Part of my Saturday morning routine involves listening to the Marty and McGee show.
They are on ESPN radio from 7-9 a.m. and have these conversations that remind me of the ones my brother and I have frequently: these rambling narratives that are occasionally broken up by someone breaking into a country song.
In addition to being delightfully redneck entertaining, I count both Marty Smith and Ryan McGee among my friends. I have known those two for a long time and they helped me out a great deal when I was running the public relations program at Rockingham.
Anyway, the point of my story (which leads to a story) is this. Last Saturday, they were talking about the crazy stuff they did when they were kids that no sane parent would let their kids do. So I tweeted at them about a B.B. gun war and the two-pump rule we had for those with the pump rifles. McGee read the tweet, which led them to tell the story that was my claim to fame in racing when I was much younger man.
Hang on, I know I’m already about 175 words in, but I promise this is a good story.
So, it’s November 3, 2002 and I am working for the Richmond County Daily Journal covering the Pop Secret 400 at the North Carolina Speedway. I got paid based on bylines and photo credits, so it behooved me to be intrepid. I spent most of the races then darting between the media center, the garage and pit road — depending on what was going on.
On this particular day, Ward Burton crashed on lap 292 bringing out the fourth and final caution of the day. Being the intrepid reporter/photographer that I was, I jumped up and ran out to pit road to get some photographs (color photos paid $25 a pop, I wasn’t missing out). Mark Martin had a very good Viagra Ford Taurus (not making that up) that day, so I headed to his pit to get some pics. I knew if he won (he didn’t), they would have a little more value.
Anyway, I get to his stall and, luckily, it is right in front of the access to victory lane, so I have a large opening to get some good shots from behind the car. It is in that spot that I post up and get ready for the stop.
Then some security guy comes along and tells me to move along.
I moved, but when he left I went back.
So there I am, poised to get these press-association-award-winning photos. And I got them. It was a great stop by Martin’s guys. I even got the classic shot of the tire changer flying around the back of the car with the air hose in flight.
The jack fell on the left side and the driver popped the clutch and the Ford began to speed away.
It was at that exact moment that disaster struck.
You see, those lug nuts that hold those wheels onto the hubs go flying when they come off the studs and apparently one got directly in the line of one of Martin’s spinning Goodyears and became airborne, vectoring to its target: My forehead.
The very hard metal object approximately one inch in diameter connected squarely above my left eye, leaving me dazed, confused and, in retrospect, pretty lucky to be alive. Like any normal person, I bent down, picked it up and put it in my pocket. I still have it.
Not quite sure what to do next because my head immediately felt like it had been struck by a hard metal projectile, I stumbled my way back to the media center where I grabbed the first thing I saw that might ease the increasing pain in my face: an ice-cold canned Mountain Dew.
Did you know that if you place a Mountain Dew on your forehead, people will look at you funny?
They will. So I attracted a little bit of attention from the folks in the media center — Marty and McGee being two of them. Marty was the first person I told the story to.
Then word got around as to what happened and I eventually attracted the attention of Kristi King, the track’s then PR director, who put me on a golf cart and whisked me away to the infield care center to have the growing knot on my head examined. While there I had a brief encounter with Ward Burton and he said something unintelligible when I explained the nature of my visit.
Luckily I was fine, save for some embarrassment and the lump I sported for a couple of weeks.
At this point in the story, you would expect some lesson or moral to come from the 800 words I just wrote. But no, I’ve got none of that. I didn’t listen to the security guy, I got my head cracked. So, I guess there is a moral: don’t be a [email protected]$$.
But, then again, if I had not been one, I wouldn’t have this story to tell.
Andy Cagle, a former spokesman for Rockingham Speedway and motorsports public relations consultant, writes about NASCAR in a weekly column.