Saturday, February 10, 2018

Alex Bowman's Newest Fans

Lisa Asselin with Alex Bowman
While their driver may not be a rookie, many of Alex Bowman's fans are new to cheering for him. Before subbing for an injured  Dale Earnhardt Jr in 2016, many fans had never heard the name Alex Bowman. Now they wait and wonder, is this kid really as great as Jr believes he is? Can he do what dale couldn't and get Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports a much deserved championship for the 88 car? A few weeks ago I talked to some of the original Alex Bowman fans, some who had cheered for him as he ripped his way across local and national tracks on his way to NASCAR and others, like myself who noticed him in his rookie year for BK Racing. Now lets meet his newest fans and see what drew them to Alex Bowman.

Jessica Hill, 20, has been a race fan since 2007. She's originally a Kevin Harvick fan, but says she first noticed Bowman "When he filled in for Dale Jr. I root for him as a “backup” when my driver isn’t doing the best at that moment"

"Alex has proven that he has earned a chance to drive the 88. I want his original fans to know
I will NEVER bash Alex online or in any way! He is very good- I like him"

Some of you may remember Jeni Harris from the Helio Castroneves fan story last year. It's been a tragic year for her drivers. First Castroneves moved to sports cars and then Matt Kenseth, her NASCAR driver, lost his ride and retired. I am proud to welcome her to Team Bowman though, as she has been a good Facebook friend to me for a few years now! Harris, who turns 46 next month has been a NASCAR fan since 1989. Though she was originally a Mark Martin fan, she moved on to cheering for Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards when Martin retired.
"I first heard of Alex when he drove for BK Racing. I was really was impressed with him in the 88 in 2016 and how clean he raced Matt at Phoenix in that playoff race."

"Hendrick Motorsports made the right decision choosing Alex and hopefully they give him a shot to win some races this season!"

Do you think you can be as passionate about Alex Bowman as you were Matt Kenseth?

"Yes of course I can and I would love to meet him one day!"

Many of the new Bowman fans were Dale Earnhardt Jr fans, as with our next four fans.

Mary Rogers, 57, has been a fan of Nascar since the late 80s. " Jr was my driver! I have followed Bowman since he drove fo Jr, honestly, ever since Jr. retired I knew I had to make a decision, I have respect for all the drivers, after I seen him drive for Jr. it stuck in my gut and my gut is usually right! Hendrick made the right decision ! Bowman is cool, calm and there is a look in his eyes that tells me he can take Jr's. Place and get some wins! I plan to buy everything I can get my hands on of his I want the original fans to know I don’t bad mouth any drivers but my driver Alex Bowman will get my best words and I will be faithful ! It usually takes a couple of years for the experience they need and I will stand with him thru those years! Truthfully I hope I will grow to love him as a driver like I did Dale Jr. that grows as each season goes by."
Michael Ingersoll, 31, has been a fan of NASCAR since he was 7 "I was a Dale Jr fan and Alex filled in well for Jr when he was injured. I just want his original fans to know I plan to follow him for the rest of his career!"

 "My name is Jody Callaway, I'm 36 and have been following NASCAR since 2005. Dale Earnhardt Jr was my driver before Alex. I first heard of Alex when he was filling in for Jr when he was out with his concussion in 2016. Yes Hendrick made the right decision putting Alex in Jr's place! He did such a great job filling in for Jr, and I do believe hes gonna do a lot of good for Hendrick! I have not met and been able to buy any Alex merchandise yet, but my closet will definitely be full with his shirts very soon!"

Lisa Asselin being interviewed aabout
her tattoos
But of all of Bowman's new fans. one stands out above all the rest. She has been on Kelly Rigg's NASCAR News show talking about her tattoos With 11 tattoos dedicated to JR, it's easy to see why she is one of his, and NASCAR's most loyal fans. Meet Lisa Asselin.

"I am 47 years old. I have been a racing fan ever since I was 5 years old and started watching NASCAR on TV when Jeff Gordon made had his rookie season. When I first started watching NASCAR on TV my favorite driver was Dale Sr cause he reminded me of my local racing hero here in Maine named Homer Drew. He raced here in Maine at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Homer Drew and Dale Sr had the same attitude and racing styles on the track .I was following Dale Jr also before Dale SR died but when Dale SR died I knew he would want all of us racing fans to keep the sport alive and follow Dale Jr. I first heard of Alex Bowman when Dale JR was not racing because of a head injury. I was impressed with Alex Bowman on his performance taking over for Dale JR while he recovered and when I heard of Dale JR'S retirement I instantly thought Alex Bowman should be Dale JR's replacement driver. he deserves the ride cause of how well he drove when Dale JR was recovering....I just got my first Alex Bowman T-shirt for Christmas and looking forward to this season. I know Alex Bowman will make all of us Dale JR fans proud. I will always be a dedicated Earnhardt Fan but I am now a fan of Alex Bowman in 2018 racing season...GOOOO ALEX....."

With Daytona 8 days away, many of Jr's fans seem lost and heartbroken, but Asselin sums up her feelings best when she said, "I am a huge Dale Jr fan but just because he retired doesn't mean I will stop following NASCAR....A true NASCAR FAN will keep following!"

Old fans or new fans. In the end it doesn't really matter. We are all here because we love NASCAR 
and Alex Bowman! I can't predict what the future has in store for Alex Bowman, but I hope great things await. Bowman has the biggest heart of any driver out there. His true fans know success won't go to his head. Alex will always be Alex and that's the number one reason we cheer for him!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Alex Bowman's fan base. He has turned many heads and the eyes of NASCAR fans will all be on him when the green flag falls on Daytona February 18th! 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alex Bowman Fans Are GR88t!

By Chanda Healton

Alex Bowman has won the NASCAR lottery! He has gained many members of Jr Nation as fans since he was chosen to take overs the 88 in 2018. Soon the cars will roar back to life and we will know for sure if Bowman can live up to his dream, There are many new people who will be cheering for him when the green flag drops on the Daytona 500 February 18th, but there are others, myself included who have cheered long before he ever set foot in Hendrick Motorsports. These are the stories of Alex Bowman's original fans and how we found our favorite driver!

We cheered before others knew his name, We cried when we thought his career was in danger right before Daytona 2016 because he had lost his ride, and then we cheered once again when he was a relief driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr, We are the original Alex Bowman fans and we have stood beside him cheering often and cheering loudly, We knew in the early days the talent we saw in our driver. We aren't saying we are better than his new fans, but we are saying "Go Alex" and we are saying it as loudly as we can.

Let me start with my own story.

I'm Chanda Healton, 39, from West Lafayette Indiana. I have religiously followed Nascar since 1994 as a Jeff Burton fan.  I first started following Alex Bowman in 2014. Jeff Burton had retired and I started Daytona driverless, Throughout the race I noticed the 23 car several times, He wasn't the best car but he held his own. I had never heard of Alex Bowman before that race, but by the end of the race, I had a new driver, He was a bit of a funny guy on Twitter and I  loved it!
Writer Chanda Healton and her daughter Savannah
met Alec Bowman in 2015 at Chicagoland Speedway

In 2015, my daughter and I met Bowman through a GoBabyGo clinic at Chicagoland, I spent the day with my favorite race car driver and my daughter built a Road Ripper car to assist with mobility, She has Spina Bifida and uses a wheelchair. Bowman and the GoBabyGo clinic made it possible for her to play and get around in the grass for the first time ever. You can read the full story here

I am very excited for Bowman taking over the 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr, Alex is an amazing young man and the most underrated of the Young Guns. I said in 2014 that with the right ride, Alex would be a champion someday and I believe the 88 is the car to make that happen! His sudden popularity is a bit of a shock for me. Alex has always been the underdog. When I first started cheering I had to make an Alex Bowman shirt because you couldn't buy them online or in stores, there weren't any Alex Bowman groups on Facebook either. It was just me and a few other people following him on Twitter. Most NASCAR fans didn't know who Alex Bowman was as this video from hi rookie year shows:

 This week I joined my 7th Facebook group dedicated to Alex! On the other hand, I'm thrilled for his new found popularity and I know it's the same Alex I have always cheered for. He's still the same goofy kid he's always been!

The message I want to send to Alex's new fan is "Welcome! You won't regret your choice to cheer for Alex, He is a very fan friendly and approachable driver who genuinely cares about all his fans, big and little."

Now let's meet some other Original fans and see what they have to say about Alex Bowman and his new found popularity!

Emily met Alex in 2015
"I’m Emily but I’m more known as #1 Alex Bowman fan, I’m from Illinois and I’ve been a NASCAR fan since 2014.  I actually got into NASCAR because of Alex! My dad made me watch the Watkins Glen race in 2014, I was really enjoying it so I decided I would watch it more often. When Alex was interviewed after being involved in that big wreck I decided he’d be my driver. I had googled him and saw a picture of him and Roscoe so that really made me like him, seeing how much he loved his dog.  I met Alex in 2015! He actually knew who I was and told me I was a really dedicated fan. He’s such a nice guy and that day is one of my most memorable. I won’t ever forget it."

About Bowman taking over the 88, Emily says,

"I couldn’t be happier! Alex taking over the 88 is a dream come true, I’ve been hoping something like this would come along for so long now. I can’t think of anything better for Alex, I really feel like this is the perfect fit for him."

How does she feel abut Alex's sudden gain in popularity?

"I think the new fans are a great thing! I hope they see how talented he is and really appreciate him for who he is. I’m just glad that he’s actually getting the popularity he deserves finally"

And that one thing that all fans new and old

need to know? Well Emily says,"He hates being called Bowman the Showman so call him that as much as possible. Also I feel like everyone should know what a nice guy he is, he has always been kind to me and has always been great with fans."

Donald Horn, 48 of Kentucky has followed Nascar since the early 80's he says "I have followed Alex since 2014 when he drove for BK Racing. This young man is a classic example of if you're given good equipment, you can show what you can do. Alex showed this when he subbed for Jr. in 2016, topped off when won the pole at Phoenix. Alex is a hard working individual and I think he is the perfect choice. He wants to put the 88 back in victory lane.  I love his mindset. He is definitely a team player. I think that Alex is the best choice for the 88! Yes, it will be sad that Jr. will not be out there, but the 88 is in very comparable hands with Alex behind the wheel.  I have never met Alex Bowman, but would love to."

And the new Jr fans? Horn says, "I believe that the fans saw that Alex was stepping in to do a job. They know that Alex was not trying to replace Jr., but help the process of Jr.'s recovery. I, among many of the fans, can see the potential in Alex." these new fans should also know "That he is a hard worker. That he strives for consistency and whatever it takes to run up front. I believe that Alex will win races and be a contender for the championship on a regular basis."

Next is Janice W from Braintree, MA. She has been a fan of Nascar for 27 years and says it's because of her son, Justin, that she became a Bowman fan. " He's a great kid with a lot of talent"

Janice and her sn Justin with Alex Bowman

I became a fan pf Alex's in 2013.My son loves to watch the young talent and Alex was top of the list. We have met his several times. He is always very personable and willing to stop and take pics and/or sign autographs! Im super Excited. He so deserves a good ride! I know many of the Jr fans are going with Chase olliott as a favorite, but In staying with the 88! GO ALEX!"

And the one thing fans should know?

"Alex isn't a rookie! He's put in time with several under-funded teams and when he lost his ride he took the high road and became a testing driver for Hendrick."

Our last fan is Arlie Prokop, 60, "Actually, I'm related to him (his father Sean married my second cousin Lisa Bergonz). I learned about Alex's prowess at lower racing levels from Lisa's mom. Been watching his races from Nebraska on TV since 2013 (the first year they were shown on a TV station carried by our cable provider). Saw Alex race live for the first time in 2016 at Iowa. Planning to see him at Kansas this coming season."

Alex with Daymond John of "Shark Tank
How long have you been an Alex Bowman fan. What first drew you to notice him? 
 In 2011 my cousin Barbara phoned my family, very excited that Alex's parents were moving with him temporarily to North Carolina to get him started in full-time racing.  He was only 18, so everyone was a bit apprehensive about how things would go.  I asked her how to keep tabs on Alex's career.  She said that he was on Twitter and that I should follow him.  At that time I barely knew what Twitter was, so he was the very first person I followed.  In 2012, Barbara's son Dave Bergonz emailed everyone in our family (the Prokop clan), soliciting sponsorships for Alex so he could race in the Nationwide series the next year.  I don't know if that actually led to sponsorship support, but he did race Nationwide in 2013.  Mom and I watched all of his races beginning that year (the first year they were shown on a TV station carried by our cable provider).

Been a fan since 2012 (the first year I was able to follow his races on a regular basis, via articles online).  Noticed him as a professional driver via my cousin Barbara Bergonz (mother of Alex's mom, Lisa Bergonz Bowman).  The first time I recall Barbara mentioning his racing experiences was in 2010, when he broke his collarbone and injured a rib in a USAC midget crash.  She asked my family for thoughts and prayers for his recovery.

‎If you have ever met Alex, please tell us about your experience meeting him.  
Saw Alex at the Iowa Speedway for his race there in June 2016.  Our party (my brother and his 2 sons, my cousin Dave Bergonz and a frieind of his from the Denver area) and I met him at the track's infield.  Alex came out of the drivers' meeting and was in a hurry to get to the garage, so he didn't have much time to visit, but he was kind enough to give my brother and me autographs.

The most Alex Bowman like photo known to man!
Taken in 1998 at the age of 5
 and sent to me by Arlie  Prokop. 
Alex still loves dogs and cars!
‎How do you feel about Alex taking over the 88 car? 
 I'm still pinching myself that it actually happened - almost too good to be true!  It won't fully hit me until I see him in the car at Daytona.

 ‎How do you feel about Alex's sudden popularity among JR fans?  
It's not really a
 surprise, since JR's fans are so loyal and most tend to follow his lead.  Hope they stay on board when Alex encounters adversity, as I'm sure he will from time to time.

What do you think new fans should know about Alex Bowman?  
He is NOT a rookie in the Cup series!  He just hasn't been in the spotlight as as a full-time driver at that level before.

Alex Bowman has come a long way from the wise cracking boy from 2014 and I am proud to have stood by him through everything. With only 32 days until the Daytona 500, I must admit I am very excited to have my favorite driver back on track and in the 88 car.   Next week I will tell the tale of Alex Bowman's new fans. If you would like to take part in it please email me at Also look for Fast Lane Race News on Twitter and don't forget to like us on Facebook for all your racing news! Also check out our new Alex Bowman group on Facebook: Alex Bowman: Making The 88 Gr88t!

See you at the racetrack in 2018!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Ghosts of Dega

By Chanda Healton

Photos from Google
Every year around this time it starts: Stories about the Ghosts of Talladega Superspeedway! Are they real or spooked to scare up some fans for this week's Alabama 500? Part of me is waiting for Shaggy and Scooby-Doo to Roll up in the Mystery Machine and rip off the mask, to reveal Brian France and yet another plot to make NASCAR more exciting! The other part of me, the one who believes spirits are real, genuinely wants to know if the Talladega Jinx is real. The problem is, few people are willing to talk about it and drivers avoid the question like it will bring the beast to life, So Today I will go in search of some answers as to Dega's ghosts and legends. I will leave it to you to decide if you believe them or not.

Let's start with some track history and some of the more mysterious events, shall we?

As with all haunted places, it seems Native Americans are to blame for the things that go bump in the night! From rumors of an Native American Burial Ground, to the stories the locals tell of the Dry Valley 160+ years before NASCAR was thought up. Some speak of a Native American tribe, who raced horses through the Valley, until the day their chief fell from his horse and died, as the cause of the curse on the land, while others mention Andrew Jackson, who teamed up with the Creek Tribe to drive (an unnamed) local tribe out of the area. As they left, their Shaman left behind a curse for future visitors. No matter the cause of the Talladega Jinx, there have been some sad and unfortunate events happen there.

Enjoy this comical video by Terry Gilliam. He actually talks to some drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was created in 2010, and while “The Legend of Hallowdega” is rather amusing, I'm not sure it can be entered as factual evidence!

Of course, the tales are legendary and you can find many of the stories outside of NASCAR this is one of my favorite from a Facebook page called Haunted History.

"Intertwined in the spectacular moments of NASCAR history that were made at the track, affectionately known as Dega to most hardcore race fans, are stories of Indian burial grounds, ghost sightings and mysterious deaths.

Before NASCAR was officially formed, “Big Bill” France was already hunting for land to develop into race tracks. France had his sights set on Hillsborough, NC for the site of a new facility but the local religious leaders would have none of it. According to Racing vs. Religion by L.D. Russell, when France petitioned the locals with the idea of the race track, the ministers refused it as way of ‘preserving the sanctity of the Sabbath’.

So, France began hunting elsewhere and in the late ‘60’s discovered Talladega County in Alabama Construction on the facility began on May 23, 1968 and was completed in time for the first scheduled event on September 13, 1969. Two races were completed successfully that weekend, but after the pole was set for the inaugural Cup Series race at 199.466mph, the Professional Drivers Association, headed by Richard Petty, refused to run in the next day’s event due to the unsafe situation. The tire companies were unable to develop a tire that would withstand the fast speeds at the new track.

But, the first Cup race was run as scheduled, without the PDA drivers and without any major incident.

However, as the years passed, and as drivers with names like Baker, Waltrip, Allison, Elliott and Earnhardt came to fame on the 2.66-mile tri-oval, strange occurrences began building on the legend of the Talladega curse.

Multiple drivers have lost their lives on the high banks of Dega in strange wrecks, innocent bystanders were killed in freak accidents in the infield and on the facility grounds, and one driver even claims to have heard voices.

In 1973, Bobby Isaac was leading the race and supposedly heard a voice that told him to pull off the track. He listened, and always believed that he escaped death that day by heeding the mysterious voice."

Larry Smith was killed in the race that day in what was seemingly a minor crash.

Tiny Lund was killed on back stretch in 1975.

Joe Crayton Clinard Jr tells about an ARCA race in the early 80's " In 82 or 83 I remember an ARCA race it was a Blue car, never forget driver died in a crash, seems like the car was not tore up that bad and they covered the cars top and windows and as I recall pulled it with a Tow truck to the Hospital I think...That was a weird feeling but not sure it was The Jinx you speak of.

In July 1982, 28-year-old Gene Richards was the first ARCA driver to be killed at Talladega. On lap 31, a tire blew and sent his Buick into the fourth turn wall. The car came back across the track and hit the inside wall near pit road. In April 1983, Ken Kalla was killed on the third lap when his Buick spun off turn two and slammed into the inside wall, hitting it with the right front and spinning around to hit it with the right rear. Kalla was killed instantly from massive skull injuries. Later in the race Bob Brevak suffered burns over 25% of his body in a fiery crash. Davey Allison claimed his first win on the Talladega Speedway that day. And in July 1987, Cale Yarborough crew-member Tracy Read was killed while driving in the ARCA race. He spun in avoidance of an accident and hit the inside wall off turn two with the left side of his Chevrolet. Chris Gehrke was the last driver to die in an ARCA race at Talladega in May 1991. His car spun in the tri-oval and flipped several times before getting struck by Carl Miskotten. He passed away three days after the race. A total of four drivers were killed in 10 years. After 1991 however, safety began to catch up with the speeds and the race became much safer. But almost as a curse, ARCA at Talladega just kept on taking. In 1996, the president of ARCA, Bob Loga was killed in a passenger car accident leaving the track. If the Talladega curse truly existed, it could be shown in ARCA."

And, of course, no one will forget Davey Allison's Helicopter crash in 1993. Here is his obituary from the NY Times.

Clinard Jr.remembers, "The helicopter came within a foot of touching down when it suddenly shot back up 25 feet off the ground and began oscillating and then spinning before plummeting to the ground on its left side, where Allison was sitting. Roff Safer, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, declined to speculate on the cause of the crash, but said there was no indication of mechanical failure. Based on interviews with 10 people who saw all or part of the crash, the investigator said that Allison was attempting to land in a small, fence-enclosed parking lot

Allison, who lived in Hueytown, Ala., had flown to the track to watch a practice run by David Bonnett, the son of Neil Bonnett."

So, is Talladega actually haunted? I turned to some of my favorite NASCAR groups to ask the fans. As always Winston Cup History 1971-2003 was my knight in shining armor!

Photo from NASCAR On Fox Facebook Page

Chris Standridge, who has been to 18 cup races at Talladega says, " When Rusty flipped in 93 you
could feel death and I once took a picture of the pack zooming by and expected to see a rainbow blur. Picture caught one car. Ricky Craven 41 Kodiak car (later went into the catch fence,) Death has came to Dega more than once and I think its a creepy place.. Dega is like a living monster.."

David Harkey say, "Talladega was built on what had been an Indian burial ground. Been to Talladega many times, seen some strange and unexplained things. Staying in the infield at night is an experience."

Terry Lee says he's " Been way to many times, seen several strange and funny things."

No one would go into much detail though so lets move on to those who don't believe in the Jinx.

Jules Scaccia says "The story about Talladega being haunted goes back before my time in the sport. Its just not my thing. As most everyone knows I'm a technical and gear head guy. Thus paranormal activity does not interest me. There were issues right from the start. Drivers were upset over the speed/tires/safety issues and many boycotted. Since this had not happened before I 'think' this was what made the so called 'jinx' stick... Issues building the place too I believe."
Be on the lookout for this tragic soul!

Michael Sanders, the wonderful owner of this NASCAR group says, "My opinion: it's another NASCAR gimmick. I'm going to Dega again this weekend. This'll be 18 Cup races to go with 1 Xfinity and 1 truck race. I've been to every part of the track you can get to on foot and have never experienced any kind of strange phenomena, unless you want to count Junior or Danica fans."

Joseph Harville, who has been going to Talladega 20+ years says, "They started this shit when the race landed on Halloween.I have been all over the in field,the out fields/camping grounds.there are no ghosts in Dega and if by chance there is,They mind their own damn business!!!"

Ganey Noe, owner of Stock Car Trash Talk, who has been to Talladega 6 timrd, four of them in the infield, says, "I believe in paranormal but Talladega is on Indian burial ground but to say haunted, no.Talladega has had some eerie and unusual events during races. Spectacular wrecks where no one was hurt unbelievably. More cars have flipped and gone into the fence there than anywhere else but that's just racing, not ghosts or spirits."

Kent Baggett said "I’ve been there many times over the years, but I never noticed anything that would make me think it was haunted."

Nic Altgilbers says "I've been close to 40 times and have never seen anything that couldn't be explained by either 1) It's bumf**k Alabama and 2) the astounding amount of alcohol consumed. If anyone has seen anything that couldn't be explained by that I would be shocked.

Patrick Keohane says "I've been going since 1989. Used to go to both weekends back when they raced in July, but have never been in October. We camped on-site many times. Nothing unusual has ever happened (at least nothing alcohol doesn't explain)."

On that note, Harville concludes, " I drink a lot and have done many different drugs while there. That place is a daycare now compared to the 80's and early 90' sure the 70's were even more nuts but i was to young to go on my own. I fully believe in ghosts/spirits,whatever you want to call them but have never felt anything there that i believe wasn't from drugs and or alcohol."

To learn more, check out this article in the Washington Post. Leave us a comment on how you feel about Talladega's ghosts. Are they real or no?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

An Alex Bowman Story

By Chanda Healton

What does it mean to be me right now? Well, I'm writing this through tears. Not ones of sorrow, but tears of joy, of relief that the day I have waited for since 2014 has finally happened. You see, today a driver few people had heard of by the end of his rookie season, won a hard fought Xfinity race. I wanted to share my Alex Bowman story with you in hopes maybe it will make you a fan also!

In 2014, Alex Bowman was a little no name rookie running at the back of the pack. Few knew his name and fewer cared to learn it, but I was taken in by him and turned into a fan. His humor on Twitter and his general personality wowed me into believing he would do great things someday.

Some of you may know I have a daughter who is in a wheelchair. Savannah will be 6 in just a few weeks, but in 2015 she was a 3 year old who had never played outside. Her wheelchair wouldn't go through grass and she was scared to touch it (still is!) It broke my heart watching how my little girl wanted more than anything to live a normal life, only to have life throw more obstacles in her way.

One day, while cruising Twitter, I came across a news story about how Alex Bowman, Tommy Baldwin Racing and Go Baby Go were helping kids turn Road Ripper toys into mobility equipment for special needs kids. I tweeted them and thanked them for helping other children like Savannah. I did it, not expecting an answer or anything in return, but a month later Savannah and I got an invite to the Go Baby Go clinic at Chicagoland Speedway. We accepted, thrilled for a chance to meet my favorite driver!

In June 25, 2015 my dream of meeting Alex Bowman came true. We drove the 2½ hours from West Lafayette, Indiana to Joliet, Illinois, of course, forgetting that Chicago was an hour behind us, thus arriving way too early. There Alex Bowman and Tommy Baldwin taught us how to modify a Road Ripper into something a special needs kid could control with just a push of a button. Some chose to build roll cages on their cars as well as other modifications, but Savannah's car was very simple, we just added a seat belt from a luggage bag strap to keep her safe. Though Savannah is missing part of her lower spine in addition to having Spina Bifida, she has always been very happy and healthy. We have been blessed by this. After we were done, the kids got to test their new cars, some smiling for the first time, others just laughing. Savannah headed out of the garage with a huge smile on her face. She knew right where to go, Victory Lane! It was a day I will never forget!

I've been there the whole time cheering Alex on! A loyal and dedicated fan. I've watched him through his days of running in the back of the pack, to last year when he nearly won Phoenix. There is so much talent in him and I believe he will go on to do great things!

As for Savannah, she turns 6 on October 18th. She knows and loves NASCAR and says she is very excited to have Alex race next year. In the mean time, she enjoys watching races with me and occasionally trying to run my over with her Alex Bowman car! She has stated that it needs an 88 paint job for next year though. Alex's future is brighter than ever and I feel like I have spent nearly 2 years in limbo waiting for my driver to return full time. His win will remain a highlight in 2017, but I know this is nothing compared to how I will feel when he gets his first Monster Cup win!

Tonight, as Alex stood in Victory Lane, I feel like his future is really just starting. Alex Bowman will be a legend someday. Thank you Chip Ganassi for giving him his first win. Thank you Dale Earnhardt Jr for seeing greatness where maybe no one noticed before and most of all, thank you to his sponsors and to Rick Hendrick for taking a chance with him! Congratulations Alex! I can't wait for 2018!
Savannah at the beginning of summer in her car

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How Social Media Changed NASCAR

There was a time when racing wasn't mainstream. It didn't make every newspaper and headline. To talk with a driver, you joined their Fanclub or met them at the track. You didn't just log on to Twitter or Facebook Live, you went to the racetrack!

Social media has changed how we view racing in this day and age, it has changed the fan as well as how we view drivers. Let's talk the good old days for a moment. I have gathered some of the most loyal fans, some who have watched since the early days and we talked about what it was like to be a fan in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Jump in your time machine and let's take a road trip through the early days.

One of the best racing magazines in it's day. 
What did fans do before you could see a replay on twitter or Facebook? How did they get their news before NASCAR was popular everywhere? Let's talk to a few fans and see what they had to say, but first I would like to give a shout out to Facebook group Winston Cup History  1971-2003 for their great members who made this article possible.

Chris Murray, a fan since the 1979 Daytona 500 remembers those days well."I would make sure that I TAPED every race that I could. I didn't get ESPN until '86, so the CBS and other network races were great. After '86 it was great to hardly ever miss a race (taped or live). Of course I would check the newspaper on Monday mornings. Of course, Tuesday night meant NASCAR Live on the local MRN affiliate. "
Aaron Rosser, a fan since 1991 remembers the pre-social media days like this, "Tony Stewart was a little late to the game as far as social media is concerned, but I was able to use other mediums (message boards, Twitter and Facebook groups, team and sponsor accounts, etc). Before I started using the internet though, which was in the spring of 2000, it was pretty difficult to show the support without having their t-shirt on your back, at least from my experience."

Paul Eheander remembers some of the great ways of getting his news in magazines such as "Speedway Scene, Winston Cup Scene and National Speedsport news."

It was magazines such as these and Winston Cup Illustrated that made me dream of being a racing journalist as well. So much so that in 2001 I packed everything I had of value, took my last paycheck and moved to Charlotte, NC. I hoped I would be great and maybe I could have been if I had stuck it out a little longer but I knew very few people there and I had to decide if I should take the rest of my money and come home to Indiana or stick it out. Then tragedy struck on February 18, 2001 and I felt I had my answers. It was time to give up my dream and come home. Who would have guessed then how easy social media would make such dreams come true a decade and a half later?

So has social media changed racing and the way fans view it? I believe it has. We no longer wait for our news, instead, it's a mere click away. Facebook live and Twitter has given us an all access ass into the life of the drivers like nothing we ever had before. I grew up cheering for Michael Waltrip and later Jeremy Mayfield in a time where his only mentions were wrecks or his ever growing loss streak. It was rare to find his merchandise or read stories on him because it was all Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr in those days. The magazines covered winners, as did the news shows. Those of us pulling for underdogs took what tidbits we could find and read them over and over again! Now. with a few clicks I have all the accesSI want to my favorite drivers  even the underdogs such as Matt Dibenedetto, a guy's name that, without having is saved in my spell check, I would still be spelling wrong!!

Christopher Krul believes it's a good thing. "You can converse with other fans. I would not say it effects attendance too much. Its no different then talking to someone on the phone or watching a race at a sports bar and conversing"

Murray says "I don't think social media has changed my viewing habits or attendance habits. However, it is fun to post on a buddy's page who I know is a race fan on the other side of the country, and we will comment all the way through the race."

Bill Bradley, who has been a fan since the 1980's says, "It was certainly different to follow any drivers back then. There was no internet, never mind social media. Living outside Boston, we didn't have the greatest NASCAR coverage. I really relied on subscriptions to Speedway Scene that covered NASCAR and New England racing, and Winston Cup Scene. You really had to rely on a few writers and the race broadcasters to learn about your drivers. To show my support I'd write letters to my favorite drivers. I wrote letters and got responses from Richard and Kyle Petty, Geoff Bodine, Bud Moore. Getting that return letter in the mail was quite the feeling. I had a friend in school whose Uncle worked at Hendrick back in the mid 80's. So I had quite the collection of Geoff Bodine merchandise. It was tough to buy any merchandise in this part of the country."

Rosser says. "For me, it is a supplement to the TV broadcast. Particularly during commercials or caution flag periods but sometimes during green flag action as well, I can skim through Twitter and get reports on how my favorite drivers' cars are handling before TV can report the information (they're human, after all, and it takes time) or juicy radio chatter that isn't fit for television. I feel like it has enhanced my viewing experience. These days I feel lost if I'm watching a race without Twitter to help me know what's going on that the TV broadcast hasn't reported yet. As for track attendance, I'm sure it has helped diminish attention spans enough for fringe race fans that they may not want to spend four-plus hours at the race track, but I don't think it is a reason that the more true fans have had to stay behind, unless we're counting the constant negative chatter. If you keep telling someone something is bad, bit by bit they will start to believe it. Which is unfortunate because what we have is not bad. Is it perfect? No, and it is hat never-ending pursuit of perfection continues to drive the sport forward." But the personal look into driver's lives isn't always a good thing as Rosser points out in this comment "There's two sides to every coin. I think it is overwhelmingly positive, but the negative often comes from we ourselves, the ones being given that access. There's a lot of unnecessary ugliness that comes with that access. For instance, look at an Instagram post by Danica Patrick when she is showing off a yoga move or something. Most of the comments are relevant to the video but you'll always have a few idiots chiming in about how she needs to quit worrying about that and focus on the race car. It's frustrating when that privileged "behind the scenes" access is abused like that. It doesn't cost a dime to be nice."

1994 Brickyard 400 where there is barely room to stand!
And not a single smart phone in the crowd!
So Yes, there is both a good and bad side to every story though. While Social Media has made the inside look into racer's lives easier, I believe it has also affected attendance not only at the race track but also for television viewing. Now there are smart phone apps and websites on the computer where you can watch for free. You can get NASCAR Twitter updates sent right to your phone or even just join a conversation in a Facebook group such as NASCAR History 2003 - current. With these options, fewer and fewer people are attending the races in person. And with tracks like Indianapolis Motor Speedway where ticket prices are high, the sun is hot and you can't see all of the track, well sometimes it is easier just to follow along online so you don't miss anything.

Patrick Thomson believes Social Media has "made more fair weather bandwagon know it all fans who think because they've been following sine Chase Elliot's rookie year that they know everything "

Michael Stinson isn't a fan either! "I hate it as I DVR the race when it's on Sunday afternoon as I usually have something to do . I live up north so not finding out who the winner was is easy . Now as soon as that race is over ... it's my fault for not staying off social media though .. spoiler alerts are a thing of the past ".

Bradley says. "I don't believe Social Media itself has effects attendance. Technology has a whole has effected attendance in all sports. It's so much more convenient to watch the race on a 60" HD TV in my air conditioned living room. My food is free, no traffic, no crowds, my own clean bathroom. Pause the race when I have to step away. Where I think it can effect attendance is in people's attitude. If you are in a group where everyone complains about NASCAR, it is only human nature to join in and make decisions based on peer pressure. I'm not saying that's everyone, but I think there are some. I've run into "fans" on social media who haven't been to or watched a race in years, but are online every week passing on opinions based on "fake news" and people are following their lead."

2017 Brickyard 400 captured on my cell phone
 and immediately uploaded to Facebook
John Conner says, "Before 2007 if you wanted to keep up with a race you either had to go or watch it on television. Once the cell phone came along people had a third option. I think fans today would rather do their thing on Sunday and wait for updates on their phone. Maybe that's why Indy looked like it did with I'm guessing 40,000 people."

And what changes would fans like to see made as far as social media? 

Bradley sums it up best, "The only real change I'd like to see as far as Social Media is more fan interaction with the higher ups within NASCAR. I think one of NASCAR's biggest issues is the top guy is a ghost. He doesn't go to many races, he doesn't seem to have a feel of what fans want. Maybe making an appearance on social media once in awhile it may help. Let the fans know what you're working on, why you made a decision. Listen to the fans and get a feel of whats going on."

Now it's your turn. Do you believe social media has changed the way race fans view racing? Leave me a comment below and don't forget to follow Fast Lane Race News on Facebook, like us on Twitter and you can always email your thoughts to Chanda.

Next week we will talk about the fans themselves and how they have changed. Don't miss it! 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Indy 500 Memories

By Chanda Healton
Photo thanks to Larry Willems
Growing up in Indiana, I have long been a fan of the Indy 500. I began attending before I could ride a bike without training wheels, and the memories I have made there are for a lifetime. My first race was in 1984 where I watched Rick Mears win his second race. It turned me into his fan for many years to come. I have seen history made there and dreams shattered. The Indy 500 is in my soul and tomorrow I will return for yet another race. Tonight memories of races past are strong. That very first Indy 500 I mentioned that I attended 33 years ago? My first memory is of a couple guys wearing Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan masks standing on top of their RV mooning people! 

Another favorite memory was 1986. The rain delays were many that year. I was 8 years old and watched as two drunks carried a 3rd out of the track. They dropped him on his back and the first one said to the second. "Oh shit, We dropped him. They ran off and left their friend in the puddle!  I always wondered what happened when the friend caught up to them! 

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Chanda Healton at the 2016 Indy 500
Photo credit
Then there was 1999, the first race after I was old enough to legally drink. My best friend, Carrie Johnson and I took some alcohol with us and were slightly tipsy, her more so than me. As we left our little wooden grandstands that stood just inside turn 1 we heard honking behind us. Everyone moved out of the way, but Carrie jumped off to the side and fell. As she stood up, yelled "The race is over!" and gave the golf cart the 1 finger salute, I realized who was on the back of it. It was our favorite Nascar driver Tony Stewart heading to the race in Charlotte for the first Memorial Day double! We still laugh about it years later! Tht was our last year in those seats as the next year they were torn down to make way for Indy's now famous road course!
I also asked what is your favorite memory of the Indy 500 to Facebook friends and the IndyCar group Elite IndyCar here are some of their answers:

 Danilo Nardini Mancini When TK won, when it was on the yellow flag before Franchitti crash, I said to my dad: "Well if someone crash, he will win", and that's pretty much what happened.

Jeff Chiszar 70's....infield for a practice day. Beer may have been involved. Playing catch with a football...Arthur tossed me the ball, took off, and said, "lead me". So I did. He laid out to catch it and crumpled on the hood of a car. Know your target....

Brian Ditmer I just recall last year. We wound up driving around for an hour trying to figure out how to get to our parking in the infield. We wound up being directed to drive across the driving range of the golf course. The 100th running was a crazy scene... Lol loved it!

Photo thanks to Kurt Winkleman
Don Mulder My buddy and I shared our large order of bread with the neighboring table at an Italian restaurant in downtown Indy the night before the race in 2000. The lady sort of sized us up by asking about how we watched the race. When she figured we weren't race drunks she gave us her address on a napkin so we could come to the post race party at her house about six miles from the track. This year will be our 18th year in a row at the party!

Kurt Winkleman I used to listen to the race on Radio and really wanted to go. I told everyone hoping someone would get me there. In 1962 (I was 9) much to my surprise my Maternal Grandmother brought me to the race we saw Roger Ward win from Tower Terrace seats. She braved every minute of the race like a Trooper. Now I go with my son and two of my grandchildren and sit in Tower Terrace seats.

Ryan Christopher I broke my leg the night before the 2008 race. I bought crutches at CVS and went to the race. By time I got there my leg was pretty much one size from mid thigh to my ankle from the swelling. I stopped at a fire truck by the A and B Stands, they called a golf cart ambulance and it took me to the Infield Care Center. They wanted to put me in an ambulance and send me to the hospital, but I wouldn't miss the race. So they made a splint out of several splints, gave me a bunch of Motrin and sent me on my way. A golf cart took me back to my seats in the Paddock Penthouse. There was no way I could do the stairs so a yellow shirt snuck me in a catering elevator. After the race my friend was to drunk/sick to drive me to hospital so I drove myself using the crutch to press the clutch. The ER Dr kept lecturing me about not coming right in and I kept telling him "you live in Indy and you don't know how important the Indy 500 is?" Race Tax paid, but I did not miss the race!

Aprile White Patterson My daughter and I left Ontario Canada at 4:00 on the Saturday afternoon and drove straight through, playing word games near the end to try and stay awake. I think we got the last room in town, not much sleep and the next day I woke up with a massive migraine. The event meant putting pain and nausea aside and with my daughters' help I managed to see the whole race. I hope to get back again someday....feeling better of course...

Brett Kear I was living in Los Angeles. My boss gave me you OK to wait out the rain and stay until Tuesday . . . The race was initially rescheduled for Monday and then Tuesday. . . But was finally scheduled for the following Saturday. . . I ended up trading my 2 (top of the line) paddock Penthouse tickets {a whopping $80 each in those days ) for a "Mears Gang" t-shirt to a drunk at Union Jacks in Speedway.
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The famous Pagoda at IMS
Photo credit Joshua Healton

Paul Reams Can't remember the year, would have been early eighties we were in the North forty the night before the race consuming adult beverages and people watching. About dark we noticed a guy passed out in the fire lane and his buddies debating whether or not to get him up. Finally one of them said something to the effect of "I ain't gonna bother him man, he's mean when you wake him up" They walked away and left him.

Don Mulder In 1986 WLS radio in Chicago had a 500 trivia contest to win a package to the race. I ordered from the track that year for the first time and the seats stunk. So why not try to win GOOD SEATS on the radio? Long story short I won because I knew who Tony Hulman was. Plane tickets, room at the downtown Indy Hilton, spending money and what happened? Constant rain and a W9 form to the IRS. Never saw the race and it cost me about $400. Went back a week later. Sat in the paddock and saw a close 1-2-3 finish.

Joshua Healton The earliest memory I have of the 500 is going with my dad and sitting inside the track. I want to say it was turn 3. As we were leaving, I heard someone shout, "Show us your boobies." Dad got us out of there quickly. I don't remember what year it was or who won, but I do remember there we more drunk a$$holes back then.
Also, we had to walk a long way. Dad dindt want to pay for parking. Back then the Coke lot was free. He would park there and walk to the track. I am sure it is not as far as I remember it being, but it was a long treck for a small child. I was about 7 or 8 at the time.

Justin Plummer The very first Indy 500 I watched flag-to-flag was the 1992 edition; been an Indycar/IRL/CART fan sinc

Terri Rogers Zumbrook Last year at the 500 on Legends Day, I had a meet and greet with Dario Franchitti and I gathered the courage to ask him aout something I always wondered about driving.. He took several minutes answering my question and told a few stories about other drivers that fit it, too. Part of his answer appeared in a recent Road and Track article on the physical challenges of driving Indy Cars. What was great about it was it actually seemed like something he doesn't get asked about and he said , "0h wow that's a good question" and then had to think a bit before answering.
But this is my favorite Indy 500 story!

Don Conard IMS can be a jungle. One of our group years ago was lost for two months before he found his way back home. Back then there was an active railroad next to Crawfordsville Road and our guy climbed in a grain car to recuperate from his alcohol buzz and as far as we could tell from his recollection, he ended up in Pennsylvania. Frosty was to our little town what Otis was to Mayberry. Three of us high school kids were making plans to go to the race when Frosty overheard our plan and volunteered to pay for our whole deal if he could come with us. It was an offer we couldn't refuse!

"You know what makes the Indy 500 so special? 
It's a reflection of all that's good.
It's physical location in the near-center of the United States means that almost anyone in the nation doesn't have to trek too far to attend.
It's one of the few special races in the world that accepts drivers from almost every racing discipline. If you qualify, you're in the show.
It's a race that does not discriminate. Everyone has an equal chance to win. It's a matter of how well you drive and how your team manages your car. And no matter where the driver calls home, he/she is enthusiastically celebrated as a champion.
Hard work, grit, talent, and determination could crown you the champion, but the track may not grant your wish. A pinch of luck is needed.
It's a place that can humble the arrogant and praise the patient in an instant. You experience the dizzying highs and the lowest of lows in the blink of an eye.
It's a place that brings out the best in human spirit.
It's a race like no other. And I love it" -Amarpreet Chima

Tomorrow will be 101 races filled with amazing memories. If you have been, there is a chance you have an amazing story to go with it. Fast Lane Race News would love for you to tell us in the comments.