Monday, January 4, 2016

The 2015 Schaefer HOF Year In Review

With five decades now notched on my belt, I truly am amazed at just how quickly time flies - especially when fun times are involved.

The good-time-havers of the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor once again enjoyed themselves over the past twelve months - especially when racing and/or Schaefer were involved.

The SHOF and SROH reconvened at their general base of operations - Charlotte Motor Speedway. Much fun, food, frivolity and Schaefer were enjoyed at the 23rd Anniversary of the Schaefer HOF and Ring Of Honor Schindig Schelebration.


This year, a banner with a newly designed logo was debuted (big shout-out to Barry Cantrell of Short Track Spotlight for the design).

Though headgear is optional on race weekends, Rookie (SHOFer #4) and I decided to don some. Rookie went with the sideburns style while I opted for more of the feathered look.

The SHOF was represented each night of the long weekend. First, we enjoyed Thursday night qualifying from the posh confines of The Speedway Club. Friday night, it was time to get down and dirty at The Dirt Track with the World Of Outlaws sprint cars.

As we cracked our ceremonial first Schaefer of the evening, a fan behind us asked with glee "Is that actually a Schaefer? I've heard of it but never had one." One was passed to him without hesitation, and an immediate friendship was formed. As he savored his, another random guy walked down the stairs and exclaimed "Damn! Is that a Schaefer??" The timing could not have been more perfect.

The weather was spectacular for the next two days of racing and Schaefering. As we readied for the Hisense 300 Xfinity race, Rookie took the time to hit the links. Well, actually he only popped one golf ball - but it was off a Schaefer can tee. Good form!

Though we had a good time Thursday through Saturday, the official day of the Schaefer Schelebration is Sunday - the day of the Coca-Cola 600 Cup race.

Kuzzin Kari (SHOF #8) and SROH member Kristi returned and brought a friend with them. Karissa reminded us she'd first schelebrated with us back in 2008. Was good to have her back with us.

"Mule" was chosen to be a member of the Schaefer Ring of Honor in 2010; however, she made her racing debut in May 2015. She definitely earned her way into the SROH by first enjoying Schaefer five years ago and now hauling multiple cases from Ohio to North Carolina a couple of times per year.

Woodhead, a 2015 Schaefer Ring of Honor inductee, couldn't join the party in Charlotte in 2015 as he and some buds were traveling abroad. So he created his own schelebration and texted us a pic of the results - from Pisa, Italy!
In preparation for the 600, one can count on Rookie to accomplish three things:
  • Go all in on the annual cornhole tournament. (And yes, *sigh* his team won ... again.)
  • Rip a celebratory WHOOOO as he cracks his first track side Schaefer, and
  • Gnaw on a greasy, grilled turkey leg.
Finally, with the son setting, cheers!, and the dull clink of aluminum cans amongst the Schaefer drinkers, it was time to utter those four famous words: Let's go racing boys!


For the next summer holiday, representatives from the SHOF made the trek to Daytona Beach, Florida on the 4th of July for the July 5th Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The trip involved rain, a rookie, wrecks, mayhem ... and Schaefer.

I personally never attended a race where Richard Petty won. Nor have I been at a race where the 43 won in the few times it has since the King stopped driving. But it was awfully neat to buy a race program where the Petty team was featured on the cover based on Aric Almirola's win in the race in 2014.

The weekend began with a visit to Racing's North Turn restaurant (web | Twitter). The food, service and fun were fantastic. But more symbolically for us, the place sits on what was once the north turn of the old beach and road course that preceded Daytona's superspeedway.

On race day, Woodhead became the first second-generation member of the Schaefer Ring of Honor. He has attended several races in recent years and was even involved in race preparations with his dad, SHOF co-founder Philly, in the years before he joined us on race day.

Late in the afternoon, showers arrived. It became clear the race would not start as scheduled, and we sought a place to hang out until a decision was made about the race. Fortunately, a picnic pavilion was spotted at a nearby business. The location was perfect to spend the next several hours waiting out the rain and track drying efforts.

As Twitter updates indicated the race was on, we lumbered towards the track as the clock neared midnight. The SROH noobie - who was also a Daytona rookie - definitely enjoyed his evening with Schaefer and racing.

After a few hours of spectacular racing, the evening ended with a sobering accident. Austin Dillon's trip into the catch fence was one of the most breathtaking accidents I've ever witnessed. Fortunately, he wasn't injured - nor were folks in the stands seriously injured.


When the 2015 Cup schedule was released, the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway was slotted for a return to its rightful place: Labor Day weekend. My immediate goal was to hit all three summer holiday races at Charlotte, Daytona and Darlington. As it turned out, I was able to hit only the first two. But I'm proud to say SHOF co-founder Philly hit all three - although he attended Schaeferless.

September also took the SHOF on its first trip as a group to Chicago. The double-header included a Chicago Cubs v. St. Louis Cardinals game on Saturday and the Cup race on Sunday.

Knowing Schaefer would be in short supply, our chosen brand was a predictable one. But hey, it's Chicago!

Shortly after landing and making a B-double E-double R-U-N, Philly announced he was hungry for lunch. Sometimes random selections on Google Maps can be a home run. Other times the suggestions can be sketchy. In our case, it was both!

Double J Sports Bar (web | Twitter) sounded like a reasonable place. Sports bars in general are predictable, right? Burgers, chicken tenders, nachos, a club sandwich, big label brews, etc. Easy in and out. But Double J was indeed special. The place included a liquor store on the right side and a bar no wider than a Waffle House on the left.

It was clear walking in that we weren't part of the regular crowd. Yet the staff and regulars welcomed us, and a good time was had as we talked about our plans for race weekend. After enjoying a bucket of PBR, no food, and some friendly convo, we were given four free tickets to the truck race that night!

After finishing the bucket and having unexpected tickets in hand, a reality set in. We were still hungry! The staff directed us to a place down the road to finally get some much needed food. Then it was off to the track for a tour through the garage and the truck race. Except...

The truck race was not to be. Shortly after getting our passes and making one quick stroll through the garage, the skies unleashed torrents of rain accompanied with plenty of nearby thunder and lightning. We slogged our way back to the car and debated how we planned to dry our shoes for the next two days of fun.

As the day broke Saturday morning, the rains were gone and the sun was bright. The experience at Wrigley Field was everything we could have wanted and more. Bleacher seats, cold Old Style, and a popular win by the home team over their long-time rival.

Following the afternoon game, it was time to experience a nearby establishment. Dueling pianos and a post-game buzz put a smile on all our faces.

Sunday was RACE DAY at Chicagoland Speedway. Though activities were far more hectic on Sunday morning vs. Friday afternoon, the rush was all the same.

The garage area is not a place to be loopy. Keeping your head clear and on a swivel is imperative as so much movement takes place with crews and their cars.

But once in the stands, it's game on.

Though Schaefer wasn't sold in Chicago, it doesn't mean it wasn't available. Some careful planning and packing allowed me to provide an adequate supply to my fellow SHOFers.


The SHOF and SROH returned to Charlotte for October's Bank Of America 500. Philly hosted the festivities on Saturday with yep, another day of rain on a 2015 race weekend. A couple of fellas from the state of Maine joined in with the fun. I'm pretty sure we haven't raced with folks from Maine since a trip to Loudon in 2005.

Though I'm sure Philly formally introduced himself to his new friends, they could be forgiven if they left thinking his name was Kenny.

As with Chicago, Sunday was a much better day for racing than earlier in the weekend. The SHOF and SROH went from coats to t-shirts.

They even took the time to give a shout-out to the SHOF's home away from home in Tempe, Arizona - Starters Sports Bar. If you find yourself in Phoenix on any race weekend, be sure to pay Starters a visit. Be prepared, however, as each race caution brings a shot of Fireball to each customer.


Schaefer's roots are in Brooklyn, NY. The original brewery is long gone, and the replacement plant now brews Sam Adams Boston Lager. Yet, a few places in NYC still sell Schaefer - though they're getting tougher to find. One such place I found in November was is The Liberty NYC on West 35th Street - somewhat between the Empire State Building and Penn Station.

Finding myself in Indianapolis in November with a good bit of downtime, I opted for a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum. My last visit (and only other visit) to the famed speedway was 20 years ago for the second running of the Brickyard 400. I had a genuinely great time soaking in the history, seeing the yard of bricks, and giving a nod to the overall experience with a ceremonial Schaefer.

So as the calendar now turns to 2016, it will soon be time yet again for the SHOF and SROH to coordinate its good-times plans for the year - as well as to simply enjoy them as they randomly present themselves.


1 comment: