Thursday, February 9, 2017

TMC Racing Stories: The Horseshoe Lounge 1.0

Schaefer co-founder Philly and I made our way to Bristol in April 1992 for the Food City 500. The race was to be my first Bristol race since Rusty Wallace's first win in the 1986 Valleydale Meats 500, and I believe it was Philly's first Bristol trip.

Philly scored us a pair of tickets when he traded with his apartment neighbor for a set of bar stools. With the transaction being a somewhat last minute deal, we had to wrangle a place to stay. Remarkably, we found a room at the Red Roof Inn in Johnson City.

As we checked in, we asked the desk clerk for a recommendation to watch the NCAA basketball tourney games that afternoon and evening. She politely and articulately directed us to a neighboring chain restaurant. It had a lounge and would likely be airing the game.

Philly and I looked at each other, sneered, smirked, and returned to her. "That's fine and all. But it'll probably be crowded, overpriced, and boring. Where would you go if you weren't working tonight?"

She lowered her head, slipped into her natural east Tennessee country accent, and replied with gusto, "Well hell, I'd go to the Horseshoe Lounge up by the VA Hospital. They got the best burgers in Johnson City." Sold!

After getting directions, we dumped our gear and then laughed as we pulled into the parking lot of Casey's Horseshoe Lounge - a fine looking, hole-in-the-wall, entertainment venue. Once inside, we wondered if we'd gone to heaven. The bar had a NASCAR theme with name badges affixed to each table and driver swag hanging on the wall above each of them.

The burgers were indeed fantastic, and we downed them with a NASCAR-related but non-driver-specific Busch. After a couple of them, I was the first to break the seal. Returning to my chair, I found that Philly had ordered us a couple of PBR tall boys. Nice.

When Philly hit the can, I returned the favor and ordered a couple of Old Milwaukee quarts. Yes, they had genuine 32 ounce glass Old Mil bottles. They were dreadful, but the laughter, hoops, and fellow bar patrons were all fantastic.

As the night wore on, Casey's added several more folks. Being noobs in the place, we kept an active sixth sense in case the vibe turned south. We surrendered our table and moved closer to the door just to keep our options open.

After peaking our awfulness with Old Mil, we returned to an icy mug of something more mainstream. Miller Lite, Coors Light, whatever. I made what I believe was a very astute...and prescient... comment to Philly:
Ever notice in the movies when they have bar fights where folks smash beer mugs over each others' heads? But have you ever actually seen a mug break? These things are indestructible! I've seen waitresses drop them and drunks knock 'em over, but they never break. 
Within moments after had I said it, chaos broke out..kinda. With no warning, some dude found himself laying right in the middle of a couple's table. Their burgers went flying as did their beer mugs - which shattered as they hit the floor!

The new centerpiece managed to lift himself from the table to reveal a shirt smothered in mustard, and he feebly muttered Sorry. His buds came over to assist him - and brought a pair of cuff crutches! Turns out the poor slob had serious issues with his legs and needed the crutches to walk. When he went to take a leak, however, he was so drunk he had forgotten his crutches! He took one or two steps and pitched right over into the poor couple's date night meal.



  1. I'll never trust a mug again! Great story. The night spots on racing trips just seem to have a way of weaving themselves into the story.

  2. And.....this is just a warm up to the story and our history at the Horse Lounge!!! What a great night and Venue! Philly