As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, our trip kicked off to a rip-snortin' start when we met The King, Richard Petty, on Thursday night. Not only did we get a photo-op but with him, but he also signed our Schaefer Racing Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary banner!
We awoke Friday morning to a pleasant, crisp, sunny, autumn morning. As SHOFer Uncle Dave prep'd us a breakfast on the grill, the rest of us enjoyed the start to the day by tag-teaming coffee and Schaefer.
I tweeted we were indeed having a great start to race weekend. SROH member (Pennsylvania chapter) Bill Combs - a descendent of the Schaefer beer family himself - replied with this classic observation:
With breakfast completed, it was time to get our garage credentials, tour the souvenir haulers, snag free swag, etc. Before doing so, we had to raise our banner to let the world know the Schaefer Hall of Fame had arrived. The banner was ceremoniously delivered by none other than Captain Schaefer himself.
Once raised, the banner was a sight to behold - especially a day later when the pleasant, sunny, autumn day turned to a cloudy, misting, wind-whipped day.
Each time we returned from the track to the camper, the SHOF banner was clearly recognizable.
When you are drinking the one beer to have when you are having more than one, its amazing how many new friends one can meet. For a moment, I thought I was standing next to Joe Gibbs.
SHOF co-founder, Philly and SROH member and weekend host, 200WINZ. My how times have changed. When the SHOF was launched two decades ago, co-founder Philly and I tent camped at races, didn't believe in sunscreen or water hydration, stayed up way too late and woke way too early. Today, we prefer nicer accommodations for our race weekends, take our laptops and search for a WiFi hotspot to multi-task.
After spending a warm Saturday morning in the Nationwide and Cup garages and a brisk afternoon taking in the Nationwide race, we had dinner, swapped racing stories, welcomed 200WINZ' son to the evening's festivities, and polished off several Schaefers (disclaimer: excluding WINZ' son). We still had Sunday's Cup race to go, and SHOFer Uncle Dave made it quite clear when his Saturday was done.
But the next morning, Dave was ready and raring to go again. He and 200WINZ were either debating our lunch menu, swapping lies, or debating who was leaving the comfortable camper to get the next round of Schaefs.
We had a good time getting to know WINZ' son Richie Lee a bit. He was celebrating his 18th birthday and his first NASCAR Cup race. The SHOF voted to give him his rookie stripe and add him to the Schaefer Ring of Honor probationary internship rolls. When he hits 21, we'll reconsider him for full Ring of Honor membership.
Our weekend credentials allowed us to tour the garage and pit areas again Sunday morning. But with the cold winds and misting rain, we just couldn't get motivated enough to go. Instead, we simply hung out until near race time. But once the ceremony of inducting Richie Lee as a Cup-race rookie and probationary Schaefer Ring of Honor intern was done, the coffee pot was empty, the sandwiches were made, and race time drew near, I really got cabin fever and was ready to head for the track.
We got to our seats as driver introductions were underway. For Saturday's Nationwide race, we could sit anywhere we wanted. For the Sunday Cup race, we were shoehorned in the middle of a row. The place had plenty of empty seats - just not in our section. But with Schaefer in our coolers, it didn't take long to make friends with fans around us.
As Philly cracked a cold one, he turned to the guy to our right and asked if he'd ever had a Schaefer. He replied with perhaps the best line the SHOF has heard. He said "Yeah, I 'member dat beeuh. I used to kick Schaefer cans from da back seat of my old man's car so I'd have a place to sit." Instantly, a bond was formed.
Interestingly, while he'd seen Schaefer and kicked the cans, he had never had one. I told him we'd trade a Schaefer for whatever he was drinking. Suddenly, he passed us TWO Labatt Blue for one Schaefer. Ka-ching!
We then started talking with our new New Jersey row mates to our left. One of them was drinking something called Sagres, a Portuguese beer. Portugeuse! At a NASCAR race! Furthermore, the can volume wasn't even a full-size beer. It contained 11.2 ounces vs. 12 ounces. Drinking the last .8 ounces of a can of brew is what separates beer pros from pretenders.
After a good bit of ribbing about their beer of choice, we also asked if they'd had a Schaefer. The father of one of the guys said he'd had it before - but not in many years. I told them - as much as it might humiliate me at a stock car race - that I'd trade a Schaef for the old man in exchange for one of their Portuguese beers. Sure enough, they offered us a two-for-one swap.
Another race in the ledger. New friends made. More folks introduced to the magic of Schaefer.
And yet, to be continued....