It was about 1991 or so, and I had really just gotten into watching NASCAR racing. I had seen a few races on television, and had finally even saved up enough money to make sure the family house had cable so I could watch them all. Yeah, back then, cable was about 29.00 per month. And I pay 137.00 per month now? Who is in charge, here? It’s a joke.
Well, there’s my A-D-D kicking in. I’ll get back to the topic. In 1991 I was driving a 1974 Ford E200 van that my father had gotten for me and emptied his bank account trying to get ready to be my first car/camping vehicle. We did a lot of camping. They were called Truck-Ins or Van-Ins…whatever you chose to call them, they were awesome. Three days, interesting food, good friends, barely showers, usually rain, and you were usually at a camp ground or fair grounds surrounded by 1000 other people with vans. There was always a band, various entertainments and vendors, such as the hat guy, and the pin guy, and the glass etching guy, and the candle lady (who I would watch for hours, it seemed), and all the food vendors. My E200 was my camping vehicle. Bed in the back, room to haul, what else…oh yeah. Gas guzzling, oil leaking, tire flattening, power steering hose blowing, radiator leaking, fuel pump hole having, battery draining, solenoid replacing, screwdriver starting, soft brake stopping, alternator replacing, overheating pile of wonderful. Ehh…it was also innocence-stealing, if you get my drift, but that’s a story of which I’ll not burden you. Anyway, I loved that van.
Every Thursday, I’d (hopefully) start that van up, and rumble bumble down the road to the local NASCAR store. It was a converted Texaco station and was called Victory Lane Souvenirs. The owner’s name was Curtis, but to me and my friend Nate, he was Curt-ASS. Yeah…we were 18 year olds with 10 year old mentalities. We’d go into the store and I’d pick up the latest Winston Cup Scene, a bargain for 2.00, as it provided at least a few days of bathroom reading. This was again, back when I was really new to the sport, and I was just soaking up all of the information. I was making www.Racing-Reference.info long before there was a public internet. I took manila file folders, and had one for each driver. As I read and collected bits of history, I filled in the folders. You know what confused the hell out of me? Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt both driving Wrangler cars at the same time for different owners, not to mention them swapping rides. I could not get Morgan Sheppard and Sterling Marlin straight…I confused them constantly and today, I’m not sure why. Anyway, those folders had win and pole tallies, win listings, cars driven and even personal information. I loved to tell everyone that Rick Mast was from Rockbridge Baths, Virginia. I had my files, and I soaked up as much as I could to get those files populated with as much data as possible.
I’ve gone and done it again. Stay on topic, James. So, at Victory Lane Souvenirs, they had those cardboard driver stand-ups. My two favorites back then were Davey Allison and Rusty Wallace, in that order. (Sorry Rusty.) But I saved up each week, a little bit of my McDonald’s minimum wage pay, until I had the 25.00 I needed to bring Rusty home.
Now, I told you about the hauling capacity of this van. I really didn’t have anywhere else to put Rusty. (I named the stand-up Rusty, just because it made sense.) I kept him in the van. I didn’t have any weird, long road trip philosophical discussions with him; he was just there. Until, and this is where it all comes together, it was time to go to a Truck-In! In my van, I had to pack five days’ worth of clothing, coolers for food and ehh…soft drinks, a tarp, a table, a camp stove, a grill for my future wife to sleep in (true story), and a bunch of stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting. Oh yeah…my sister and her friend, who did really turn out to be my future wife. She thought I was an immature ding-dong back then. (Not much has changed!) I had to make room, so Rusty was going to stay home. The night before we left for camping, I brought Rusty in the house. I wanted to put him in the basement, but I would have had to pass my mom’s room going down the steps, and I didn’t want to wake her up, probably because I was coming in after my curfew. So, I unbent Rusty at the hips (he folded up nicely), swung out the back supports and stood him up in the dining room. And then I went to bed.
The next morning I awoke to:
A shriek. Mom came upstairs and turned the corner to come face to face with Rusty, and she just about gave up the good fight. To this day, she’ll still makes jokes about how Rusty Wallace was in her dining room, and how they became friends. As for Rusty himself, he and I made our racing attendance debut together later that year in September at Dover. I made sure I had room for him this time. I left everyone else at home! Someone I camped with that weekend in an area for what is now parking for the casino at Dover was the downfall of Rusty. He told me he was going to visit a terminally ill girl in the hospital and she was a big Rusty Wallace fan, and he would like to borrow it and keep it in her room until...later. How do you turn that down? So, Rusty found a new home, because I never saw him again. Knowing what I know now about the dude that borrowed him, he probably never saw the girl, if there even was a girl in the first place. A few years later, after that same dude ended up costing me my Econoline 200 (long story), I was then forced to camp in a tent which I hauled in my Dodge Daytona. This goofball leans against my car and knocks the spoiler right off. His words of wisdom: “It’s okay, it’s only a Dodge.”
So anyway, he cost me a van, a spoiler, and Rusty, but not before The Day Rusty Wallace Scared the $&@# Out Of My Mom.
Until next time, my friends...