Saturday, July 2, 2016

Learning from Hoss Ellington

In the 1980s, I was a sports writer for the Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News, and my boss, Jerry Hooks, decided that I'd be the auto-racing writer. Actually, he and the other two sports writers had tried to write about Hoss Ellington, and I guess Jerry decided it was my turn in the barrel.

Ellington could sometimes be tough to deal with; at other times, he was charming and fun to talk to. I don't know about Hooks and the other two, but I never had any trouble with Hoss.

Hoss (real name Charles, I believe) had a business on the outskirts of town, but his main claim to fame was that he was a part-time Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) car owner. David Pearson, the great driver, was in the twilight of his career and driving for Ellington. The first day I met him, he was in town to be fitted for his car seat.

David didn't drive for Hoss long with me covering them, and Hoss switched drivers pretty often. Davey Allison and Sterling Marlin, a pair of two-time Daytona 500 winners with other teams in the 1990s, drove for Hoss early in their Cup careers. So did Brett Bodine; Brett never won a Daytona 500, but his brother Geoff did in 1986.

I got to learn a lot about auto racing while writing about Hoss and his crew in 1986 and '87. And that was helpful when I became the auto-racing writer for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier in 1990 and when I started writing books in 1999.

I never saw Hoss after I moved to Charleston in '87, but I saw Pearson, Allison and Bodine often enough after that. I had home numbers for all three, and I enjoyed a friendship of sorts with Davey.

My favorite memory of Brett came when I was working for the Post and Courier and covering a race at Charlotte. Brett was coming out of the garage for practice and noticed me. He nearly stopped, then made a broad wave to me while making sure I saw him. I waved back, of course.

In 1991 and '92, I wrote four comic-book scripts for Vortex Comics out of Canada. I wrote about Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan (yet another Daytona 500 winner), Pearson and Brett Bodine. The Bodine comic was supposed to be about Geoff, but he never signed a contract. So I did it about Brett.

Geoff Bodine and David Pearson were a part of my best day as a sports writer, something I've written about in this blog. I won't go into it here, but you can read that blog entry.

One other thing, the first day I met Pearson, he got exasperated with me and walked away. On my best day as a sports writer, I told David about him walking away, and he apologized. I told him that it was OK. I didn't know a lot about racing back then.

Things changed, of course.


CONTACT: Email me at tgilli52@gmail.com or nc3022@yahoo.com. Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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