I watched my first auto race on June 5, 1976 at the age of seven, and instantly fell in love with the sport. My life has been deeply rooted in racing ever since.
My father took me to the Danbury Racearena in Connecticut for Saturday night stock car races. It was a one-third mile paved fairgrounds oval that featured modifieds sanctioned by the Southern New York Racing Association. This group was a private club that held a strong connection to the local community. A common weekly grandstand crowd was in the six-to-seven thousand range.
The first NASCAR race I attended was in September of that same year. The Thompson 300 for modifieds was becoming very prestigious and also held in Connecticut. The five-eighths of a mile high-banked oval looked massive compared to the Danbury bullring. The event also gave me a good idea of auto racing's competition level. Big winners and track champions from the Racearena often gridded in the non-qualifier's race just to make the back of the 300's field. Geoff Bodine dominated and won that day driving for Dick Armstrong. Occasional trips to other New England and New York short tracks ensued, but Danbury remained my home track.
The Racearena sadly closed in 1981 to make way for a shopping mall. A mall I boycott in support of auto racing. Trips to Stafford Springs, Riverside Park, Lebanon Valley and other area speedways for my racing fix now increased. I witnessed some of the best drivers from the Northeast. Richie Evans, Brett Hearn, Dave Dion, Bentley Warren, Maynard Troyer, Billy Pauch, Dick McCabe and so many others that several pages could be filled here.
My first NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) race in person was in July of 1984 at Pocono, Pennsylvania. Harry Gant won a late-race battle with Cale Yarborough and Bill Elliott to win on this day. Quite a few of stock car racing's best were in the field.
State law allowed me into the Stafford pit area when he turned 16. My racing mechanic apprenticeship began with helping drivers Jimmy Broderick and Ed Flemke Jr. in the late 1980s. My dedication stretched to the point where I never attended any of my high school proms. They were held on race nights and race nights were not skipped.
I went dirt racing in 1989 on Bobby Knipe's pit crew with a sportsman car at Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York. Asphalt racing was my first love but a new-found respect and appreciation for dirt racing developed. I drove my own street stock at the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY during the early 1990s and raced a Northeast pavement late model in the later 90s.
In 2001 I relocated to "Race City U.S.A." Mooresville North Carolina, planning to use my racing experience to launch a professional NASCAR career. Over the next seven seasons I worked for multiple NASCAR teams. Mechanic, fabricator, tire specialist, and over-the-wall pit crew member became new job titles. Among the drivers I worked with were Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, Brian Vickers, and A.J. Allmendinger.
Germain Racing and their Nationwide Series program with Mike Wallace in 2008 was the last race team job for me. The country's economic recession set in and many of my fellow Charlotte-area NASCAR professionals were downsized right out of their careers. This is what led him to the media side of the industry.
The broadcasting and writing world of motorsports was always something I thought about for the future. Similar to when an ex-football player steps behind a microphone during a telecast, however my timetable was suddenly sped up. I began freelance writing for websites that covered auto racing. My radio career began with networking an opportunity onto a motorsports talk show with a local radio station. One step led to another and Speedway Report is now home. The program airs Mondays at 7:30 pm ET on RacersReunion Radio for the Zeus Radio Network and on SpeedwayReport.com/TV/. The show and www.speedwayreport.com aim to keep racers and fans informed of the latest racing news while remembering and respecting the wonderful history of the sport.
Since my media career began, I have won 22 awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. Their annual breakfast presents the honors at the Brickyard Crossing golf club on the morning prior to the Indianapolis 500. I also hold the Association's secretary position and am chairman of the AARWBA annual All-America Team award committee.
My new home and place in the auto racing world is embraced. Relaying experiences from nearly a lifetime on both sides of the fence is thoroughly enjoyed. Gone are crew chief and sponsorship politics that bounce personnel from team to team. Now I take it upon himself to express and discuss opinions, instead of hiding them for the sake of keeping a paycheck. The family's stress from NASCAR team instability is not missed. So, welcome to Speedway Report. The written or spoken word about anything in the auto racing world has a place there. Tune in to the weekly broadcasts, listen to the archives, and read my columns. The show and accompanying website are a place for my thoughts and yours.