8 years ago today I was sleeping in my hotel room in Topeka Kansas, getting ready to wake up and drive to the Kansas Speedway to meet Dale Jr. A good friend of mine was working for DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) at the time doing engineer stuff (that’s what he is) and the team was at Kansas Speedway doing testing for upcoming races.
I was in Topeka Kansas for the SCCA Solo Nationals (which are now held in Lincoln Nebraska, this week, I’m sad I am not there), and had an off day, one in which I wasn’t racing or working. So I was excited to get to the opportunity to go up to the raceway and meet Dale Earnhardt Jr. I had just left my gig at The Sporting News a few months earlier, and I was still into NASCAR at the time, I had even been writing a column with my good buddy Roger Kuznia where we went head 2 head on a Nascar topic each week (don’t judge me based on what you read!).
Unfortunately, that morning I woke up with the TV on and it ended up being September 11th, 2001. It was a rough morning for our nation, and the world. I ended up staying at the hotel for a few hours, watching all the coverage, internally thinking to myself, what if we’re at war, what is going to happen next. Eventually I got myself out of the hotel and headed off to the speedway to try to meet up with Dale Jr., but as I was just about to get on the highway I got a call from James, my buddy, saying that they were headed home, because the airlines were all shut down they packed up the semi trucks and all hit the road back to North Carolina.
So I headed down to Forbes Field in Topeka where the Solo Nationals were held, and hung out there until we were all kicked off the base for a couple of days. Gas prices in Topeka skyrocketed, above 4 dollars a gallon at some places, grocery stores were flooded, I remember I went to the liquor store that day to get some whiskey. A couple days later the Solo Nationals continued, in a much shortened version.
8 Years later, the Solo Nationals are still going on, the world is still reeling from the impact of 9/11, and I’m married to a beautiful lady living in Colorado. Things have changed!
Here's a photo of my car at Nationals in 2001