By Paul Blaufuss
I grew up in upstate New York. I moved to Charlotte, NC twenty years ago, as hard as that is to believe. The time has gone by like laps at Martinsville. And now I almost hate to get calls from my home town, as they generally do not deliver good news. Recent events were no exception.
My buddy Dave called one day. He said Joey is really sick.
Joey is the kind of guy you meet one time and immediately want and hope to have as a friend for life. I met Joey the first time on a trip to and from Buffalo, NY to Mosport, Canada for an IMSA six-hour sports car race. It must have been around 1983, the year before the Porsche 962s took over international sports car domination. I do not remember much about the race. The Kreepy Krawly March spun right in front of us, and backed into the Armco barrier. I believe Al Holbert won the race, also driving a March. Otherwise the race itself was uneventful. I remember we shook and sprayed beer all over each other in our own victory lane.
As with so many races, it is not the racing I recall. It is the experiences and friends I hold most dear.
I vividly remember the drive back from that race like it was yesterday. We had borrowed Daveâ€™s brotherâ€™s car, as he was actually a responsible adult and his car was so much more reliable for the trip than any of ours.
Driving through downtown Toronto, we were passed by a car full of lovely ladies (aahhhhâ€¦Toronto girlsâ€¦..) We smiled, waved, and acted generally dopey. Joey told Dave to speed up. We pulled alongside and matched their speed. I was not at all the least bit shocked as Joey dropped trow and mooned the debs in the left hand lane, right there on the Queen Elizabeth Expressway. They swerved, laughed, waved and quickly scribbled down phone numbers! Joey must have impressed them.
When we returned home, we all played dumb. Daveâ€™s brother asked what the heck we did to his car and brought out the soap to wash his car and the Windex to clean the â€˜butt marksâ€™ off of the rear window. Busted.
Later I remember camping at the Glen and associated all day beer consumption. No one could keep up with Joey. Late night camp site decorum: teasing, heckling, joking, joyous and youthful immature race weekend abuse. Non-compliance with the campground guy code was met with any of a variety of punishments: a knuckle smack across the head was called an â€˜Aceâ€™. A poke in the eye was a â€˜Bernieâ€™. Passing out in your sleeping bag was the worst offense, and brought the worst penalty. Joey would â€˜break windâ€™ into the sleeping bag and hold the cover over the victimâ€™s head. It is now known to history as a â€˜Dutch Ovenâ€™. Watching the victim try to escape the odoriferous experience was something one could never forget!
Joey was a man of large stature. Dave said he now maybe weighs 100 pounds and has lost his hair, is frail and weak. I have not seen Joey in many years. But I have never forgotten him. I am proud to say Joey is and always will be my friend. The world is a much better place because of people like him.
I pray that everyone out there is lucky enough to have a friend like Joey. And I pray we all treasure and hold keep all those race moments with people we love while we have them. They all pass so quickly.
I hope tonight all my race friends can say a prayer for Joey. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met.
And I know somehow Joey will win. Not even cancer can beat a â€˜Dutch Ovenâ€™.