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NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400 -- Thursday Report: Our Man in the Field Logs His Fourth Year

3 July 1997

DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Greetings form the 'World Center of Racing'- aka Daytona International Speedway.

We're fixing to run the 39th Annual Pepsi 400. This race will mark the official halfway mark of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup season.

Today's schedule is fairly light especially compared a typical day on the February Daytona schedule. First round qualifying is set to go off at 3:00 PM local time. The morning practice sheet shows the Daytona 500 pole winner, Mike Skinner, at the top of the sheet with a 47.258 second lap at a 190.444 mile per hour clip.

As a personal note - It was 4 years ago with this event that I started my field experiences with NASCAR reporting. It was a memorable enough occasion for me. The story goes something like this....

A legend in the business said to me; 'Ya, get off at hiway 192.... it'll be (the Speedway) down the road on your right.... it's the big place. Just do it like you've seen it done before.' I asked if there was anything special that I should do.... 'nope just do it like you've seen it done. Oh and go talk to Earnhardt..... tell him I sent you.'

Me - the new kid on the block wanting to impress did the following. 1) Found the speedway - 2) About knocked over Richard Petty cause I was gawking at some other driver and 3) Stomped right up to Earnhardt - tape recorder in hand - and said.... 'Can I get an interview'. Earnhardt, who I believe was shocked that someone would just walk right up to him, of course said "NO". I wasn't about to give up..... da boss wanted an Earnhardt interview.... I said 'Ya but I know [the legend] and he said that you would ummm talk to me.' Earnhardt, now standing 12' 3", said, 'I don't know no one named [legend] and NO you can't talk to me.' I said 'awwww come on.... [legend] insists that he knows you'. Earnhardt now slightly amused but still growing, or was it me shrinking at the thought that the [legend] over extended me, said 'hey someone get this guy out here' as he walked into his Goodwrench hauler. So, it was a baptism by fire...... pretty traumatic at that time but now little more than a joke.

Now after four years I've had my share of fun and frustration and I still know that you just don't stomp up to Earnhardt and expect him to stop what he's doing just cause you 'know' the [legend].

I guess what I'm saying - even with the down-sides that come along from time to time; it's been a blast. I'm looking forward to the next year with a lot of excitement and hope that my growth in this year matches the years gone bye .. As they sometimes say..... 'You've come a long way'.... ya that's true but my answer has to be....look how much further there is to go.

Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel