Working as an IT guy/media specialist at a school district will really help you with your cardiovascular health; I'm constantly running (ok, not running - I'd probably get a detention for that - briskly walking) from one end of the building to the other trying to figure out why one printer won't print in one room, taking pictures of a school event in the gym and creating multimedia presentations back in my office at about the same time.
In other words, I kinda feel like I'm constantly running (err briskly walking) around in circles.
With this morning being an especially circuital one, it feels like as good a time as any to review the latest NASCAR card acquisitions I've made over the past few weeks. Get it? It's because they drive around in circles! I'm so funny.
Just to get you up to speed (more puns!), I used to be a huge fan of NASCAR in my early teens; but, my interest has waned to casual over the ensuing years. Nevertheless, since I don't have enough cardboard goals taking up my time, I decided to build up a collection of as many NASCAR racers as I can.
The pole position in this post goes to:
My first* Bobby Labonte card. The asterisk is necessary because I used to have a massive accumulation of auto racing cards that likely migrated to a recycling bin when I switched my focus to baseball, back in the day. I know that I had a few cards of the 2000 series champion at the time.
This rectangle comes from an oddball set, produced in 1994 by a company called Hi-Tech, centered around the tire tests held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the previous year during the lead up for the inaugural Brickyard 400. I got a whole bunch of these in a multi-sport repack about a week ago.
Tire tests might seem like an awfully pedestrian event to build a trading card set around; however, one must know that the first stock car race at IMS was a historic event, being the first non-Indy 500 event held at the track since it's earliest days. Additionally, many die-hard open wheel fans saw this invasion by "rednecks" as blasphemy, as an affront to the track's honor. Twas a different time, when NASCAR wasn't the juggernaut it later became and Indy Cars reigned supreme in the motor sport world.
Next up, we have a guy who came into NASCAR with an open wheel background in Dave Blaney and perpetual independent David Gilliland. Blaney, who's son Ryan is now running for Rookie of the Year in the Sprint Cup series and is making me feel old, is one of those guys who kept managing to land rides but never really got over the hump, usually making his way as a back-marker. Here's hoping Ryan has better luck.
Meanwhile, Gilliland initially burst onto the scene for his improbably win without factory backing or major sponsorship at Kentucky in what was then called the Busch Series (essentially NASCAR's Triple A) in 2006. This earned him a trip up to the Cup series and he's bounced around, mostly with the independents, since then. He's never made it to Victory Lane in the top level.
As for the set which both of these singles hail from, I don't have much more to say about it other than it's called Ignite and was released by Press Pass in 2012.
Now we're jumping back to the mid-90's with 1994 Maxx, along with Buddy Baker and Morgan Shepherd - two ageless wonders.
Buddy Baker's NASCAR career lasted from 1959 to 1994, at the end splitting his time between driving duties and broadcasting. The son of legendary race Buck Baker won 19 races along the way, including the 1980 Daytona 500. Sadly, Buddy succumbed to lung cancer last summer at the age of 74.
Meanwhile, Morgan Shepherd made his first start in 1970 and is still racing today (in the sport's lower rungs). He even became the oldest man to ever start a Cup series race in 2014 at the young age of 72. Must be that Cheerwine soda keeping him fresh.
Eat your heart out Jamie Moyer!
These sorts of feats of longevity are much more common in NASCAR than you'd think. Unlike most sports, age doesn't really matter as long as your reflexes remain sharp. As such, many racers, such as Richard Petty, Dave Marcis, James Hylton, Red Farmer, etc. raced well into the years where a normal person might be admitted into a retirement community.
Sticking with 1994 Maxx, we have Rodney Combs and Kenny Wallace - two guys who never won at the sport's top level.
Combs, while a legendary dirt-track racer, never could keep a steady ride in any of NASCAR's top levels. Shown here piloting the legendary #43 for Richard Petty at the Busch Series level, never won so much as a single race at any level from 1982-97. Nevertheless, he's a member of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, Kenny Wallace (the brother of the wildly successful Rusty) always seemed to be on the periphery of a win, but could never seal the deal. Kenny ran 344 Cup races and finished in the top 10 27 times and sits 11th all-time for making the most starts with no victories. Meanwhile, number 3 on that list is the aforementioned Dave Blaney, with 473 races run.
Here are a couple of guys who had much more success and also parlayed that exposure into a post-racing career in broadcasting.
Ned Jarrett is the father of Dale and was quite the racer of his own. Ned won the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championship in 1961 and 1965 and won 50 races along the way. With that performance, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011 as part of their second-ever class. His most famous moment in the booth came as he called his son's win in the 1993 Daytona 500 - talk about bias!
Neil Bonnett won 18 races in a career that started in 1974 and initially ended in 1990 due to a life-threatening crash. The member of motorsport's famed Alabama Gang, Bonnett took to the booth for CBS while still making multiple comeback attempts in the ensuing years. Tragically, he made one attempt too many and lost his life in a crash during a practice session for the 1994 Daytona 500.
Neil's final ride
Coincidentally, Neil was well-known for being one of the prickly Dale Earnhardt's closest friends in the sport. Dale, of course, also died in a crash at Daytona International Speedway just 7 years later.
Also coincidentally, that 2001 Daytona 500 in which "The Intimidator" was lost, was the very first race I sat down and watched from start to finish. Thus, it's pretty well sealed into my memory.
Finally, we wrap this up with another single that feel out of one of those multi-sport repacks I tend to pick up at the local Dollar Tree, this one of 1993 Rookie of the Year Jimmy Hensley. However, it should be noted that Hensley had actually been competing in the Cup series series off and on for 20 years leading up to his award, while never competing in enough events to ruin his rookie eligibility.
Also of interest, Hensley was and is the oldest racer to win the award, having taken home the trophy at the age of 47. It should also be noted that Hensley really only won the award on technicality, as he was the only rookie who ran a full-time schedule in 1992.
So, in summation, the 47 year old, 20 year veteran won the Rookie of the Year award only because he was the only one eligible. That's quite the oddity, now isn't it?
Hensley and his 1992 ride
With that, we've reached the end of my recent NASCAR acquisitions; I hope I didn't scare away too many people who came here looking for baseball/Cubs related content.
I'm slllllloooooowwwwwlllllyyyyyyyyyy making my way forward with this collection, picking up a few cards every month or so towards my goal of one of every NASCAR competitor I can find. If anyone is sitting on a large stack of stock car racing doubles, I'd be more than happy to talk trade. Although, as noted by the proprietor of my LCS when I purchased the non-Hensley Maxx singles seen above, not many people buy such products. Here's hoping Panini can generate some interest with their new licensee.
Anyway, it's time for me to go back to circling around the school - lunch is over and there's already e-mails pouring in. Time to make some laps!