A Million Dollar Experience

What can I say, Charlotte Motor Speedway is every race car drivers dream destination, and I was no exception.  From the time you first pull in and unload into the Sprint Cup Garage, hit the track for your first practice, even including the moment your race car has been delivered to your trailer by the track safety crew, it is an awe-inspiring experience.  You immediately feel the years of racing on the track, the legendary racers that drove it, the victories, the defeats, and the hundreds of thousands of fans that watched and cheered the greats on.


While unloading the cars you stop, look around, and realize…you are about to become part of history.  Never before has there been such a large purse for Legend racers, ONE MILLION DOLLARS, and you can instantly feel the energy, the excitement, and the anticipation of everyone there. The weather was HOT and HUMID,  the track temperature was 145 degrees and monsoon rains came every afternoon, but no one really minded, we were all there for one thing, TO RACE!!

The garages were full of drivers and crews, everyone working together to try to get their car just a little bit

faster, handle a little bit better, and hopefully the end result would be a qualifying time that would keep them advancing toward the feature.  Ages ranged from 12 years old to 72 years young, men and women, boys and girls, all wanting that same thing.  There were National Champions, local Shoot-Out drivers, weekend racers, retired NASCAR drivers, and even some first time drivers.   People came from all over the US, Canada, even as far away as Europe to be in this race and among all were the three cars from Colorado; Scott Griffith, Eric Hipkins, and myself.


You immediately prep your car for tech inspection, gain a place in line, unknowing that it will be 3hrs+ before you BEGIN tech. After this amount of time, the heat taking its toll on all drivers, crew, and inspectors, someone brilliantly decides to change procedure to randomly spot checking as we proceed through. My car was waved through without even a glance. INEX had brought inspectors from around the country, and I must admit it was a pleasant surprise to see the familiar faces of our Colorado INEX inspectors at a place so far from home.

The track had many transitions. Uphill, downhill, banked, flat, asphalt, concrete, etc. Set-up for this would be difficult at best! And then add rain…sometimes.

 1st practice made me realize the level of competition is fierce, aggressive, and very talented. I must admit, my first practice was humbling to say the least. I knew I had to step it up quite a bit to be competitive. Making some set-up adjustments with the help of Larry and Scott Griffith, and subsequent practices allowed me to get “in the game” and make a decent effort at the field I was up against. I felt we had a car that could make the A Main barring any unforeseen circumstances. My first heat I finished 7th only to find out they were going to transfer 4 to the A Main. The first heat was fought hard by all, and several violent crashes created a lot of opportunity

for drivers to reposition themselves using the “Choose” method which allows you to pick the inside or outside line before the Green. I was able to avoid a huge mess directly ahead and capitalize on it.

At least I was going to have an opportunity to make another attempt in the B Main, where 5 cars would transfer to the A. After making some more chassis adjustments and getting a decent starting position, I again felt we had a car that could make the A. The first corner gave me an indication the changes made were an improvement. The car had not felt this good all week! However, now running hard into Turn 3, I noticed the 3 inside front runners ahead of me experiencing hard bumper contact. I began to back-off which made the guy on my outside decide to come down making immediate contact with me. As I tried to turn inside I was immediately rear-ended and shoved right through him. With speeds we were carrying at that time, I then knew I was in for a ride. I’ll never forget the extended silence when airborne for that amount of time. Lots of time to think,….and hang on. There was no fear, only surprise at the length of the ride. Over and over, and over, and up again ….and over. The car came to rest and I had to look around to find out which direction the race track was, and where the cars will be coming from, only to realize the Red flag had been waved and no cars were moving. Even had the Red not been waved, I discovered I was far from the track, out of harm’s way. Thinking of the full fuel cell I immediately bailed out. Still spinning from the flipping, I fell to the ground. I couldn’t get up if I wanted to. By then the ambulance and safety crews had arrived to work their magic. After telling me what had happened, I was asked what day it was, when I replied “Tuesday” they decided I was to go on one more ride, this time to the infield care center!  Realizing I had silenced the crowed, they encouraged me to wave to let them know I was OK. Unable to lift my arms, I asked one of the safety guys to help me and the crowd was obviously relieved. I was impressed and thankful for their quick and professional care, I knew I was in good hands.

I was released after a few tests, and was delivered back to the trailer. As everyone gathered, a gentleman showed up with a laptop computer with digital sequential pictures of the entire wreck. After the car was loaded and we waited out a heavy rain, we went to the stands to watch the Million Main. As we sat there, it was pointed out by my wife the crash had already made YouTube! I was still shaking the stars out of my head.

So everyone asks, would you do it again? SURE! Even with this experience, I wouldn’t have traded this week for anything else. It was an exciting, humbling, and most importantly the learning experience of a lifetime. They ask if you’d run the race the same way, I can only answer yes, it’s Charlotte! Everyone runs hard. There is no choice. It IS a different level. You have to run hard, be aggressive, and have some luck to be successful there. Upon meeting Ken Ragan earlier in the day, I now realize what he meant when he said to the three of us, “Ya’ll gonna learn somethin’ here!” and truer words were never spoken.