Thirty Seconds of Fame

by Arnold Nelson

     Many years ago when I was a small boy my brother Gary and I loved to watch the stock car races on TV. Every Sunday after lunch Gary and I would run to the TV and for the next 2 !/2 hours we would sit and watch the cars drive around the track. Sometimes it was oval, sometimes it was figure 8 racing and occasionally it was destruction derby. We loved it all. We would each pick a car and see who's car would have the better finish. One Sunday my Dad decided to take Gary and I to Los Angeles to see the races. We loved it. I remember my first reaction was wow they sure paint those cars bright colors. We had a lot of fun that day.

      When we got older Gary started working for a local driver (Gary has very good hands and could fix anything) Then went on to spend his life working in NASCAR now he has his own company and gives advice to other teams.

       I was never very good with my hands. I could manage small things but usually got into some kind of trouble or forgot something. My career went in other directions. I never lost my love for auto racing.

      A few years after that first show went off the air they showed the Indy 500 on closed circuit TV at the fair grounds. My Dad took Gary and I to watch it. We both loved it. Then they had a show called Wide World of Sports where they would showcase 3 sports each week and go back and forth between the 3 events showing highlights. Once in a while they showed NASCAR racing. that was all the exposure to auto racing I had for a long time. Then they started showing selected races live. I loved that. Within a few years they were showing all the races, NASCAR had become big time. I loved it I watched as many of the races as I could. They also started showing the Indy 500 live every year I loved that race too.

      The first live race I every went to was at the Ontario speedway in 1980 I think. I enjoyed it but the noise bothered me. I have been to maybe a dozen races since then. some of the races I watched from the in field, others I was in the stands, a few Gary got me in the pit box with him. It was exciting watching him and his crew work on their car. In1988 I think it was I had a chance to go back to Charlotte and spend the weekend with Gary and watch him set up cars for both races. Kyle Petty was his driver then. I really enjoyed that weekend. Kyle is a very nice man and I got to meet his father the king Richard Petty and Kyles son Adam who was about 12 or 13 then. Later Adam became a NASCAR drive too. Adam was the fourth generation of Pettys to drive for NASCAR. He had a lot of talent then a terrible racing accident took his life while he was practicing for a race. Adam left us way to soon he was only about 20 years old. RIP Adam.

      Anyway about 7 or 8 years ago I was watching a race on TV. I listened to the prayer they always have before the races. then I decided I can do that. So I started E-mailing people to find out who to ask about saying a prayer before the next race in Las Vegas. It took 3 or 4 E-mails to get to the right people. I told them I would love to say the prayer before the next race in Las Vegas. They gave me permission but there was a problem they could not get me in. I had to provide my own ticket.

      So I talked to Gary and he said NASCAR only gives him 2 free tickets a year now but he would give me one. So I E-mailed the chaplain back and said yes I will be there. I said I think I can only do one race and I would prefer to do Sunday's. He said that was fine. I contacted the man in charge of the pregame show and he said I should meet him at the NASCAR truck sometime Friday the day before the Busch race to get final instructions. The week before the race I told my church about it the whole church was excited for me. I had already told all my friends and relatives that I was going to say the prayer.

     Friday came and I drove to Las Vegas. First thing I did I drove to the track and got my ticket. I found out my ticket was good for the whole weekend so I could give both prayers. That made me very happy. Then I went inside the track and found the NASCAR trailer (It was cold and rainy that day so there were very few people at the track, practice was canceled for the day). I found the NASCAR trailer but the man I was suppose to see was not there he was out walking around the track somewhere. They told me he had a radio, but he was on a different frequency then NASCAR, so they could not reach him. They told me to wait he would be back soon. Within about 15 minutes I was told he was back and waiting to see me. So I went to the other trailer and we had our meeting. He explained everything to me and gave me a schedule for the weekend. I left and found my hotel room. Then I found out where to catch the bus the next morning to go to the track. Las Vegas ran many buses up and down the strip and through the downtown area to the track so you did not have to drive if you didnt want to.

     Saturday morning bright and early I was standing there waiting for the bus. It was another cold day and looked like more rain that day. I got to the track with plenty of time to spare. I walked around for a while and when it was time I walked to the infield where all the prerace stuff was taking place. They had started the prerace stuff a little early because of the bad weather and they wanted as much racing time as possible for racing before it rained again. I saw Michael Waltrip standing there so I went an introduced myself and talked to him a few minutes. Then all the introductions were done, all the drivers were getting ready to race.

      It was my turn, I took off my old coat and laid it on the ground, and walked up to the mic and said my prayer. I had it written down because I was afraid I would get nervous and forget what I wanted to say. About 3/4s of the way through my prayer the guy in charge started giving me the speed up signal so I quickly finished my prayer and backed away and put my jacket back on. I stood there while the guys sang the national anthem. I started walking off with them. They were called back So I walked back with them I started to get in a waiting van with them and I was told to get in the other van. So I did. The mayor of Las Vegas was sitting in that van with a couple of his friends and we road off the track together. I dont think I was suppose to be in that van but I did it anyway it was fun riding around the track back to the garage.

      I sat in a stand that was set up inside turn 1 and watched the beginning of the race. Part way through the skies opened up and the race was stopped for a while. I decided I had had enough of racing for one day so I went back to the buses and back to my hotel.

     When I got back to my room the phone was ringing My sister Arlene called and told me she saw me on TV and she thought I did a very good job. We talked a little while then hung up. Then My niece Robin called and and she told me how much me enjoyed seeing me on TV. then we hung up a few minutes later Robin called back her daughter April wanted to talk to me too. So April and I talked for a while. Then I gambled a little bit and went to bed.

     Sunday I was back at the track again. I was there early again. I had heard they had a little church meeting in the garage every Sunday before the race and I thought it would be fun to go to it. So I found it and I started to go in and security said I did not have the right pass for that. I was disappointed but I decide I would just go out to the infield and watch the pre-race action and wait for my time to say the prayer. I went to the gate for the infield and was told I needed another pass for the infield so I went back to the NASCAR truck and saw someone outside and told him what happened and he got me the other pass I needed. It was too late to go to the service then so I just went to the infield and watched the pre-race stuff going on.

     I saw Kyle Petty standing there while I was waiting. We talked for a few minutes. I was surprised he remembered me. After all the introductions were over there was just a handful of people in the infield. a security officer came out and asked why I was still standing there. I told him I was to say the prayer, then the guy in charge told the security officer I was alright. So the security left me alone. While I was waiting the mayor of Las Vegas came up to me and told me he really like my prayer on Saturday. He said some of his friends were talking about it too and they all liked it.

      My time came and I walked up to the mic and said my second prayer of the weekend. It went well, I never got any hurry up signals or any other signals form the man in charge. I cant tell you what a rush it is to stand on the start finish line of a race and look up and see all the stands filling up and know everything will stop for 30 seconds and everyone will listen to you. My words were heard around the world that day because the race was shown on Armed Forces Television. Wow, just thinking about it again gives me Goosebumps, millions of people hearing me pray.

      When I got back to work everyone at work was talking about seeing me on TV. They were all excited. The best part was the next Sunday when I went back to church they talked for about 10 minutes about me being on TV and all their relatives were talking about it. Our pastor, Pastor Anna, was teaching a class as the college and she said her class was talking about it to. A few weeks later a couple of people who never came to church came to church just so they could meet me.

     Talk about being on top of the world. I was on top of the world. It was a lot more then I every dreamed of. My 30 seconds of fame is really the highlight of my life.

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