It's a bit of a short week here at National DRAGSTER what with Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday off for a four-day weekend, so this will be the lone column of the week. We're actually shipping this week's issue off a day early so that it can be printed early and still mailed on time, and although tomorrow is a holiday for NHRA headquarters, we'll be in the office trying to get ahead for next week's issue, which is the second to last of the year.
It's always a bittersweet time of year for me, as I'm simultaneously relieved to have led/cajoled/followed the staff through another 48 scintillating issues, but also a bit sad that the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of having a fresh issue in my hands each Monday will be put on the backburner through most of December and early January.
For you stats freaks, this issue we ship out today is No. 2,395 in an unbroken chain of National DRAGSTER issues that stretches back to 1960. I've been on board for 1,370 of them (more than 57 percent!) over more than 28 years, so it's been a near-lifetime job for me, and most times – even through today – it never felt like a job.
I am thankful for many things this job has brought and continues to bring into my life, and since 'tis the season for giving thanks, I think I'll do just that today.
I am thankful …
… that I not only got a chance to meet Wally Parks, but to work with him and, ultimately and most importantly, gain his trust and respect.
… that, by a combination of dumb luck and good timing, I have been able to blend my two passions – drag racing and writing – for almost three decades.
… that my stepfather, a great man who for more than 40 years has been the dad I lost so young in my life, decided that I might like to see a drag race. He has no idea what he has created
… that I studied hard in class, both my textbooks and racing magazines, both of which continue to help today.
… that I have been -- at NHRA in general and National DRAGSTER in particular -- surrounded by some of the finest, most talented, ambitious, hardworking, and dedicated people I will ever have the honor to know.
... that the printed word still has a place in this age.
… for the camaraderie and support of my pals in the racing world, who have been there to pick me up when I needed it and allowed me to do the same for them. They know who they are.
… that me, a humble fan like many of you, has had the thrill to rub shoulders, speak openly, befriend, joke, break bread, and work with many of my early racing heroes. I still am in awe that I can phone Don Prudhomme or Don Garlits or Shirley Muldowney, and that they will gladly take my call.
… for a job that took me to places I never dreamed of going – Tennessee's Smokey Mountains, Quebec, and Lake Placid, to name but a few -- to meet people I never would have met.
… that I got the chance to visit hallowed places like Orange County Int’l Raceway and Irwindale before they closed.
… that my first car was one that required me to learn how to change the distributor points and to learn the agony of knuckles busted open trying to tighten header bolts.
... that I became involved in this sport in a point in its history where things were still wild and wooly and characters that even Hollywood couldn’t have invented walked our Main Street.
… that so many of the legends of our sport are still with us, with keen minds and sharp memories, and that they’re willing and eager to share with me.
… that I got to see drivers like Prudhomme and Glidden in their prime, and that I get the chance to marvel at current dominators like Schumacher and Dixon.
… that for all of the miles I have traveled, they have been safe miles, filled with little peril, minor aggravations, and good times.
… for family and friends I cherish, for friends and loves I have had and lost, and for friends yet to encounter
… that for all of the incomprehensible, unthinkable, and impossible things in life that I have had to face on occasion, I was never truly alone.
… that I've been blessed with good health; I can still play hockey twice a week, my fingers can still type, my hearing is intact (selectively, of course), and that my memory is still pretty decent (anyone seen my car keys?)
… that despite all of the stupid things I have done and said in my first 50 years, the damage has been minimal, nothing that a few stitches, a few weeks in a cast, or a sincere apology couldn’t help repair, and that the scars I carry, physically and emotionally, are mostly of my own doing and provide a roadmap for the future.
And, finally, I am thankful the support and admiration that the readers of this column shower upon me, which only drives me harder to make every column a special one, and thankful for the opportunity and the venue to increase our combined knowledge of the history of this sport we so love, and to remember and salute those who have made it so.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, and take the time to share your lists with those in your world.