get the shot.

So at 6:21 AM EDT on April 9, 2010, Uncle D took the Schaefer HOF tradition to new heights by having Schaefer photographed 3 seconds into the successful launch of STS-131 Discovery.

The column of smoke in the following photo is 20 seconds into the launch. While Uncle D didn't tell me any particulars about the picture, I'm hoping he was swilling that well-traveled beer after such a tremendous job-well-done.

Sal-OOT Uncle D! you could maybe get one of the astronauts to smuggle one into space for us? Maybe give it a spin or two in zero-gravity? Think about it.