Monday, January 9, 2017

TMC Racing Stories: Daytona 1

Trying to convince someone to give racing a shot is challenging when the other person stubbornly rejects pretty much anything outside of baseball, football, and hoops.

When two friends and I got an apartment in college, the arguments soon started about the legitimacy of racing, identification of drivers as athletes, my "misplaced" fandom, etc. Some got pretty heated, but most just involved good-natured ribbing.

One of the two friends and I continued sharing an apartment after graduation. Some of the banter continued, but I tried a different angle. I suggested he put his money where his mouth was: Go to a race and see if you don't return with a changed opinion.

Initially, he didn't take the bait. But then Ken Schrader's Red Baron Ford caught his eye during the 1987 Firecracker 400 on TV.

We lived on frozen pizza, Rotel tomato cheese dip, and cereal in the apartment, so Schrader's sponsor was right in his wheel house. Soon after, he softened his stance. "Let's go."

When the next year's Firecracker rolled around, he and I made the drive from Chattanooga to Daytona. Schrader had moved to another red car. He was out of Junie Donlavey's #90 Ford and into Rick Hendrick's #25 Folger's Coffee Chevy. By then, however, he was a Schrader guy regardless.

He took a VHS camcorder and made his way to the fence on the final pace lap as the cars came out of turn 4 to the tri-oval. He glanced back at me as the drivers prepared to hammer down, shrugged his shoulders, and sneered as if to say "not impressed".

I waved him back and mouthed "Just watch!" Ignoring the Barney Fife Security Force's admonition to move away from the fence, he stayed as the cars came up to speed in turn 1.

When they roared through 4 at speed, he quickly lowered his camcorder and instinctively snagged his cap as the wind tried to make off with it. He then slowly turned back towards me, smiled broadly, and mouthed "I. Like. This."

While he never became a rabid NASCAR fan, he certainly became much more interested in it. After his debut at Daytona, he went with me a couple of times to Talladega and once to Atlanta - where he got to see Schrader win in the Kodiak Chevy in 1991.

Concerned about TV ratings or attendance for NASCAR events? Have a friend or family member skeptical about racing? Know someone who enjoys racing but has never experienced the thrill of being at the track? Invite them!



  1. I convinced my straight laced mother to accompany my father and I to an early 70s Friday night of weekly NASCAR racing at Richmond's Southside Speedway. She sat expressionless the entire evening. When I asked her afterwards what she thought, this was her answer: "I'd rather have been in hell with a broken back!" That was her first and last motorsports event. Some folks just don't appreciate the finer things!

  2. I took my wife to Daytona in 1988. During a practice session I brought her up to the fence off turn 4 near where the grandstands ended and told her to "watch this." The "this" was a 6 car draft at full speed. By the time the cars had gone by and the gust of the draft had subsided, I turned to get her reaction. From about 10 rows up in the stands she yelled "don't you ever do anything like that to me again."