I’ve mentioned before about how much I’ve enjoyed being able to meet so many people in my years bouncing around motorsports.
One of the best of those experiences came at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1989, when we had a celebrity road race intended to discourage drinking and driving.
This was a week-long affair, and Dodge was one of the co-sponsors. They brought some modified mini-Mopars (Horizons or something like that), rented the place for the week, and flew in all kinds of celebrities.
Monday through Thursday was taken up with driver training. SCCA administrated it with the Skip Barber Racing School handling the instruction. Chief instructors were Dorsey Schroeder and Terry Earwood. I was familiar with Earwood from his NHRA days (as I recall, he was Top Stock Eliminator at the U.S. Nationals once), and was happy to meet Dorsey. One of the neat things I learned at that event was that there really was a Skip Barber.
The celebrities were a mixed bag: David Hasselhoff, Stella Parton, Lorenzo Lamas, Jeff Carlisi (.38 Special), Anna Maria Horsford (Amen), Charlie Daniels, Ted Nugent, etc.
Carlisi turned out to be a big race fan, and wanted to know all about the oval. For the next several years, he’d show up for an oval race whenever the band was within a couple hundred miles. I’d get a radio call from the credentials window…
“Hey, John, there’s a guy down here who says he’s a friend of yours. Says he’s a guitar player or something.”
It happened so often I just put him on the VIP list.
Hasselhoff and Anna Maria Horsford were a couple of my wife’s favorites, so I enjoyed talking to both of ’em. Anna Maria was a hoot. She came in the front gate laughing and had herself a ball all week long.
I learned some things about people that I didn’t know.
When we mentioned that somebody was arriving the next day, another celebrity said he might have problems with the driving.
“Why?” I wanted to know.
“He can’t see!” I was told. As it turned out, he did OK.
They had a “get acquainted” cocktail party (interesting, considering the subject of the event) to which we were all invited, and Joyce got a real thrill out of meeting Anna Maria. She was delighted to find out the TV star was a down-to-earth type and they hit it off.
First thing Anna Maria wanted to know was, “Which Hollywood hunk do you want to meet?”
Joyce didn’t hesitate, “Hasselhoff!”
“Well,” Anna Maria replied, “I’ve never met the gentleman, but we are both about to make his acquaintance,” and off they went.
My favorite experience was with somebody different.
I walked back into the office one morning late in the week when the SCCA registrar was checking in a guy who looked a lot like Ted Nugent.
As I walked past, she told him he had all his credentials, and he asked, “So now I can go completely crazy, right?”
I spun around and said, “Wait a minute. Don’t answer that. They don’t call this guy the Motor City Madman for nothing!”
He walked over and introduced himself, and like Joyce and Anna Maria, we hit it off. We even had an adult beverage or two together in the evenings to follow (go figure).
On Saturday, when my kids were able to make it up there to take in the whole scene, I introduced them to Anna Maria, and she wanted to know where Joyce was.
I told her she was busy working at the Dairy Queen down the street.
“Go get Joyce!”
So, while I drove down the road and came back with the wife, she kept my son and daughter suitably entertained.
A while later, Nugent came walking out of a meeting, and Matt said, “Is that who I think it is?”
I assured him that it was and said, “Hey, Ted, c’mere a minute.”
My daughter Maria (15 at the time), covered her face and said, “Our father is calling Ted Nugent by his FIRST name!”
When Ted came over to meet the kids, Matt asked him if he could take a picture of him with his kid sister.
“No,” Nugent said, “give the camera to your old man and we’ll all three get in the picture.”
As I recall, Lorenzo Lamas won the race, but Nugent supplied the biggest thrill of the event.
Coming down the backstretch behind the oval track and into turn 6, a hard right hander, Ted either lost the brakes or simply tried to make it without lifting.
I thought he was going to take out the Gate 2 registration building, but he didn’t get that far.
He completely destroyed the mini-Mopar, and left the guardrail which was protecting the building twisted into something resembling an oversized pretzel. I was standing on the inside of that corner taking photos, and the crash worried me a lot.
However, he climbed out OK, sprinted across the track, and said, “How was that?”
I don’t know where it is now, but we kept that guardrail in a storage area for years as a conversation piece.