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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Tony Vickio-Lap 4

Originally uploaded by Sally Ann.

Experiences of "The World Famous"
by: Tony Vickio

Painting at the Famous Race Tracks

Lap 4: Layout the grass painting

It is early Wednesday morning. Not a cloud in the sky, no wind, what a beautiful day! Stopped at the Deli on the way in, got a coffee and a slice of Homemade Apple Pie. It was about three inches thick! One strange thing, no matter when I went in the Deli, the same people were always working. Didn't they ever sleep? I paid the "honey" lady and went outside. A couple of young guys were looking at the Pace Car. They wanted to know the usual....."How fast ya had it"? "Not very fast", I told them. Little did I know that was about to change! I talked to them for a few more minutes, got in the car and drove to the track.

I turned off the two lane road, now a four lane, onto the "30 lane, down through the dark, wet tunnel (seemed there was always a little water at the bottom of the tunnel. It splashed against the sides as you drove through. Normal, but being is this small tunnel, the echo made it sound like a jet engine), up the other side and into the sunlight. Yeah.....I can't help it.............I had to blow the horn while I was in there! I proceeded down an access road, turned right, drove through the gate to the garage area and past the "deadly" fence. Right there, not ten feet from the car, by the garage area is the fence Davey Allison hit while landing his helicopter and was killed. I thought "how good he might have been", and drove on.

I was on a mission. In the garage area, I went thru another gate, (they are gates all over the place), that lead to Pit Lane. I drove down Pit Lane to the center and stopped. I look to my right and the Tri-Oval grass, where the logo will be painted! I then look straight ahead, hands 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, and think, "What the hell, nobody's here"! With eyes glazed over, teeth clenched, a little drool down the chin, I slam the '92 Turbo Charged Thunderbird Super Coupe Pace Car into gear and floor it! Under full acceleration, I fly down Pit Lane! Around the access lane at the bottom of the banking and on to the racing surface on the back straight! Foot to the floor! 90, 95, 100, 110 and into Turn 3! Not lifting off the gas I go into Turn 3. The banking is unbelievable! The track is so long and the banking is so steep, you do not feel the speed. I put the car right up next to the wall! What a feeling on the 34 degree banking. Even at a 100 I can feel the car wanting to turn down the banking. Out of Turn 4, "pedal to the metal", and down the front straight! The engine is winding up a little more to it’s redline! 132 mph! Fast as the Turbo Super Coupe would go! I did one more lap without lifting. Going into the turns, the banking would actually slow you down a little. 132 mph was as fast as the Thunderbird would go.(I had about ten years of racing experience to this point driving Late Models and Modifieds, I felt at home ). One more lap (I couldn't stop) and I pull into Pit Lane, before I blew the engine or a tire, and ever so slowly come to a stop. The Statute of Limitations had run out by now, so I could tell this story! I take a deep breath, hands still at 10 and 2 on the wheel, let it out slowly and I think, "Who the hell needs drugs when have this. Holy Crap! What a ride!”

Eyes wide open, a grin from ear to ear, I look over to my right at the "GRASS". My hands drop off of the wheel, the grin turns to a grimace, my wide open eyes close to just two small slits. The "GRASS" had become the enemy! I don't know how long I was staring at it, but I realized I need coffee. I grab my coffee mug out of the holder, reach for my apple pie,........its gone! "Oh No! My 3 inch thick pie!"! I look around, there it is, squashed between the passenger door and the seat. It's now a half inch thick and all covered in sand from the carpet! "Oh well, the laps were worth it", I thought. I get out of the car, mug in hand, walk over to the grass and just stand there. As I take a sip of my coffee, I can hear the sweetest sound behind me! In the still Alabama air, I can hear the car cooling down, snapping and cracking from the high speed run. I love that sound! "You just rode the horse hard, and put it away wet!"

I am alone on the "battlefield" surrounded by the enemy GRASS, the sun rising over the retaining wall at Turn 3. The shadows were moving away quickly. With all the doubt I had yesterday, this morning I have some confidence. Somehow, I am going to do this. I take a sip of coffee and in an instant, the confidence thing disappears and panic washes over my whole body! I hear a vehicle coming. I turn to look. My helpers are here. Mike, from Daytona, and two maintenance men pull up in a couple of pick up trucks. They all jump out and Raymond runs to the middle of the 6 acre tri-oval GRASS, looking around like he's thinking, "how did I get here?" I'm thinking, shaking my head, "Oh my God! What the hell do we now"? Not wanting to show how I really felt (running, waving my arms, screaming obscenities and puking as I ran), I said, "Let’s gitter done!” thinking at the same time, "Oh crap, somebody help me"!!!

I took the drawing to the motel the night before to study it. As I laid on the bed with the layout in hand, I thought, "At least the weather is good." You see, on my second night in Alabama the weather wasn’t good. My room was on the second floor. Right at the top of the stairs where everyone had to pass, going up or down. I was awakened by a siren at about 2:39 a.m. A weird sounding siren, I thought. Then I heard a loudspeaker, TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY. TORNADO WARNING! I jump up, look out the window, lightning is non stop. The rain is going by sideways! On the wall are instructions for tornados. Basically you go into the bathroom and wait! I guess if everyone is in their bathrooms, it is easier to find the bodies. I was scared! I go into the bathroom and sit on the edge of the bathtub for about twenty minutes. Finally another announcement, ALL CLEAR! Back to bed! I went to sleep...sort of.

Last night the weather was perfect as I laid in bed studying the layout. At first it was just a mass of numbers. "Someone did this before", I keep reminding myself. I had to figure it out. If Mike hadn't remembered the two tapes, top and bottom, I may not have figured it out!

This morning on the GRASS, surrounded by my army, we were about to attack! Acting like I knew what I was doing, we found a center line of the grass tri-oval. Knowing the length of the logo (165 feet) we put a peg in the ground at one end of the logo and another one at the other end, connected with a string. This would define the top of the word "Talladega”. This line would run parallel with Pit Lane. Next, we laid a 200 foot tape across where the top of the letters would be, right by the string. 30 feet down from the top tape (the height of the letters) we did the same thing. I needed more help. I get on my radio (you have to have radios here because this place is so big. It would take twenty minutes to drive to the shop, get help and drive back) and ask for two more men. By the time they arrive, I get more nervous as we are getting closer to laying out this 4,950 square foot logo. It will be about 165 feet long x 30 feet high. At the time, this was the largest sign I had ever seen!

Now we have two tapes on the ground, one above the letters, one below. I place one man on the top tape and one on the bottom. Mike remembers another part! Flags! In the storage shed was a pail full of heavy gauge wires, about 8" long that had little red flags on them. They had paint on them, so they must have been used for marking the points of the logo. That's what we figured anyway. I think, "We are ready"! We start a "0" on the two horizontal tapes, which is the left side of the layout. From the drawing, I read the first point, 14 inches. The two men (top and bottom) move together, to the right to 14 inches on their tapes. These two men are holding a 30 foot tape between them (vertical, the height of the letter). I read out another measurement, and the man on the 30 foot vertical tape, moves up or down the tape, to his mark, and puts a flag in the ground on that spot. (For example, the letter "T" would take 8 points to layout). We proceed, letter by letter, down the logo. Once we got the hang of it, it goes pretty good! Finally, the layout was on the ground. Was it right? I went by the layout on the drawing, standing on the ground, you can't see the logo, it too big. You have to trust the layout, but I didn't know if it was right.

Done, I sat on the grass, completely drained, not by any labor, but by the mental stress! I can't really believe what we just did! Just as my ass hit the grass, someone yelled at the top of their lungs "Don't sit on the %****ng grass you %****ng idiot!" I jumped up wondering, "What the hell is the problem"? One of the guys holding a tape, walked over and in a deep, calm, southern drawl says..........."Fire Ants." I jump up, slapping my ass with my hands, trying to wipe off any fire ants that may have gotten on me. I "said, "Thanks". In the south, fire ants are akin to what bee’s are in the north. They sting like all get out if they bite you. Part of preparing the track before a race is to spray all the fire ant hills in the grass.

This layout took most of the day. We had early problems, such as two of the guys couldn't read a tape! It took some time to find two more men who could! As I looked at the layout, I thought again, "Right or wrong, there it is". When you get back and look at this layout, all you see is green grass and a %***in' mass of red flags! Remember, you are standing on the ground and can't see this layout from the sky. No shape, no idea of what it says, just grass and this mass of red flags. I shook my head and walked to my car thinking "Oh my God! Tomorrow, WE PAINT!"

Billy wanted to drink beer. I was done for the night. To the motel I went. I couldn't get to sleep. I kept thinking, "What if the layout wrong. One mistake will screw up the logo from that point on." The only way to see it is to paint. Then I thought, "What happens if you make a mistake. You can't erase it! What do you do?" I curled up in the fetal position on the bed and went to sleep!

I get there early. I am so nervous! I'm down here in Alabama, alone, and getting ready to paint a sign that will determine if I'm IN or OUT of the track painting business. I have never done or thought of anything like this before. I'm thinking, "If you paint a 30 foot letter on the grass and it’s wrong, you just don't wipe it off"! You have to be RIGHT the first time! Oh God!

The next morning, I pull into the Deli, coffee, Apple Pie and drive to the track. Standing on the grass, sipping coffee, my thoughts of disaster are broken by the sound of an old pickup truck carrying two airless paint sprayers and a trailer with about fifty, five gallon pails of paint. The helpers unload the "stuff" and all I can think is "Oh my God"! I look at the paint and say, not thinking before I speak, "That paint is enamel. You can't put 250 gallons of enamel on the ground. It’s contamination, pollution. The DEC will be all over our ass. The guy, with a cowboy hat, sunglasses and toothpick, looked at me without any expression on his face and said, "Ur in Alabama boy, there ain't no rules down here!" I took another sip of coffee and thought..............."Its time to paint!"

In the next installment, Lap 5 - We Paint the logo!


Anonymous Pitcrew said...

What a funny exciting story. Can't wait to see the finished painting.

11:11 AM  

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