Back to June of 2001.
Unfortunately for my die-hard Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Junior fan, in June 2001, Jeff Gordon won the Michigan International Speedway NASCAR Sprint Cup race. This was an especially low-blow for my Jeff, as he was still saddened by the February 2001 crash that took Earnhardt Sr.’s life.
The race was on TV, and pretty much called as a triple play for Earnhardt, Junior and Waltrip. Jeff was beside himself, grinning and happy. I was in the kitchen making dinner and enjoying Jeff’s boisterous and boy-ish hero-worship mood, when I heard him gasp. Half-standing with his hands on the coffee, Jeff leaned forward chanting, “no, no… no.”
Earnhardt had crashed. Disappointment turned to devastation. As the #3 car was draped and rolled away, Jeff explained what that meant. Our phone began to ring, and amongst men, tears were shed.
Jeff’s hero was gone and his enthusiasm for NASCAR never was the same. I’m not saying he was unenthusiastic ; he continued to be. We continued to attend races, and Jeff had to choose a new driver. Junior was the logical choice, but he also cheered others. Except Jeff Gordon, at first.
The off-track vendor pit at MIS used to not be so glamorous. Slick trailers and elaborate displays hadn’t taken the field, yet. Sellers set up folding tables within flapped and heat-retaining rain tents and stacked them with boxes.
Die cast cars, t-shirts, used race tires, plaques, posters, cups, mugs, lighters, watches, bedding, cake pans, figurines, clocks, socks, snacks, curtains, bolts of fabric and in June 2001 we noticed for the first time, a BBQ truck.
The whole area smelled fantastic. We didn’t actually see the truck before we smelled it. For a while, we wandered around with watering mouths., until we found the unassuming modestly small smoker and attendant.
Cash was king in those days. Very few accepted credit cards. What cash we had was allocated to finding that one special yearly track-purchased souvenir. With that in mind, we bought one $6.00 pulled pork sandwich to share and it was fantastic.
Walking and munching, a few tents down, Jeff suddenly stopped. With a light bulb look, he turned to me and said, “I wonder if he caters?”
A great conversation later, because Jeff could talk to anyone about anything, we left with a business card, and a few small samples of each item offered. The plan was to contact him in August or early September when we had more of an idea of the number of wedding guests we were expecting.
I was concerned that whatever venue we ended up at might not let us bring in food.
Not for the first time, and not for the last, Jeff said earnestly, “It will all work out. You’ll see…”
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Exactly Like This: http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/02/10/earnhardt.10.year/