NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Voices from the Heartland: Racing at Its Best in the Gateway to the West

It had been four years since I last visited the great city of St. Louis. At that time, I attended a (then) Busch Series race at Gateway International Raceway, which turned into a most memorable time! After all the events that transpired then, I never imagined that another trip to St. Louis could ever top it.

OK, in all honesty, I must say that that is not entirely true. This trip to St. Louis did have an ulterior motive other than a day at the racetrack, which was to meet a very special woman, whom I’ve known “virtually” for many years, but had never met in person. This trip was designed around meeting that special woman, which as fate would have it, went extremely splendidly! So, for storytelling purposes, from this point henceforth, when I say “we,” I mean her, I, and our group of special friends – known as “Edheads.”

First off, I must explain that the short definition of an Edhead is one who is flippin’ crazy about Carl Edwards. This definition works out well for this story because, as we all know by now, Carl did indeed win the Nationwide Race at GIR last Saturday night. If fact, if you read yesterday’s Top 10 list, you know how well it worked out for all of the Edheads in attendance! But, to use an editor’s favorite phrase (and I’m still not sure which editor), I digress…

After an early Thursday morning meeting at Lambert-St. Louis International, and dumping off a truckload of luggage and provisions at our hotel, we decided to grab a bite to eat before settling into our weekend at Gateway. The place we chose for lunch was actually a fantastic little place called Smoke Pit Bar-B-Que. As we sat down to eat, the thought occurred to me that a delightfully sloppy BBQ, no matter how good it tastes, was probably not the best choice when meeting and eating with someone for the first time. Tastebuds overruled civility, however, and I dove right in. Hey, she wanted to meet the “real” Jeff Meyer; well, the BBQ will wash off! Tensions were eased a bit when it was discovered that, while it might have been all over my face, none of MY BBQ found my shirt! A few “wet wipes” later, we decided to see what was going on at the Tri-City Speedway, a 3/8-mile dirt track just a few miles down the road.

Upon arriving at Tri-City, we – well actually the “she” of the we – were accosted by the first of many Edheads that I was to meet that weekend. It was also at this time that I was introduced to Buz and Roger Kaido, an Edhead and a racecar driver. To clarify, Roger is the racecar driver and Buz is his grandfather.

Now, meeting the Kaidos may not seem like that big of a deal, until I mention the fact that Roger, the driver of a UMP (crate) late model, stands about chest high to me! This kid is amazing! At 14 years old, he has driven everything from karts to quarter midgets, and now is driving a late model! Already, the kid has more trophies than Steve Wallace has wrecked racecars! I was instantly jealous. But more about Roger later…

The bulk of the activities at Tri-City Speedway that Thursday consisted of autograph signings by Mike, Kenny and Steve Wallace – with David Stremme thrown in to boot. After the signings, we sunned ourselves in the stands while watching the Wallaces and Stremme give hot-lap ride-alongs to the media personnel in attendance, and we collected a fine layer of racing dirt on our sweaty bodies just as an added bonus. In fact, the dirt was so satisfying, we decided to come back the following night to watch Kaido make his Tri-City Speedway racing debut, and also to collect more dirt to deposit in the hotel shower drain.

It must be explained that the Kaido racing team operates on a shoestring budget. In fact, when it came time for the feature race, only a half a tank of fuel (notice I did NOT put the hated “S” word in front of fuel!) was left for Roger to race with. Nonetheless, Roger kept his nose clean throughout the race and finished a respectable 11th place. I’ve always wondered how all those older guys would feel if they actually know they got beat by a “kid!” A kid that is sure to be a rising star in the world of motorsports in the years to come. If you don’t believe me, maybe you would believe Edwards. At an awards banquet several years ago, after Roger had won several track championships and was receiving his trophies, Carl, who was also in attendance, asked Roger for HIS autograph… and Roger was only 7!

Another thing that I am proud to announce happened this weekend is the fact that I became a member of a club that is perfectly suited to my character – a club whose stated purpose is to have no purpose. It is called the Perche Creek Yacht Club, and I am proud to be member number 828. There are, in fact, only 827 members and the reason for the discrepancy is because membership number 666 has not been issued and is being saved for someone worthy, someone like a prominent politician perhaps — or so it was explained to me.

Membership into the PCYC is deceptively simple, and never has an application been turned down. In fact, there are only tw0 questions one must answer satisfactorily on the application: 1. Do you have $20? 2. Will you give it to us? For your $20, you get a hat, a shirt, a suitable for framing membership certificate, a laminated ID card and various other things that are quite useful. Wow. A club whose purpose is to have no purpose! I can go far in an organization like that!

Anyways, all this excitement had happened already so far, and we hadn’t even gotten ready to watch the Nationwide race on Saturday!

The day at the track started with the obligatory tailgating and ended up with I, and the entire group of Edheads, celebrating with Carl in victory lane. In between that time, we were able to participate in the “Track Walk” with Edwards, Landon Cassill and Mike Wallace. Since the proceeds from the $25 donation to participate was being earmarked for Midwestern flood victims, and having been directly affected by the said flood myself, I was more than ecstatic to walk the mile and a quarter of GIR with these three drivers.

Cassill is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and so I felt it was my duty to go and encourage this young, up and coming driver with all the encouragement a fellow Iowan such as myself might have to offer. I not sure which part of my talk with him was the most profound, but it must have worked, as Landon ended up finishing a respectable sixth in the race later that night. That is my story, anyway, and I am sticking to it.

Like I said, the night ended with all of us Edheads posing with Carl in victory lane, and that in itself is a testament to the overall character of the man. Earlier in the day, during an autograph signing, someone in our group asked Carl if we could be in victory lane with him if he won. He offhandedly said sure! When someone said he shouldn’t make promises he didn’t plan on keeping, he looked a bit offended and reminded the person that he had made and kept the same promise two years ago… so why wouldn’t he now? True to his word – even with all the hubbub that accompanies winning a race – Carl made good on his promise. That’s truly a man that loves and remembers his fans.

Of course there is limited space here and I cannot possibly relate all the events of my weekend. I have purposely left out names of most everyone so no one would be offended by being left out! I will, however, tell you this; the chair that is mentioned in the story from my last GIR experience… I took it with me! I thought it might like to visit home! Oh, and that special woman I went to meet in the first place? I’m taking her to Bristol with me, too, along with the chair! I love racing!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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