January is here signaling a New Year filled with promise! With every new year I am excited and optimistic about events in my life and the experience that all of us enjoy at Old Dominion Speedway – the great racing, the terrific competition, and the wonderful people that come every week.
As Old Dominion prepares for 2006, I cannot help but reflect on 2005 and some of my more memorable experiences. Last December, we were working on new main restrooms for the facility. It was snowing as we were breaking up and hauling out old concrete, putting in pipe, and getting older by the minute.
In February, it’s off to Daytona for our annual trip to NASCAR and our track meetings. We met Don Hawk, the new Dodge Weekly Series Director. We talked with Brian France in the parking lot; he even knew our names, very impressive, and our encounter with Buddy Baker at the dinner. At the restaurant that evening, I’m sitting next to Chris Economaki, the legendary TV Sports Announcer. He’s telling me about his long-term announcing career at Old Dominion Speedway and his high regard for the Gore family. I didn’t know it, did you?, that Chris Economaki was Old Dominion’s announcer for many years. Cari and I even talked with the “It’s Got A Hemi” guy in the Dodge Commercials as he drove away in a not released yet Dodge Charger.
Now it’s March and time to get the facility operational. Wouldn’t you know, the old scoreboards won’t work. So we order new ones. Of course, they don’t work either. It’s months and lots of aspirin before we discover that the fancy cable we used was incompatible with the new scoreboards.
The Racing Season is well underway in April and the Season runs as it always does. There’s decisions made with great consideration that are not always well received. There’s the crate debate and official calls that some find frustrating. I always hope that our drivers and teams realize that our management team and officials try extremely hard to make correct and fair decisions. There was excitement and news coverage seeing a very young and talented female driver win a Grand Stock Race. CONGRATULATIONS AMANDA!!!
There was the satisfaction of seeing Old Dominion’s diversity team win the Late Model Championship. According to Howard Miller, and I believe him, Old Dominion Speedway has the only true diversity team in NASCAR. There were so many great champions, a very competitive season and the following class winners.
- Franklin Butler, Champion, Late Models
- Chris Donnelly, Champion, Grand Stock
- Timmy Tyrrell, Champion, U-Car Division
- Mike Carte, Champion, Mini Modifieds
- Mike Watson, Champion, Speedway Sportsman
There was this beautiful day in early October when I left my office early to go to the track. Upon my arrival, the gate at the speedway entrance had collapsed. What happened next was truly amazing. People, lots of people with equipment, talent and tools, worked all night long and had that gate ready for the race the next day. You guys are my heroes! There was the stomping that our guys gave to the UARA racers.
It’s off to the SBRA Bracket Finals where we finish second! We were just a few points off of first place. If you haven’t been to Waynesboro and our SBRA Finals, you need to go. The setting is beautiful, the racing is all day for three days straight, and the camping is fun, and the people simply terrific.
It’s already October and I have been watching on TV Jack Bailey drive in the Craftsman Truck Series. Then I’m watching Mark McFarland driving Hooter’s Pro Cups and Denny Hamlin driving Busch and then Nextel Cup! I am reflecting that just yesterday I saw Jack Bailey at the track and exactly one year ago both McFarland and Hamlin were racing in The ODS Big One! I’m so proud of these guys. Needless to say, I believe Old Dominion Speedway is producing some of the best, most talented new drivers in our industry – period!
It’s already December as I write this. I’m watching our track engineers tear out and replace thousands of feet of guardrail, preparing the facility for 2006. Hayne’s busy with much support and involvement from sponsors planning events, preparing schedules, promotional flyers and other materials in advance.
I’m thinking of all the great people I know at the track and how I miss seeing them, the hugs from Sam Beatty and the advice from Dickie Boswell, I am remembering the great smiles, the personal accomplishments, the birthday parties, the fishing lures Edwin had Ted and I gave away, the employees, Tyrrell’s pass in the grass, and all of the great fun I had. I am looking forward to the 2006 season.
If you haven’t been to Old Dominion Speedway, come out. I promise you will have the best time of your life.
The people at ODS are true, wholesome, and special. All of us welcome you to the greatest sport and in my opinion the greatest racing facility on earth.
See you at the track!