Wednesday, January 18, 2017

TMC Racing Stories: Texas 2

As I noted in Part 1 of my Texas racing stories, I attended the first race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in April 1997.

On race day for the Cup event, my brother-in-law Chuckles and I got to the track early for a special event he had arranged for us. Chevrolet was commemorating some sort of anniversary or release at Texas. Local Dallas / Ft. Worth Chevy dealers supplied 75 Monte Carlos to tour the track for a couple of pre-race laps.

After Chuckles gathered himself from his morning adventures (refer to Part 1), we got a bite to eat and then the the call to head for the infield to ready for the pre-race parade.

When we arrived to the fleet of red, white, and black Montes, we found them parked tightly side by side. Word spread quickly that the plan for passengers wasn't going to work. Each car's driver would jump in and GO as soon as the car to the left pulled away.

Chuckles apologized, but I was OK with the revised plan. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We tried. Besides, I had a pass. As a race fan, I was perfectly content with roaming along pit road, watching inspections, and keeping an eye open for drivers and crew members.

So off I strolled as Chuckles stayed to talk with some co-workers and peers from other dealers. One of my first stops was pit road near the start-finish line. Using my binoculars, I spotted Schaefer Hall of Fame co-founder Philly and my sister - already in their seats.

I continued roaming for about an hour before making the decision to leave the infield and head for my seat.  As I passed back through the field of Montes, some of Chuckles' buds spotted me and started grabbing at my shoulder bag.
Hey man, pass one this way!
Me: What?

A beer! Chuckles said you went back to hospitality to grab a few for us.
Me: No I didn't. This is my scanner bag. I told him I was headed to the pits and garage. Where is he?

He went back to hospitality to find you. They rearranged the cars, and passengers get to ride after all! 
Almost immediately, we heard someone holler "Saddle up! Find a car!" Everyone did exactly that. In the hour I was gone, many of the cars had been moved nose-to-tail to make for easier entry and procession to the track.

I jumped in the passenger side of a car - and waited. As the coordinator went car to car, he got to mine and asked about my driver. Feigning ignorance, I shrugged and replied "Dunno." A couple of minutes later, the driver's side door opened. Instead of Chuckles, a woman sat down behind the wheel. I introduced myself as did she. In an exchange of small talk, I learned she was the wife of one of the dealership's owners.

Basic instructions were given to each car.
  1. No gapping - stay close to the car in front of you.
  2. No riding high on the banking.
  3. No heavy acceleration. 
With those easily understood directions, we headed for pit road, then to the apron, and then into the first turn.

It didn't take long for the instructions to be discarded. Our car was in about the middle of the caravan. We could see in turn 2, however, that a few cars had already started gapping the one in front of them - but would then burst back upon their bumper. I was grinning the entire time as I wondered who was losing their mind over this Chinese fire drill of an orderly pace lap.

She didn't goose ours right away. Instead, she started asking my opinion about what to do. I recall telling her:
  • you are married to one of the dealers which I think gives you some sort of executive privilege
  • I'm only along for the ride, and
  • when in Rome...
As we rolled out of four and down the frontstretch, I unbuckled my seat belt, lowered the window, popped upon the door, spotted Philly and my sister, and ripped the biggest WHOOOO! I could muster. Sure enough, they made eye contact and waved back while laughing.

I settled back in for lap 2, looked to my driver, and said "See? I don't care. Let 'er rip if you'd like." As she exited turn 2 again, she slowed almost to a crawl to let the car in front of us get way ahead. Then she punched it. We certainly didn't hit NASCAR speeds, but the rush of hitting 90-100 MPH for a short period down the backstretch of a NASCAR speedway was immense.

My new best friend and I were laughing heartily as we continued through the tri-oval again and back to the infield with a hard left at the end of pit road. As we neared our parking spot, there he was. There stood Chuckles - a beer in one hand, a smirk on his face, and a middle finger fully extended.
Me: That was incredible!
You sonuva... I spent weeks setting that up and didn't even get to go!
Me: Well, if you hadn't wanted that next beer so badly.
When we got to our seats, Philly said dryly but apparently factually "Seventy-five cars on the track, and only one fool was hanging out the window hollering. You."

Twenty years later, the story is told regularly at each race. And twenty years later, the experience - or lack thereof - still burns for Chuckles. Each Thanksgiving when I remind him of it, he replies "Still can't believe you left me behind."



  1. That story never gets old. Every time I picture you hanging out of that car like a lunatic I grin like I've heard it for the first time.

  2. Well written and all accurate. Another great trip and another race story!