The Frontstretch: That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time: Switch-up by Amy Henderson -- Friday October 7, 2005

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Ever wish you could be someone else?  It's likely that we all have at one time or another.  It would be great to switch places with someone else, see what their life is like, do something you wouldn't ordinarily risk.  It would give a whole new perspective. And, race fans, we are not alone.  It seems that some drivers have wondered the same thing.  These two stories will illustrate what I mean.  I'm not sure where I saw the stories in this pair, but it seems as though at least two of NASCAR's young guns have actually answered the question, while a set of brothers pondered the chance to fill each other's shoes.

The first story took place at Daytona a few years back.  The summer race was being televised live in prime time for the first time, and the night was rife with speed and drama.  But that aside, it was a typical Daytona race.  A late-race red flag brought the cars to pit road, and the drivers milled about, waiting to remount and finish what they'd started.  They discussed the weather, the race, politics-alright, I don't really know what they talked about.  Except for the Labonte brothers. 

When the two brothers climbed from their cars, they noticed that they were running one right after the other.  Terry looked at Bobby, Bobby looked at Terry, they both looked at their racecars, and (insert evil grin here) had an idea.  "Wanna switch?" one brother asked the other mischievously.  The two thought about it, and decided it might be fun.  Both were having a good night, and the post-race interviews would be fun.  Under NASCAR rules, their point finishes would be intact because they started the evening in their own cars.  But then reality set in.  This race was a big deal.  It was NASCAR's first live prime-time event, and nobody really wanted to face the music if the sanctioning body and/or a couple of car owners and sponsors had less of a sense of humor than they did.  So the switch never happened.  It's still fun to imaging the post-race show though.

The second story took place outside the realm of NASCAR.  It involves a couple of young off-road racers who bore a slight resemblance to one another and had a sense of humor.  Both of these young men had dark hair and thick eyebrows, and both were up-and-coming young racers in a racing venue that did not get the heavy media coverage that NASCAR gets, so it seemed like it would be easy to pull off.  "Hey, when we sign autographs in the pits tonight, pretend you're me.  I'll sign your name."

The switch was on.  The two young drivers signed enthusiastically for the fans.  In fact, it worked so flawlessly that, as the story goes, they did it more than once.  They would sign each other's name with a straight face and have a good laugh about it later.  The game, however, got tougher to play as the two drivers gained in notoriety, and it eventually stopped altogether.  It's a safe bet that if they tried it today, somebody would catch on.  Still, if you happen to have a Jimmie Johnson autograph from back in his off-road days, double check.  It might just be an authentic Brendan Gaughan.

Yes, it sure would be fun to be someone else for a short time.  It might be risky to pull off the switch, but it's also possible that nobody would even notice.  In any case, it's a safe bet that you'd get a good story out of it.  And that's history.

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