Thursday, August 17, 2017

Just Gordon being Earnhardt

In the 1990s, I was sitting beside editor Deb Williams of Winston Cup Scene in the Darlington pressbox, and I noticed something interesting.

Dale Earnhardt was leading the race and coming upon lapped traffic in turn one. Instead of waiting to pass them on the backstretch, Earnhardt dove in between them and passed a second lapped car on the high side in turn two. He was pulling away in the backstretch.

I told Deb, and she said that was just Earnhardt being Earnhardt.

A few years later, we were back at Darlington, and Jeff Gordon was leading. At one point, he encountered lapped traffic in turn one, dove between two cars, passed the second one on the high side and pulled away in the backstretch.

I thought Deb would say that was just Gordon being Earnhardt.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Being recognized

When I covered Winston Cup racing in the 1990s and beyond, pretty much all of the Cup drivers knew that I was the big guy with a beard and glasses from Charleston, S.C.

Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott didn't know my name, but they knew I was from Charleston. RP, Earnhardt and Elliott never called me anything during an interview. 

Buddy Baker called me Pardner to my face and on the phone. I guess he called people that if he didn't know their names. But Buddy knew who I was.

I don't know if Jeff Gordon knew my name; he always called me Sir.

Mark Martin knew my name, as did the Bodines, the Labontes and Davey Allison. I was going to explain to Mark who I was during a phone interview, but he said, "I know who you are." He called me Tom when we were about to hang up.

Benny Parsons knew my name, and he normally called me Tom. If he got in a playful mood, he'd call me Tommy. I didn't mind; he was Benny, and I was Tommy.

I once tried to call Kyle Petty, and a guy at the shop told me to call back at 2 and ask for someone. I called back at 2 and asked if this guy was there, and the voice on the phone said, "Is Tom Gillespie there?" It was Kyle.

(By the way, my name's Gillispie, but a lot of people say Gillespie. They expect Gillispies to be named Gillespie.)

What's the big deal about someone knowing your name or recognizing you? It's easier to strike up a conversation or get an interview if they know your name. In a couple of cases, I even struck up a friendship.