1. Heroes

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Horse tracks always have the coolest bars, the kind of places where your granddad would’ve taken you, and the one on the top deck outside of turn one at Pomona is just such a solid old inviting place. Right outside it is a nice deck with a view of the whole track and the perfect spot if you’re in a wheelchair like our pal Cernicky. We were sitting there with a couple of Cadillac margaritas when Wayne Rainey rolled up. My camera was too star-struck to maintain focus, and I was even more incapable of speech than usual. Rainey rolled off, then Eddie Lawson strolled up, and we pinched ourselves. Then Eddie wandered off and Rainey rolled up again, and I said “Oh too bad, you just missed Eddie Lawson, you two could’ve fought.”

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I like to say stupid stuff like that sometimes. Rainey just smiled and said, “Me and Ed come out together.” He might’ve said “came”, it was loud, but I think he used the colloquial like his dad would’ve. Dirt track racing takes us back to our roots.

Then we stood there with Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey while they played the national anthem, and Cernick and I both admitted later to being a little choked up. Eddie Lawson is probably sick to death of people like me telling him how the first race we ever got to go to was the ’88 USGP at Laguna Seca, and I don’t remember if he won or not but he was my hero. Ed said he couldn’t remember either and looked around to see if security was around in case he needed it. The part I did remember was being in a huge crowd when they played the anthem there and Ed Lawson had been a dot in the pits, and I was ecstatic to be free and at the USGP in California after years in the Army and at a dreary Midwestern college.

Wayne Rainey said he hasn’t been to Pomona in 22 years, which he remembers because it was his son’s birthday, October 11, which caused me to remember it was my mom’s birthday too, who would’ve been, ahhh, ’86? Impossible. In the car driving home, I wondered how I could’ve forgotten being there in the Corkscrew when Eddie Lawson won that GP? I’d spent what meager cash I had to buy a plane ticket out to watch it, and the whole scene where Lawson stopped at the Corkscrew on the cool-off lap and threw his helmet and gloves into the crowd all came back to me like an old Super 8 found in a box in the attic; all those loud dirt-trackers jarred it loose. Not long after that USGP, I moved to California and stayed. I hope there will be many more Pomona Half-Miles, but if this winds up being the last one, it will have been enough. The bar on top of the grandstands is close enough to Mt. Olympus for me, and the place was packed with gods.

MORE LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Promoter Charlie Franks reports that he had a meeting with the LA Fairgrounds people, where he learned plans to redevelop the track are on hold. Horse training will continue through March. Frank says he was told “the chances of us being able to put on the race in 2015 are 95-percent. This is really good news as the event has seen steady increases of 15-percent in each of the last four years. In addition, we created a few new strategic partnerships (Red Bull Energy being one), which has helped us continue to build and look to the future.”

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