For those of you who may remember, I was not here last Tuesday because my youngest grandson was playing in his school's Spring Band Concert. Although I learned of it at the last minute, I was determined to be there as I try to support my grandsons in everything they do. When I go to Sam's soccer games (he is the Captain and leading scorer of his high school team in his senior year) I wear the trademark cowboy hat. For the band concert, it was dress slacks and dress shirt but NO cowboy hat.
By the time I got to the school, the auditorium was packed. As I tried to find a seat I ended up on the very front row (which suited me fine) and my seat mate to my right was 9 years old and a very talkative young lady. She had a vocabulary D.W. would envy and between performances, she was talking my ears off. Then a band director from another school came to the podium. He was huge, with all silver hair, and lots of it. My seatmate drew back in her seat as if afraid and I asked her what was wrong. She said, "he has old man hair and I'm afraid of that.” I sort of laughed to myself as to not embarrass the child but I pointed out that I, too, had "old man hair" although quite a bit less than did that band director. She said she noticed I had a "little bit of old man hair" but that I was nice and she wasn't afraid of me.
That conversation with my new 9 year old friend, B.J." got me to thinking about all the grey in my hair and the ever-thinning top of my head. While once I may have bemoaned the fact of growing old and still joke about that point endlessly, it really doesn't bother me anymore outside the pains from spending too much time doing yard work. Let me tell you why.
Thanks to my old man hair, I was able to watch the golden age of NASCAR pass before my very eyes. I watched the Hudson Hornets race. I saw the Flock brothers, Fireball, Lil Joe, Herb Thomas, and many, many more, some of whose names appear in racing records while others are left to disappear as if never existing in the sport. I saw convertibles race at Darlington, along with a few other tracks, but seeing that 1957 Rebel 300 with the three abreast start of convertibles lives in my mind as if watching the replay on my monitor screen right now.
I was able to witness the very first World 600 in June of 1961 as I stood next to the fence in turn four and watched asphalt fly up from the track as if it were bullfrogs jumping off lily pads. I witnessed, first hand, the first race of the man who would become known as "The King" and a year later watched that same young man win his very first race. I watched the only stock car race run on the road course in Augusta, Georgia that was both exciting and memorable for a number of reasons. I watched the sport grow from the short tracks to the super speedways and grow across the country. I saw, first hand, R.J. Reynolds, through its Winston brand, paint the racing world red and white and winning The Winston Cup was the goal of every driver on the track.
I saw men die in races I attended. The 1957 Southern 500, the 1959 Southern 500 and the 1964 World 600 flash before me as severe lighting in a South Carolina summer thunderstorm. I've seen men and women, walk away from crashes that should have taken their lives and on a February Sunday afternoon in 2001, albeit watching on television, I saw a less that spectacular accident take the life of one of the sport's biggest stars.
All those memories, and many, many more, are stored underneath this "old man hair". I'm glad I have those memories as I watch rule after rule being made by the sanctioning body as if those rules are intended to be nails in the coffin of NASCAR racing. Stages are okay with me, playoffs in racing, are NOT. The "five minute repair clock" is an abomination to the very reason we have the honor of claiming Benny Parsons as a Winston Cup Champion, and without detailed researching, how many others claimed a championship by being able to repair and return to the race. If I were computer savvy enough, I would run the 1992 stats of Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott to see what difference ONE finishing position may have made in one race where one or the other repaired the car to finish one or two positions higher than they would have finished had they been required to park it.
Today, Sunday, I read in the newspaper here, an article by George Diaz who covers NASCAR for the Orlando Sentinel. Seems NASCAR wants to rule out the sound of the racecars to a much softer sound. Part of the sport to me, along with the color, has always been the sound of the cars and that includes cars idling in the pits or at full speed on the track. To even think about such action is, in my opinion, ludicrous. To take away, even a decibel of the sound of the sport is a travesty to good sense.
The sport has gone downhill over the past several years, and while many of us like to blame a certain individual for that decline, it is apparently more to it than that. Surely no one man could have a mind so inept as to so drastically change everything that made the sport exciting and worth watching now a pitiful display of overpaid drivers in cars in no way appearing stock, and on tracks that can't begin to compare with North Wilkesboro or Rockingham. Chicagoland and Kansas come to mind, followed not far behind by Texas.
So, now I suppose I'll go comb my old man hair and watch the race from Las Vegas. My favorite memory of Las Vegas is Ann Margaret and Elvis in "Viva Las Vegas" along with the invention of the "Polish Victory Lap”. I want to throw out a special thank you to my new friend, B.J., for enlightening me to what a blessing having "old man hair" truly is.