Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Summers at Thunderbird Speedway

I’ll begin with a little history about the legendary Thunderbird Speedway, in Muskogee Oklahoma. It originally started out as a horse track way back in the 1910's. It didn’t become an actual speedway until the late 1950's. It was one of the only 1/2 dirt tracks in the region. Every Friday afternoon drivers from the tri-state area would pull into the pits at Thunderbird, unload their late model race cars and begin to tune them up and get them ready for a night of racing on the oval dirt track. Come seven o’clock, you could hear their engines revving from practically anywhere in the city.

Shorty after moving to Muskogee, from Shawnee, the guy my mother worked for gave her tickets to the Friday night car races out at the fairgrounds. Now when mom first suggested I go with her, I thought “Nah. There are far less boring things to do around here than go watch a bunch of guys driving around in circles.” I was a teenager after all. She kept after me though, so I finally gave in.

Well, it turned out to be anything but boring. When all those cars line up in front of the grandstands and started their engines, my whole body was charged with adrenaline and anticipation. If you’ve never watched a race in person, it’s hard to imagine the rush you get. And it got even better as they tore around that dirt track, coming within inches of the concrete barriers in the turns and one another. Needless to say, I was hooked!

Friday nights spent at the racetrack became a ritual for mom and me. She’d get home from work, we’d hurry around and get dinner on the table and then off we’d go. Sometimes my little brother would tag along, but it was usually just the two of us. Then one Friday, she had a surprise for me…pit passes.

My whole world changed that night. I met my first love. His name was Charlie (not his real name of course), and for the next two summers we were inseparable (at least on the weekends). His uncle, Don, was a driver from Enid. And Charlie, two years older than me, helped out in his crew. It wasn’t long till I started lending a hand. Usually just fetching stuff, but occasionally I got to get my hands dirty when they were short-handed. I even got to help tear down an engine once.

It was during those two summers that I got to meet the legendary, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace…along with a host of other, not so famous, drivers. You see it was at Thunderbird Speedway where they held the Midwest Dirt Track Championship, and drivers from all over the circuit showed up for this weekend event. I only wish I’d known then that these two would make it the NASCAR circuit someday. I could have made a small fortune off autographs and photos. I do still have Rusty’s autograph though, in my scrapbook, along with a few photos of the drivers Charlie introduced me to.

Another driver I must mention is Ann Cramer. The only female driver at Thunderbird those summers I hung out in the pits. Ann drove the number 54 orange and yellow late model Camaro, and I was probably her biggest fan. She only won a couple of feature races that I remember, but just the fact she could mix it up with the big boys was a huge inspiration to me. As a matter of fact the first story I ever penned was inspired by Ann. It was a mystery about a woman racecar driver.

Something else that may come as a surprise, I took an auto mechanics class where I was the only female. My first tune-up was on a corvette convertible. It was sweet! But it turned out I wasn’t as mechanically inclined as I thought. To learn what changed my mind about this vocation, be sure to pick up a copy of my July release. There is a scene in there that comes very close to a real life experience *grin*.

So there you have it. I’m not as big a liar as some of you thought :-). The only lie I told was being a middle child with two sisters. Although I was a middle child, I had two brothers. That probably explains why I was a tomboy and preferred playing cops and robbers to playing with dolls…or working in the pits at the local racetrack.

Alicia was the winner of my drawing. She’ll be receiving her choice of one of my releases. Congratulations, Alicia. Thank you everyone who commented on the “Creative Writer” Blogger Award. It was a lot of fun.

Chris B was the winner in Shawna’s drawing for a download of No Other and a freshwater pearl inspirational bracelet.

WooHoo! Congratulations to both of you!


Diane Craver said...

I missed the actual day when you posted your lie and truths, but thanks for playing! I enjoyed reading your list today!

That's neat your story about a racecar driver was inspired by Ann Cramer!

Anne Patrick said...

Thanks, Diane. I thought it was fun. You really got me with yours *grin*.