Wednesday, December 28, 2016

TMC Racing Stories: Talladega 2

The eventual co-founders of the Schaefer Hall of Fame hit Talladega for the 1991 summer race. The weekend was a return trip for me but the first Dega experience for Philly.

For the most part, my previous trips to the track served me well. We talked our way into the camping area behind turn two as I'd done before despite not having tickets in hand. On race morning, we also moved the car to just outside the camping area behind the backstretch. I'd parked in the same place for three or four races. The spot made for a pretty easy, post-race getaway after leaving the backstretch GA seats.

On this particular day, however, the spot was a bad call. We made it to the car and began a slow crawl down what was then a gravel road behind the back stretch through the throng of Talladega loonies.

As we got closer to turn three with a plan of getting to Speedway Boulevard, traffic flared to three or four makeshift - and gridlocked - lanes.

We soon realized the problem. Track officials had opened the crossover gate allowing cars and motorhomes to leave the infield. They did so with zero staff directing traffic at ground zero where the perpendicular flows of traffic intersected.

Once a couple of motorhomes eased their way through the cars, it was a bit like a procession of elephants. Several cars forced the issue by jumping between the vehicles leaving the infield. Zero progress.  

Finally, one good ol' boy had seen enough. Shirtless but with a beer in hand, scrawny chest puffed out, and middle finger extended, he made his way between two rows of cars to voice his displeasure at the column of campers.

The door slowly opened to one of them and out stepped an occupant. Giving the drunk redneck his due, he immediately recognized who it was.

He ran up to Bobby Allison, put his arm around him, flipped his scowl to a big grin, and started hollering at his crew somewhere back in traffic "It's Bobby Allison man! Bobby Allison!"

Allison was very calm about the encounter. He whispered something in the dude's ear and went back inside his motorhome. A split-second later, the guy went into Moses mode to part the seas. He directed cars to halt so Allison could continue - presumably to the neighboring airport for a quick flight home.

Once Bobby was rolling again, the self-designated traffic control official strutted back to where he began exclaiming "Bobby Allison y'all. F'n Bobby Allison."


Saturday, December 17, 2016

TMC Racing Stories: Atlanta 1

For the first half of the 1990s, I lived in Chattanooga, TN. Races at Talladega and Atlanta were easy day trips. In March 1992, however, we chose to live large, spend the night  in Atlanta, and then head to the track Sunday for the Motorcraft 500.

For the most part, the trip was at the right price: free.
  • Three of us crashed in the hotel room of a King Racing / Quaker State team member.
  • We were comp'd two hospitality passes. Through some creative logistics, we made two passes work for three of us - and even leveraged them into garage access.
  • A couple of additional friends bought and comp'd us tickets and agreed to bring sandwiches.
The hospitality event and garage access were amazing. The rest? Well...

Our friends were racing noobs. As we headed for the grandstands, we learned our friends bought seats on the fourth row of the frontstretch near the top of pit road. They believed preferred seating at a race would be similar to sitting near home plate at a baseball game or down low behind the bench at a football game.

For those unfamiliar with the original Atlanta configuration, the track was a true, tight oval. Long, high turns and short, fast straightaways. The stands were right up on the action.

But...beggars can't be choosy. We were at the track on a nice spring day...for free.

Shortly after the race began, I got a shoulder tap followed by some amateur sign language asking if we were ready for sandwiches. We replied with thumbs up.

Rather than pass pre-made sandwiches, subs, or wraps down the line, our ignorant but well-meaning friends broke out a loaf of white bread, a pack of bologna, cheese slices and a squeeze bottle of mayo.

We tried to balance the fixins as best we could. Shortly after the mayo hit the bread, however, it was peppered - but not with the seasoning.

Sitting on a low row at old Atlanta resulted in several hours of being sandblasted with track grit and tiny rubber pellets from the tires. With fresh mayo exposed on a piece of Wonder bread, all that grit settled evenly and provided an awkward crunch to our freshly made sammiches.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

TMC Racing Stories: Talladega 1

After several years of blogging detailed posts about racing history, I'm pretty tired.

So for the downtime of racing season between now and 2017 Speedweeks, I don't plan to do a lot of racing research or meaningful blogging. Instead, I thought I'd just share some random stories from days at the track over the years. I don't really have much of a plan or schedule. I'm guessing one story trigger a memory and will simply lead to another post. So here goes.

A bud of mine and I rolled into Talladega in May 1992 for a weekend of racing and fun. That weekend as has been documented previously is best remembed by us as the flashpoint for our Schaefer beer tradition. But we also met a few characters - as is generally the case with any trip to Talladega.

We were setting up our tent, readying the grill, unloading the coolers, etc. when a couple of good ol' boys wandered over. The conversation went a little something like this.

Bubba: Y'uns been down here afore?
Me: Yeah, a few times.

Bubba: Was y'all here last year?
Me: As a matter of fact, we were. We...

Bubba: Yeaaahhh man, we served a mess a'breakfast that day. Dang.
(Bubba #2 chuckled a bit to break his silence.)
Bubba: Man, we had people from everywheres over thar. Did y'all come over?
Me: No, we just had our thing going over here friend.

Bubba: I'm tellin' ya man. If I had a nickel for every cup of coffee we poured, damn. We woulda had about twen... well, we woulda had about four dollars.