Throwback Thursday – A Summer at the Track
The NASCAR season has just wrapped up with Martin Truex Jr. the champion. Truex’s Crew Chief is Cole Pearn, who cut his racing teeth at Delaware Speedway. His Mom Patti is a local realtor. Anyone connected to Delaware knows Cole. He’s a star of the sport right now. Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief at the memory of spending the summer of 2010 in the Delaware tower, writing race reports. Several racers thought I had no idea what I was doing, and they told me so. Some of them were correct!
The company that contracted me threw me to the wolves, through no fault of their own. The guy who was supposed to train me became seriously ill and was hospitalized as the season began. I couldn’t very well sit on his gurney and press him to give me tips. Derek had done track-side announcing at Delaware for years so he helped me where he could.
Before the race started, I’d make the rounds of the track and infield and try to get some interesting photos to put on social media. Once racing was underway, I’d say a silent prayer to the gods of Victory Lane that no one would interrupt my frantic typing. If I missed something, I’d hear about it later. The tower wasn’t air conditioned and it heated up like a sauna. I accidentally dropped my expensive camera battery down a chasm beside my seat and never saw it again. The place was a rickety death trap.
Somehow I survived and met some great people along the way, notably (now former) Free Press journalist Jim Cressman. I also got to meet Kyle Busch, Derek’s least favourite NASCAR racer.
It’s where I had a wonderful conversation with driver Jason Leffler who would be killed just a couple of years later in a crash at Bridgeport Speedway. He talked about his young son and the fatigue of travel and the schedule. Not complaining, just explaining.
The danger was always clear and present.
Racing is an adrenaline rush, a family affair and a way of life. I never felt at home at the track but I did my best to fit in. I learned a hell of a lot, too. Racing is like anything you think you know from watching. You realize you have no idea until you’re in the thick of it, breathing in burned rubber and trying to figure out in hindsight who crashed whom on turn three.