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  • Cliff Cliff Nov 16, 2008 5:11 PM Flag

    Personal Favorite moments

    Haha yeah I'm a little bit better prepared nowadays :-D

    And yeah I was a part time volunteer on J.D.'s team. I actually got the opportunity by responding to his Fan Club newsletter saying they needed pit help, especially for the Northern races (I'm from NJ). This was back in 1988 and since then I've had the honor of working on various teams including Dave Marcis, Jeff Gordon in the #1 Carolina Ford Dealers car, Jason Keller, Terry Cook and many other handful-of-race deals amongst the "Big 3 Series". Usually it was basic stuff like hauling the empty gas cans back-n-forth to the fuel pumps in the infield, but I've been able to "work my way up" to handing second can to carrying tires (done it a couple times and I feel it's the toughest and most underappreciated job on pit road) to catch can to gasman with various teams in what's now the Camping World Series East. Currently I'm with John Salemi, who's got a ton of talent but is woefully short on funding and had a tough season having to skip several races. He did have a couple Top 10's in a car that, honestly, didn't have any business being up front.

    With the J.D. Watkins Glen deal, I was actually working with Marcis at the time (once again just doing the gas hauling), but he wrecked in practice and his backup was a short track non-road course car, so he was just going to run a couple laps and park it (and this was before that became common practice :-p ). I went over to see J.D.'s guys and they had another "young buck" who they wanted to get some over-the-wall experience, so I agreed to haul the gas so he could stay on pit road.

    The strangest thing, looking back on it, is that the whole time after the accident the thought he had died never even entered my mind until they called us back to the garage over an hour afterwards and told us. I didn't see the video until I got home; if I had seen it there I probably would have realized right away that they weren't helping him out of the car at all. The only thing we had been told was that the car had gone upside down and they needed to be careful to get him out to avoid potential neck injury. Even then I was sure he would be OK; he had a deal to go to Michigan next week. But as we know, that didn't happen.

    Thanks for asking! I'm always up for re-telling old memories, even not so good ones.

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    • Oh forgot to answer, it was Jimmy Means who went underneath J.D. as his car went airborne after hitting the barrier. I've never been told what exactly happened, but I've heard that a piece of guardrail or something came through the passenger side window (which was open) and hit him in the head.

      And yes, the chicane should have been named in J.D.'s memory, but I guess that would be too much of an admission of guilt :-/

      • 1 Reply to Cliff
      • Sorry one further addendum - you spurred me on to try to upload a profile pic once again (tried a couple times when I first joined but couldn't get it to work). Assuming it works now (which it does for me, at least), that's last year at Lime Rock Park :-D

        Oh also I should point out the best part of all my pit road exploits is that I have virtually Zero mechanical ability; I had responded to J.D.'s newsletter figuring I could do scorekeeping or something like that. Just shows what being in the right place at the right time will get you ;-)

    • As I remember it, Jimmy Means got out of the car waving frantically at the corner workers and the race was delayed for a long period....long enough that they put a re-run of a diffeent race on. That could be a false memory but I don't think so. Also I remember before the race got started again they had the car on a flatbed truck taking it back covered w/a black tarp. I remember thinking "that is not a good sign"

      Well, anyway once they had a special on one of the pre-race shows and were showing those gas runners......doesn't look easy. Do they still have to do that? Seems like with all the technology something would be a little easier. When you're watching on TV, ya just don't think about the people behind the scene working their asses off! lol

      Nice to meet you!

      • 1 Reply to Nascarbuckeyes
      • Yes, your memory is right-on - Means knew right away that J.D. was in trouble; I think whatever hit him, well he had an open face helmet so we can all conjecture on what Means saw...

        And the race was red-flagged for over an hour while they fixed the barrier so I believe they did show the prior year's race during the downtime; and they did show his car with the tarp on the flatbed. I only briefly saw the car back in the garage, and I don't have first hand knowledge of any specifics, and obviously it wasn't the sort of thing to bring up at the time. I really wish I did know exactly what happened, though.

        Hmmm...as for the gas runners story, as far as I know they still have them in Cup, Nationwide & Trucks (our races are short enough that 2 cans are plenty for the whole race so we don't have to go back for more). It really wasn't that big a deal. You'd just bring the empty can(s) to the pumps, they filled 'em back up and you brought them back to the pits. Of course you would have to relay how much they took so the fuel mileage guys could keep track of things. Currently we actually use a bathroom scale to weigh them before and after to do our calculations (speaking of technology in racing :-p ).

        The only thing I can think of is at the beginning of the race they sometimes would hold us by the pumps until just before the race started so a lot of them would run to get to their pit stall first, but really, you're not going to need gas in the first 10 laps (unless you've got other issues), so what's the big deal? Then again, with that attitude maybe that's why I'm working at the "Double A" level instead of the Majors :-D


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