Monday, January 15, 2018

Remembering my friend Bob Myers

Several of my favorite auto-racing people have died over the years, and I haven't written about most of them. Bob Myers just died, and I HAVE to write about Bob.

I don't have any great stories about Bob. He was in retirement and covering NASCAR for a magazine (or magazines) when we met. He went out of his way to try to find extra magazine writing work for me when I was unemployed, and Bob was one of the most upbeat writers I've ever met. He was one of the people I looked forward to when I went to a race.

One of my favorite memories of Bob came in 1991; Bob was a minor actor in what happened that day, but he got everything started.

We were at Talladega Speedway a day after a Winston Cup race was rained out by one of the worst storms I've ever seen at a race track (lightning hit behind the stands, among other things).

I walked into the infield media center, and Bob was interviewing Dale Earnhardt, someone I've written about in four books. They were talking about Earnhardt's airplane and pilot, so I went over, got my tape recorder and taped the interview.

Dale memorably stayed in the media center that day. He fixed the TV monitor, and he participated in a Hangman game on the computer of publicist Ray Cooper (Earnhardt wasn't very good, but he was competitive), and he showed me his Rolex watch (I'd never seen one up close). Most of all, he finally answered a question for me.

He was sitting down, with us standing around him. I wanted to ask him about his racing dreams for a Winston Cup Scene story. When an opening came, I pounced. "You're not going to win 200 races, but is your goal to match Richard Petty's seven Cup championships."

With his head still down, he said that Petty was his hero, but he wanted to match The King's seven titles.

Then he stood up and looked me in the eyes. "Last week at Martinsville, I didn't know it was my 50th (career) win ... but I knowed it was my 40th birthday."

The story behind that is that he'd been saying that his 39th birthday, but his mother Martha Earnhardt was saying that it was his 40th. She was right, of course.

Bob was among the many people in that crowd. Tons of them are on my Facebook page, including Bob. I've often wished him happy birthday, and he's done the same for me. I've heard from him now and then, and I've felt better when I did.

Now, I won't hear from him again. Goodbye, Bob. You're already missed.



EMAIL: tgilli52@gmail.com  TWITTER: EDITORatWORK

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Jeff Gordon's milk toast to Dale Earnhardt

An excerpt from the book Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr.:


One of my favorite Earnhardt stories is Dale's supposed intimidation of Jeff Gordon and Gordon's reaction. Gordon won the first Brickyard 400, in 1994, and Earnhardt won the next year. Earnhardt got on TV and told a talk-show host that he was the first man to win the Brickyard 400. At one point, a rumor was circulating that Gordon was gay, and that apparently came out of the Earnhardt camp. Gordon, who was painfully young and youthful-looking then, took it well enough that the whole intimidation thing died out.

At a NASCAR banquet one year (probably 1996), Gordon drank a milk toast to Earnhardt, who responded with champagne. Gordon was certainly no milquetoast, and Earnhardt recognized that. The two actually became business partners, and in photos you can see Earnhardt's affection for Gordon. 

Earnhardt had 76 Cup victories. Who would later pass him for sixth place on the all-time victory list? Gordon, of course.


(NOTE: Gordon has since moved up to third all time with 92 victories, including his four wins in 2014.)

EMAIL: tgilli52@gmail.com  TWITTER: EDITORatWORK

More entries from TARJ
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

EDITOR@WORK blog entries 

Entries from The Dog Blog
More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Talking to current Cup drivers

I was just looking at the Phoenix finishing lineup, and it occurred to me that winner Matt Kenseth is one of the few current NASCAR Cup drivers I've ever talked to.


NO, DALE JR. AND I NEVER TALKED.
I've been in a press room with several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., but I never talked to any of them one-on-one.

I've interviewed Kenseth a few times on the phone; he did a wonderful job. I remember asking points leader Kevin Harvick a question or two a few years ago during a Media Tour stop at Richard Childress Racing.

I talked to Jimmie Johnson once when he was a rookie back in the day. The Phoenix driver I knew the best was Derrike Cope, who finished 32nd today. In 1990, we were at Charlotte, and I talked to Cope near his trailer. He'd lucked into a Daytona 500 win that year (Dale Earnhardt bust a tire on the last lap), so I asked about it. He had plenty to say.

Cope said that, one day, he was going to whip their butts and show them what he could do. I didn't need to run his interview that weekend, so I saved him until the next week, Pocono. Naturally, he won running away, whipping their butts, and I looked good.

Those were the only two wins of his Cup career (so far).

Also, a bunch of us, including Derrike, once had dinner together at Darlington. The waitress was named Angel. Derrike was, and I suspect still is, a good guy.

• Good timing for Derrike Cope


EMAIL: tgilli52@gmail.com  TWITTER: EDITORatWORK

More entries from TARJ
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)