There are a few memories worth sharing about Dick Trickle. His stories and thoughts will always stick in someone’s head. The first interview with him, he was asked about winning the first National Short Track Championship at Rockford Speedway in Illinois. Trickle said he remembered it very well, right down to the exact amount he won because Hugh Deery, Rockford Speedway Promoter at the time, paid him in $5 bills.
The first time meeting Tony Stewart, to say you were nervous, would be an understatement. But, those nerves went away when Tony invited me into the motorhome and had a few minutes just to talk. Over the next five years, Stewart would visit Madison International Speedway with Matt Kenseth every year for a special race event. It’s cool to be part of a group of people who know who the real Tony Stewart is versus those who don’t know him.
One of the great things about short track racing is that fans can watch drivers race at their local tracks one day and the next, they are watching them on television every weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In the 1990’s many of us in Wisconsin can say that with Matt Kenseth. We all would watch him race at Madison, Jefferson Speedway, Wisconsin International Raceway and La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway. In 1993, he won the ARTGO main event at the famous Oktoberfest Race Weekend. Ten years later, we were watching him get crowned as the last NASCAR Winston Cup champion.
In 2003, this writer had the opportunity to work with Roy Kenseth at Madison as the track’s public relations representative. Working side-by-side with Roy during the year was something that no one will ever forget. Here is a dad trying to promote a track while his son races week after week as the point leader. When Kenseth claimed the championship at Rockingham Speedway, they interviewed an emotional dad. Like many others, tears were being shed at home as well. The insight of watching a father seeing his son accomplish this goal was one of the more unique things in my career.
Speaking of Oktoberfest, it was in 2006 where we all witnessed something could almost be compared to when Dale Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500. For many years, Steve Holzhausen always was looking to add his name to that list. That goal was finally realized in a 100-lap caution free race. Holzhausen was exhausted as he exited his car, but was relieved that his name was finally in the history books.
The same feeling was felt for Nathan Haseleu in 2013. Haseleu took over the lead after Johnny Sauter was leading and got tangled up with his nephew Travis Sauter in the closing laps of the race. Haseleu came out of his car, after doing a burnout that he promised to his kids. He started talking about winning and it hit him and he went speechless. His name is forever etched in the history book along with being the first ever ARCA Midwest Tour champion in 2007.
In October 2012, there was a phone call from Bob Dillner inviting me to help Speed51.com at the Snowball Derby. A day before the big event, Dillner knew my experience with running victory lane, kind of like what Bill Broderick used to do at Cup races. The challenge was given to me to do the same for the big Super Late Model event.
It was that race that put Erik Jones in the spotlight as he made a late pass on Kyle Busch to win the 300-lap race. Before Erik got out of the car, Kyle came over and stood next to me and congratulated him.
The next day, while on a plane from Pensacola to Atlanta, there was a passenger reading the newspaper. The passenger opens up the paper, and right there in full color is a photo Kyle and me standing next to Erik’s car. For the rest of that flight, I kept my eye on that paper. The passenger left the paper on the plane when he got off; I walked by and grabbed it.
This is just a small sampling of some of my memories from covering auto racing events. Could this be expanded into a book? Probably, but still have some space left in my mental database to add some more before it is written.