If you were able to order a NASCAR fan over the phone, with Mike Wright, you'd say, "I want one as big as they come."
Mike is hard core. In "The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans" we focus on his relationship with Richard Petty. (I don't want to say "obsession," which produces end-game images of straight jackets and Nurse Ratched. Mike is a decent fellow, a hard-working long-haul trucker. He's a patriotic, funny, down-to-earth guy -- a loving husband and now a good friend. He just happens to love NASCAR and Richard Petty, so much so that he's gotten the King's autograph more than 100 times. And the King has never turned him down.)
Mike just sent me the following e-mail. I know it's only January 1. We are still in the single figures on college and pro baseketball players arrested on gun charges. College bowl games are under way, and Twilight Zone Marathon episodes are still running with little Billy turning the drunk Perry Como fan into a jack-in-the-box and wishing neighbors into the corn field. But still, though it's early yet, let's call this the BEST FAN EMAIL OF THE YEAR. Here's Mike's note to me:
Karen and I didn't do jack last night for New Year's. Even though she asked me to try and stay up till midnight, I didn't get off the road till late, and woke up at 3:00 am on the couch with the remote in my hand. Oh well.
I did have a very nice New Year's day. Karen went to spend the day with her mother, and I had the house to myself. I decided to watch the 1979 Daytona 500. Karen found the DVD on a rare sports film web site. It's the original broadcast of that race, flag to flag with no commercials. I had not seen the whole race since I watched it with my dad in 1979.
Of course, any NASCAR fan knows knows what happened: Yarborough and Allison wrecked each other on the last lap, and The King won his sixth of seven Daytona 500's.
You would have thought I was watching it live. I was on the edge of my seat with 20 laps to go (even though, of course, I knew what was going to happen).
On the last lap, I was jumping up and down, the dog barking, the cat ran and hid. It was wild. I went and dug from the closet an old Richard Petty shirt and hat from when he was still driving, and packed a cooler full of beer. I'm going to celebrate in a big way something that happened 31 years ago.
Complete insanity. Some may say I've finally lost it...Call the guys with the butterfly nets, we've got one ready for Belleview.
Damn, life is good. How many days until the Daytona 500?