By: Tim Pafford

        Racing has been a fan favorite activity for generations in my family. Some were there making business deals with future Hall-of-Famers. Others were there to be with their child in love with a sport and all its glamour. But the tie was there and the seeds were planted for a forever love of the sport.
          Ever since I watched the 1993 Daytona 500 I have been a racing fan.  (If you don't remember it, take a watch of the link and you can see where I got hooked.)
          Though my super adoration for the sport hasn't always been as high as that Valentines Day of my 5th grade year. (There have been years I really tuned out.)  Like when the sport got far too political and pro-military for me. But the competition, and the longing to see the team I cheered for win, always made race days fun.
         The year Rusty Wallace retired, I made it a point to watch every event I could catch. When he made the "Chase" that year,  I was there in anticipation to see him finish out the season as a Champion. Though he didn't win any races that season (or the championship) watching my favorite driver go out, still competitive, made that year great. And his near win at Martinsville made me understand why he was never a huge fan of team mates he didn't pick himself.
           The only NASCAR game I owned was the last one he was a character in. & as silly as it was, I would race the #64 Rusty Wallace Busch Series team dreaming of getting to work for my favorite master of strategy behind the wheel of a race car.
           I watched as Dale Earnhardt crashed and lost his life doing what he seemed born to do in 2001.  I remember debating how I still prefered Wallace to Dale to other fans of the sport back in the 90's and rethinking those thoughts when I heard that he was gone forever.
          I also remember that upstart named Jeff Gordon who is now set to retire at the end of 2015.
           I used to have Jeff Gordon's 1st Edition rookie card from 1993. But when I found my little nephew to be the biggest Gordon fan I've ever known; I gave it to him to keep.
           When Wallace retired, my family gave me memorabilia from his "Last Call" Season. & after his retirement it took me a while to find a favorite driver again. I couldn't really pull for Gordon full time after the rivalry Jeff and Rusty had as on-the-track. Plus, Jeff was the driver I pulled for mostly because of my nephew's adoration. I still needed a team to pull for to keep me into the sport.
          Then Clint Bower showed himself.  Far from a Wallace mold, he was still a Mid-West driver and a riot to watch on the track, and listen to in interviews. He has a style I miss from the NASCAR races of the 1990's. He reminds me of a mix of Rusty for solid performances at road courses and short tracks, but he also reminds me of Ernie Ervin and his super speedway prowess before Ervin had to leave the sport. & I love that he will speak his mind and let some temper show like Dale Earnhardt would do.
           With the Daytona 500 less than a week away, speed weeks have already been exciting with Bowyer stirred up a media frenzy. (He is upset he has to race his way into the Daytona 500 after being wrecked in Sunday's qualifying. Now he has to finish well in the Duels on Thursday night to be in the main event.) He has not hidden his displeasure, but I don't see him not making the race. Heck, maybe this will make for an extra dramatic win on Sunday the 22nd?
       But this fan for life will remember those old races, and the new memories to come. Points over an entire season, A Chase, A Shoot-Out, or what ever format is used. This is still a high speed game of strategy and skill. That is why I still love racing and write about NASCAR.



2014 Daytona 500

                      By: Tim Pafford

       2014 is just around the corner and a totally new season of NASCAR (with all new rules and points systems) is just undeway.  SpeedWeeks have been going on for weeks and we recieved the rare treat of watching Rusty Wallace piolet the"Blue Ducce" again.
       I'm not sure all the new formatting will increase viewer ratings; I do know I can not wait to see this year's Daytona 500 & this season's 1st winner.

A Confession

By Tim Pafford

       My love for Stock Car racing came from a long trip of library hallways and family trouble.  I used the sport to help me through tough times as a child, so I could just keep going.
       This is not to say we had problems as a family.  But I speak of problems that came as obstacles for us to overcome and to find ways to stay sane during these patches of hardship.
       My mom always encouraged me to read.  I needn't read the most complex or extensive of topics.  But, "Just so much as I did read something" was all that she asked of me.  What I unusually read was sports fiction.  As I grew older that fiction changed from soccer and baseball stories of little leagues to auto racing.
      I'd read fictionalized accounts of great battles between great rivals.  They would battle till the very end and the antagonist nearly always died from a racing accident that was the result of battling too hard and not using their head.
        Into Jr. High school I found that races, just like I had been reading, were televised every week end.  These started my love of watching the action unfold before my eyes instead of just inside my imagination.
       As time went on these races helped me escape.  My dad was fighting through cancer treatments.  Every few weeks he'd spend weeks in the hospital hooked up to an ïv drip hoping that the chemicals would kill all the cancer without killing my dad.  Watching those cars speed around circular tracks for personal glory kept me from thinking of a world with out my dad.  It helped me to divert my fears to what "could happen" on the race track.  Seeing races unfold at such high speeds was much easier  for me than watching my dad go through more and more treatments; slowly hoping for positive effects on the inside while his body grew sickly and bald on the outside.
       Thankfully, my dad faired better overall, and throughout ,than my favorite drivers.  My dad fully recovered, and never has had a recurrence of cancer to this day.  (I only hope it stays this way.)  I went off to school and did all that I could to find a real me.  I still look for this "real me" in the words I type and the stories I tell.  Never really sure who's really there.  But I do know I owe it to my dad to be the best I can be.
       He never gave up.  He worked full time while going through treatments.  I don't  know how he did it, but he did.  If he can go through that, be a great dad, provide for his family, and kick cancer's ass the whole time, I can get through my issues and do the same things in my life.
       I do thank NASCAR, and the up and down joys, of being a Wallace Clan Fan for helping me through the tough times when I was young.  I still watch to see Rusty and Kenny give first person accounts of what it was like to race those cars back before the sport was as popular as it is today.  NASCAR isn't what it was back then, but it is still a reminder of my favorite youthful crutch.  Thank you, NASCAR and the thousands of miles of racing I have enjoyed throughout by life.  It has been a joy.

Rusty Wallace

By Tim Pafford

        I have been a Rusty Wallace fan since watching my very first NASCAR event.  

        That race was the 1993 Daytona 500 from Daytona Beach, FL.  And what a race that was.  Near the 3/4 mark a huge crash broke out with a car flipping down the back straightaway.  It was the #2 car of Rusty Wallace. The YouTube link to the race.
        Once all the dust cleared and safety works were at the scene, Rusty was getting out of his car and waving to the crowd.  He seemed shocked and a bit shaken, but one could tell he was relieved to be safe.

         As the year went on I found that my grandfather knew Rusty Wallace on a business level and it gave me even more interest in watching Rusty race.
         That season went on and I watched Rusty compete for the championship that year.  It seemed like a dead heat between Rusty and Dale Earnheart for that year's point lead.  Rust would lead for a while, then Dale caught back up after Rusty was injured in another roll over accident at a super speed -way race.
         Rusty had a broken left hand and   a concession after bouncing off of Dale Earnheart's car  on the final lap of a race at Talladega.  Though Rusty's car crossed the finish- line 6th it took him several races to get back into full form.
       He did win 10 races that season, but it was never enough to regain the points lead that year of 1993.
      Forever after  that race I cheered for Rusty.  He never did win a championship while I was a fan,   but he won many races and always competed for the championship.

      I made it a point to watch every lap of the 2005 retirement tour.  Once again, he was always competitive, but bad luck kept him from repeating his feat of 1989.

       I still enjoy hearing him commentate on the TV broadcasts.  The racing isn't the same as it was back in 1993, but hearing Rusty talk about it; and give a driver's perspective, always makes the rare NASCAR  Sunday viewing a treat.

NASCAR Mix blog featured writers David Schildhouse, Keegan Sturdivant
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