Saturday, January 7, 2017

Schaefer Year in Review: 2016

The Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor - a bunch of good-time-havers and ne'er-do-wells - once again had a fantastic year of fun. As best I can tell, The SHOF and SROH were represented at eight NASCAR Cup races, the Daytona qualifying twins, the All Star Race, and a handful of cable-company and truck division races.

The year started with a bang at the Daytona 500. For the first time since 1997, Schaefer HOF co-founder Philly and I were in the seats. Unlike 20 years ago, our experience was on a much grander scale - but with little out-of-pocket spend.

Good fortune plopped us into a friend's winter home free o'charge. No flea bag inn. No overpriced hotel. FREE! - the favorite price of the SHOF. After our arrival on Thursday, we dropped our gear, celebrated with a quick cold one, and made our way to the track.

It was quite the sight to see and experience the completed Daytona Rising renovated facility.

It was also cool to see the twins for the first time on a balmy Florida night.

On Friday, we headed to what has become one of our favorite spots in the area: Racing's North Turn on the beach in Ponce Inlet. The food is fantastic, the service is very polite and prompt, the view is spectacular, the racing history is rich, and the brews are ice cold.

Though the North Turn doesn't serve Schaefer, they do sell good times - and interesting coincidences. After I tweeted the following picture of our beachfront scenery, a guy walked from just a few chairs from us.
"Are you toomuchcountry?"
"Umm, yeah. I guess you'd say that. Why?"
"Holy cow, I only follow about 20 people on Twitter - and you're one of them. I saw your tweet and that Starters koozie. Figured it had to be you."
On our way out the door, we noticed an elderly gentleman signing books and shaking hands at a table near the front door. I stopped to talk with him and learned he was Russ Truelove. Russ is from the northeast and still lives there. In the 1950s, however, he made a handful of trips to Daytona to run the famed beach and road course.

After I returned a bit of history knowledge of my own, Russ realized I wasn't there to simply get a selfie with someone I thought might be famous. He took me to his restored race car outside, and we had a great conversation for about 20 minutes. We chatted about Fish carburetors, the process for measured mile qualifying on the beach, car owner Carl Kiekhaefer (which coincidentally rhymes with Schaefer), how he got number #226, etc.

He also talked about his tremendous tumble on February 26, 1956. #226 flat wiped out on 2/26.

After concluding a fun encounter with Russ, we headed back to the house before we got wiped out at the North Turn. Once home, we found the rest of our crew had rolled in. They were prepared for a night of fun - which we had. The good times, of course, started with a Schaefer.

On race day, we felt the palm fronds provided an element of dignity and class to our tailgating set-up. Don't think so? Well then, that's a you problem.

Though a fair argument can be made that racing is better at other tracks, few if any compete with the sheer speed and spectacle of Daytona.

As has been the case for many years, the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor were well represented at Charlotte's version of Speedweeks in May.

Woodhead, 2015 Schaefer Ring of Honor inductee, enjoyed Schaefer at the NASCAR All Star Race the week before the Coca-Cola 600.

We enjoyed hot passes for the 600 weekend thanks to a new acquaintance of SHOFer Cuba. Like many of us, Cuba usually just settles in before a plane's departure. But on a flight from Texas to North Carolina, he struck up a conversation with his seatmate. After some small talk, bada bing, bada boom, he learned his seatmate was involved with NASCAR. A couple of days later, he arranged for Cuba and his contingent to get hot passes for the weekend. Mighty fortuitous.

Though plenty of other drink options were available, Schaefer had its own dedicated cooler. And what better way to identify the designated cooler than with bacon tape!

Schaefer is the perfect thirst quenching complement to a good ol' fashioned low country boil.

Among our new guests at the 600 in 2016, was SHOFer Rookie's Uncle Joey. Though he was new to our group and a Cup track, he arrived ready to roll with his Kyle Busch swag.

Hard to believe 2017 will the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Schaefer tradition and resulting SHOF and SROH. Some mighty good friendships have been developed with this crowd.

Rookie wasted no time after the 600 in continuing the Schaefer tradition at the beach near Wilmington NC with a few of his friends.

One of the challenges for the SHOF is the increasing scarcity of Schaefer. I don't travel as much as I once did; therefore, opportunities to bootleg Schaefer in a suitcase have dwindled significantly. Both Bruton and Philly, however, were able to leverage their far-reaching networks to have folks bring the Schaefer to them in 2016.

Schaefer isn't all about racing. Schaefer Hall of Famers often find other varied ways to enjoy it. For instance, Bruton enjoyed Schaefer on the links...

...out on the boat dropping a line...

...and on opening day of Georgia Bulldogs football season.

Though Schaefer isn't all about racing, who's kidding who. It's mainly about racing.

Four SHOFers returned to Daytona for July's Coke 400.

This guy wouldn't sit down and kept blocking my view. I started to have a word with him. But since he was a fellow SHOFer, I let it slide.

Labor Day weekend was a true treat for me. From the mid 1980s through 2000, I went to a handful of races that were tagged as part of the Winston Million incentive program. As tough as it was for a driver to win 3 of the 4 biggies, it was even tougher for me to attend 3 of the 4.

The program has long been discontinued, but I accomplished my own version of winning the Winston Million in 2016 by attending the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500 at Darlington. I embraced the old school, throwback theme for the weekend by breaking out some old racing gear from days gone by.

I'd only been to one other race at Darlington, and the 2016 Southern 500 was my first legit Labor Day weekend race at the track. Adding to the excitement was our privilege to walk the garage and pits from stem to stern both days.

The highlight of our walkabout was easily meeting Leonard, Delano, Len and Eddie Wood and Richard and Kyle Petty.

And as icing on the cake, we also ran into 8-time Cup champion crew chief and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman. None of these encounters had anything to do with Schaefer, but the chance to chat a bit with so many legends ranks right up there with it.

With a few hours to kill before the green flag on Sunday, we returned to our parking spot. A couple of racing and Schaefer noobs parked behind us, and we soon struck up a conversation. They earned a rookie stripe for attending their first race.

We also introduced them to Schaefer. They almost forfeited the opportunity to drink it when one of them said "Never heard of it. Is it a microbrew?"

Their response after a first taste? Same one as we get time after time. "Hmm. It's not that bad."

With our hospitality out of the way, it was soon time to go racing boys! We hiked our sun-scorched selves to our seats near the start-finish line and settled in for an evening of racing dominated by Martin Truex Jr. 

Again with this guy! Dude! Please sit down.

"Oh my bad. Need a fresh Schaefer?"

The only currently active father-son, SHOF / SROH combo - Philly and Woodhead - took in the action.

Traveling light, we didn't have the set-up for another low-country boil. As a substitute, some homemade pork rinds washed down well with a cold Schaef.

A few weeks after Darlington, Schaefer Ring of Honor member 200WINZ had the good fortune to run into his longtime idol, The King, at dinner before the fall Dover race.

As the calendar turned to October, the Schaefer HOF had somewhat of an impromptu Most Photogenic contest. Thoughts on a winner?

SHOFer Philly & Lanie at the fall Charlotte race?

...or SHOFer Rookie and Uncle Joey at Talladega? Yikes.

The SHOF closed its 2016 racing adventures with a trip to Martinsville - my first race at the paperclip. As we roamed the garage on Saturday, we had the good fortune to cross paths with Dale Inman again. He, Maurice Petty, and Kyle Petty had been inducted into the Randleman High School Athletic Hall of Fame the night before, and Dale was proudly sporting the ring presented to him.

Though not on our original agenda, we called an audible and chose to hit Saturday's truck race. Cold morning temps rose to reveal a spectacular fall afternoon for racing.

On Sunday morning, we enjoyed a cold one with some folks from South Boston, Virginia...

...and enjoyed it again ourselves high atop the grandstands.

With the racing season completed, I made my annual trip to Newark NJ and New York City. Once again, I enjoyed a Schaefer at The Liberty NYC - just a few clicks from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. As I ordered it, the bartender said I looked familiar. I told her I'd stopped in a year earlier to enjoy one. Shockingly, she replied "Yeah! You're the guy that travels all over trying to find Schaefer. I remember you!"

I did a bit of research a couple of nights later and learned The Greene Hook in Jersey City had Schaefer as a beer offering. Though I wasn't sure how current the menu was, I figured it was worth an Uber ride to find out. Sure enough, they had several in the chiller. The Schaef was a nice addition to one of their fantastic burgers and fries.

The Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor hopes you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

With the calendar now turned to 2017, let's enjoy a new batch of memories with the recently re-branded NASCAR Schaefer Cup... I mean Monster Energy Cup Series.

As always, please let me know if you see Schaefer for sale - or being enjoyed by yourself or others. Reply with a comment here, hit me on Twitter, or email me at toomuchcountry(at)gmail(dot)com.


1 comment:

  1. An enjoyable (funny) read and great photos, especially the last!�� And there are many of us who share the opinion of the SHOF regarding your favorote price!