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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Tony Vickio Lap 7

Delivery Coup
Originally uploaded by
Sally Ann.

Experiences of "The World Famous"
by: Tony Vickio

Painting at the Famous Race Tracks

Lap 7: Not alone at Talladega!

I walk over to the cordless phone that's ringing on the wall above my 1923 Mills Slot Machine (my own "one arm bandit", a gift from my wife). It's a nickel machine and it works! I grab the phone say, "Vickio Signs". A woman's voice comes on the line. "I am looking for Tony Vickio, is he in"? I say, "It's me"! Nobody else here except my dog, Brandy, I'm thinking! You would be surprised the number of people who think this is a big shop with lots of employees. She says, "I'm calling from Britten Banners in Michigan. We have won the bid to do the grass painting at Talladega Superspeedway". I'm thinking, I know, rub it in! She says, "We have never done this before (Oh boy! I'm thinking, oh no, they have never done one before, they probably underbid it to get the job, plus she wants me to tell her over the phone how to do it. I should just hang up.) She continues, "We were wondering if you would be interested in going to Talladega to run the job for us? We will pay your expenses and rate and we will supply men, materials, patterns, everything. You just oversee the job". "Could you repeat that", I said. I was going to say "yes" right away, but one word sent up a Red Flag! Patterns! When the word "patterns" came up, it meant I was not "running the job" from the start. I didn't have control over the whole project. I almost said no right then! "Let me think about it", I told her.

Later that day, Paul Britten (Britten Banners President) called and we talked over the details. I told him about the size of these things, but he insisted on patterns for all of the logos except Die Hard 500. He said his men could make cardboard patterns in his "huge" shop and when we got there, we could just lay them out and spray them. Them meaning the smaller logos that were to go on the grass. Like I said, grass painting was getting more popular. Things have changed since the first, simple Talladega logo. Grass paintings have grown as you will see. For this job, There would be a large (70' x 320') "Die Hard 500", a smaller Winn Dixie500, Toro, NASCAR, Winston and a telephone company that I can't remember. Six paintings! All with patterns except for the Die Hard 500.

As we talked, I was hesitant. Something wasn't right. I wasn't in control. They were controlling me with "patterns"............I pondered it, thought, "It was their job, not mine, why not". I said "OK"! I couldn't resist going to Talladega! I didn't really want to go alone, so I asked him if I could take a "helper". He said I could take someone with me. I needed a victim! I thought who could get a week off and go with me to this fabulous speedway and have an unbelievable time to boot! I was sitting in Maria's Tavern one night having a nice, cold bottle of Budweiser, my favorite, talking to the bartender, Bob Carson.

Bob Carson cured me from drinking and driving! You see the first night I met him, we hit it off real well. I sat there till closing, went out and got into my "51 Chevy..........I miss that car to this day! What a car it was! It was a 1951 Chevy Sedan Delivery. I chopped the front of the frame off and welded a 1970 Camaro frame to the existing '51 frame. Now it had power steering, power, disc brakes. Then I put a Camaro rear end under it. The body remained stock appearing, but had a beautiful custom, green paint job. It even had the old "sun visor" on it. My friends, Mike Wells and Ken Coats, in Ithaca owned Welco Custom Interiors. They did the interior in a saddle color. It was beautiful. Oh, I almost forgot! Rich Seely, who builds race car engines, did the motor. It had a 350 Chevy, performance heads, cam, Elderbrock intake and a Holley four barrel. It would run! I left the bar and not 500 feet from my house, doing 85 with a Bob Seger tape on full blast, a deer was crossing the road. Already more than half way across I over reacted. I lost control when the rear tire dropped off of the newly paved road. It barrel rolled three times and hit a tree with the roof. From my racing experiences, I never got in any car, especially a street car, without a seatbelt. I put one in this '51 Chevy when I built it. If I hadn't, the "tales" would stop here. I walked home. My wife almost fainted when she came to open the door for me! I had a fractured Jaw bone (from a fire extinguisher that broke loose while it was rolling), a broken collar bone and a bunch of cuts. That's how I met Bob Carson!
While I was drinking my Bud, I was telling him of my latest adventure with Britten Banners. I said, "Why don't you go with me"? He talked it over with his wife and she said he could use a vacation. Of course, this would be no vacation. I was talking to Mattman, at the Glen about the trip. He said, "Why don't you take the Pace Car down. It would be good advertisement". He didn't have to say it twice! The car was a brand new, red Ford Mustang convertible (white top). It was all lettered up (I did the lettering). On the trunk was the light bar. We packed the car with cloths for a week and once again, I was headed south!

We pulled into the motel at about 3:00pm in the afternoon. Ah! The weather! It was beautiful! We were sitting out from of our room in these white, plastic chairs enjoying the sun. We must have looked like two "motel bums". Slouched down in the chairs, legs out straight ,sneakers sticking out to the sidewalk, left arm hanging down over the plastic arm of the chair, knuckles dragging on the ground and a bottle of cold Bud in the right hand. Man.......the calm before the storm! We cracked another cold one and waited for the "crew" from Michigan. The bird chirps were interrupted by the sound of a vehicle coming around the corner of the motel. I looked, my first thought was, "please don't let this be them"! It was! Here comes a brown Ford pick up. It has a brown, tin type cap on the back with the flip up side windows. Not out of the ordinary, except for the fact, the front wheels were almost off the ground! The rear door of the cap was open. You couldn't shut it, it was full of cardboard. It had so much cardboard in the back (patterns) it was doing a "wheelie"! I couldn't believe it. They drove all the way from Michigan in that thing! They park next to the Pace Car and get out. Two guys and a girl. We introduce ourselves. First there was >>>>> (can't remember his name). He was there, but didn't want to be, I could tell. He was about 24 years old, average build, short blonde hair and a "hunched over sleepy" look. Missy was next. She was about 21, perky, and all excited to be on the "mission". Missy was good looking and already missed her boyfriend. I was thinking, "Why was she here"? Then there was Charlie. Charlie was really comical, I mean, he was so funny! We hit it off immediately. He was a blast! Later you will see he really was a "blast"! We got Charlie a beer, the other guy, >>>>> and Missy were tired from the trip and decided to go to bed. Now there were three of us "motel bums" slouching in front of the room. I said, "Hey Charlie, when is the rest of your crew going to show up"? Between slugs from the bottle of Bud, he looked at me, hair all fuzzed out, eyes sort of glazed from driving, beer running down his chin on to his T-Shirt and with a sort of wise ass smirk said, "your f@#*## lookin' at it"! My eyes widened and a big, loud "are you sh#*ing me?"! came out of me. "This is it"? He had that "real sorry" look on his face, like it was his fault and said, "Yup"!

We only had three days to do the 6 logos, as you can not start them too early because the grass will grow too much and the logos will look fuzzy by Sunday. Timing is critical. So is the weather. We were lucky, so far! I looked at him, with my "mean" look, hiding my "panic" look, and said, "You better get on the phone and get more help down here by Wednesday"! "I'll call Paul (the owner of Britten Banners), but there is no one else up there". We have been working nonstop on these patterns for a month," He said. I looked over at Bobby, he just shrugged his shoulders and with that "don't look at me" smirk, took a slug of beer. Here I go again! Down here in Alabama, surrounded by people that the only grass they have worked on is when they mowed their lawn. I sit, or should I say slouch, back in my white plastic chair and with a look of "oh S***" glance over at the brown Ford pick up truck sitting in the parking lot. The hills are in the background, the sun just starting to dip behind them, birds chirping I just start to put the bottle to my lips when I snap my head and take a second look at the truck. With the sun in my eyes I squint to see better and just to make myself feel really, really bad I look at, the %##*ing front wheels of the Ford that were off the ground!..... Cardboard patterns. "Oh, God"!

Lap 8: Getting Started


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