Gear, More Gear and Neon
I wound up yesterday at Daytona 2000, a NASCAR collectibles store on South Atlantic Ave. Not just any store, boasts owner Gilbert Myara, THE biggest retail NASCAR merchandise store in the world, as measured by both sales and square footage.
You never know, but Gilbert's got a lot. There's clothing and merchandise for all the current drivers and most of the old timers, die cast cars, models of drivers, jackets, caps, clothing. My personal favorite was Ernie Irvan's signature in neon, admittedly a bit of a specialty item. And if he doesn't have, just ask him for it, and he promises to find it for you. He says his online business is booming, too.
When I walked in, Gilbert was helping some serious collectors who stop in every year at Speedweek. They're the McMillans from Cecil County, Md., right near where Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania meet. On the annual trek south are J.D., his sons Adam and James, and his older brother Robert. All four work in construction, running their companies back home.
Gilbert was giving them the star treatment, for good reason: They estimate they collectively spend about $5,000 on collectibles each year they come down. But don't tell their wives, please. J.D. says his wife's birthday is February 17. He buys her very nice presents before he leaves to keep the marriage harmonious. She got a nice necklace this year.
Robert estimates he's got 5,000 die-cast cars in his collection at home. It takes up rooms in his home. His wife threatens to leave him if he buys one more, but he's such a good customer that QVC doesn't even bother to ask him if he wants the latest cars, they automatically ship it to him.
The racing roots run deep in the McMillan family. J.D. and Robert's dad used to race way back in the day. They say he raced against Lee Petty at a track they called Silmore, though I didn't catch what state that was in. They did tell me it's a junkyard now, so I assume that means it's somewhere in the tri-state area.
Robert did a lot of racing himself. Dirt tracks, drag racing, whatever he could get to. He says he ran a Corvette in '64 at the Daytona strip and won everything.
The family even considered going big-time in 1960, but to get into the Grand Nationals the Dodge rolling chassis (a body, 2 seats, 4 tires and wheels - nothing else) they priced was $100,000. Too rich for their blood.
As you'd imagine, Robert's got some great tales.
"I remember when Buddy Baker would come to the track and try to talk people into working on his pit crew."
He recalls catching a race at Dover one year when Bobby Allison won. On the way home, they stopped at an Italian restaurant for dinner. They saw Allison's pit crew in there, then Bobby showed up and bought dinner for everyone in the place.
And the family tradition continues. Robert's got a grand-nephew who's racing Go-Karts now. He took first place in the heavy class, second in the light class. Robert says the kid's got a temper, too, comparing him to Tony Stewart. "He's all right if gets out of the car and takes off his helmet. But if he leaves that helmet on, you've gotta grab him by the back of the britches quick, 'cause he's going after someone."
I finished the night at the world famous Boot Hill Saloon on Main Street. I'll give a shout out to some folks I met there whose pictures I took:
Lonnie and Jason Dubois and their friend Tim Decato of Merrimack, N.H. Their home track is Loudon. This is Lonnie's first Daytona 500, her husband's second. Tim's been to 15 already.
I also met Dave Germano, Sandra and Larry Leary, Greg Tucker and a large contingent of fans from Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Unfortunately, the photos didn't turn out. Nice meetin' ya, though.
Today's Tracks Tidbits
* I haven't seen the print version of The Washington Post today, but here's a study in contrasts: The Daytona Beach News-Journal has a special racing edition today. Not tucked inside, mind you, but wrapped about the front. The only mention of anything besides racing - or the weather - on the special front page, is a tease at the top: "Cheney: Shooting 'One of the Worst Days of My Life'" I'll just go out on a limb here and assume the Cheney story is above the fold in The Post.
* At my media center seat this morning there was a free sample of Daytona 500 cologne that the speedway is marketing in partnership with Elizabeth Arden. It's a men's cologne, but my plan is to find what the women think of the fragrance. Would they buy it for any of the men in their lives? Since the France family's involved in this, could it be called "French cologne?" Sorry, that was lame. I'll say this, it doesn't smell like gasoline or rubber. We'll see if the ladies like it.
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