By Tim Leeming
Perhaps I should have entitled this something along the lines of being open to suggestions of those who are obviously wiser about certain issues than I, or you, maybe. As some of you who have been around here for awhile may remember, I was one of the biggest critics of The NASCAR Hall of Fame, based mostly on the fact that I, that is ME, didn’t like the selection process for those to be enshrined. I felt, still feel, as many do, that some of the true pioneers of the sport are being overlooked and shuffled to the side for more recent “money men”. Man, I got really nasty several times with such comments.
Then one day I got this e-mail from Randy Myers. Randy is part of the Myers Family who gave so much to the sport in the early days. Randy sort of challenged me to the deal of coming to the Hall of Fame and if I didn’t like it, he would buy my lunch. If I did enjoy my visit, I would buy his lunch. So the deal was made.
Being unwilling to face off on such a challenge by myself, I put out the suggestion here on the site that others may wish to join me. Sure enough, we had eight or so on our first trip. We stopped by and picked up Frances Flock on our way up to Charlotte and enjoyed her conversation on the way to downtown Charlotte. That trip was over a year ago so her husband, Tim, was not yet enshrined in the Hall. Having Frances with us was truly a great part of the day.
That day we spent probably four hours touring the Hall before sitting down for lunch at the restaurant adjoining the Hall. Oh, I should mention here that it was I buying Randy’s lunch that day! He was right. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is an awesome place for a race fan, old, new, or not yet even converted, to spend a day.
Our little group made another trip to the Hall of Fame this past November, our second trip on a week day. We had chosen weekday visits with the rationale that we would avoid the “crowds”. After the last trip, several folks e-mailed me asking why we didn’t do it on a Saturday so more could join us. We started talking about a Saturday trip back in January and finally selected a day when the most people responding to the offered dates were available to go. We had 26 folks on the list to attend that visit this past Saturday, March 29th. As it turned out, we only had 21 of those 26 make the appearance and we are very sad that Shan had car trouble and got stuck along the highway. But, Shan, rest assured that there will be another trip planned soon as many of us discussed the possibility of three or four trips a year, perhaps one each quarter. After all, this was my third visit and almost like going to the races in the past there is always something different.
As I have always believed, and have even mentioned in previous Legentorials, when race fans get together, no matter the differences in favorite drivers or whatever, the conversation is going to be great and the camaraderie as casual as an infield at Darlington in the late sixties. This trip was no different. The big difference here was we had ages 12 to late 80s. We had a college couple with us who are huge race fans and were going on to a cold day in Martinsville on Sunday. We had the ever cheerful Ray Lamm and his camera as well as Laverne Zachary and his camera to take some really good pictures. As always, Dangerous Devin was snapping photos and sneaking videos when no one was looking.
Dave Fulton finally realized what it means to be in the company of someone “Famous” so he had prepared the appropriate signage for labeling. Robin Agner brought his 12 year old Grandson, Ethan after Ethan’s baseball practice was rained out and Ethan and I put on quite the show in the simulator racing.
Let me explain the simulator deal. First you have to go to a place and “qualify” for the race. Then you are placed in full size race cars (simulators). As it worked out Ethan quallified for the Martinsville race at like 20.165 seconds and I had 20.169 so he and I were on the front row. There are actually two of us in each car but we are totally separated into our own little worlds. Nevertheless, Ethan and I could talk back and forth through the partition and believe me we were having an truly animated conversation through that partition as we raced our way around the Martinsville track. Ethan and I managed to accomplish what has never been done at Martinsville to our knowledge; we actually flipped our respective cars.
The rest of the crowd, including many more who were not with our party, watched the race on the television screen above the simulators and laughed themselves silly at the outcome of the race. I must question, however, how it was I who caught all the grief about the flip where Ethan didn’t have the first person laugh at him for the same type flip!!! Guess he is just much more of a driver.
To each and every one of you who attended that event, I thank you. Danny Whitener, thanks to you for bringing those with you as that added to our enjoyment of the day. It was also great to have Patrick Reynolds from Motor Week Live right there with us. Patrick is a true racer and he seemed to enjoy his visit.
One of the highlights of the day, at least for me, was being with Frances Flock when she was at the display for the new inductees. You could feel the warmth of her smile from 10 feet away as she pointed out her husband Tim’s uniform and trophies on display by the Hudson Hornet Tim had driven in the infancy of NASCAR. Some of us were also privileged to hear the story of the special ring she wears on her “wedding finger” and how that ring came to be. But the most impressive thing about that ring was the description she gave when she said “this is the ring MY DARLING gave me”. The story of Frances and Tim Flock is a love story worthy of a movie.
Oh, and speaking of Frances, as you know if you read the Forum posts, has experienced some health issues lately. I would guarantee you, even if you are a doctor who specializes in such things, that you would have adjudged Frances to be in her twenties and in perfect health if you could have been with us Saturday.
So, to conclude this dialogue on our trip, to each and every one who joined us, a sincere thank you from each to the other for making it a very special day. To Randy Myers, thank you my friend, for the challenge to visit the Hall the first time. It is, as you said, a situation where we may not like everything about it, but if NASCAR is our sport, and for those of us here it is OUR sport, then the Hall of Fame is a display worth the visit. From the Glory Road to the Fourth Floor where the history is displayed the feeling of being there is almost magical. Not quite Disney Magical, but in a different way sort of like visiting good friends for Sunday Dinner. We will be making that trip again and I hope all of you who were with us this time will return and I hope that many who couldn’t make it this time will be with us next time.
Now, let’s spend just a minute on the Martinsville race. I did not get to see the race as I was at my grandson’s soccer game. It did, however, hear most of it on the radio. Two things about listening on the radio struck me. First was the fact that doing so was sort of retro to when I was younger and races weren’t on television. The other was that racing seemed to return to the way it was when it was really some good racing. Listening to the last 20 laps called on MRN was like being 15 again and listening to a close race from a short track. Of course by that time I was driving home from the soccer game. I’m still wondering what that driver from the South Carolina Highway Patrol Racing Team thought when I passed him on the outside of the exit ramp off I-20. No biggie, he wasn’t very competitive. Couldn’t even come back.
Seems we have a feud going now between Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski. A feud between those two would seem to be the best deal NASCAR could hope for in such a situation. They are headed for Texas where the “wild west” syndrome is likely to raise its head. Should be a great race this coming Sunday
Oh, and NASCAR should be loving this six races, six different winners thing! And, Dale Junior leading the points!!! Can it get much better for NASCAR, television ratings aside. Sure the crowd was down, again, at Martinsville, but considering it was raining and snowing in the morning Sunday, the crowd was not a bad. I haven’t seen the tv ratings yet as this is written Monday, but from comments I’ve read on other social media sites, the Waltrips once more did everything in their power to kill the broadcast. That is a shame, really, as NASCAR has worked with the rules, the cars, and the drivers, and appears to be on the way to a good season. They may have to worry about more than 16 different winners before they get to the Chase if the current trend continues, but I do foresee multiple rins for a few of the drivers out there.
Martinsville was a return to the early days, at least to short track racing. There was bumping, banging, feuding and real excitement. Not sure what Texas will bring us this weekend, but I am betting that the situation with Kurt and Brad isn’t settled yet. Wonder how much Eddie Gossage will make out of that? Maybe he should stage a fast-draw gunfight on the front straight between those two before the race, using blanks, of course.
NASCAR, I don’t agree with everything you’re doing, but I also remember I didn’t agree with Randy Myers about the Hall of Fame either. Randy educated me to the error of my thinking. NASCAR, it is up to you to show me that you are serious about returning racing to a competitive, non political sport that is not staged by bogus caution flags with ten laps to go. Give us a sport of which to be proud. I see some progress towards that goal so don’t give up. Make me sing YOUR praises as I now do for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
By Tim Leeming