(I want to apologize for my absence the past couple months, I had a heart attack that has changed lots in my life, but I am back; not 100% just yet but enough to crank out a few stories.)
In most people's lives, they have heroes; people whom they look up to and admire for one reason or another. I am no different (well in that aspect anyway.) I too, have had a few heroes.
One of my heroes was Jody Ridley, 7 time All Pro Champion and 1980 NASCAR Rookie of The Year. I guess I picked Jody because he is from just down the road from me, he drove Fords and he was a super nice guy. For years I followed him via newspapers and articles in racing magazines, cheering him on when I attended races where he raced. I used to draw pictures of his cars when I was in school.
Then one day just a few years ago, while I was announcing at North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth Ga. We hosted the Biddle Ridley Memorial, to honor Jody's brother and longtime crew chief. I was thrilled to be able to announce this historic event. Then when I found out Jody would be there, I was even more thrilled, and once I saw him, I jumped at the chance to do a one on one interview with my hero! He sat and talked with me for almost an hour, talking about racing, and talking about his brother Biddle, with whom he was very close. He was so thankful we were honoring Biddle with the race. I sat on cloud 9 for a week after that interview, and to top that night off, I got to do the victory lane interview with “The Tarheel Tiger” Ray Cook, who won the race. What a night that was.
But I digress, another of my heroes was Dawsonville's very own Bill Elliott. I had the honor of being at Riverside for his first win, I was at the track through one of my own racing sponsors and walking up and down pit lane. I hear some guys talking and they had some serious southern accents which caught my attention, so I wandered over and spoke with them. It was Bill Elliott's pit crew. As the race drew to a close Bill got the lead and I was not going anywhere! I stood there watching the crew jump and holler as he took the win. Watching the press run up and down pit road screaming “Who is Bill Elliott?” No one knew who he was, then, but it was the start of a long career and the first of many wins for the Dawsonville native.
Well recently through my work with the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville I got the chance to do a sit-down interview with Bill himself. I have never been one to be star struck, but this was different. It was Awesome Bill from Dawsonville! I followed around as the NBC crew did their interview for the Darlington race on TV and when it came time for him and I to sit down, he was amazing. “My God where did you get that 'stashe?” he asked. We both laughed and the next 45 minutes were filled with history, stories and laughter. He was open and honest about anything I asked, we talked about how he felt about being in the Georgia Hall of Fame, and some of the others who were in there as well; talked about his career and now his part in watching his son Chase step into the family business. Before long it was done and we went to part ways, he looked at me smiled and said, “Thank you for the work you’re doing here at the Hall and for what you do to keep the history of this sport alive.” Come to find out, he has read some of my ramblings and he actually knew who I was and what I was doing. I actually am still on cloud 9.
But to look back on what has happened in racing over the past 15 years, and to sit and talk to one of the icons of the sport, it changed my outlook a bit. I now have a new understanding of the sport and lots of the behind-the-scene things that happen. I am still just as in love with racing as I ever was, but now, after meeting both my heroes and doing interviews with both, I have reached a place I never ever thought I would. I have done things I never thought possible. I have learned first-hand that chasing your dream can be an amazing ride because sometimes dreams do come true.
(The article with Bill will be available later on since it is part of a project I am working on for the Hall of Fame.)