Sunday, February 26, 2017

REMINISCING: Race Day With Grandma

Today is the Daytona 500. Watching the race is kind of a tradition in my family, although I’m sure neither Wendy, nor the girls really care too much about it. But it is a tradition that goes a long way back to when I was a young kid. Some readers may initially scoff at a NASCAR tradition, but I think you’ll understand by the end.

My grandmother loved car racing. When I was younger, the only race that ever ended up on television was the Daytona 500. Since it was on a weekend, there was a good chance that I was spending that weekend at my grandmother’s house. So, we’d watch the race. As the years went on, it was the thing I did on the Sunday of the Daytona 500.
The Start of the 2015 Daytona 500 --courtesy nascarking

The first race I definitely remember watching was the 1980 running of the race. It made the networks and was popular after the fight at the conclusion of the 1979 race. Buddy Baker won the race, which I thought was cool. That was mostly because what 7-year-old doesn’t like the name “Buddy?” Despite all that, Cale Yarborough was my favorite driver. The next year, Harry Gant was grandma’s favorite driver until he retired.

In the meantime, I had my matchbox cars, some of which were race cars. In grandma’s living room, I would set up a race track with the Tinkertoys and hold my own Daytona 500. There was a pit road, viewing stands, a media center, and glorious crashes. I did things all the way. Go big, or go home. Also, no one was injured in the epic imaginary races of Lyndonville, New York. Think about it. Those racers drove 200 miles per hours and simply walked away from crashes. To a kid’s eyes, they were superhuman. No one ever got hurt in my races.

Even as I got older, I would take the time to sit with grandma and watch the race. Sometimes, those teenage jobs got in the way, but I made every effort to make it to her house for Race Day. Once we got our own house, Wendy and I had her come up to our house for the race. She favored Juan Pablo Montoya in those days, the arch-nemesis of almost any driver on the track. It was fun to banter about our favorite drivers.

After Yarborough retired, I went through a series of “favorite” drivers. Rusty Wallace made an appearance on that list, and Dale Earnhardt, too. Terry Labonte was probably on the list for the longest time. These days, Kevin Harvick tops that list even though he’s driving a Ford this year. (This is just a little joke in the event Mike Landers is listening. Thanks, Mike!) I like Clint Bowyer, too, mostly because of his personality. I’d like to see him win it this year.

My love for car racing and the Daytona 500 mostly comes from my grandmother. She knew a lot about the racing world. As NASCAR became more popular and more races ended up on television, she’d watch more of the races. She’d make it almost an every weekend point to watch any race that made it on the airwaves, especially after she got cable. When I’d call to talk to her, she’d ask if I saw the race, and then go on and break down the action.

Today, when the race comes on, we’ll have it on. We’ll have some snacks and picnic in the living room. That may be the girls’ favorite part of the day. Much like the Super Bowl, they really don’t care. But the chance to eat in the living room is too much of temptation for them. Plus we get to eat fun foods. This is our tradition. I have fun. I have to plan it in advance so I get control of the television.  

So, who’s ready to race?

Craig Bacon initially had another article written for today, but when he was going to bed Saturday, he realized he should write about the Daytona 500 and his grandmother. He raced Sunday morning to finish it.