F.Scott Fitzgerald once pondered: ‘Nothing is as obnoxious as other peoples luck’. Well ole F.Scott would have gone insane if he was at Texas Motor Speedway yesterday. My obnoxious meter was red-lining!
It was just a few months ago that Kenton Nelson of TMS left a message for me on my cell. He said I needed to call him because he needed a favor. And as a person that I owe a lifetime of favors, I called back immediately. Once I got Eddie Gossage’s top officer on the horn he sprung this on me. He told me I needed to drive one of the Chevrolet Avalanche’s after driver introductions and ferry one of the Sprint Cup drivers around the track in the pickup bed. I thought he was kidding. He was serious. I agreed in about 1.2 seconds. I was still convinced I was on the receiving end of an elaborate prank. And when Eddie and Kenton are saddled together, hijinks are always in the offering. He told me the next stop on this magical carpet NASCAR ride was selecting a driver. So since I was convinced this was a gag, I shot high. Told him, “ok, I’ll take Dale Jr. He quickly affirmed my selection and that was that. Fast forward until about 12:30 yesterday. I was ushered from my cozy confines in Greggo’s Garage to a ‘meeting’ of parade drivers. Here I was positive that someone would inform me that there was no way in hell I was driving anyone around the track. Especially not NASCAR royalty like Dale Earnhardt’s son. And soon Eddie and Kenton would round the corner having a Wild Asphalt Circus round of hysterical laughter. But they were nowhere in sight.
The ‘drivers’ meeting was serious and determined in tone. The rules were barked out in military-rigid rhetoric. Make sure flashers were on. DO NOT turn A/C on (reason being that the cooling apparatus spawns water on the track). Do not lean out windows. Do not take pictures while driving. Do not exceed 20 MPH. At this point I’m thinking that this task might be true. Maybe it wasn’t a bit. Maybe I was gonna drive the most popular NASCAR jockey around the track in front of 200K screaming fans. At that exact moment of thought, my nerves went on the attack. All the sudden I was nervous. And not just a little bit. I was gut-wrenched, wetting-trousers, anxious and jittery. My stomach seemed to doing bench presses. I was queasy. The thought of a blunder bobbled boo-boo was all I could dream upon.
What if I caused the tumble of the very face of NASCAR? What if I tanked and Dale Jr.was thrown out of the Chevy bed? What if I accidentally turned on the A/C and he slipped getting out? I was a basket case. But soon I was in my silver 2013 model Avalanche. My hands were shaking like a flamingo gal’s castanets. If it weren’t for my sweetie Jenn’s guidance and help, I doubt I could have found the keys. Which were in the unlikely place of the ignition. This was gonna be a nightmare. I was suddenly second-guessing myself for this dithery deed. Maybe this was Eddie and Kenton’s joke. I am sure they knew of the edgy and tensed up matter at hand. I thought I was gonna puke.
So I am in the line of driver chariots. Waiting for green light to pull into the pits and secure my precious cargo. During driver meeting we were sternly instructed to NOT ask for autographs. Being I’m not the autograph type, this would be no hindrance. As I patiently proceeded into the pits I could see the NASCAR four-wheeled missiles standing at parade attention. And in an abruptly, there he was. Wearing the familiar #88. Sporting the usual reddish, three day stubble upon his chin. As I peered in the rear view mirror he launched himself into the bed. He gave a quick rap on the top. And the traffic cop gave me the go-ahead. It was time to set off on my one lap journey. I was positive I was gonna hurl. One of the most famous and popular athletes ( YES! NASCAR drivers are definitely athletes) on the planet was gambling on my ability to tote him around the track. The tummy bile was making its way up my throat. It might have been the most nervous I’ve ever been. But it was time. I put the Chevy in drive and off we went.
The screams and chants of “Junior, Junior, Junior” we’re deafening. I was doing my best to go down my meager checklist. No A/C. Stay on the track apron. Stay under 20mph. Don’t lean out. No photo taking. As we meandered down the backstretch I could feel an ever so slight calmness. But I soon discovered it was only a stay of nervous execution. My nerves were enjoying a swashbuckling adventure wreaking havoc inside the cab of this Chevy shortbed pickup truck. This was getting serious. I was seriously gonna throw up.
But as suddenly as I embarked on this one lap excursion, the end was in sight. I could make out the pits as we rounded famous turn four at TMS. Only about three hundred yards separated me and a successful sojourn around this super speedway. Keeping my eyes peeled and driving with my hands in the perfect 10-2 position I had learned 35 years prior in drivers-ed class. I was gonna make it. I would not fail in my maiden voyage of chauffeuring famous freight. I would deliver my premium payload on time and mayhem free. Only a few yards. Just hold it steady. Don’t panic. Easy does it. Then I hear a loud thumping on the top. A gaze in the mirror revealed the Junior version of the Earnhardt monarchy was lightly pounding. I then heard the familiar North Carolina twag as he yelled, “hey, stop”. So I did. Immediately. And soon after, Junior bailed out over the side. He then walked by the drivers side and gave me a polite ‘thank-ie” in a perfect Tar Heel accent. Soon he was at his car and going about the business of guiding it for 500 action-packed miles. I had made it. No screw-ups. No mishaps. And most of all, NO CASUALTIES!
So as I sit here in the stands at TMS my nerves have calmed some. I think I’ll make it. No traction for my chafed and frayed chutzpah. I felt like a Viking that captained his vessel to new lands. I was Washington crossing the Delaware. I was Lewis and Clark finding the Pacific.
Did I have fun? YES! Was it a rush? YES! Do I want to do it again? HELL NO! Not sure my ticker can survive another trip around the track. Suppressed vomiting too many times. Was convinced I’d soiled my BVD’s.
But I will crow to anyone that will listen that me, Greg Williams, aka Greggo braved the cold,dark and dangerous path of the concrete of Texas Motor Speedway. And it was me that bravely delivered Dale Jr. to his designated place on pit row. I felt like a conquering hero.
Or, maybe Fitzgerald was correct. Maybe my track trek would breed obnoxiousness.
Not me? I wouldn’t allow that to happen.