Daytona..Finally Made It!

[SIZE=“4”]Even if it was 30-years too late, it was still a riot.

These are clips (all the way on the bottom), of myself and my son JC doing the Richard Petty Driving Experience back at the first of the year at Daytona.

This all began as a Christmas gift from my sweetie to me in December 08? to do the 8-lap drive along deal, then when we got there and had the opportunity to get a ride-along for my son after my laps were done we did that too.

A little background on both rides;

First, for mine; since I?ve never been on anything bigger than a ?-mile, and it has been 26 years or so since I?ve mashed the loud pedal on a stock car it was very exhilarating indeed! I also was a little lighter (by a hundred pounds!) back then as evidenced here by my trying to get my industrial sized a$$ in and out of that little window!

The only downside was that we just didn?t go fast enough.

I know some of you have done the Petty thing maybe here at Daytona or elsewhere so you?ll understand when I say you can only go as fast as your instructor in front of you. In fact, there are two lights in the lower corners of the rear window in your instructor?s car in front of you, a green light in the left corner and a yellow light in the right corner.

You are taught in the class before you go out on the track to stay 5-car lengths behind the instructor. If you lag too far back he turns on the green light which means catch up, if you crowd him or get too close he hits the yellow light which means back-off!

In fact they cautioned any hot-dogs that may be used to intimidating people out on the interstate by riding 6-inches off their back bumper until they move over that three strikes and you?re out! I.e.; the third time you get the yellow light, game over. You?re pulled over and sent home with no refund.

So needless to say, you?re better off doing this as a complete novice as opposed to having former racing experience because backing off 5-car lengths goes completely against the grain! As you can see, I got the yellow light enough times to get my deal stopped but he didn?t for whatever reason so I was glad of that.

Also, another difference between the drive along and the ride along (besides the price) is about 10-miles an hour. On the drive along we?re held to 145 ? 150 MPH whereas my son?s ride along averaged 160-MPH.

Now for JC?s ride along; this was very special as my son is a handicapped male adult.

As some of you already know, my son was severely injured by a hit-&-run driver while riding his bike in front of our house in 1977 when he was eight years old. He received a closed-head injury with severe brain stem damage (the same thing that killed Dale Sr.) that left him in a coma for several months at Tampa General Hospital before he finally regained consciousness.

As a result, he is 35-% paralyzed, blind in one eye and mentally impaired. He?s always loved racing and I was always going to take him for a few hot laps in the FOUR Late Model when I was racing as I did once with my dad but I never got around to it.

So that?s what makes this special. He finally gets his ride in a race car but this time on a grown-up track. Need not I tell you that the kid was all smiles from ear to ear when he got out of that thing!

Here are a few still shots before blast-off.

JC & me before my laps.

Preparing the Jack Daniels car for the XXXL driver.

JC getting suited up for his ride along.

JC getting ready to climb in the 21 car.

JC strapped in ready to go!

Now for the clips:

Jim at Daytona

JC at Daytona

Great story as always…I hope you and JC had the time of your lives.

About 10 years ago the Petty thing is how my dad and my brothers got into, or back into racing for may dad. When my dad turned 50, he had not been in a racecar for about 25 years or so. My wife was working for Disney Sports at the time so we got him the driving program at Disney. It was great to see him drive a racecar. I had only seen pictures until then. He also got many warnings from the lead car. About 3 months later my dad got the drive along program for my brothers and I for Christmas. We had an awesome time. It was the first time for all three of us to drive a racecar of any kind. At dinner following the Petty experience I told my dad that we are going to buy a racecar and go racing. My brother David and I shared a modified for a few years because our other brother was living in Hawaii for a while. Then we got into LM’s after a couple of ugly wrecks. Our mother letting us know that we will no longer be allowed to drive an open wheel car after her witnessing by brother going airborn at OSW one night and destroying a car about a month after I was cut out of one at speedweeks and transported to the hospital, which coincidently happened exactly 8 days before Dale Sr was killed at Daytona. ANyway, after a couple of more years of LM’s my father, at the young age of 60 trades one of our SLM’s for a sportsman and climbs behind the wheel for the first time in 35 years. He just won the track championship at NSS and is having the time of his life.

[SIZE=“4”]Hey Fred,

That?s a great story about you, your brothers and your dad, thanks for sharing it. Nothing against the young lions of the sport but at this stage of my life I?m always glad to hear of the accomplishments of the Geriatric crowd.

The last two sentences in your post about your dad were AWESOME to hear! I don?t know your dad but by the sound of things you could?ve bought him a vacation trip around the world and it wouldn?t have meant as much to him as what you did for him at Disney.

Kudos to you and your family for providing the vehicle to get him back involved with something he loves!

BTW, if you don?t mind, and excuse my ignorance but what is his name? Now that I know some of his background I?d like to follow his finishes & accomplishments.

Also, are you and your brothers still racing?

Back to the Petty Experience deal, I would recommend it to anyone, young, old, male, female, it doesn?t matter. If you like racing, you?ll love this experience. It is well worth the time & money.

Speaking of the Geriatric crowd, I?ve got one more story regarding our experience this trip at Daytona.

As I mentioned, each group of drivers / ride-alongs that go through the program have to attend a class that lasts about an hour prior to your going out onto the track. In my class, out of about 45 people were two females, both of which had signed up to drive. (The instructor had asked at the get-go for a raise of hands for those that had signed up to drive).

One was a lady that looked to be in her early 60?s with snow white hair. She sorta looked like Maude in the old comedy series of the same name that used to be on TV in the 70?s. When I saw her raise her hand at the show of drivers I was surprised but tickled that she had the hudspa to strap in that thing on the driver?s side.

The other gal by contrast was in her 20?s and a real looker. Not to go into a lot of graphic detail cause I have a certain reputation to maintain (funny huh?) but you know what I mean. It?s the type that when she walks into the room she immediately grabs the attention of all the males that are hard-wired correctly? (Sorta like Milka Duno).

The process for the drivers is that they only take one or two at a time out on the track depending on how many ride-alongs there are. The object is of course to keep the cars stretched-out as much as possible to avoid wrecks.

That gives everybody else a chance to watch each-other on the track while you?re milling around in the pits waiting your turn.

Of course when the two ladies went out for their drives (which were at separate times) all of us guys were lined up at the pit wall like Crows on a fence whereas I fully expected the younger one to drive around pegged to the instructor?s back bumper while the older lady might?ve run around there at 50 MPH.

NADA! It was just the opposite!

It was funny as he!! to watch the looker run around there at 45-50 MPH while the instructor steadily blinked the green light at her to come up to speed and catch up while Maude zoomed around there flat on the floor glued to the instructor?s bumper! (Come to think of it, maybe that was M. Duno huh?)

Anyway, that?s it.

Thanks again Fred for the follow-up and good luck to your dad in his revived racing career!


Yo Jim

Enjoyed the clip(s)… sure looked like fun fun fun.
Glad to see JC enjoying his ride-a-long…
Also surprised how they made that PETTY car cover look like a drivers suit for you. You could have gotten in and out if it wasn’t for that HEAD of yours (damn, how much does that thing weigh).
My computer got stuck and made a funny noise when you went into high gear (gonna have to have this thing checked out).

All funny stuff aside… enjoyed the whole deal A BUNCH…But you know… I wish we were back in the days of the FOUR…we’ll never get to enjoy racing like that again. BOO HOO - You would never have stayed back behind anyone no matter what lights were blinking.

[SIZE=“4”][QUOTE=Old Sunshine Fan;39253]Yo Jim

Also surprised how they made that PETTY car cover look like a driver?s suit for you. You could have gotten in and out if it wasn’t for that HEAD of yours (damn, how much does that thing weigh).

BWAHAHAHAHAHAH?..I LMAO when I read that!

Kidding aside, at the time I weighed 332 Lbs and I was so concerned about being able to fit into stuff over there that I called ahead of time to make sure they had a fire suit the size of a 6-person tent and a race car with a seat installed in the back instead of 6-inches off the steering wheel like you see in the in-car cameras now-a-days. (I?m down to 290 now after my knee replacement surgery in October and still have 50 or so to go in case Petty calls and wants to put me to work, LOL.)

As far as the suit is concerned, matters worse, you put the damn thing over your street clothes so there I was, looking just like the F?g Michelin Man before taking my laps.

And yes, they actually have two cars built for the Big-N-Tall with the seat moved back from the pedals accordingly. One was the Coors car and the other the Jack Daniels car. Of course I picked the one that matched my favorite libation.

[QUOTE=Old Sunshine Fan;39253]Yo Jim

All funny stuff aside… enjoyed the whole deal A BUNCH…But you know… I wish we were back in the days of the FOUR…we’ll never get to enjoy racing like that again. BOO HOO - You would never have stayed back behind anyone no matter what lights were blinking.[/QUOTE]
Yep, I heard that.

I?ve only attended three short-track races to watch the Late Models since I stepped out of the FOUR in 1983. Once down to CCMP last year when Bob (FLVideo) invited me & JC along one night and twice to NSS during last year?s World Series of Asphalt to watch my Nephew.

Maybe it?s just my imagination or maybe it was the select few races I attended but I observed one major ingredient that was missing from at least my experience back in the day ---- PASSING. I virtually didn?t see any to speak of (in the Late Model classes that is.)

I know these are paved tracks I mentioned and there are those here that pooh-pooh asphalt racing as boring over dirt but I?m an old asphalt guy and I can testify that when you attended a race at Golden Gate, Sunshine, Bronson, Auburndale, NSS, West Palm, etc., etc. back in the 70?s & 80?s, you saw Late Models passing, no problem.

I?m wit-cha on this one Bob!

fenton glad you and your son had fun

wish when you were in columbia a while back you had have got in our open wheel with top off if i had of ever though you would have had a blast

i did not know it had been that long since you had been in a race car that open wheel would have ruined you see you ron and son


In spite of all JC has gone thru, he is one of the people on my race family list who I look forward to seeing… He is kind, happy, has a smile that lights up the area and so warm. JC is very special and I know why he is your favorite race buddy. :wink: I am so happy you both got to do that. My son did it last year and said it is something he will never forget.
Jim… thanks for sharing this… for me it is real special news.
carolwicks aka OZ

[SIZE=“4”]Thanks for the kind words Carol, I appreciate it.

Yeah, not just because he?s my kid but that boy?s been through hell and back and as a consequence, doesn?t get to enjoy a lot of things that others get to do so this was sort of special.

I?m going to digress into another story here about JC, one that most people don?t know. However I realize it?s sort of like looking at someone else?s family album type stuff so for those that find it boring and don?t care for that sort of thing just bail out now.

I don?t apologize?.

What most people don?t know is that prior to his accident, JC was an accomplished BMX rider. He was a team rider for J & R Bicycles in Pinellas Park and had won many races, including championships, before being hit in August, 77?. In fact later, due to his talents we always looked back and thought of him as sort of the predecessor to his cousin, Ricky Carmichael, who hadn?t even been born yet at this point in time.

The whole point of this story I?m angling towards is that this particular year (77?) he was kicking my butt with regard to races won and in particular trophies collected. In fact, he had been riding me hard about it all year. So this brings me to the weekend prior to the accident which was the following Monday.

I?m going to follow this with posting some articles of the time which are not entirely correct regarding his championship wins just prior to being hit.

The articles state (and they vary somewhat) that he won the Florida State Nationals in Sarasota just a few weeks before his accident (which he did) but they failed to cover his State Championship win in Georgia between his Florida win and the accident.

Due to his being on a hot streak just fresh from winning the Florida State Championship Linda and I decided to have him go to Valdosta and compete in the Georgia Nationals which was the weekend before the Monday of his accident.

Linda had to do all the carting around, bike tune-ups, etc. when JC?s races conflicted with mine so it was this weekend cause dad was scheduled to go to Bronson for a 100-lap Championship race.

So of course I caught the typical razzing from the young upstart about betting on who would come back with the biggest trophy of the weekend. He tried to hedge his side of the bet because he?d never been to that Georgia track before but dad wasn?t having any of that since I?d never laid eyes on Bronson before either. So our bet was straight up, even-Steven. When we parted ways that Saturday we agreed that the first one back would put his trophy on the kitchen table and the one with the biggest trophy was the winner.

That was the last time I spoke to him before he was changed forever??.

Later that weekend, I was leading the race at Bronson when our fancy, high dollar fuel pump just gave out and relegated me to the infield as a spectator for the rest of the race. In other words, I came home with diddley-squat.

We came in late on Sunday evening and everyone had already gone to bed but there on the kitchen table was a 6? tall trophy for first place in the Georgia State Nationals that weekend. I wish now I would?ve woken everyone up and celebrated right then but I owned and operated a small tractor service at the time and had to be on the jobsite with my other guys at daylight the next morning and JC had to go to school early so I elected to wait until after work, which never happened. (The celebration).

Here are some articles of the time as well as some pics that came later.

One of the first articles shortly after his accident:

The racing community pitches in:

More help from fellow racers and the racing community:

An article 16-months after the accident from Robert Henderson in the St. Pete Times:

More below:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=“4”]Pics of some of his trophies that would fit on normal shelves mounted in his room today to remind him of what used to be. (He has no memory of his short BMX career)

A poem sent to Linda and I from a racers wife and GRA member which we found a lot of strength in during the tough times.

This is the Thank You that Linda and I sent to everyone that we had addresses for as well as posting in the speedway programs after he came home to us. We sent this written on the back of the poem above.

As a final commentary; I credit Linda, JC?s mom and my life?s partner, for seeing this through without faltering as there was a period during this time where I completely lost my faith and worse, found fortification in a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Fortunately I pulled out of that downward spiral in time but one thing?s for sure; this incident caused me to totally re-arrange my priorities in life. I?m not saying I completely lost interest in my racing after this; however instead of it being ahead of everything else in my life as I was treating it, it slipped back a notch or two below Family.

[SIZE=“4”]I just came across another article that mentions the trophy deal I spoke about:

I have received a few real nice PM?s regarding this post.

Thanks all!

Great Job

Just found this Jim. I don’t come down here very often.

Great clips and story. You can see why I bought my ride-a-long----it’s just so much fun to take people for runs, especially on a short track. We have done 1/3 to 1/2 mile tracks. Lots of screamers too.
I hope to have it at the Blast in March at Citrus. Maybe JC could come with you and go for a ride with me. :huepfen024:
It would be a great treat for both of us.

See Ya’

[SIZE=“4”]Good chance he’ll be along with us at the Blast and I know he’d love the opportunity for a ride-along in the NAPA car if possible.

Mega-Thanks Jimbo! He’ll be excited when I tell him of the possibility and I really appreciate it man![/SIZE]


Pictures from the blast at Citrus

Sorry it took so long to post these. I suffer from CRS and the little light went off a few minutes ago. Had a great time with Jim and JC at the blast and here is proof…Enjoy

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