King of the 360's!

Monday, February 27, 2017
Hemby Bridge, NC – I’m googling the succession of royalty in nations that are ruled by monarchy to see where I stand in the grand scheme of events held this weekend overlooking the bays of Tampa. 

At first, I pictured myself as the middle-aged peasant pressed up against the barricades of a flimsy chain-link fence watching glorious toterhome after glorious toterhome pass through the pit gates of East Bay.  One day… One day… we might have one! 

As the last ones passes by, dad looks over at me and suggest we finally buy our pit passes, find our parking spot, and register the car.  I come to the realization that we’re here to dethrone those guys and become royalty ourselves. 

Sixty-three cars rolled into the raceway that evening.  The announcer screamed over warming engines that it was driver’s meeting time.  I throw on my uniform in hopes that it actually fits and head that way.  With officials barking out instructions over a lone car still warming, I glance across the scenery of racing royalty. 

It truly was an event to prove who the best of the best were.  Smoke is to my right.  McCarl is to my left.  Legends of the northeast are huddled behind the speaker.  PA Posse are bragging about Lucas’ PBR car near the scales.  The Memphis Mafia are near the official’s trailer to make sure they are first to draw.  Rico and westerners between Oklahoma and Australia are filling in the gaps. 

I didn’t forget about the Florida guys who seem to never get respect on the national stage.  I think they defend their turf as well as anyone in the country considering how often they never get to race. 

As a natural born observer, I found myself near the rear appreciating the fact that for the next few days, I was one of them.

It was my turn to draw and the official showed me a small wooden pebble with 67 written on it.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I asked 67 out of????? He looked over and muttered 70.  Damn, that ain’t good. 

I dropped my head and headed toward my trailer as the crew anxiously awaited the greatest response, outside pole, inside pole?  Nope.  Dead last…

Optimism got the best out of my team due to passing points…

Until an official showed up with the lineup…

I’m making this stat up, but this is the 21st century and it’s going to be on the internet, so it must be true.  There were at least 223 World of Outlaw feature wins starting in front of me…

So, when my crew started screaming “Passing Points!!, Passing Points!!”, I looked at them with a Jim Mora death stare, “PLAYOFFS, PLAYOFFS, PASSING POINTS, PASSING POINTS.”

The rest of the weekend would find me toward the rear of everything.  Toward the rear of everything was somewhat where I expected to be anyways. 

The features only started twenty-two cars.  Every night there were forty of the greatest sprint car drivers in the world sitting in the turn one stands…

Next to me…

I was able to race a 1200cc minisprint at East Bay in 2002 against Larry Bland and Tom Busch.   They swept the podium plus one every night, but were gracious enough to share their victory strawberries with everyone in the stands while the royal race went on. 

I was able to crew for Danny Smith in 2008 when he almost lapped the field on the final night of speedweeks before a tire went down.

I was able to fall in love with a random campground known as Captains Jacks just south of East Bay that every true sprint car historian from Key West to Western Aussie should stroll into and ask Jack, “Tell me about that photo.”  Hopefully he’ll tell you the whole story before Shirley Kear starts wagering beats on everything from poker to pool tables.

I wasn’t able to exceed my expectations.  I literally accomplished what I expected to do…
When I put it that way, it sounds extremely depressing.  And I’ll agree… I wanted to be a King, not a peasant right off the bat.

I’m in a really cool position right now… As soon as I hit the save button on this article, I’m going to open up another Word document and start taking notes on how to make next year even better. 

In the end, this article wouldn’t have been possible without people who actually make my dreams possible.  Dad is always there… But man… Jimmy Poppa and his son in law, Chad are always on point.

I can brag about myself and accomplishing my goals in this awesome article, but I couldn’t if it weren’t for…