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Friday, November 14, 2014

My NASCAR history penned by my own husband; Go Ryan Newman

I've been a Ryan Newman fan for so long that I thought I'd look back at some of the stories I was able to get into print when I worked for a local newspaper in the small Illinois town where I lived.

I tried to get my boss to let me cover NASCAR on a regular basis but my wrestler-friendly, stick-and-ball aficionado owner hated the idea. Every now and then though, I did sneak in a story or two. Here's one from 2007, but I didn't write it. My husband did, as he wrote about my new-found obsession.

This was as close as I've ever been to a race car. It was the thrill of my life when
I heard the Alltel Dodge would be in my own home town for the opening of the new Alltel store. 

The Fast Lane, Realities of a NASCAR husband

by John Henrichs

I’ll be the first to admit that I love auto racing, but my love of the sport is now rivaled by that of my wife.

Growing up in the 50’s, there was no other subject that my friends and I would discuss more than cars, and how fast they could go.

On some occasions, my dad took me to a race at the now-defunct Raceway Park in Blue Island. The sights, sounds, and smells will live with me forever. A pack of cars racing around a quarter-mile asphalt track at 60 mph was a spectacle that I can still recall with near perfect detail. My personal favorite was James Bond driving the 007 Studebaker Hawk. I wanted to be just like him someday.

My wife, Carol was always a bit tepid about car racing. But a few years ago, after our son Chris became enamored with the sport, she began to take an interest in it.

Today, I find myself married to a NASCAR fanatic. Who would have imagined that after 30 years together that she would finally come around to my way of thinking?

Oh, but it’s more than just an interest with her. When she likes something, she becomes intensely immersed in it. It could be considered an obsession. She studies the issues, learns about the racetracks, conditions, even technicalities related to the cars. But mostly, she knows about the drivers, their crew chiefs and even some of the team members. Some she likes. Others she does not.

Through the magic of satellite television, there’s enough NASCAR programming to keep our interest peaked long into December and on most weekends. However, race day is the pinnacle of the week.

Carol’s favorite driver is Ryan Newman, who drives the #12 Alltel Dodge. On race day, we even set up a “shrine” to him on the wood stove (when it’s not in use, of course.) It contains a book about Newman’s racing career, given to her at Christmas, a small replica of the #12 car, a Ryan Newman hat, and some other small things.

She was a fan of Rusty Wallace, before he retired. He and Ryan were not-so-compatible teammates.

When we moved to Arkansas, we brought with us a life-size cutout of Rusty that was given to us, where it watches over our garage area.

As the hours tick by before the race begins, there’s a ritual that must take place. First, she has to make her “lucky” guacamole dip.

Then our aging laptop computer is set up to receive the in-car audio from the Internet, always set to the #12 team. It must all be done during the pre-race shows so we can catch the first radio checks between Ryan and Crew Chief Mike Nelson.

By the time the green flag has waved, we’re ready for whatever will be, always with the hope that the #12 will charge out to the front and make it to Victory Lane. That hasn’t happened in a long time.

Newman, who is nicknamed “Rocket Man,” has had a run of bad luck, but Carol always has high hopes of a comeback.

One of the main rules during the race is “No talking.” She doesn’t want to miss a thing on the track. And heaven help the driver that runs into Newman, or causes him to spin out.

As the race rolls along, she remains glued to the television, while we both curse the endless stream of commercials that obscure what’s happening on the track.

When the race is over, it’s time for the post-race wrap-up shows that continues on for at least another hour.

People that know us know better than to invite us over on race days. We already have plans for the afternoon or evening.

It’s funny how, for years, auto racing has always been considered a man’s sport.

All I have to say is “Think Again.”