In the 90's, I was known as "The Steering Wheel Guy" in NASCAR, IndyCar, and F1. After I'd been trying to sell him on using a custom-molded wheel for a few races, one day at MIS, Dale told me "OK git me a wheel."..the team was excited for me and one member went with me up to the transporter and got me a wheel.
As we were walking away, I took a HARD yank on my shoulder, and Dale put his face 3" from mine, and yelled, "I TOLD YOU TO GIT ME A WHEEL!"
The teammate felt embarrassed since we both thought he meant to get one out of the back-up car in transporter. Turns out he wanted me to SPONSOR him with a wheel.
Up to this point, my wheels had one the Indy 500 three times, and I never sponsored anyone.
Regardless, I ate my pride and bought a wheel and molded it. As I did with every wheel I made, I engraved his first name, serial number, and the date on the back...then something bad happened.
Ernie Irvin went into Turn 3 hard and had to be airlifted. After that, no one was in any mood to do anything, so I left with the wheel.
Weeks later, Dale Jarrett called me and told me he broke his left hand and needed to get the Interstate Ford through the Charlotte race although he qualified in last place...due to the pain.
I told him, "Dale, I got a wheel here with your name on it!"...though it was Earnhardt's when I engraved it. I ended up building up a HUGE wing under the left hand for him to lean against, and Fed-Ex'd it to Charlotte.
Although DJ qualified dead last, HE WON THE RACE -- broken hand and all.
Joe Gibbs kept that wheel when DJ moved on, and later Labonte took it back to the winner's circle after he broke a finger and needed to race.
Lucky wheel it was...
The Steering Wheel Guy
May 17, 2010 5:34 PM
More blog entries from Tom Gillispie
• Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr. (a book of great stories)
• Then Junior Said to Jeff... (the book of great NASCAR stories)