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Yes, sports fans, I finally realized a dream I’ve had for almost 30 years.  In November of 1971, less than a week after Pete (my son) was born, Mike Eakin and I attended the SCCA Runoffs at Road Atlanta for the first time.  As struggling college students we didn't have the money for paddock passes, so we'd slide under the chain link fence at night and tour the pits to get a closer look at what was going on.  Other than being extremely cold, I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to do this - I wanted to run in a National Championship event.  During the ensuing 29 years both Mike and I went down a variety of (often separate) paths as we tried to find answers that worked, but there was ALWAYS the focus in my life of competing at the Runoffs.  Mike and Janice (Carraway) got married in Tallahassee on Saturday, Oct. 7 (congratulations guys!), and we were unable to attend each other’s event(s), but I knew that he was with me as my dream finally came true the next day at Mid-Ohio.

At the urging of my wonderful, brilliant and gorgeous life partner Harriett, I contacted Johnny Miller last December about building me a "no excuses" GT-1 Corvette for the 2000 Runoffs.  The car they delivered (MHG-001) is the prototype for the cars Miller Racing will be running in next season's TransAm series (with minor modifications to accomodate my "plus-sized" stature).  The 'H' stands for Tom Hoke, Johnny's team engineer that has an impressive list of designs to his credit  while the 'G' is Mark Giles, a fabricator who spent 13 years with the #4 Winston Cup team.  Suffice it to say, the car was NOT the limiting factor.

In a nutshell, I knocked a second off my time each day we ran (it rained on Thursday so we didn't go out), ending up 16th on the grid with a 1:33.145.  It rained (and sleeted!) Sunday (raceday) during the early races, but it looked like it would be dry for our race and we bolted on the slicks (there was also a minor moment when Johnny found a crack in the LR brake rotor, but he got that changed with no problem).  At the green I got passed by a couple of cars but I was going with a survival strategy rather than a "pass or crash" mentality.  The TV coverage didn't show it, but around lap eight I passed three cars in one corner, then set sail for the #50 Pepsi/Budweiser car (Bruce Dewey - picked by SportsCar as "one to watch") that got by me at the start.  With Johnny & Harriett encouraging me over the radio, I took two seconds a lap off Dewey's lead, then passed him under braking for Turn One (right in front of the pits).  We also got a LOT of TV time as the leaders came up to lap me (I moved over to let them by), then as the third place car (Jack Busch in the #05 Oldsmobile) came up behind me.  He was having engine problems so I repassed him on the straight after letting him by in the "twisties" and maintained that until the checkered flag came out.  He did nudge me once on the RR corner at Turn 8, but there's no damage to the car (the same cannot be said for his car, however).  After passing four cars for position and with the attrition among the leaders, I ended up 8th overall, the first car one lap down.  We had my best lap at a 1:32.77, but my official best lap was a  1:33.230 - still nothing to sneeze at.

No sponsors to thank, but a truckload (and yes, I cleaned that up) of people have helped me accomplish this dream:  Harriett, first of all, then all the guys at Miller Racing (Johnny, Tom, Mark, Quinn, Willie & A.J.), Mike & Janice Eakin, Mike & Donna Hearn, Charlie Johnson, Eric Roberts & Eric Bartel (Gramps & Gimp) plus the support from my Corvette buddies, the Solo I crowd and all my fellow corner workers in white.  And that obviously doesn't include friends and family that have provided support and encouragement prior to the 2000 season as well.  I couldn't have done it without you, and I hope I didn't let you down.

Finally, my car is in Woodstock right now and we DO plan to run it at the October 20-22 test day and time trial at Talladega Grand Prix Raceway (about two hours from Atlanta) before I take it back to Johnson City to have the chassis powder coated (we ran out of time before the Runoffs).  First event for 2001 will probably be the National at Kershaw the end of February, but we'll probably do some test days before then to get the driver up to speed with the car.  Let me know if you’re interested in directions and/or more information.

See you at the track…