Saturday, February 4, 2017

TMC Racing Stories: Daytona 2

Some have wondered.
Some have guessed.
I've shared with some.
Others couldn't give a rip.

But here goes.

I've blogged a handful of times about one of my uncles introducing me to racing back in 1974. He took me to my first late model sportsman race and first Cup race - both at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway. He also took me to my first Daytona 500 in 1980. Other than those occasions, however, we didn't go to many races together.

Another uncle - the youngest of the four siblings - invited us to Daytona in 1991 for the annual Pepsi err Firecracker 400. I had been the previous couple of years with different friends, but this was to be the my first race with three of my uncles.

My oldest uncle rode with me. Ronald - the one that intro'd me to racing - drove separately with my cousins in his Camaro. We stayed together pretty closely on the trip from Tennessee to Jacksonville on Friday. Not a bad pace - 70-75 most of the way. Until.

We got to Lake City FL and knew the next milestone was the Duval County / Jacksonville city limits line. As we approached it, both of us amp'd the speed a bit more. As we got well into the county and close to Orange Park, we were both flying. (Not advised kids.) I was in front of him and blocking by switching lanes on I-295.

But I deked when I should've juked, and he re-passed me as we hit the Buckman Bridge over the St. John's River. The bridge was a no-passing zone back then. But I swung around another car, passed Ronald, and moved back in front of him as we exited the interstate on the other side of the bridge. I held the lead until we got to my uncle's house, and my oldest uncle and I declared ourselves the winners. My cousins immediately howled in protest about my no-pass zone infraction. Either way, we knew a great weekend was about to unfold.

We headed for Daytona early Saturday to make the mid-morning green flag. Many today frequently pine for a return to that tradition. Those that do so either (1) have never experienced it or (2) have forgotten what it was like. It was beyond hot. We may well have been halfway to Hades after having interstate-raced the night before.

But...we were there.

Let's see...

Chilled adult beverages? Perhaps a few
Sunscreen - scant
Water - zero

I honestly remember little of the race except for Awful Bill from Dawsonville winning in his blue Coors Light Ford and the bad wreck involving Joe Ruttman and Darrell Waltrip.

As you may have rightfully surmised, I wasn't a big fan of Elliott back in the day. One of my uncle's friends who went with us and his young son, however, were big Elliott homers, and they were elated. The kid gloated all the way back to Jax as the rest of us continued consuming the remaining inventory of the coolers.

Once home, someone had the lame-brained idea of playing basketball on my uncle's concrete driveway. Frequent replenishment with Gatorade? Umm, not exactly - unless Stokely Van Camp had a Bud flavored one.

My oldest uncle had a belly as big as west Texas and sported a shirt the size of Rhode Island. He acted as if he had the game of Lebron James, but his hoop skills were much closer to those of Etta James. The rest of us just flopped around, missed shots, paused to take a swig, and fell down...a lot.

I spent as much time lifting myself from the scorching concrete as I did with my ferocious defense on an uncle or cousins who by now were beginning to look a lot alike and starting to replicate in numbers. At some point, I collided with Ronald and went to the deck.

As we sweated, laughed and burned, the 12 year-old Bill Elliott fan stood over me after one of my falls and declared with resignation: "Mr. Chase, who know what your problem is? You're full of too much country."

I have no idea where he came up with that - and really wasn't sure at the time what he even meant. But I started laughing and then embraced it. I got up, tousled his hair, and replied "Ya know Nic, you got that right. I am full of too much country."

Nic the Elliott fan at Talladega two races later
Over time, I've defined the label as I've seen fit. I've embraced it as as a compliment, accept it as an insult, and often see it in others.

In May 2016, I met Darrell Waltrip in Charlotte coming down the Smith Tower elevator following Thursday night qualifying for the Coke 600. I'd met Ol' DW before but re-intro'd myself. I said "We've met before DW, but my name is Chase. You've seen me on Twitter as toomuchcountry." He paused and joked for the benefit of others on the elevator "Hmm, I didn't think there was such a thing as too much country." I held our shake an extra moment, maintained eye contact and replied "Yes, there is...and No, there isn't."

A quarter-century and then some ago. Wow. I've watched many races since then. I'm now more diligent about using sunscreen, my water intake is much higher, I consume far fewer cans of Schaefer, and I haven't raced to a race since July 1991.

And now you know the origin of toomuchcountry.



  1. In respect of the label that has been place on my friend of over 25 years, I can assure all that read this blog there has never been and will never be to much of "To Much Country"!

  2. Wonderful story. I had only heard part of it Chase. Glad to have the full scoop now! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Now you need to tell the 'Tick Story'.