The Car Guy of Benchfield
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Previously Unpublished Work by Jan Bazen

When Jan first starting writing for me in September of 2001, she submitted some articles that I foolishly sat on until they were outdated.  I never got around to editing these pieces, but I want to present them here, exactly as I received them, to say thanks to Jan for all she has done for "The Car Guy of Benchfield".  Jan, you've been a real trooper.  Thank you for making this site run a little smoother.     ----Steve

Jan Goes to Bat

The first piece I want to present to you is something Jan wrote for me in response to some hate mail I received about my "Curse of Internet Driver Bashing" article.  First, here's the email I recieved from this person in it's original form.

steve wingate is an idiot.. he is takeing all the fun out of NASCAR. That's what makes it so much of a blast, driver bashing. You pick your driver and hang with him. And if you can't stand a driver, that's perfectly natural to bash him. These are the rules and the drivers know it... That's why they make so much money. Gorden asked Earnhardt one time what he thought about all the boo's that he was getting. Earnhardt responed with "It's when they're NOT booing is when you got to worry." So stick your anti bashing straight up your ass Steve... ..................

I was prepared to blow this guy off as just another Internet crazy who completely missed the point, but Jan stepped up to bat for me and wrote a response.  I decided not to send it to him because I have no desire to engage in an email battle with anyone, but I do want everyone to read what Jan wrote in response:

Dear Mr. *****,
Thank you so much for your lively response to my article on driver bashing. I always enjoy hearing from my readers whether they agree with my opinion or not-- at least I know my articles are being read that way. Isn't is great than we live in a free country where everyone has the right to express their opinion? I also want to thank you for thinking that my writing is so powerful, which is evidenced in the thought that I am taking all the fun out of Nascar for everyone. I do appologize however for ruining your enjoyement as that was not my intention. You are so right that I am an idiot, you must have been talking with some of my friends; they all love me for that characteristic. However, I would like to help you with your commentary. Takeing is spelled taking. Gorden is spelled Gordon. Responed is spelled responded. I refer you back to my article about people who bash drivers.
As far as where I can stick my anti-bashing article...well, that could prove difficult.
Thank you again for your response and feel free to offer your suggestions on any future articles I may write.
Steve Wingate and staff of CGOB

It makes me feel really good to know that I've got someone like Jan in my corner.

Jan Goes to Martinsville


There was a chill in the air when I arrived at the track in Martinsville, Va.; you were definitely aware fall had arrived. I noticed the leaves on the trees had started turning red, gold and yellow . . . a brilliance that always makes my breath quicken. There weren't many other cars in the parking lot yet; I was glad I had arrived early.

The souvenir tables were just being set up and there seemed to be a gazillion of items available for purchase. " Man, I hope everyone brings plenty of money along," I thought to myself as I kept walking toward the garage area. Crews were just starting to arrive in the garages, carrying steaming cups of coffee that billowed clouds of twirling fog in the crisp, cool air. I could use a cup myself.
Amid my thoughts,I wondered if I would have a problem finding Jeff, Ricky, Dale, Tony or Jr this morning when I glimpsed Jeff and Brooke strolling toward me. ( What else would you expect a couple of love birds like them to do? Strolling is definitely "in" with love birds!) After a quick introduction to Brooke, Jeff asked if I was ready for a tour of the facilities. Well, of course I was . . . hey, would you turn down a personal tour by Jeff?

As we walked through the different garages, Ricky wandered up and wanted to know if I had seen him trade paint with Rusty last week on pit row. I told him I had and we spent a few minutes discussing the rivalry and problems between the two of them the last half of this season. He promised to be more careful when leaving his pit stall today during the race, but the hin of evil in his mishevious snicker led me to believe otherwise. I just shrugged my shoulders with a silly grin on my face.

Jeff and I headed toward the track to continue the tour; we passed Little E. Jr hollered out, "Jeff . . . Jan . . . whazzzzzzzzzup!" mocking the famous beer commercial. We just laughed and kept walking, hi fiving him as we passed. "Hey, watch out for me on the track today, Jeff, I'm coming after you!" Jr. hollered at Jeff. "Look out yourself . . . don't make me pull a Rusty Wallace on you!" Jeff laughingly replied. Mocking terror, Little E started shaking all over. We all laughed at the site!

Jeff decided to take me for a spin around the track in the pace car! What an experience! My heart was in my throat as we "cruised" at nearly 160mph around the small track. Jeff apologized for not being able to take me out in the #24 Dupont Chevrolet . . . but it is just a one seater. "Hey, quite all right, Jeff" I mumbled as I tried to catch my breath.

As I exited the pace car, Dale Jarrett casually approached stating he heard I had arrived. Jeff left me in Dale's care, explaining he had to go check in with Loomis before he got in trouble. I said no problem and would see him after the race, hopefully in victory lane. I wished him luck and safety as he ran off toward his garage area.

Turning back to Dale, I commented on how nice Jeff was. "Yeah," Dale said, "he is a real charmer" rolling his eyes and chuckling under his breath. Dale wanted to know if I wanted to drive the truck. "You mean there really is a truck?" I asked in surprise. "Of course there is" Dale replied, " Just not many people have seen it yet, we are saving it for the grand finale at the end of the season. Come on and I'll show it to you." We set off at a rapid pace toward the back of the track. My eyes widened as "the truck" came into view. It looked just like the die-cast I had been coveting since I saw it the first time. The vivid yellow flames were beautiful against that brown paint job. Dale was just handing me the keys when I heard someone calling my name.

"Jan . . . Jan . . . Jaaaaannnnn!" someone was shaking me by the shoulder rather roughly. "If you don't get up so we can leave now, we'll never make it to Martinsville in time for the race!" Oh wow, yeah, the race . . . I must have been dreaming. As I grab my Martinsville tickets and head out the door I think to myself, " Hmm . . . I wonder if Dale really will drive the truck this year."

The Real Thing - Martinsville Virginia

In comparison to my pre-Martinsville dream, the day was eerily familiar. Ok . . . so Jeff and Brooke Gordon did not meet me at the gate, Little E did not wave and holler out to me, Ricky Rudd did not stop me to talk and Dale Jarrett did not take me to see "the truck." Well, I did see "the truck," but it was that little die-cast truck . . . and Jarrett was nowhere near it; in fact the truck was sitting on a shelf on one of the many souvenir trailers that were present. Hey, but there was a cool and crisp air for a little while before it started to drizzle. The trees were changing into brilliant colors and there was a lot of activity in the garage area even at 7:00 A.M. on Sunday. The only people I saw were crew members and television personnel that I recognized. If I had not seen some of the drivers leaving after the postponement of the race due to rain, I would swear the drivers had not even bothered showing up after seeing the forecast. That would have been the smart thing for all of us to have done.

Even in the rain, the grounds surrounding the racetrack had a carnival like atmosphere. You could see the racetrack from the top of the hill where we parked . . . and my heart quickened. Then across the street from where we parked, the #29 Goodwrench Chevrolet was started . . . the first race engine I had ever heard and the adrenalin started to pump. There were packs of fans making their way down the hill where a sea of souvenir trailers were parked. And within that sea were oceans of available souvenirs ranging from bumper stickers to die-cast cars, hats to shirts and jackets, and probably the most popular items that day were rain ponchos with your favorite driver's logo. You could also rent radio scanners for the race, get free cigarettes from Winston and apply for credit cards to receive free shirts or hats. You could have your picture made with Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot Pontiac or Bobby Labonte's #18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac. I did both. At least three radio stations were present each with their own tents and contest to enter. And last, but not least, was the Mountain Dew site, where the fans were given free sodas and then timed while downing the whole can like in the Casey Atwood commercial with his crew. Casey was not around though to tell us "we better not do that on Sunday!".

I cannot honestly say that it wasn't fun sitting in the rain at Martinsville. We had great fans sitting all around us . . . some were J Gordon fans like my husband and me, some were Little E fans (and they were really nice and a lot of fun, too!), some were Stewart fans. Regardless which driver people were pulling for, everyone was friendly and ribbing was all done in great fun. It was also exciting to see the actual cars up close . . . ok, ok . . . they were up close through the binoculars, but that is better than the television screen! Although I did not get to see Jeff Gordon on Sunday, I did see his crew chief, Robbie Loomis, and the rest of Gordon's pit crew coming and going in the pit area.

After two hours of sitting in the cold drizzle and then rain, the race at the track was finally postponed at 2:30 P.M. until 11:00 A.M. Monday. However, the race to find a vacant hotel room within 100 miles of the race track was on . . . and what a race it was. I first started calling my sister-in-law an hour before the race was canceled to get her to start trying to find a room for me. When I called her back, she had tried 10 different hotels and found only two with rooms available, neither in Martinsville and both more than $100. Give me a break folks, I only wanted a clean bed for about 12 hrs! So we decided to find one on our own, in bumper to bumper traffic, with thousands of others trying to do the same thing! Four hours later, we took the last room available at a motel in Danville, Va (about 50 miles away) for a lot less than $100. At all other stops, fans waved us on our way before we even had stopped the car, saying there were no vacancies. The only thing that saved us was I knew Danville well enough to get us away from the main road where everyone else was looking, and we found an available motel a few minutes ahead of everyone else. Never had a shower and bed felt so good.

Monday morning found us up bright and early, though not so bushy-tailed as Sunday, and on our way back to Martinsville. After parking, we spent only a few minutes in the souvenir section before heading for the track and a warm spot in the sun. The cars were being pushed into the pre race line-up and the normal boos resounded when the #24 Dupont Monte Carlo moved into view. In my best cheerleading voice, I screamed "Go, Jeff!" at the top of my lungs to the amusement of all those around me. Hey, somebody has to take his side with all those "boos’" ringing in the air. Closer to race time, we made our way to our seats in the stands where all our new pals from Sunday were waiting.

Our seats were great! We were half way up the stands at the end of turn two and directly across from the pits of Todd Bodine, Little E, and Jeff Gordon. The back of the haulers also faced us, so we could watch all the race preparations of the different teams. Out came the binoculars again and I watched as the grill was fired up at the Dupont hauler (the only grill I saw cooking) and hot dogs filled the grill. Helicopters kept coming and going all morning, delivering the drivers to the track. My brother-in-law came and let me know who was arriving in each chopper behind the track, so I was able to watch for the van that drove them from the chopper pad to the infield. The van door opened and the first out was Little E sporting jeans, T-shirt and the ever present backwards baseball cap; he resembled the kid he is rather than the aggressive driver he is becoming. Next to exit the van were Gordon and his wife Brooke who quickly made their way to the Dupont hauler and disappeared. Gordon did come out once to grab a hotdog and autograph a hat for someone. He did not appear again until time to climb in his car for the race.

After the national anthem was sung with all the fans joining in, "Gentlemen, start your engines" was the last thing heard as the engines roared to life. From then until the end of the race, communication was limited to pointing and hand signals between my husband and me after trying unsuccessfully screaming in each other's ears.

Watching the race in person is definitely a lot different from watching on television. For one thing, you can watch the lead changes when they actually happen instead of on instant replays after the commercial. I admit that I missed the UPS commercials. Although there were a lot of cautions with cars spinning out, trading paint and blowing engines it did not seem like that many, probably due again to lack of commercials. You don't get as many bathroom or snack breaks though . . .the downside of no commercials and the lines for both are longer at the track than at home. You don't necessarily see the wrecks when they happen as the camera seems to be quicker than the eye. You are trying to watch your driver, watch for other drivers racing ahead or further back, watching for wrecks or for anyone pitting early and your eyes can only be so many places at one time. This meant that I missed some of the spins on pit row that were on the other side of the track; also some of the wrecks at the opposite end of the track were over by the time the smoke cleared.

Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace ran close together for most of the first part of the race. I have to admit that I was disappointed when no paint was traded between those two. I had mixed emotions when Tony Stewart then Rudd blew their engines. I was thrilled that Gordon ran so well the beginning of the race, disappointed when he began to fade and relieved when he came in 9th place. Little E had his share of problems the whole day and I never did get to see if Wilson was his traveling companion again this week. Ricky Craven ran a great race and deserved the win. He had to fight to keep Dale Jarrett behind him on the last two laps and did a great job. I'm new to Nascar but from what I've read, Craven's win was a long time in coming and I'm glad I was present to see it happen..

What will I do differently before I attend another race? 1. Make reservations at a motel, just in case. 2. Take a camera (well, duh!). 3. Set my VCR to tape the race while I am gone so I can see what my eyes missed. 4. Pack an overnight bag and toothbrush, just in case. 5. Find out how to buy a pit pass. I'm sure I will think of more before the next time I go to a race.

Smell The Fresh Air

After the Darlington Southern 200, Greg Biffle's eye's widened with shock as he watched Scott Wimmer from his rear-view mirror run up and literally over him.  Wimmer was even more shocked when he realized that Biffle was not the intended to be run over Jeff Green.  Definitely a case of mistaken identity.  But regardless of who he meant to run over after the emotionally charged race, Scott was quick to appologize and admit that what he did was wrong.

Excuse me?  A driver admitted that he was wrong and appologized?  Yes, and he also appeared sincere and he was very respectful, too. Wimmer spoke of Mr.Triplett, Mr. Darby and Mr. Roush being unhappy with his actions at the Darlington race, not Kevin, John and Jack...or Triplett, Darby and Roush.  No, by using Mr. in referencing these men, and taking full responsibility (that in itself quite a fete in today's youth) for his running over of G. Biffle, he showed what he was truly made of and a reflection of how he was raised.  "My dad wants me to respect people", Scott stated.  Can you believe this...this guy is 25 years old and still listens and remembers what his dad taught him?  Unbelievable in today's age.

But then Scott took it a step further and showed even more maturity when he admitted, in print, that
he wasn't ready for Winston Cup racing yet and stated he needed more experience driving for Busch series first. Hello people...are you listening to this... Buckshot and a few other drivers could take lessons from this kid. This kid is like a breath of fresh air.  Excuse me, young adult....very mature young adult.

I'm SSSssssorry, Jeff!

Jeff Gordon got spun out in lap 34 of the Richmond 400 Saturday night by Sterlin Marlin...and it is all my fault.
I cringed as I watched that beautiful car and that long eared rabbit become an accordian and prayed that Jeff was ok.  I cursed Sterlin for the next several laps and cheered when his transmission I'm a little revengeful...what's your point?

Why, you might ask, is Jeff Gordon's bad luck my fault, when I am sitting in front of my television on the coast of
North Carolina, while Jeff is sweating behind the wheel in Richmond, Va?  Well, about two months ago my husband bought me two Jeff Gordon racing t-shirts.  A black one for everyday (and it almost has been) use and a white one that I was only suppose to wear on race day.  Fine....I can do that....well, that worked until about two weeks ago (are you starting to see where I am heading?)  when my normal race day buddy didn't show up at the house for the races (hey, getting married the day before should not be a factor...where was his priorities
anyway!).  My husband was falling asleep on the couch before the race (that's ok...I could sleep through the Superbowl) and I had on my black Jeff Gordon shirt, my buddy wasn't coming over for the race...well, who would really notice if I didn't change shirts?  Mistake #1.  Jeff Gordon finished 2nd that day behind Ward Burton.  I didn't think much of it at the time...after all he did finish 2nd and isn't Ward Burton from my mother's hometown.  I mean, it is ok if a home boy wins, as long as Jeff finishes right behind him.  And everybody knows you can't win all the time, right?

Mid-week in a hurry to make an appointment on time, I grabbed my white Gordon t-shirt, pulled it over my head and took off.  Mistake #2.  After returning, I took it off, threw it in the dirty clothes hamper and washed it the next day.  Mistake # 3.  Until that time it had never been washed, I just wore it during the race, changed shirts after the race, folded it and put it up for the next race.  I had broken the winning pattern.

Fast forward to Friday.  My husband comes home from work and asks me if I want to go fishing the next night. "Not just no, but hell no...the race is coming on" I reply.  I mean, I love to fish but on a race day you have to set priorities.  I can fish any day, but the race is only on once a week!  "Well,will you watch (my race buddy's child) so (my race buddy) and I can go fishing?" my husband asks.  "Sure...why not...ya'll are the stupid ones for missing a night race!"

Saturday night, the boys leave to go fishing, I set up the children's computer with a game for the kid, and settle down in front of the computer and television ready for a winning night with old Bugs leading the way, wearing...oh black Gordon t-shirt again.  No need to change shirts...nobody at home but me and the kid...who will know the difference?  Mistake #4.  In lap 34 I found out who knew the difference...Sterlin and Jeff.  Sterlin got under Jeff and bumped him, Jeff went flying into the wall, I screamed "NOoooooo!" jerked off my black shirt and pulled on my white shirt...but it was too late...Jeff finished the race 36th and over 100 laps down and I went to bed feeling guilty.

Supersticious?  Of course not....but I bet I go buy a new white Jeff Gordon shirt Monday for next week's race and I won't wash it until the end of the racing season and I won't miss wearing it for another race.

And Jeff....I'm really, really  sorry!

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email Jan Bazen

2001 Car Guy of Benchfield
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