Saturday, October 1, 2022

King Of The Road, NASCAR Style!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When it comes to driving, I find myself in an unbelievably different element.

This dates back to my childhood.

It began in Drivers Education. 

During the Summer of 1978, I was forced to take the class twice because some instructors had happy feet and used to hit the break on the right side of the vehicle and it made me quite nervous.

In once instance, I didn’t pass Drivers Education at the beginning of the summer and wound up taking the class again. 

During the second session, I had another instructor that had happy feet, but thankfully, my classroom instructor decided to give me my drivers permit because he was comfortable with me behind the wheel.

My dad told me that if I hadn’t passed the class, he was going to send me to private school, but thankfully, it never came to that.

On December 29, 1978, a blizzard hit my hometown of Southfield, MI and I had to take my drivers test. Just what I needed, another obstacle to get my license. 

My grandmother Sophie allowed me to use her Yellow Cadillac and I was extremely comfortable in that vehicle but was very nervous I would damage it in the blizzard.

My father and grandmother told me not to worry about it because it could be fixed, so go out there and do the best you can and things will work out.

I’ll never forget this instructor. 

Not only was she a nice looking lady, but an even better person. 

I told her to take the easiest and simplest route and we won’t get hurt. 

She smiled and in a matter of 20 minutes, I got my drivers license.

I was so excited and relieved to get this over with. 

On my way back home with my dad, I did run a red light but never got caught. 

To date, he jokes around with me about it and we get a good laugh.

My grandmother and my mother always marveled that I had a real good sense of direction. As a child, I relied on landmarks to get where I was going.

But through the years, I would always be a student of studying maps. 

I knew I couldn’t get lost figuring that even two digit freeways would go East and West. Odd two digit freeways would go North and South.

Driving became fun. 

I would take longer drives and listen to music and meditate. 

I worked jobs where there was a lot of driving involved. 

In Florida, I enjoy driving up the ocean.

On My 30th Birthday, I spent it in California and took the Pacific Coast Highway Drive from San Francisco to San Diego. 

In Maui, Hawaii, I drove “The Road To Hana.”

I often wonder what life would have been like as a truck driver.

We’ll never know. 

As I got into my 20’s, I enjoyed driving SUV’s because I like being high off the ground. 

For me, I can see over other drivers and proceed to make my moves, especially, on the interstates.

During my lifetime, I’ve driven over four million miles. 

I enjoy taking cross country trips because of meditation and the fact that I didn’t have to rent a car. Also, when flying, I have no control over my schedule.

There was a trip that lasted over 30 days and I rented a car to hit a lot of states and amassed over 10,000 miles to hit the remaining states in the continental USA that I needed to reach a goal.

I did accomplish the goal of driving in all 50 states. 

I’ve also driven in Mexico, Canada and some of the Caribbean Islands. 

I also owned a dirt bike and liked to ride in the hills of Highland, MI. 

I rented motor bikes in the Caribbean.

As I started covering Auto Racing, I began driving on tracks paying some money for charity. 

One that stood out was Bristol, Tennessee during Christmas.

Other tracks that I took tours or ride alongs include: Indianapolis, Phoenix, Charlotte and Daytona. 

I even managed to drive 27 laps at the Martinsville, Virginia track when the opportunity presented itself.

The ride alongs provided me with an incredible adrenaline rush. 

It takes me awhile to come down.

Nowadays, every time I drive on an interstate, it’s an adrenaline rush! 

The longer the drive, the stronger I become! 

When I started dating my wife, my late mother-in-law was nervous I would get hurt and we would talk on the phone for awhile.

My affinity for driving drives my family absolutely crazy! 

My wife calls me a crazy man because she’s never witnessed anyone like me. 

Most people get tired. I get wired.

Years ago, I couldn’t call me grandmother when I was on the road because I was afraid she would get sick wondering how many hours I drove.

When my wife drives with me, she always takes a tablet in case I make daring moves on the road. I detest slow drivers and have a NASCAR mentality to pass them, weaving in and out of traffic.

If you’re looking to become thick skinned, then take I-95 South and see a Miami Marlins Game. These people will cut you off without thinking about it.

On September 23, 2022, I was ready to take another ride-along at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for three laps. I was really looking forward to it.

But one thing happened that I never saw coming.

Russell Branham, the Head of Communications for Homestead-Miami, Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Raceway came up to me and asked me if I wanted to drive. 

Initially, I thought Russ was kidding. 

I found out quickly that he wasn’t and said that all I had to do was take a course before I went into the stock car and accept a few minutes of field training.

I told Russ about my affinity of taking long drives and my passion for motor sports. 

I told him that in early August, I drove 23 hours in a row from South Florida to Cooperstown, New York to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I told him that Auto Racing is my passion and I never stop talking about it. 

He didn’t need me to convince him to get in the car; the decision was already made.

Getting in the No.6 Car, it was a challenge getting into it since I’m used to opening a door, not going through a smaller window opening.

My first lap was adventurous as I was trying to get acclimated to driving this machine so after I took that lap, I came back into pit road and sought additional instruction. 

Initially, I struggled communicating with my spotter attempting to multi-task.

After I regrouped, I talked to my instructor on the track and told him to put my car in fourth gear and I would figure out the rest with letting off the clutch and using my led foot the right way on the accelerator.

Once I got back on the track, I calmed down, told myself to think that I was on the highway.

The strategy paid off and my speed hit 147.54 miles an hour. 

One of the drivers told me that my speed was above the track average for my time slot and congratulated me on a good effort.

Some of the things that I found interesting while driving was being able to maintain concentration especially in the turns and then going faster on the straightaways. 

I was very conscious on the high turns and knew where I had to be when going near the white line lower on the track.

I truly felt comfortable with the way I was strapped in and could appreciate what NASCAR drivers go through during hours of competition. 

Until you’ve experienced this, one doesn’t realize how these drivers risk their lives when they compete in this sport. 

The Hans Device was a great addition to prevent neck injuries and become more common after the death of Dale Earnhardt Senior during the 2001 Daytona 500.

When you drive your own vehicle we tend to get used to our rear view mirror. We’re not allowed to use our rear view mirror so I understood how to trust my spotter.

If there were do overs in life, instead of a media career, if I had the money and resources, I would have loved to be a driver! 

This experience reinforced how much I love being in the car!

But the man that I thank the most for this is Russell Branham!

After I was done driving, the man give me a hug and said to me that you did a great job! 

He liked the way that I patiently got used to the track and then as I continued to drive more laps, I got better with each lap! 

He knew that I wanted to use strategy to figure out what I was doing. I didn’t want to damage the car and get hurt. I accomplished both objectives. I didn’t want to disappoint Russ!

Over the years, I have been a slow starter then got better as time progressed. This proved to be the case on this day.

There is nothing more gratifying than providing joy to a person that believes in you! On this day, that person was Russell Branham!

This is a lesson that we should all use as motivation. I certainly fed off of it on this day!

When people think of the best day of their lives, they often think of marriage or having a child.

I can subscribe to the marriage part but I don’t have kids.

I told my wife that getting married was the best day of my life but driving in a Stock Car is right at the top of the list and she said that she wish she could be there to experience it. 

But how would she have known this was coming? 

I didn’t but since that drive on Miami-Homestead Speedway, I haven’t stopped talking about this experience on my own and other podcasts!

I’m truly convinced after experiencing this, I’ll be ready for my next drive around the track.

Many years ago, the Miami-Homestead Track was flat. 

They have re-configured that track with much more banking on the turns. That made it more gratifying for me as I had to think of how I would approach the turns.

At a truck stop, I bought a hat called, “King of The Road.”

On this day, I felt that I was “King of the Road” but on a different level!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com. He can be reached on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

To see his broadcasts, Subscribe to the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel.

 

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