Jeff Meyer · Thursday July 28, 2005
One of the best things about writing for Frontstretch.com (and for free), is that in all reality, we are just here to have fun. This means that I don't always have to be ultra serious and can usually get away with writing just about anything I want, as long as somehow tie it to stock car racing. I suppose that once this site reaches the financial pinnacle of NASCAR itself, and I will be assigned to attend ALL the races with a generous expense account at my disposal, I will have to be more serious. I'll worry about that burden when it comes. For now, let's have some fun (and reader participation!)
Although I have been a race fan for many years, the first race that I actually had the joy to attend was the 2002 Sharpie 500 at the Holy Mecca of all NASCAR fans; Bristol Motor Speedway. Yes, that's right, my first true NASCAR experience was an event that Sports Illustrated recently listed among 25 events or locations that sports fans should experience this summer. I am currently preparing for my 4th consecutive year!
Although I didn't know it at the time, that first race was the start of a rather unusual tradition, or quest even, to bring home a most unusual souvenir from each race that I have attended. Not just hats, t-shirts and the normal stuff, but something weird that every time I look at it, it brings a special story to mind about that particular race trip. Here are a few examples.
Bristol, Sharpie 500, 2002: This being my first race as I said, I did not yet realize that I was actually looking for something out of the ordinary. However, looking back, one of the things that I remember most proudly is my first NASCAR autograph. My first autograph was not that of a driver, but rather El Presidente himself, Mike Helton. I literally bumped into him in downtown Bristol! Keep in mind that Mike was much larger than he is now, so when you think about it, maybe it wasn't such a freakish thing. Bristol Motor Speedway and Mike Helton; start at the top and work your way down is how I figure it!
Bristol, Sharpie 500, 2003: Ok, some people may
find this one a bit ghoulish, but it was this particular item that
actually started the tradition. On the night of the CTS race, some poor
guy, shall we say, passed away in the campground a few trailers down
from us. His buddies came back from the Truck race and found him that
way. Apparently he was already 'really passed away' because there was
no frantic or hurried efforts to bring him about to a better condition,
as evidenced by the standing around of the paramedics, who, as it
turned out, were waiting for the coroner to arrive to look at him and
confirm their suspicions.
The entire trailer, complete with its occupant, disappeared sometime in the wee hours, and with camping spaces at a premium, the space was duly rented out again by 7 the next morning. As I was taking my morning walk around the campground, there caught in the bushes downhill from the scene was the proverbial 'Police Line: Do Not Cross' tape that had surrounded the first trailer. That yellow tape now hangs among my other racing memorabilia. Hey, if it’s your time to go, can't think of a better place. Bummer for your buddies though...
St. Louis, Charter 250 (Busch), 2004: Gateway International Raceway was the place that a rather nice folding chair followed me through the parking lot and eventually home to Iowa. It even graciously allowed me to sit on it during a couple of tailgating parties in the parking lot after the race. You may remember that I wrote about the whole ordeal last year here on FS.com. That chair is has ever since, been my 'official racing chair', and has been to Chicago, Milwaukee and of course, Bristol.
Chicago, Tropicana 400, 2004: For this race I was camping in the infield, the guest of a buddy who had snubbed me by backing out on Bristol (of all places) the year before. Long story short, one of his relatives who owned the RV I was staying in, had a sugar dispenser that perfectly matched a pair of salt and pepper shakers that my wife was quite fond of. I tried and tried, but she would just not sell it to me. (I was trying to make brownie points with the misses for letting me go in the first place.) As we were packing to leave, she handed me a bag that she said I hadn't better forget. Inside side was the sugar dispenser. She refused all my attempts to pay her. Racing fans truly are the greatest! (The misses was happy too!)
Bristol, Sharpie 500, 2004: Would you believe it!? Another folding chair, identical in style but a slightly different color, again followed me back to the campsite from downtown Bristol. Perhaps it sensed that the chair I had been sitting on back at the camper needed a mate. They have been inseparable ever since and are looking forward to the return trip to Bristol next month.
Milwaukee, SBC 250 (Busch), 2005: This one really perplexed my wife and quite frankly was a pain the butt to carry all the way back to the car. I bought a used race tire (hey, it was only 10 bucks!). "What in the world are you gonna do with that? You ain't hanging that thing up in here!" Yes, that was a quote from my wife.
I have since purchased a racing rim from Ryan Newman's car (12 Penske Team) on ebay and the making of a really cool bar table is in the works. If the Editors permit, I will post pictures of it when it is done.
Bristol, Sharpie 500, 2005: Ok readers, this is where you come in. I want you to send me some ideas of strange or unusual items that I might be able to come home with. Remember, it can't be unrealistically big that it won’t fit in the camper. The more ideas, the better my chances, so put that thinking cap on and challenge me! If I get one, I'll send you an autographed 8x10 of me and the souvenir in question. Ya gotta love race trips!
Stay off the wall (but always look over it to see if there's anything of interest),
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