Best Damn Garage In Town
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and a warm welcome as well to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR, whether you be computer or human. Today’s column should cause no feathers to ruffle, as it’s merely a prelude to the next column, which is guaranteed to provoke that response in high places. Allow me now to tell a little story about what happened one morning some four or five years ago…
All I could say that morning was, "Wow!" I had removed from its place on the bookshelf the vast tome, "Best Damn Garage in Town (The world according to Smokey)." The book, which is actually three books in one removable binder, was a Christmas gift from my kids, years before that. They couldn’t imagine that was all Mom wanted under her Christmas tree, but I convinced them otherwise.
On the day in question it had been some time since I'd even touched the magic that lives within those pages, but a friend had asked me if I had the book and if so, would it be possible to borrow it. No problem, I thought, until lifting it. I'd rather forgotten how much those three hefty volumes weighed when taken all together. Perhaps I wouldn't be mailing the books after all.
The books though, are not what will be our immediate point of discussion, but rather what I found when I removed all three volumes from their library case. Nestled in-between two of the three volumes was a message about what he refers to only as "The book", from the author, Smokey Yunick, easily my greatest and most respected hero in racing, bar none. How I had missed it for several years, I do not know, but there it was, inscribed on a single sheet of paper... a message from Smokey.
As I read the words on that sheet of paper, I swear I could almost hear Smokey speaking them, and I truly wished so much that were possible. Smokey is gone now, along with so many others, but his message lives on, at least with me and I'd like to share the words in which I found so much comfort so unexpectedly that day.
I believe I wrote this book because of Reverend Hal Marchman (all racer's preacher)'s introduction of me to a bunch of kids at Darlington in 1996. Suddenly, it dawned on me that racing had no past... it was lost. So doesn't that go hand in hand - it therefore will have no future?
NASCAR's past up to 1970 was burned at the city dump. I decided to write the book in as close a way as it actually happened... including language and racer's view of our part of the world. We had a status of a "mon-backer"... you know the guy on the back of a garbage truck saying, "mon-back, mon-back." We were considered - and maybe we were - social trash... couldn't borrow money, couldn't buy insurance, couldn't even stay in a good hotel... had zero credit.
I doubt many people have ever lived the adventures I have. I believe my life's experiences afforded me an almost impossible act to follow... not by plan...but by the natural flow of life.
I want this book written and read in such a way you and I are sitting on a porch in rockin' chairs... you asking the questions and I'm giving you the real story. I know the book will cause some problems... there is no way to please everyone. For those who are ashamed of what you did... you did it. I'm not proud of all I did and I have tried to include my warts and bad stuff also.
If you have a legitimate criticism, let me have it... I'm not a model, but I believe my life has a loud and clear message. I think the Army says it best... "Be all that you can be." With my uncouth delivery, I still miss "thank you", "please", "you're welcome", "I appreciate it."
Kinda like the moose in the Pep Boys commercial, when he asks if the good brakes come from Pep Boys, and he says, "I appreciate that."
Proud to have been a racer? Yes, I am.
Would I trade it today? No way.
Any regrets? Yup. I wanted to win every race I run in.
Any advice to those behind me? Yes. Identify your life target early and then lock on... let nothing deter you.
My gentle readers, as I read those words, penned by the man that I admired so very much, I couldn't help but acknowledge a fantastic coincidence... or was it? Many years back, I wrote an article entitled, “Down Memory Lane ~ Smokey Yunick.” That piece began with a reference to an old question that asks, “If you could have a conversation with any single person, living or dead, who would it be? My very sincere answer to that question was Smokey Yunick.
With that in mind, it is with a great sense of pride that I offer you today his own words, coincidentally almost echoing my own. Or maybe it was not a coincidence at all; maybe it was an answer. There most surely are things in heaven and on earth that are not within our power of understanding.
Here at Race Fans Forever, we are happy to be a part of keeping the history of our sport alive for future generations. We proudly bring you the works of Matt McLaughlin and his great historical anthology, "50 Years of NASCAR Racing", along with presentation of NASCAR Legend “Tiger” Tom Pistone's video series, "Racing Now and Then."
And then, among our many fine writers, there's me... a lady of great age, born and raised in what many around these parts call "Yankee country", and not necessarily in a kind way. Am I worthy to be presented in such company? Perhaps not, but the strange part is that it was I that brought both of them to the site, and I am proud to call both Tom and Matt my friends. In truth, it was never my purpose to be seen as a historian of any measure. I am a writer, and what I write tends to be about what I know. The rest, as they say, is history. (Pun intended... pause for laughter)
Smokey would have fit right in, as his message and purpose are exactly the same. It's a shame that we can't enjoy the pleasure of his company today, but his message is one we try to deliver every single day, as it's our message too.
Since finding that message, it has been my joy to sit down once again with those three volumes, each holding such a wealth of racing history, but now I read them sitting in a rockin' chair on the porch. By invitation, I am the one asking the questions, with the answers delivered by Smokey himself directly from the pages of The Best Damn Garage in Town.
Thank You! Message received.
Oh, and as to that other article, the one from many years ago… you can look for it early next week on these pages, as we commemorate the 15th anniversary of the passing of Smokey Yunick … only three months after the death of Dale Earnhardt. That article is very special to your scribe, and many have told me it’s the best I ever wrote. Please be here next week, and tell your friends to come along as well. You won’t regret it.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout. Before choosing any songs for this article and the one soon to follow, I contacted Smokey’s daughter Trish, to see if she recalled any of his favorites. She only gave me one, which will accompany next week’s memories of this great man, but the artist recorded so very many more that I’m choosing a few by the great Marty Robbins that I believe Smokey would also have liked. First up is one of Marty’s huge hits called “Saddle Tramp.”
Next is another by Marty, this time doing some Bluegrass while covering an old Bill Monroe tune called “Footprints in the Snow.” Please enjoy!
Going through his old songs, I think Marty sang them all at least once, but I’m mindful that Smokey was even older than I am, and I judge his tastes accordingly. This one is a vintage piece recorded by many back in the late 40s. This is Marty, offering up a great version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
Now we’re going to stray just a bit from Classic Country to a song Trish says reminds her so much of her Dad. This is Jimmy Buffet singing “Cowboy in the Jungle.”
And finally, one more that she included in that same category. This is Tim McGraw singing “The Cowboy in Me.”
Again, I’ll remind you that Smokey’s own favorite will run next week.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!