Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tales From My Comeback Attempt And Other Musings

First of all...

Just A Kid From The Grandstands:  My Time In Auto Racing

Available on Lulu in Paperback And Hard Cover

On Sale At Reduced Price

Don's California Racing Recollections:  Best Of The Blog And Beyond

Available via print on demand at Lulu in Hard Cover or Paperback

Also, what could be a series of informative books...

Short Track History Project at Gofundme 

Additional info on the Short Track History Project  HERE

DCRR Racing Media And PR Consulting  HERE

DCRR Racing Radio Show
Johnny Soares Classic Preview

Bako Motorsports Power Hour previews Bakersfield Speedway HERE

Footage From The Hobby Stock Main Event at Sacramento Valley Speedway in Orland can be viewed HERE
Tales From My Comeback Attempt And Other Musings

The Johnny Soares Classic For Hunt Series Spec Sprints At Petaluma

So, I'm sitting here contemplating where I'm gonna go from here.  I'm not happy that things ended up the way they did, but at least I have my answer.  I need to let go of things, especially my concern over the state of things at the race tracks I love and the sport in general.  It's not my responsibility.  My particular skill set is not needed.

As I get ready to step away, I am tempted to go to a race again this week.  It's not gonna happen, partially due to lack of a ride and finances, but also because it's time to move on.  The track of choice would be Petaluma Speedway, and the reason is the Johnny Soares Classic for the Hunt Series Wingless Spec Sprints.

I've already shared the history of my involvement with Don O'Keefe Jr. in starting this division for John Soares Jr. at Antioch.  I know there have been attempts to revise history on this subject, but the facts are what they are.  The division either wouldn't be here or likely would have had a much different history if not for Don and I.  I never made a dime off of any of that, but that's not why I did it.

I wanted this class to become what the NCMA never was, and it did.  The fact that it has raced twice at the historic Calistoga Speedway this year and gets such a prestigious race this week is further proof of the value of Spec Sprints.  The division has had lots of moments like that, but it all derived from the effort to start the division and show its value in the first place.  I'm not saying others don't deserve credit, because they do.  I just know the very real effort made in 1998 and 1999 and who was there doing what.

So, the Johnny Soares Classic exits for a reason.  Jim Soares started this race a few years ago with the BCRA to honor a great man, John Soares Sr.  He promoted Petaluma and Antioch for years, was a builder and original owner of West Capital Speedway, promoted several other tracks in his years as a promoter, won a NASCAR Stock Car race, won two BCRA Hardtop championships and that's just some of what the man did.  He remains a hero of mine.

John is in several Hall Of Fames, including the West Coast Stock Car Hall Of Fame, BCRA Hall Of Fame and MSPA Hall Of Fame.  He is also a recipient of The DCRR Lifetime Achievement Award.  Racing owes some gratitude to what men like him did in pioneering the sport.  Now, BCRA ran 100 lap races the first couple years, and the Hunt Series Spec Sprints will run a 50 lapper in John's honor this Saturday.

It's the premier tour for the Wingless Spec Sprints, the Hunt Series.  Last time they were at Petaluma a few weeks ago, they had enough cars for a B Main.  That was the case at the recent race at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville as well.  I suspect the car count will be good again this week as drivers vie for the prestigious win.  The Hunt Series is now in its sixth season, and among the winners this season are three time champion Terry Schank Jr., Joe Stornetta, Colton Slack and Klint Simpson.

I suspect those four are at the top of the list of potential winners, but there are others to watch.  One name that jumps out to me is Shane Myhre, who had a second place finish in the recent Hunt Series race a Petaluma.  Shane is also third in the standings.  I suspect recent Series winner Shayna Sylvia will be out to make a run at the big win.  This is one of those races you want to win, a career highlight for a racer. 

Prentice Motorsports Group is in their first year promoting this series, and they run all three big Northern California Sprint Car Series, which includes the prestigious King Of The West 410 Sprint Car Series and The Civil War 360 Sprint Car Series.  The desire was to build this class back up, and the recent Petaluma an Watsonville events show that interest is rising in Wingless Spec Sprints again.  So, who will write their name on the winner's list with the likes of inaugural winner Shane Golobic?  We'll find out on Saturday.

Previous Johnny Soares Classic Winners: Shane Golobic (101 laps BCRA Midgets 2012), Ronnie Gardner  (101 laps BCRA Midgets 2013), Terry Schank Jr. (Hunt Series Spec Sprints 50 laps 2014).

I may be here watching the live scoring feed and enjoying a beverage of some sort.  I admit I'm curious about who will win.  That division will always be special to me and a reminder that things would look a little different had I never been involved.  In my weaker moments when I wish I could go back and choose another path, things like this remind me that I made a difference.  It's humbling to think about it.

A Comeback With A Disappointing Outcome, But At Least I Tried

Note:  I revised Just A Kid From The Grandstands one last time and made the decision that this is the version that should have been in January.  There is more material than the initial release, but I decided that I would omit the 2015 material talking about my comeback attempt.  It's not necessary for the story I initially wanted to tell.  I do have a Fourth Edition ready to upload with all of that content (some 28 pages), but I'm gonna hold off.  However, now that I know the outcome of my 2015 efforts, I'll give you the condensed version.  

Please note I'm not trying to be negative with anybody.  This is just my view of things.  I don't even take it personally that somebody twisted my words to John to get him upset with me.  It's a tough world out there, and he has two kids to put through college.  You do what you have to do in a world ruled by money.  In fact, I wish him luck.  Him doing a good job would be good for a few race tracks.  If anybody wants to know some of the reason why I am walking away again, here it is.  More to the point, the process has begun in which I may lose everything I have...

I am very proud of Just A Kid From The Grandstands and Best Of The Blog And Beyond.  I'm glad I did both of those books.  I should have been realistic about things and not had these ideas of a come back.  I saw myself announcing again at Antioch Speedway and Chowchilla or Merced on Sunday.  I saw myself writing, helping put together a better souvenir program and reviving Racing Wheels in honor of people like founder Gary Sterner and writer Gary Jacob.  I saw a lot of things in my mind.  I was probably delusional, but I was also desperate.

They say you can't go home again, and in some respects they are right.  You can't.  Then again, the love I felt from so many people made these last several months more bearable to me.  I was sinking deeper and deeper in debt, but on the other hand, being at the track made me happy.   Even as I knew it wasn't gonna happen, I still loved seeing people I hadn't seen in years.  There are happy memories here.

Last week, I finally got to see Carl Berendsen.  I'm glad.  Carl and I used to just talk about Rams football or whatever in the pits years ago.  I remember an after race party I attended at his house back in 1989 or 1990.  But, I also remember how I never heard from many people in racing after I left.  But, when I ghost wrote in 2010 for Antioch on this blog, he would call me every other week or so.  It meant a lot to me.  I was happy I got to see him before I left.

Let me rewind to December as the West Coast Nationals was coming up.  I'm hyping things up on the blog, because God knows nothing was officially being done.  The money that guy makes to do the job...  Okay, not going there.  So, the race is coming up, but it is so damn cold.  I can't afford to run the heater.  I am on major conservation mode.  Shop at The Dollar Store for groceries, keep the internet running, pay the space rent here (while I could) and huddle in my room with the warmth of the TV and computer.  Outside my bedroom door, burr. 

So, I want to go to the races, but it's just so cold.  I mean, it's even a challenge to take a shower and not freeze here.  I stressed on that and didn't sleep the first night leading to Antioch.  I think I can still go, just take a break from wrapping up The Blog Book and go.  Of course, I didn't, but what I did do was hype the race on the blog, do a ghost written race review and an audio show.  I did it for all four races.

In January, The Blog Book and Just A Kid From The Grandstands were done.  Don O'Keefe Jr. and Joe Martinez both told me I should join Facebook.  I did it against my better judgement.  I don't like that site and I detest sharing a lot about myself on a site that I feel gathers information on us all.  But, for racing, I think I can use it.  I join the site and moments later my old assistant announcer, Chris Bennett and Tom Sagmiller befriend me.  How did they find me so quickly?  A few things about Facebook actually creep me out.

So, as a couple of books sell and February comes along, I'm thinking I can go to playday.  It would be presumptuous to show up for the banquet uninvited, so I knew that wouldn't happen.  I missed playday, but I wrote a little something for both Antioch and Merced based on what I knew.  Then, Chowchilla opened, and I saw the numbers and read about the attitude the drivers got at the pit meeting.  I admit I was more than a little concerned.  The season is just starting.  What's with the attitude?  I wanted to help, and I knew I would be in Antioch the next week.

So, I had enough change to take the bus three times back and forth.  I got going later than I'd like, but I was there.  I heard Brad do a great job at the Pit Meeting.  I saw all the cars in the pits and made my notes.  I didn't have the money to get in, so I had a spot in the parking lot to watch the cars go to staging.  Natalie Perry was having motor problems.  I knew nobody who saw me recognized me, so I was somewhat anonymous.  I had my laptop going, monitoring Facebook and chatting with Don.  I was having fun.  Then, the races ended.

I was hoping to walk the pits before I had to catch my bus, but the wait at the gate was 30 minutes.  Ridiculous.  I stood on the other end of the gate and opposite me was none other than Jerry Garner.  He's looking at me.  He knows he knows me from somewhere, so he sends Dave Oswald to ask if I'm Donny Martin.  Talk about full circle.  Dave was one of the first racers I met back in 1979 when I was discovering my love for the sport.  So, I had a nice talk with Jerry and Dave while we waited.  They had just watched Mark win the race.  I saw that through the fence.  Jerry was so proud of Mark.

I finally got into the pits with maybe five minutes to walk one end to the other and leave.  There was Dan Gonderman talking to Larry McConeghy.  The Al Nordstrom connection.  Mark Garner was surrounded by friends and family.  And, I had to go before saying hi to anybody.  I also knew I had to ghost write a story and do The DCRR Racing Radio Show to support the cause.  I joked that I'm just some old hack from the parking lot.  Well, what do you know?  The DCRR still lives.

Next week, I'm on the bus to the track again, a little earlier.  Not early enough yet.  I'm doing my thing and then I set up at my usual parking lot spot.  I think that was the week I saw Mikey Slaney.  He offered to get me in, but I declined.  Then, Jason Willis approached me and offered to get me in.  He said his dad would kill him if he didn't do this for me.  So, I'm gonna be watching the races after all.

I'm on my way with my ticket when who should I see but Jim Robbins.  He asks me how I'm doing, and I tell him.  He takes me through the pit gate to meet John Soares Jr.  We have a good talk.  John talks about a lot of things, the struggle, wanting to write a legacy to go out on and all of that.  It's like 1997 all over again, except there's no chance for me.  But, it was nice seeing him again.  He tells me I should go up to the booth and introduce myself to Wade.  Personally, I'd love to announce, but I also know about respect.  That's Wade's booth until John says otherwise.  I wouldn't want somebody hovering near my microphone.

So, I have to leave through the other pit entrance and I get a lecture from the spectator gate guard.  I'm lucky I got back in.  I did tell him I already came in and met with John.  I grab my old spot in the stands.  Not like that was a problem.  Then, I start taking notes.  Come Main Event time, I have my recorder and I'm doing audio calls.  Yeah, I know then that I can still announce, not that I ever doubted that.

Time to go and the pit gate is still closed to fans.  So, I'm on a bus home to write an Antioch article, a Merced article and do an audio show.  This began my busy writing weeks.  I was hard at it to help the cause and show what I could still do.  The old passion and love for the sport resurfaced.  It never really goes away.  The reason so many people who seemed to love the sport go away and don't come back is because they will catch that fever all over again when they return.  It's like a drug of sorts.  I grew to resent it through the years as my life reached a dead end.

It wasn't really racing's fault.  It was my fault for making the sport the central part of it all.  I lived and breathed it, and that's how I became so in tune with it all.  That's how I became a good writer, because it wasn't through school.  That's how I learned to announce, what angles to push.  That's why I researched the history and kept records.  These racers were my heroes.  I was good, but it came at an enormous cost to my life.  There's a reason I became one of the best and most never tried as hard.  It's work, there's no money in it and that's what rules the world we live in.  I sacrificed everything to get good at this, and in the end...  Anyway...

I'm still not in the pits yet, but I got a bus even earlier the third week.  I had interacted with Jim Thompson on Facebook.  The man does not know me and he pays my way into the stands.  So, I'm in again.  I got to interact with a few people before the races that night.  I saw Rick Panfili, Jim Perry Jr. and III.  I got to talk to Scott Busby and tell him he was #2 on the all time win list behind J.D. Willis.  I'm probably the only person left who knows the numbers.  It was nice to see the old familiar faces again.

Jim Robbins sees me and lectures me on how I should be in the pits and all of that, but I'm not in.  John has his people.  I think I can do better, but I'm delusional.  It doesn't matter what I can do.  It just doesn't.  These tracks will do just fine without me as far as the powers that be are concerned.  But, Jim won't let go of this for some reason.  I know what it is.  The man has a heart.  He cares and he's a good friend.  He knows I can help the cause, and he wants to prove it.  I warn him that he's risking his reputation on me, but he's not listening.

So, World Of Outlaws week comes and Jim comes to get me on Saturday to see John.  Jim has a lot of work to do to get things ready.  John and I have a good interaction, and I'm going to be in the pits.  Makes sense given all the writing I'm doing.  I took it up a notch a couple weeks later by filing articles about ten minutes after the last race and adding more writing to my already busy schedule.  Why?  I'll let you know when I figure it out.  It didn't help me.  In fact, when I tried to put out a fire, I had John's PR guy twisting my words to make me look bad.  But, I'm drifting...

I recall having a good day at the track on Saturday with Jim as he made sure things were ready for Sunday.  We looked at the numbers at Merced, which were not good, and talked about our worries there.  Jim would begin bringing me to the races and taking me home.  He was making sure I was fed too, because I am low on funds for food.  My personal situation was only getting worse, but Jim was there telling me I just needed time.  Time's not a luxury I have.

Jim took it up a notch when he took me to John's house and we started going to Chowchilla and then Merced together.  Those were pleasant trips just chatting away with John and Jim.  It hurts that this isn't going to work out for me, but I still like John and consider him a friend.  I feel I can help him with these tracks with what I do, but I can't do it for free any more.  It's nothing personal.  I don't want it to fail, and I will look back at these moments with John and Jim in fondness.  Jim's also buying my meals on most of these trips too, which is above and beyond.  I'll never be able to thank him enough.

There's a lot I can tell you about hanging out with Jim, being invited to his house for meals a couple times and other things.  I hope he gets to race his Limited Late Model soon.  Maybe one day I'll share some anecdotes as this may not be my "final, final" word on Jim, but one thing I have enjoyed is the rides in the mud packing van before the races.  It's like a ride at Disney in a way, but I'm very comfortable with him behind the wheel as we ride up near the wall.  A lot of fun. I even have pictures.  I know Jim enjoys driving that van out there as he assesses the race track for the night.

So, on World Of Outlaws night, I'm in the pits and finding my spot on the bleachers when who should approach me but J.D. Willis.  Do I know who he is?  Really?  J.D. is the man. The greatest racer ever at Antioch Speedway, in my opinion.  He could drive anything.  He also helped my magazine at a low point.  Of course I know who you are, J.D.  He has me sit up with him and his son Jason and grandson.  We enjoy the night chatting away and he buys me dinner.  It got real cold out there as I was wearing my shorts, but this is a fond memory for me.

So, I'm doing my writing full board in April, I'm feeling pretty good about what is happening and that leads to the speed bump in the road, Mike Adaskaveg.  Maybe speed bump is the wrong word.  Mike is a photo journalist, and I have respect for his work as a photographer.  Some amazing photos.  But, I'm also being used as a pawn in John's game with him.  John wants to light a fire under Mike, and what better way than to have somebody else out there writing?  I also somewhat naively think I have a chance.  Watching John proudly explain to a bewildered Mike who I am early on did nothing to dash my hopes.

See, John didn't want to discourage me from writing, though Mike didn't really like it at first. Mike felt threatened, but he shouldn't have.  He's solid with John as far as I can see and that big pay check is there until John walks away from what I can tell.  John told him that I will be writing too and that he should just leave me alone.  Part of me felt good when I heard that, but I shouldn't have.  I mean, if somebody came into your business and offered to help put a good word out about it for free, would you say no?

I also started thinking John would hire me and help me out of my jam, but I was again being delusional.  He has the ways and means to help and knows I can be an asset, but I soon realized that there was a "yeah, but" attached to me any time my name came up.  Mike fed into that.  When the Merced point situation became an issue, I tried to smooth it over on Facebook with reassurances to the racers.  Mike twisted that to mean that I was saying Doug Williams was being brought back.  John hit the roof.

Jim got an earful and called me about how John was displeased.  I had to tell him I was talking about a point program and didn't get into details because John hadn't made a final decision,  I simply wanted to let the Merced racers know it would be fixed.  Doug never came up.  It was a figment of Mike's imagination.  Wanna know the worst part of it all?  The points still aren't completely fixed, and we are in August.  I could fix it in a day if it were my responsibility.  Well, of course I backed off after that, but at least Jim knew what really happened and told John. 

One week there were lots of rainouts, and a Spec Sprint racer who had been disqualified wanted to race at Antioch.  John had Mike put a message on Facebook about cars being legal to run that class, and Don O'Keefe Jr. advised out of town racers in the comments to stay home if they didn't want to be harassed.  Mike escalated it and Don replied.  Now, bear in mind Don and I are best friends, but he lives in Indiana.  He still gets asked advice by Antioch racers too.

I'm in the pits being a reporter.  It's race day.  I don't have time to get in debates on social media, but I'm sure Mike knows this is an opportunity to make me look bad.  He comes over to me with Facebook printouts, while trying to be my friend.  I was not pleased.  I can't control what a friend says, and I shouldn't be held responsible.  Don was one of the people who started this class, and I think that entitles him to an opinion.  Delete that damn opinion off of the page if it bothers you.  I'd have no problem doing that.  For my part, I'm trying to figure out what we do now, not talking about rule changes. 

But, the damage was done.  John's still not happy, and Jim was telling me all about it.  What am I supposed to do?  Drop him as a friend?  I've had two constant friends who have stayed in touch with me this last decade, and Don is one of them.  He and Linda have been there for me and have helped me.  So, I try to move beyond it.  See why I'm not liking Facebook so much?  I hate it worse when people use it for an agenda, and I'm seeing a pattern.

Tom Sagmiller gets up on his Facebook page and suggests that they have a 15 year anniversary barbecue for Chowchilla Speedway.  I like the idea and say as much.  Somebody brings up the Steitz race, and I say that wouldn't be a bad idea if the family were on board with it.  Nothing more.  Mike used that to say we were saying Tom is promoting a Steitz race at Chowchilla.  Really?  Come on now.  We said nothing of the sort.

That's when it hits me.  Mike is using Facebook to find anything bad.  If it's not really said, he has been known to twist it.  There have been bad things people have said on their personal pages.  Then, there have been good gestures like the candy give away for the kids at Merced that Dale Falkenberg wanted to do.  Mike did a number on that one.  He's out there showing John the bad things, and I think it's kind of sad.  You will never control what people say on their own page, and all this is doing is making things worse.

If you are the official PR guy, how is this helping the tracks get more cars or fans?  If anything, it's chasing them away.  He's paid good money for what he does, and the attendance and car count are a reflection on him.  You may see it differently, but that's my opinion.  What he's not doing is using the official Facebook pages as a tool to promote positivity and excitement for the tracks.  I've told John as much.  It's one of the things I would do were I involved officially.

I'll get back to that, but I want to mention Ron Brown.  He's one of the few people I did see from the races when I was gone, and his words that no matter what we're still friends meant a lot to me.  I had an ancient camera for pictures of cars, and Ron gave me a better camera.  That has helped with the Facebook posts I made before each race and my car photos.  Ron has also provided many drinks for me on hot days.  He is one of the most loyal track supporters Antioch Speedway has.

The problem with mentioning all the people I've talked to and the times I've had out there this year is that I will inevitably forget somebody who was important.  I enjoyed my conversation with Street Stock legend John Bellando about the old days.  Seeing Keith & Debbie Shipherd was nice.  Debbie brought batteries for my camera.  Keith was an original Spec Sprint racer at Antioch.  Talking to Larry Damitz is a cherished memory.  Chatting with Dan Gonderman again.  I had a good talk with long time DCRR supporter Michael Burch.

Being told by Bobby Hogge III how my writing mattered back in the day meant a lot.  Watching Rick Panfili win his first heat race after all these years.  Seeing Raul Rodriguez and Dan Holcomb at Merced and hearing how they appreciated my writing.  Mark Odgers had me autograph a copy of The Blog Book.  I still think I should be getting his autograph.  Talking with Tom Sagmiller again and Dale Falkenberg.

There are so many names that I draw a blank in this moment.  Dana Craig gave me a ride to Merced for my second announcing gig this year.  I met his son in law David Teves and grandson Adam Teves this year.  Nice guys.  Kimo Oreta, I love his attitude.  Natalie Perry, sweet person with a great attitude.  Marcus Smith.  I knew his dad, Mark, and this guy is a class act.  Seeing Burt Siverling again and meeting his grandson Ryon.  Wish the rules weren't such that he can't race at Antioch.

There are so many names to mention.  I came back hoping to see as many of the old drivers as possible from when I was there before.  So, seeing Duane Hodges, Bob Williamson, Charlie Correia, Jeff Decker, Carl Berendsen II, Debbie Clymens, George Terry, Bobby Motts Jr. and Nick Caughman Jr. and having conversations with them meant a lot.  Meeting new faces to me like Fred Ryland, Patti Ryland, Jim Freethy, Mike Corsaro, Kevin Joaquin, Frank Furtado, Shawn Arriaga and so many others meant just as much.  And, I got to see Steve Torres too.  Even now, I am a fan,

As I am doing all of this, the walls are closing in on me at home.  The internet is in danger of shutting off, my groceries are low, the debt is piling up and it's about over for me.  I had a Go Fund Me project lined up for racing history books, but not much is happening there.  That's when Kenny Swank steps up big, and Tim Hammett, Steven Rogers, Don O'Keefe Jr. and Mike Rydman as well.  Some bills got paid, but it was bad.  And, at that time I get the offer to announce twice at Chowchilla and possibly twice at Merced.  I can't say yes, because I may not be able to make it when the time comes.

To illustrate how bad it was, my internet was shut off on me in early June.  That was it.  I was dead in the water.  I went to Concord with my laptop in search of wifi so I could tell everybody it wasn't a good situation.  O'Keefe ended up setting up a meeting with Ray Green at the mall, and Ray gave me some money.  My internet was back on again.  I had Mike trying to contact me about announcing that first Chowchilla race, but I had already told him a month earlier that I couldn't make it.

I ended up taking the gig and hoping I could make it the next week.  I went with Keith Brown Jr., and I enjoyed the conversation.  I like Keith.  He's a good person who is trying to learn more about the sport he loves.  The announcing went well, though I had to sing the National Anthem when there was no way to play a CD, not that I had one.  It went okay, and I got good reviews for it.  Yeah, I can still do this announcing thing with my brand of incorporating history with the present.

I can reveal to you that I almost walked out on that gig that day.  Jim came to get me as he has all season.  On the ride, he tells me two things that just floored me.  I've done nothing to impress John and Don O'Keefe is not my real friend.  Jim's in the middle of this, and I don't take it personally,  I can imagine the things he's probably heard about me and not told me.  Makes me think of what my sister went through in a similar situation 2000.

Well, Don's kind of helped me, you know, have food to eat and an internet connection that enables me to write my apparently unimpressive articles.  So, I'm not happy and I walk off and have a good cry.  I tell Don I'm ready to walk away, and he advises against that.  He tells me what he always does in times like these.  I'm representing myself, so I need to do what's best.  That's Don, always with the good advice.  So, I took the ride with Keith and made that thing happen.

I'm not sure if I will be needed to announce at Merced, and I heard nothing until the morning of the Modified race.  I have no ride set up, but I suspect I can get one.  Mike has one of those out of state area codes, so I didn't recognize he had tried to call without leaving a message on Monday.  I wonder why?  So, I call him back Wednesday and tell him I'm not sure if I can make it.  We agree that he should get Alex Odishoo on the job, but in my mind I hear how John is not impressed with me.  So, I find a way to the track with Keith and at least support as a writer, filing an article moments after the races.

Dana Craig got me there to announce the Dwarf Car race a night later and I was in Chowchilla that Saturday thanks to Keith again.  People are telling me they like how I announce, which felt good to hear.  Sonny Nabors and Nathan Corn both said they wanted me there all the time, but of course, Sonny's days were numbered as John was about to switch Merced to Sundays and bring in the Antioch crew.  Personally, I don't think Sonny ever stood a chance of following up Doug Williams, but I'll leave that for another time.

That last Saturday at Chowchilla, a mother walks up to the booth and asks if her daughter can sing the National Anthem.  Well, I have no CD, and it will get me off the hook.  Sure, why not?  Imagine my surprise when I call the daughter to the booth and a five year old girl walks up by herself.  Well, I go with it.  I do a quick interview and she sings.  I'm pulling for her to make it through,  She gets two thirds in and forgets the words.  I'm not sure what to say.  Probably should have finished the song.  I tell the crowd this little girl loves her county and she tried her best.  They applaud and we start the show.

By then, I know I'm not getting any further than I am, and I'm getting deeper in debt.  I should have walked away even before then, but the interactions on race day kept me coming back,  Making matters worse is I hear John is talking about my possible future with two others on staff, but not to me.  I hear I could announce some at Merced, but Wade clarifies that would be when he can't make it.  So, I know that's not happening.

It annoys me when I hear Wade announcing and there are tidbits about the drivers that I think would be interesting to share, but it doesn't get said.  A few times I have shared information with him and had it not get used.  I think things like that endear the drivers to the fans, but that's just me.  It's not his fault.  I believe in myself and know what I can do.  I know I can help make things pop and help make it fun.  I have people telling me the same thing.

My mind is in that mode where I analyze things up and down for angles to write about. I think my writing is as good as it ever was if not better.  I think my mind for the sport of racing is very in tune.  I can make a difference, and I want to.  It's very much how I felt when I wasn't getting the opportunity in 2003 other than the fact that I'm actually having more fun now than I did then.  I understand things a bit better than I did then.

I've heard John talk about bringing Racing Wheels back again, since he owns it.  I've heard people talk in favor of that idea.  Sadly, John lost all of the information in the fire, but I know what it will take to create that paper again.  I am willing to spend the time putting it together like it used to be, and that is tedious work.  I wrote for that paper for 16 seasons, so I have a good understanding.  Not to mention I have my own Wheels archives going back to the early 1980's.  Sadly, I don't see it ever coming back again.  I haven't been offered the job and I have more pressing issues now.

It was a few weeks ago when they cut my power, which wasn't exactly legal for them to do.  I went and had a talk and was given a week to come up with a tidy some of nearly $4000.  I knew chances were slim, but I went to the track.  I asked for an extension of a week, thinking I might have to take a trip to the track to see John as I write this.  John was going to be out of the state racing last week, but due to health issues with Donna, he cancelled that.

So, I knew my answer on Saturday.  He couldn't help me as there was nothing for me there.  I won't repeat the rest of the things I heard, but I'll never forget it.  Reminds me of the day I told John back in 1999 that had he lost the bid for Antioch in 1997, I would have probably been banned from the track.  I did it for him, but of course his reply was I would have had it coming to me.  So, am I really surprised?  No.  Heartbroken and disappointed, but not surprised.  At least I know my answer.

So, I have to walk away now.  I do it while still enjoying a lot about it, but I can't do it now.  I have to figure out where my life goes next.  I can't volunteer this work any more, and even if I somehow could, like if dad was still here, I couldn't help the track under the circumstances.  I think you understand.  It's nothing personal, but considering the amount budgeted for announcing and writing at the track, I need to let those people do what they are paid to do.

I leave knowing I am capable of doing what I used to do and more.  I feel I am very good at it and still have the passion for it.  I also leave with a myriad of mixed emotions.  I am not completely happy about it.  There are regrets and I don't want to come off as bitter.  It's my own fault.  Will I be back again?  I have no plans to return, to be honest.  I'm thinking about discarding my racing stuff and moving on completely this time.  I don't know yet and don't want to be hasty.  I just don't feel this stuff matters any more.  On the other hand, if the right offer comes along, you never know.  I just don't count on that happening.