Transitioning from the grandstand to writer in 2009

I am waiting for the season to start in a couple months, and while I love posting pictures, I wanted to do something a little different, so I thought I would write a blog to let people know a little more about me.

For this first entry, I wanted to discuss how, after thirty plus years watching from the stands as a fan, I was able to figure out a way to be able to contribute more in the local racing community.  My passion since I was a teenager has always been racing, but since no one in my family had any interest it was something I had to cultivate entirely on my own.

     In many respects, 2009 was the most difficult year of my life. I was recently downsized from my job at an auto supplier after working there 18 years, and with all the economic turmoil, finding a new job in S. Michigan at the age of 52, was pretty daunting to say the least.  Out of nowhere, I had heard that someone had bought the rights to the MARC Times weekly racing paper and was planning to relaunch it.  As someone who had subscribed for years before it ceased publication, I was excited to hear it would be coming back. I contacted the new owner, Patrick McNamara, and after finding out he lived nearby in the Irish Hills (in my subdivision, no less!) he asked me if I was interested in writing. Well, at that point, I had not really done anything like that ever before, but was confident I could handle it.  The problem was that he mentioned Butler Speedway as a logical nearby choice, and even though it was the closest track, I had only gone there once in my life. My favorite track for years was Toledo, and I told Patrick that was the one I was really interested in. A couple weeks later, he said that Toledo had agreed to be involved and I had the position. Not only that, when the writer that had planned to cover Flat Rock moved away, he asked if I could do both.

     I never expected that there would be any money involved, but as someone who bought hundreds of dollars of race tickets every year, the idea of getting in free was pretty damn appealing as you might imagine. (especially when on unemployment!)  The only real issue was that even though I had been going there for years, I hardly knew anyone at the two tracks, other than Toledo friend, Charlie Krall. Lori used to enjoy going, and while she loves racing, she had lost interest in attending in recent years, so for most of the previous 10 years, I went by myself, and if I talked to the guy next to me in the stands I did & if I didn’t, I didn’t. I knew none of the drivers, other than a friendship with my hero Joy Fair, who had retired in 1999, and hadn’t hardly spent any time in the pits.

     I had previously spoken in passing with track owner Ron Drager and GM Scott Schultz; they were very accommodating and I was really looking forward to the beginning of the season.  A few drivers were very helpful granting interviews, including Dennis Whisman, Jim Froling, and Tim & Rob Moore, and I was getting to know a few more people in the pits every week.  I wrote the best article of my life, with the story of Joy Fair’s last race car as told by the car, and Joy loved it, so I was having a blast. While I was still looking for employment as a Quality Engineer, at least I was having some fun, and things were seemingly going well at the race track. There were dark clouds forming on the horizon however………

     While Patrick was very passionate and the content was good, he struggled getting the paper mailed out in time, and the tracks were getting frustrated that their advertising was late. I got a call one day from Scott Schultz asking me what was going on. It went something like this; “Rand, what is going on with the paper? If you can’t tell me I’ll understand” My reply was “Scott, I’ve been writing for the paper just a few months, I have been coming to your track for over twenty years; my loyalty is 100% with you and ARCA”   Scott really liked that.

Well, in mid August, Patrick pulled the plug and that was the end of the “new” MARC Times; just when I was having the time of my life. I thank him for giving me my start, but at the time I thought my role at the track was in real jeopardy after just four months. As as you all know now, that didn’t end up being the case.  

(to be continued)

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