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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tony Vickio Lap 24

Note from Sallyann: Flickr, my on-line photo program, is having a hissy fit and won't accept the countless passwords I keep coming up with, so I'm forced to post Tony's story without photos. I'll add the photos when Flickr gets its head straight again.

Experiences of "The World Famous"
by: Tony Vickio

Painting at the Famous Race Tracks

Lap: 24: Painting and Repainting on the High Banks

We took turns driving and made it to Talladega in 19 hours. This is too much! I don't want to drive down here anymore! We have to fix this! When I see Mike I will talk to him about future trips. This is getting too time consuming and tiring as we come down here twice a year. It is now about 11am and we pull into the motel. It's like being home. We know our way around so well, we are "locals". I go to the sign-in desk and there is the usual trouble! "Now, who are you with?"', the guy behind the desk says. He's about 30 years old, 265 lbs, his stomach hanging way over his belt, long sleeve blue shirt with the white cuffs buttoned and black pants. The white collar is buttoned but there is no tie. I don't know how he got it buttoned as his neck is so fat that he has to have trouble breathing with it buttoned! I moved a little right so I wasn't directly in front of him. I figured if that button ever broke loose, it would go right through my forehead! The hair was the topper! It was black, almost like it was painted, and slicked right back with some good old "bear grease". I say back, "Talladega Superspeedway". He punches the keys on the computer keyboard and finally says, "Wow! you guys are here for a long time". "Yeah, I know" I say in a not too excited voice. I look over at Steve and he is all giddy and grinning, I just shake my head and think, "Oh God". Yup, he's itching to get to the track. I sign the papers and we get the keys and head out the door into the bright Alabama sun.

Steve and Larry go to their room, I go to mine, which is right next to theirs. I am the "boss" so I get my own room! Our rooms are on the second floor, which is okay, less traffic. We get our "stuff" unpacked and meet out on the balcony. I say, "what do you want to do"? like I didn't know. Steve, almost screaming says, "Christ, let's go to the %***in' track! What the hell do you think!" Larry and I look at each other and laugh. I say, "Okay, let's go see Mike". We head for the track. Steve is so excited and I can't wait to take him through the tunnel and see the expression on his face when he see’s the "Banking" for the first time! To be quite honest with you, I can't wait to see it again myself!

We pull off I-20 and onto Speedway Blvd.. Off in the distance, to the left, you can see the Main Grandstands and I get this "excited" feeling. We travel past the airport on the left. It is just off of Turn 3. A little further down the road, on the right, is the Talladega Short Track. It is a 1/4 mile dirt (red clay) track. Steve says, "Do they run modifieds there?" I say, "They run Late Models and they would run circles around a modified". "Bullshit!!" Steve snaps back with a cocky smirk. You see, he works with a Modified team back home and he thinks they are "king". I let out a little laugh while thinking, "You wait til you see these guys run buddy. You're gonna sh**!. I didn't say anymore as he would see for himself, just as I did.

Finally we drive by the Deli ( I wonder if the same women are working) and the next Left turn is the main gate to the track. We turn onto the "30 lane" (main entrance to the track) and drive up to the tunnel, which leads to the infield. Down into the familiar darkness of the tunnel, blow the horn, and up the other side. As we come out of the tunnel and into the bright sunlight, we head up the hill to the infield. I tell Steve to slow down and stop. I say, "Steve, look back there". He looks back, as Larry and I do, and there it is! The most awesome sight you can imagine. The "High Banks" between Turns 3 & 4! "Jesus Christ! What the %***! I can't %***in' believe it! This is awesome!” Steve was screaming! "I know", I said in a real quiet voice, "we are back!"

We drove around the infield for a half an hour, Larry and I showing Steve the Garage area, gates and how to access the track. "While we are out here, let's take a lap", I say. I look over at Steve, who is driving, and suddenly there is the weirdest look on his face. Away we go! Until you get to go out here on the "high banks" and actually drive them, there is no description. Therefore, until you get to go out onto the track at Talladega, I can't tell you what it is really like. Sorry! You have to do it yourself! I tell Steve, "Get it up to at least 70 before you go up on the "High Banks". He just grips the wheel, leaning foreword in the seat, with his chin inches from the wheel and this really strange look on his face, he mashes the gas! I suddenly think to myself, "Why the hell didn't I get out before I told him to do this!" We make a lap and I tell him to pull it down on the apron. "There will be more time to do laps", I tell him, plus I won't be in the truck!

As we pulled off of the track, Steve was mumbling incoherently as we drove back through the tunnel (yup, I reached over in front of Larry and blew the horn). Out the other side and onto the old concrete runway, we travel for a 100 yards and then turn left onto an oiled and cinder road to the Maintenance Office and the sign shop. We pull into the familiar overhang in front of the shop. We get out into the bright Alabama sun and stretch. "Ahhhhhhhhhh, it's good to be back", I say. It always feels good at first, then after a while, I wanna go home! "Well, let's go see the boys", I say. We walk into the Maintenance Office and there at the desk is Donna. She is blonde and has the "best southern accent" you will ever hear! She stands up and says in a cheerful voice, "Hi ya all, it's so good to have ya' all down here. Did ya have a good trip? Have ya'all seen Mike yet"? "Yeah, it was a long drive! Haven't seen anyone yet, we were out on the track showing Steve the place," I say. Just then I hear, "Hey, who is that I hear out there"? I walk over to a door that leads to another office and there, at his desk, is Pete. Pete is in charge of all the equipment used at the track, and there is a lot of it! He stands up and we all shake hands. Pete is retired and works part time at the track. I like Pete, he has a great "dry" sense of humor. He says, "While you're here, you might as well sign out a Gator". A Gator is a six wheel ATV built by John Deere. It is diesel powered and is great for hauling paint and materials out on the track. Also, it's the best thing for getting around at race time as it is small and fast! I tell Pete, "Make sure it's a Diesel". He says, "They are brand new, just delivered. Take you're pick". Donna must have called Mike as he strolls in. "Hey, Mike, how are you doing?" I say. Mike says, “I’ve been workin' like a dowg! Good to have you here, there is a ton of work for ya". We all shake hands again and I introduce everyone.

Mike looks at me and says, "Come with me. Got some stuff to show ya". I tell the guys I'll be right back and walk out the door with Mike. We go to Mike's office and get a stack of drawings and go out to Mike's truck. We ride around the track as Mike points out the locations of the new logos on the retaining walls, as I mark the drawings (location is very important). We get back to the shop and as I get out of the truck, Mike says, "You goch'er work cut out for ya." I say, "I guess so", while thinking, "holy s***, this going to be tough!" I walk over to Larry and Steve, who are standing in front of the sign shop, and say, "We are in deep s***! We have a lot of work to do". "Good, that's what we're here for" is Larry's response. Steve says, "I’m ready for whatever it takes, I'll do anything"! I say, "Let's get the plotter and computer set up so we can start first thing tomorrow. We officially don't start until tomorrow, but it is good to get things set up so we can come in tomorrow morning and start right off. After we set up and test everything, we head to the motel and supper.

The next morning we are at the track at 7 am. I go to my office and grab the first piece of artwork. It's for Pepsi. The next one is "". I look at Larry and say, "holy sh**! Couldn't they come up with something shorter like ""? "This thing is going to be a mile long and they want three of them!" I say in a discussed voice. We spend the day making patterns. Not a glamorous job, but it has to be done. Tomorrow, we have to repair some "logo hits" left over from the last race. This will be good for Steve. It will give him some experience working on the walls. Steve is not a painter, but he will be able to do "fill in" work on these repairs. We have to give him something to do just to shut him up! He's so excited about being here, he can't shut up! He's driving us nuts, and we've only been here two days!

The next morning I go in and see Donna. She gives me a Talladega Super Speedway Credit Card and a Master key, so we don't have to bother anyone with getting materials at Lowe's or opening gates to get access to the track. It is a great feeling to be trusted! We go to the sign shop and load the truck with patterns and the Gator with paint. I look at Larry and say, nodding towards Steve, "I know what we are going to do with him, let's put him on the Die Hard 500 logo and he can touch that up". Larry nodds his head, between puffs on his "stupid" pipe and we head through the tunnel (blow the horn) and onto the track. The logo is at the end of the back straight, so we drive around turns 1 & 2, on the apron. I holler at Steve, from the Gator, and tell him to stay on the apron. Steven starts screaming (he's driving his truck) I wanna go up on the banking, I wanna go up on the banking! "NO!" I say "You sh**head, there's going to be enough time to do laps, just follow me!"

We stop on the back straight and I show Steve what I want done to the Die Hard logo. It took a hell of a hit from the year before by Jeff Gordon and it was really damaged. "I will do all the outline work and then you get the roller out and do the entire "fill in", I tell Steve.”OK, let's get going", he says in an excited voice.

We start painting more logos on the retaining walls than ever before. What happens next put us to "the Test!!!!

Lap 25: How Many Hits Can We Take?


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