Fri. Dec. 31,1999
Arrived in Palm Beach Gardens early this beautiful day on the eve of the New Millennium, earlier than expected so Ms. Boop and I thought it might be smart to run by Moroso Motorsports Park early, ahead of the expected throngs, buy our tickets now, then run into town and find a Motel avoiding the long lines at the ticket booth later. Driving through the gate couldn't help but notice the crowd of Sheriff's Deputies standing around with their hands in their pockets. Wow, this thing is really going to be big… All of these cops to help back up the Security guys. Can't wait!!
First surprise on the last day of the old Millennium… “Ten bucks just to park?” I asked… “That's right!” said the gentlemen from Security. I told him we were just there to pick up tickets and weren't planning on staying until later in the afternoon. “ Hey, no problem” he said “ It'll just cost 'ya ten bucks to get back in this afternoon”. After a few minutes of negotiations it was determined that if we could be out of there within a half hour we'd get our money back. Nobody had allowed for the possibility of anyone leaving the grounds and coming back. Damn good news for the food vendors. Maybe the line at the ticket booth won’t be too long at this hour.
Well, aren't we lucky? Nobody at any of the ticket booths! Wait, what's that… forty-five bucks a ticket? I recall the ad I got off the Web said twenty bucks a day or forty-five for all three days. No Sir, forty-five dollars a day, but wait… for another forty-five dollars each we could attend the Clam Bake tonight. No thanks... clams give me the runs, especially at forty-five dollars a plate! The tickets came off of a large roll and reminded me of the tickets we used in the car club for Raffles or Fifty/fifty. If I'd have known, I'd have brought my own and not bothered stopping by the ticket booth. Not too much to keep as a souvenir is it? BTW-we did make it back to the gate before our thirty minute curfew.
Went into town, found a motel room at a reasonable price, loaded up the cooler and headed back to the track. Arrived about 2 pm. At least we won't have to stand in line to get our tickets. Neither did anyone else… there wasn't a line. But there did seem to be more Sheriff's Deputies. Gonna' need 'em for crowd control later.
Ah, listen-there it is-the music of a NITRO engine as we walked towards the main gate, Scotty Cannon's engine as a matter of fact, sounding real crisp as he did a burnout. Couldn't see anything from where we were, but sure could hear it! Scotty blasts off the line, and sounds real good for about a second and a half then idles the rest of the way down track. Something must have gone wrong.
Through the main, gate right into the vendors area. Lots of neat stuff, and some good bargains. Darrell Gwynn's Mopar promotional people had their trailer close by and were selling Mopar T-shirts and sweatshirts at end of the sponsorship bargain basement prices. They also told us that the Mopar deal definitely is over and the Gwynn's were keeping Mike Dunn on retainer (Mike's probably got a lot of offers) and a decision would be made in the next week or two regarding the future of the team. Hope to see them next season, there's barely enough T/F entries at most events now. Can't afford to lose any, especially a consistent group like this one.
Also hanging out at the Mopar trailer was Cidbone who posts on Header Flames and Dragcity, interesting character. Heard Ski was on the premises but never saw him. Was told to watch for a floppy hat riding a bicycle. Heard the sound of more NITRO. Sooo... time to find a seat.
Still getting the "feel" of a new (for us) facility so we followed a few folks up some steps, through a tunnel and out the other side (kinda' like the old setup at Maple Grove) and there's the track. Nice looking setup with the seats real close to the track… MY kinda' place! Found a seat just in time to watch Bob Vandergriff pilot his unlettered (and still unsponsored) car to a new track record.... 4.84 @ 287!! Way to go Bob! Nice pass, maybe the track does have some teeth (I'd been hearing rumors to the contrary).
Next out on the track... Tony Schumacher. Let me tell you, from the position I was sitting in and the location of the sun, all of the conditions were perfect to observe a phenomenon I'd often heard about but never got to observe up close...tire shake. Wow! That baby shook 'em. Looked scary! Even shook a few parts loose. Another early shutoff. The Greek, Rhonda Hartman, Mike Smith's Hillbillies on NITRO, and Shirley all made passes, but were having problems hooking up. Vandergriff’s .84 looked even better in retrospective. Oh well, there's always tonight’s session, but, that's a long way off...a long way off.
Back through the tunnel to the vendor area for another look when I heard Bob Frye say the Speed Sport Roadster was going to pair off with Jungle Jim's Vega. This should be interesting, so through the tunnel again when it finally occurred to me what was wrong with this place. You can't see anything from anywhere! From the vendor's area you couldn't see the track, from the bleachers you could ONLY see the track and I've already been there a few hours and still couldn't find the pit entrance.
Arrived back at trackside to see the Jungle Vega sitting sideways across the track with no rear end. The rear hadn't made it quite as far as the car! Ernie and Sandra Walker have done a beautiful job restoring the car… what a shame to see it wounded, but most of the damage looked superficial. The Speed Sport Roadster made the trip unscathed.
Got a chance later to get an up-close looked at the Vega. All of the brackets holding the rear axle assembly to the frame had separated at their mounting points, revealing lots of rust inside the frame tubes. One of our (Standard 1320) frame experts had mentioned a while back about the possibility of these old frames deteriorating from within, and this appeared to be a perfect example. Food for thought before jumping in on of these old-timers and blasting down the track? Personally, I'd rather see them sitting on display instead of self-destructing out on the track if this is what can happen. Time does and will take its toll.
A few more cars made some passes, but nothing of note. Time to head back to the car for some lunch. But before you leave the track you get your hand stamped, right? Not here, brother! The gal at the gate just whips out the trusty 'ol Magic Marker and proceeds to draw a circle with an "X" in the center on the back of my hand! “What if I have a reaction to this?” I inquire. No reply… guess I'll have to spend the rest of the day walking around with what appears to be the ‘Mark of the Beast’ on my hand.