MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Thirty years.
That’s exactly how long this writer has reported on motorsports for the SPEED SPORT brand. In June 1991 with a Chevrolet Chevette loaded to the gills, I left my native Ohio for New Jersey to join the SPEED SPORT staff led by Chris Economaki.
That began a journey through the motorsports universe that has now lasted 30 years.
Along the way I’ve seen thousands of races at more than 100 race tracks in 24 states, encountered more than a few legends of the sport, experienced triumph and tragedy and learned so much about motorsports and the people who make it popular.
The winners, the losers and the monumental moments are far too many to write about in this space — or even to remember for that matter.
While the hair I had 30 years ago is long gone, there are still plenty of memories off the top of my head to share.
I was there when:
• John Andretti won both of his NASCAR Cup Series races.
• J.D. McDuffie lost his life at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l. I’ll never forget the endless line of crewmembers from other teams walking the McDuffie pit equipment back to the garage area.
• Donny Schatz won all 10 of his Knoxville Nationals.
• Jason Johnson ran down Schatz to win the Knoxville Nationals.
• The inaugural Brickyard 400 was run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
• The final Meadowlands Grand Prix was run.
• NASCAR raced at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.
• Billy Pauch won the World of Outlaws sprint car race at the New York State Fairgrounds and when he won the Race of Champions for asphalt modifieds at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway.
• Dale Earnhardt “rattled” Terry Labonte’s cage at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
• Chris Economaki autographed this, Karl Kinser autographed that and Ken Schrader autographed the other thing.
• Al Roepke won the Brad Doty Classic.
• Kevin Swindell’s driving career ended at Knoxville Raceway.
• Jac Haudenschild won the Mopar Million at Eldora Speedway.
• Steve Beitler slept on my motel room floor.
• National Speed Sport News went out of business and when it returned as SPEED SPORT Magazine.
• Tim McCreadie won the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
• There weren’t tunnels to the infield at Martinsville, Bristol, Eldora and Port Royal.
• The Dirt Track at Charlotte and the Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway opened.
• Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson became NASCAR champion for the first time.
• Indy cars raced through intense traffic at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on the same night Dave Steele dominated a USAC Silver Crown Series race at the three-quarter-mile track.
• The last race was run on the three-quarter-mile infield oval at Pocono Raceway.
• Adam Petty won an ARCA race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
• I worked on the Bahari Racing pit crew with driver Michael Waltrip at Pocono Raceway.
• Winston and Marlboro ruled the sponsorship scene in big-time motorsports.
• Jamie McMurray earned his first NASCAR Cup Series victory as a substitute driver for Sterling Marlin and Chip Ganassi Racing.
• Three fans were killed by debris resulting from a crash during an Indy Racing League event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
• SPEED SPORT relocated from New Jersey to North Carolina.
• Blake Feese won a World of Outlaws sprint car feature.
• Shane Hmiel won a USAC midget main event.
• Charlotte Motor Speedway officials with the help of local law enforcement seized numerous assets of the American Speed Ass’n because the sanctioning body failed to live up to financial obligations.
• When Ted Johnson announced the sale of the World of Outlaws to Boundless Motorsports, which later became the World Racing Group.
• Nigel Mansell raced — and won — in Indy cars.
• Racers drank far too many beers.
• Kevin Gobrecht subbed for an injured Jac Haudenschild in the No. 22 Pennzoil sprint car.
• Steve Kinser won a lot of races.
• Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kerry Earnhardt won races.
• I came to the realization I didn’t have what it takes to drive a sprint car (twice), a Trans-Am car or a NASCAR stock car.
• It rained and instead we went to a movie, a concert or a Major League Baseball game.
• SPEED SPORT’s early 1990s Ford Thunderbird pace car was broken into at Watkins Glen and it made the trip back to New Jersey with a NASCAR superspeedway window duct taped in place.
• Lance Dewease won the Williams Grove Speedway National Open for the first time in 1996.
While I hit the road less these days, the only thing that excites me more than today’s race is tomorrow’s.
I’m not sure there’s another 30 years in me, but here’s shooting for another 20.