Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TMC Racing Stories: Richmond 1

My one and (so far) only trip to Richmond for a race was in May 2002. I was scheduled to be in Cary NC the week after the race for work. So I left a few days early, jumped over to High Point to hang with friends, and left early Saturday morning for a planned, single-day trip to Richmond.

Our crew consisted of three Schaefer HOFers - Philly, Paduc and me - plus a friend of Paduc - a British chap. As we left from a Greensboro mall parking lot, we knew it was going to be a challenging trip. A persistent, misty rain followed us most of the way.

As we arrived, however, optimism returned as the rain had stopped. Philly and I parted ways from Paduc and his British bud as our pairs of tickets were in different sections of the grandstands. Philly and I tailgated with a few folks, watched several drivers cruise by on scooters, and then headed for seats as the skies again darkened and light precip returned.

NASCAR officials managed to put the race under green with Ward Burton starting from the pole. But the racing was short-lived, and the race was postponed until Sunday. The two of us donned our rain ponchos and began the slow walk back to the van.

Along the way, we began working through multiple iterations of Plan B.
  • Go home and lose the race? Unacceptable.
  • Go home and drive back Sunday? Long friggin' trip. A next-to-last resort.
  • Sleep in the van and fall out Sunday morning? Not desirable but acceptable and cheapest.
Though we were damp, we weren't soaked - though our shoes were steadily headed that direction. Yet, our two compadres hadn't arrived to unlock the door and help us agree on next steps.

After about an hour of standing in the rain, our feet had begun to grow gills and my temperature had started to rise from frustration. We finally spotted two sadsacks headed our way - fully drenched and without ponchos.

We laughed, they grumbled, and we all piled in the van. Still in race ready mode, I made the pitch to just stay where we were - in the dry van. No clean clothes, no toothbrush, wet shoes? Who cares - we'd be racing in about 15 hours! "Let's just sleep in the van, roll out tomorrow, find a Walmart, and go racing."

The Brit turned from behind the steering wheel, sneered, and chirped "You're a bloody fool. I need a room and a shower chap." 

The truth came out the next morning at breakfast. With the nighttime rain, an unfamiliar track, and a healthy consumption of beer, the two had walked the opposite direction of the van. We had parked behind the backstretch and walked to the front. When the race was called, they walked out the front gate - and kept going. Apparently after a half-mile or so, they realized nothing looked familiar. They had to retrace their steps to the track, rethink things, and then set out again towards the backside of the property.

So though I suppose I deserved to be called a bloody fool, I did get a good laugh out of it - plus a dry room, a shower, and a hot breakfast.

As an aside, the race was won by the recently retired Tony Stewart. It was the first of two times I saw Smoke take the checkers.



  1. Did England Dan spring for the dry room?

  2. I remember a few weather days at RIR, most notably the day after a tornado-like storm had torn through Richmond and left the area around the track without power. There were trees down everywhere, and it took a native familiar with that area to navigate the back roads and keep heading more-or-less toward the track. Then we sat in the Infield Media Center in the dark waiting. They could have run the race with generator power, but Paul Sawyer thought that would be disrespectful of his neighbors (aside from all the other issues), so we finally went home. I think the race was still run that weekend, but don't remember for sure. There also were at least two snow-outs, back when the spring race was in February. Richmond has had its share of inconvenient weather, for sure. Thanks for this story, Chase.

  3. The Schaefer backup plan seemed to work out in the end. Bet those shoes were trash, though.