It's been a year now and I guess I've gotten over being spanked by my girl Ashley at this race. The memory now is of my daughter winning her first race, so it's a happy thought.
I had a chance to win my 1,000th round in my 500th race in that final against her and I hate that I gave up those two records because I never would have that chance again but we got it done later so it's okay.
I’ve had a lot of great times in Atlanta. I remember way back. I’d come here from the AHRA circuit, starving to death. I got to face the big guys – Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Tom McEwen – all the heavyweights were here. It was an eight-car NHRA Funny Car show, and I qualified. That was big for me.
It was one of them deals where we never got many runs, and somehow I went down the track, although I was a leaker! This was way before (working with Austin) Coil. He was there too, the ol' Chi-Town Hustler. He was sitting in his old ramp truck and just whipping up on everybody.
That was quite a deal that I made the show that weekend, and it was a big deal that all the big guys went home. It just happened. The little guys prevailed. That was a proud moment.
I’ve had a lot of wins in Atlanta but it took a lot of hard work and a lot of focus. We’ve won a lot of those races on a rainy day on Monday. Somehow this plays into your hands, and I think that comes from our old match race days. In those match races you learned how to get down an old dirt road.
I actually came down here to pitch Coca-Cola when I was sponsored by Wendy’s restaurants. I was so excited; I was coming out of Englishtown (N.J.) and I had worked on a proposal package – the only package I ever did – and it was an inch and a half thick. They dropped me off at Newark to get on the plane. I never had any money to travel like that. We were all dreaming big. Then I heard the horns on my truck honking and I saw my brother Louie out the window of the airport and he was waving the packet at me. I had forgotten it.
I made my plane and got down here. They were just the nicest people in the world. They put me up in the big hotel with a piano in the lobby. I’d never been to a hotel like that -- ever. When I got to my room, Coke had put out an array of fruits and bananas and chocolates and all these Coca-Cola bottles. And I was a freak for Coke. I was there two days and I drank every one of them.
I went down to the lobby with Bill Dunn, the guy from Wendy’s, and he had all these bottles. I asked, 'Whatya got in the bag?'
He said, 'All those Coke things we got, Coke left those as gifts to us.'
I said, 'Yeah I drank every one.'
He said, 'Tell me you’re kidding? You know those Coke bottles? Those were collector Coke bottles. They give them to chosen people who visit.'
They were old-time Coke bottles, shaped different – I drank them all and left them behind. I went back up to my room, took the ones the maids didn’t take from the day before. I took them home and still have them. I thought they gave me Coke to drink but they gave me collector gifts.
When we were on tour, we ate at Wendy’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because they gave us free food all around the country. When you don’t have any money that’s how you live.
That’s why I love the small-time racers. I like that (Terry) Haddock kid. He’s the future.
He told me, 'I guess I’m not a good promoter, I can’t come up with any money.'
I told him he came up with a great idea to bring both a Funny Car and a dragster and go with the car that has the fewest entries. That's what he's been doing. He’ll make it; he’s a survivor.
He said he wanted to have a meeting with me in Indy. I said okay. The next morning I get to work early and he was sleeping in his truck in our parking lot, waiting to see me
I did that. I never forget guys like that, because they are the future. You never forget where you came from or you’ll end up right back there.