A Simple Running Log

February 18, 2015

Training for 2/18/15

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 6:16 pm

It’s hard to believe it’s already been this long, but today is the 14th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. I saw some mention of it on Facebook, and it inspired me to dig up the pictures from the day my friend Julie and I met him in the infield area at Dover, in Sept. 1999.

For the first time, Julie and I were both old enough — 16 — to get into the garage area, and her dad had submitted all the necessary paperwork to get us garage passes, but something got screwed up, and when we got to the track that day, we were told Julie’s dad and uncle’s garage passes were good to go, but the two of us could only get infield passes. The infield passes were lame because the drivers were always either in their motorcoaches, which were off limits to everyone else, or in the garage area. You never saw them milling around the rest of the infield area, because there was no reason for them to be there.

We all went into the infield. Julie’s dad really wanted us to get to see the garage area, so he gave us his and her uncle’s passes and told us to just walk past security like we belonged there so they hopefully would not ask to take a closer look at the name on the passes. It worked like a charm! We were in! We weren’t bothering anyone at all, just watching the teams work on the cars and then send them back out to continue turning practice laps, as they were all getting ready for qualifying that afternoon.

That lasted about half an hour. Then a security guy — we would later learn it was Gary Nelson, at that time THE head security guy for NASCAR — approached us and asked to look at our passes. He read the names and said “You two aren’t James and Michael, are you?” Busted. To this day, I don’t know how or why we caught his suspicion.

Anyway, after a heated argument with Julie’s dad, Gary Nelson finally agreed to let us stay in the infield at least, instead of kicking us all out altogether, as had been his original plan. That gave us one shot at meeting drivers after the practice session ended. There was a set of steps that led from the garage area to a shortcut to the motorcoaches. We stood at the stop of those steps and waited for drivers.

(Coincidentally, when I volunteered to work security at those races in 2003 and 2004, while I was on active duty at Dover Air Force Base, I was usually assigned to those exact steps. I became the security guard I once duped haha.)

We met Mark Martin, Steve Park, Richard Petty (the King!!), Tony Stewart (well, we saw him and asked for his autograph but he totally ignored us), Kenny Wallace, Chad Little, Terry Labonte and Kenny Irwin Jr., who would die in July 2000 in an accident during a practice session at Loudon.

But the biggest star we met that day was Earnhardt Sr. Here’s Julie asking him for his autograph:

julie and earnhardt

He was clearly in a hurry, but he told us if we walked with him toward the motorcoaches, he’d sign our stuff. There’s another picture Julie’s dad took, of me walking next to him, but you can’t really see anything, so I didn’t bother posting it here.

So that’s my only Dale Earnhardt story. I got to go in the garage area at Dover once more before he died, but I was too worried about finally finding and meeting Bobby Labonte to care about anyone else.

You know, now that I think about it, I think I remember what I did to get security’s attention. Julie and I got down to the garage area just as it went “hot,” meaning the practice session was under way, so cars would be driving in and out and fans had to stay out of the aisle. We saw Rusty Wallace walking to his car on the other side of the aisle. We had no idea we couldn’t go over there. There were no cars coming through yet, and Julie nudged me and told me run over to him and get an autograph, so I did. I remember Rusty saying “You know you’re not supposed to be over here!” and then signing my magazine. It was a little while later Gary Nelson threw us out.

Anyway… when I was looking for that picture today, I found my eighth grade yearbook. My brother and I were just about the only Ford fans in our whole school; everyone else preferred Chevy. (I was still a Ford fan, even though Bobby drove a Chevy and then a Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing.) I forgot how much shit everyone else used to give us about Fords! There was “Ford sucks” and “Chevy rules” notes all over my yearbook, among the normal messages wishing me to have a good summer and never change. (Why did 13-year-olds always write that?)

Among all that, I found what is possibly the first note Clark ever wrote me, which was then “corrected” by my brother haha:

clark yearbook

If you can’t read it, Clark’s original message was “Abby, Ford sucks, Chevy + Gordon reign NASCAR – Clark.” Awwww!

Then I flipped to the back of the yearbook. An actual war on everything I loved had been waged on that page, by a kid in our class named Jordan, who preferred Chevy, Earnhardt and his girlfriend Leslie:

jordan yearbook

Woah, take a deep breath! Contrary to what it must look like judging by this page, Jordan and I actually got along fine haha. He was probably just hopped up because it was the end of the school year or something.

After that trip down memory lane, I went for a run. I wore my trail shoes, but it turned out I really didn’t need to. The roads were pretty much clear. I did a lap around the 6.5-mile loop.

When I got home, I let Pepper out, where I got this picture of him running back to me after I threw his rawhide chew across the yard for him to fetch:

pepper in snow

He looks like he’s about to take off like Dumbo with those ears!

And here’s looking down our road from our front yard in late afternoon:

woodpecker road



  1. Hi! It was very nice to meet up with you!

    Comment by Alida Greenhalgh — February 25, 2015 @ 11:08 am | Reply

    • It was nice to meet you too!

      Comment by aschmid3 — February 25, 2015 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

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