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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tony Vickio-Lap 25

Originally uploaded by Sally Ann.

Experiences of "The World Famous"
by: Tony Vickio

Painting at the Famous Race Tracks

Lap: 25: How Many Hits Can We Take?

We are painting Retaining Wall logos all week! At last count, there are about 33 logos on the walls. This includes the walls on the inside of the track, on the backstraight and at Pit In and Pit Out. I remember when I first went to Talladega, there were three wall paintings. They were all simply "Talledega". Now, how things have changed! TV time is "BIG MONEY", and retaining walls are almost impossible to hide from TV. If you notice, while watching a race, the camera shots are sometimes so close to the cars that you miss what's going on in the rest of the field. That's because the network shooting the race does not want to let billboards or other signs that are not paying for TV agreements, get any "free" air time. This is a "big deal” and it's big money! I have sat in meetings with sponsors, Ad companies and track personnel, going over tape after tape of past races to pick a location, where the cameras can't avoid shooting, to place a wall logo or sign. When you see a sign or retaining wall lettering at a race track, it just didn't happen to be placed there, much work and thought went into choosing the location. Pricing also varies, for the sponsors, with a "TV accessible" location.

It's early in the morning, the sun is just showing over the distant mountain range, and we are standing on the front straight, drinking coffee and talking about today’s work schedule. I decide to do the "" logos first. There are three locations. We want to get these big logos done, so we decide to work into the night. We ended up using the truck and the Gator Headlights to finish the lettering! In the future, on the "request" sheet I send to a Race Track, before I go there, I always have a Light Plant on it. You never know when you will have to work at night to get things done! Pit In, Pit out and the inside of the backstraight are their locations they chose for the "www" logos. One good thing, they are all on the "flat". I say to Larry, "who the hell was the idiot that thought up this website? Christ almighty, why didn't they just make it www.talladegasuperspeedaylocatedintalladegaalabamajustoffof

routei20betweenalanta ?" Why not ""? Oh well, we just kept painting! We can't believe how these walls are filling up. It looks really good. Then a thought comes to mind! Not a good thought, but a real "scary" thought that put goose bumps on the back of my neck! I say to Larry, "you know something, with all these new logos and ARCA racing this weekend, no matter where they hit, they are going to "get" a logo!" Before, there were only a few logos and the chances of somebody hitting one were slim, but now.........."holy S***!!" All of a sudden, I get this weird feeling. I tell Larry, "I think we created a MONSTER that can bite us!" Steve says, "ahh, they won't wreck." Larry says, "it's ARCA, you idiot, they even wreck on their way to the track"! "Maybe they'll all wreck into the grass and the "grass guys" will have to do all the work repairing", Steve says back. No sense worrying about it, I think to myself, we just keep painting! We worked into the night and got a ton of work done.

The next day, guess what! We get a day off! There is a scheduled test today and that means......We can't work! Recently, Larry and I have taken up "GOLF". Yup! GOLF! We are, actually, addicted to this "stupid" game! So addicted, we bring our clubs to Alabama! Steve has been playing for some time and we talked him to bringing his clubs, just in case we got the chance to play. There are some of the most beautiful courses in the country in Alabama and we were going to play on some of them! Not to far from our Motel is a Robert Trent Jones Trail course. He was a world famous Golf Course designer. The courses down here are so beautiful that at times when you are out on the course, you actually have to stop, get out of the cart and just look around. It is awesome!! There will be much more on this "golf thing" down here in later tales.

We play a round that day and decide to drive the back roads to Anniston (where our motel is) and see some of the scenery. On the way back, we look at some of the "back roads" that turn off of the "back road" we are on and I wonder, out loud, where do you think they go? Well, this starts a conversation that gets us laughing so hard that we almost had to stop the truck. Steve was laughing so hard, he couldn't drive. He kept blurting out, along with a spray of spit, "Oh my God, Oh my God"! I thought he was going to choke at one point! Never seen Larry laugh so hard either. He was laughing uncontrollably, sucking on that stupid pipe so hard, it was cherry red! I was so sick from laughing, I could not see. My eyes were teared up to the point where they were running down my cheeks. Only the cab of the truck knows what we were saying, and it will stay that way, but believe me, it was something to behold! As we sat down to eat, we all looked at each other and come to the conclusion.......we had a great day, playing golf and being away from the track and enjoying the beautiful Alabama sun!

All of our work done, we watch practice and qualifying on Friday. We take Steve to our "special spot" to watch practice. It is with the Turn 2 Rescue Crew inside Turn 2, right by the track. The view there is awesome as is the sound. It actually "HURTS" your ears! The turn is right there (5 stories tall) and you actually look up at the cars as they go by! It's hard to describe, you have to be there to get the real view.

All the maintenance guys do a pool on Friday and naturally, we get in on it. "What's the pool for, the winner of the race"? I ask? "No! you ass, this is a special pool", the guy says to me. Then everyone laughs. As he laughs, I notice he has no bottom teeth! You see, there are now about 33 logos on the retaining walls here. The pool is "how many logos will get "hit" on Saturday"! In the past the record was three. We hoped it wouldn't get broken. We have to fix them, starting Saturday afternoon, right after the race...........cuts into beer time! Fixing three will take some work, but that will be acceptable. I didn't get in the pool!

Saturday's race went badly! Wreck after wreck. I can see two hits from where I am. We get back to the Maintenance Shop for the official tally. After Mike gets back from checking the track, he stands in front of everyone and says, "A new track record". My heart sank! I thought, "oh, no! Probably going to 4 to 5 hits and that's not good." Then he might as well hit me with a sledge hammer in the head. With a smirk on his face he says, "Who had 13 in the pool, you won"! I looked at Larry, who was puffing on that "stupid" pipe, and dropped my head down. "Holy s***" I blurted out! Everyone was saying something at me at the same time. My head was spinning and I wanted to puke! I looked back at Larry, he's in the same pose, and I said, "Let’s get the hell moving! Where is Steve"! Larry looks over and says, "I dunno"!

We get the Gator loaded with all colors of paint, rollers, pad painters and thinner and take off! It reminds me of my of my past encounters as a Fireman. The whistle blows and you take off to fight fires! This time, we are fighting time. We have until about 10am Sunday morning to finish the repairs. Then........."Live TV" is on!

Steve is walking by as we speed off in the Gator and we holler, "Follow us! Meet us on the front straight!" He turns as we fly by, with a look of "where the %*** are you guys going"? I turn my head around and see him running for his truck. I think, "Man, he doesn't know what he has gotten himself into"! We buzz through the crowd, like driving through a Wal-Mart parking lot filled with orange cones. Down through the tunnel (blow the horn on the Gator. Sounds like one of those air can horns), up the other side and into the infield. The infield is nothing but a mass of traffic! We take some short cuts and end up at the gates to the track surface. I get out of the Gator, walk through the crowd and in a very "macho" way, pull out my Master Key and unlock the gate. Larry pulls the Gator through and closes the Gate and locks it. "Oh s**t", I say out loud. I gotta wait for Steve! About 10 minutes later he shows up.

We drive out "Pit In", turn left and drive onto the Tri-Oval and stop. The CARNAGE!! "The %*****g Carnage, Oh the Humanity"! I scream! We all get out and stand there looking at the Front Straight wall. Some fool hit the wall at the Tri-Oval area and "rode the wall" all the way to Turn 2! In the process he "took out" about 5 logos, leaving black tires marks across everything! We get back in the Gator and do a track inspection. We then check our paint colors and supplies and, thank God, we are in good shape. One good thing about repairing the wall is; the Track Painting Crew will be out there painting all of the White. We just have to do the colors in the logos. There are places where the car hit the wall and rode it for a quarter of a mile, leaving black rubber marks all along the way! It was all white, so we do not have to paint that!

"Well, let's get the High Banks first, while it's still light. I don't want to be up there in the dark", I say to the guys. We all get our paint, pads and rollers and like "ants", we attack the wall!

Lap 26: Under Attack!


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