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 for this guy, 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? 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.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Remembering North Wilkesboro fondly

I can't give any big reasons why I used to love to go to North Wilkesboro Speedway. There were just a bunch of small reasons.

Wilkesboro gave the feel of a local track. You felt like you were going to Hickory Motor Speedway, Myrtle Beach Speedway or Summerville Speedway (no longer with us). Or Tri-County.

You didn't have to drive through a tunnel and find a place to park inside the track. You just parked outside the souvenir trailers and walked the short distance to the pressbox; or you waited until practice was over and walked across the track to the tiny infield media center.

I enjoyed going to Charlotte, Darlington and Rockingham, among others, but Wilkesboro was special to me.

I remember eating at Shoney's with my friend Mike Harris, and people all around us were obviously listening to our conversation about Winston Cup drivers we knew.

Another nice thing: The Williams Motel charged its normal rates, about $27 a night. Cool. No price gouging there.