This is another repost from Rowdy.com, originally authored in 2007, centering on my memories of working at what is now the Homestead0Miami Speedway from 1995-1999.
For this final installment, I figured I’d relay a little bit about some of the chance encounters and moments that I experienced from behind the scenes at Homestead-Miami Speedway between 1996-1999. There are more, but I’d be bordering on gluttony. I wish every race fan, at least once in their life, could experience something like this:
…Paul Newman gently pushes me out of the way of his motor scooter during a CART event. He touches my arm – My mother-in-law never lets me wash it again!
…Watching Bobby Hamilton give his son some fatherly advice during Slim Jim All-Pro series practice.
…Meeting a young Dale Earnhardt Jr.in 1997. He looked so cool in that plain white driver’s suit with black shoes.
…Watching Mark Martin sprint from garage to garage, signing autographs the whole way.
…Charting the lap times of a young Columbian CART series rookie named Juan Pablo something-or-other. Impressive. He may turn out to be a decent replacement for Zanardi.
…Query: Before the race, standing at a urinal. Jack Sprague pulls up next to you. What do you say?
…Media mob surrounding someone in the media center. I poke my head through only to meet the direct glare of rookie Tony Stewart. He seems to be telling me, telepathically “Don’t ask me anything stupid.” I don’t.
…Mario Andretti dons a racing suit to compete in some all star Go Cart race Ralph Sanchez has set up. He proceeds to kick ass against the likes of his son Michael, Max Papis, Gil DeFerran, JPM, et al.
…Seeing the formidable reflection of Bill France Jr. in my blank computer monitor, looking over my shoulder. I think I need that urinal again.
…End of first day long practice session for Cup drivers. Hot day. My hero exits his Goodwrench Chevy and walks past me on his way to the team hauler. I am the only one there. He sees the media credential and glares at me. He seems to be telling me, telepathically “Don’t ask me anything. At all.” I don’t.
…Getting into line for a catered lunch outside the media center behind Monte Dutton and David Poole. OMG.
…On a bus with Lyn St. James. She is giving a young female go cart racer advice on how to further her career. Heroes at work.
…End of first day long practice session for Cup drivers. Hot day. Jeff Gordon exits his DuPont Chevy and walks past me on his way to the team hauler. I am the only one there. He is frustrated and has his “race face” on, you know, Angry Jeff. He seems to be telling me, telepathically “Don’t ask me anything. At all.” I don’t.
…Half hour later, Different Jeff Gordon. Now he’s showered, dressed in a nice polo shirt and talking with about 150 elementary school kids gathered for the world premiere of “NASCAR Racers”. He is charming, engaging and professional. Amazing. Much respect.
…Richard Petty is over there. I have this vintage Petty racing jacket circa 1980 with a huge patch of his STP Olds on it, perfect for his signature. I am the only one there. He flashes me that Petty smile. He seems to be telling me, telepathically “Ask me anything. It’s cool, man.”
This time, I do.