With the high likelihood of Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship this weekend, I thought back eight years to my first brief brush with Knaus on June 24, 2001.
It was a sunny and warm raceday at Sears Point (nee Infineon) Raceway in Sonoma, only two weeks before Dale Jr. would score a dramatic and emotional victory at Daytona. The confidence level was never very high at the California road course, so the Budweiser team and driver seemed almost relieved to score a lead-lap finish in 19th place, despite several late-race, off-course excursions.
“God a’mighty!," Dale Jr. laughed on the radio during his cool-down lap. "Those last couple o’ laps were crazier than hell! I came into the hairpin coming to the white flag and it was just a wall of dirt and smoke and shit all over the place. I just tried to get through it…”
As he pulled toward the team hauler, the first thing Dale Jr. asked for was a towel. In hot, dry weather, he would occasionally get a nose bleed inside the racecar. He took his helmet off and began to wipe away blood when he quickly and urgently said to me: "Here comes Stacy Compton! Stand right here -- just in case!"
Just in case of what I was unsure, but I suspected the possibility of some post-race aggression.
It seems Dale Jr. had provided some final-lap, extra-curricular contact on Compton, who dropped to the 24th position driving for the underdog No. 92 Melling team. Compton strode up the red No. 8 car as I stepped aside slightly, bracing myself to somehow leap into action if needed.
"What the hell was that?!," Compton asked with anger as he stuck his head slightly inside the window. "I don't race you like that!"
"I didn't mean to get into you," Dale Jr. replied. "I was just holding my line!"
"Well, we don't race each other like that. That's bullshit! (Or perhaps something stronger but closely resembling that remark). We've always raced each other clean, and I'll remember that!," spat Compton as he stood and walked away.
Junior quietly chuckled and began to unhook his seat belts, then said warily, "Oh no, here comes his little crew chief. Stay right there."
Enter Chad Knaus, then a rookie crew chief with the Melling team, who walked, notebooks in hand, toward the car and saw Dale Jr. with a bloodied towel.
"Did he hit you?!" Knaus snapped.
"Naw," Junior drawled, bracing for a tongue lashing or worse from the tightly wound crew chief.
"I wanted to say 'thank you,'" were the surprising and very unexpected words from Knaus. "We need our driver to get up on the wheel, and if he's in your way, you just move his ass over! Thanks, man."
After climbing out of the car, Junior shook his head and laughed about the intense crew chief. "That was... strange." he said.
Big thanks to Johan and Karen Schwartz from EnduranceKarting.com for running a superb event on a glorious Sunday morning at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It was B.A.F.**
(**= Big Ass Fun!)
Dr. John Connaughton and yours truly teamed in the Sunday enduro, finishing second in the GT40 Pro category (for racers 40 and older... aka Geezers... ha!) and tenth overall in a 27-kart starting field of drivers from across the U.S. and Canada.
In semi-related news, it was very surprising to learn that your kind author is currently ranked among the Top-50 'indoor' kart racers in the United States. Somehow the kind folks at IndoorKartingNews.com awarded me their "Hard Charger Award" for the month of October. (The linked page loads slowly if you see no story at first.) Fame is fleeting however, as I'll certainly drop out of the top-50 in November since I didn't attend the National Indoor Karting Championships several weeks ago in Phoenix.
It's been a long while since I've written about music, and I was inspired this evening while listening to the chiming tones of the Jayhawks.
Though Minneapolis was a hotbed through the 1980s with rock and R&B acts like His Purpleness (ahem... Prince), the Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum and the Time, the early 1990s marked the emergence of a self-described "incredibly loud folk band" known as the Jayhawks. They soon became one of the involuntary leaders of the American musical movement known by the interchangeable names of Alt-Country, Americana, No Depression, or (my fave) Y'all-ternative. (See also: Uncle Tupelo and Gram Parsons.)
The Jayhawks were led by the twin towers of singer/songwriters Gary Louris and Mark Olson, whose delicate voices blended in a glorious, silky manner which echoed the harmonies of the Everly Brothers and was compared to other famous duos like Lennon and McCartney and Difford and Tillbrook. These days, their soaring sound can be heard in acts like Keith Urban, who owes a debt of gratitude to the Jayhawks. (In their later albums, the combo also included former Kansan Tim O'Reagan on drums and harmonies.)
Here are a few of their finest and tastiest cuts... (Click the icon for the audio)