Books … they’ve been some of my best friends for as long as I could remember.
Rifles for Watie. One on Earl Campbell, another on Richard Petty. Anything on the Cincinnati Reds in general, and on my favorite player, Pete Rose, in particular. Books took me to places and put me in situations I could never have imagined otherwise. But actually write one myself? That was the kind of thing that only other people did, not me.
And then I wrote one … Second to None: The History of the NASCAR Busch Series, published by David Bull Publishing.
To say that I was excited about the book’s impending release is the wildest of understatements. When the book’s first color proof pages arrived while my family and I were on vacation, I loaded up our twin sons … both with … well … full diapers … in their stroller to head down to the front desk where the glorious package awaited.
When the first actual proof copy arrived, I essentially stole a golf cart at Pikes Peak International Raceway and drove to the warehouse to pick it up.
Oh, I had big plans. Race fans were going to swarm book signings, and line up around the block to have me sign their books. NASCAR was going to be forced to delay the start of races, because all the fans were still going to be out on the concourse, picking up their copies of Second to None.
That was the stuff of sheer fantasy. This is the stark reality.
Second to None was released on September 1, 2001.
We ALL know what happened just 10 days later.
My very first book signing EVER was scheduled for a Barnes & Noble in Olathe, Kansas, in conjunction with the inaugural NASCAR weekend at nearby Kansas Speedway. That created quite a predicament. I was already a reluctant flier before 9/11, and there was NO way I was getting on an airplane so soon after those tragic events.
But … but … there was ALSO no way was I going to miss my first book signing. I couldn’t disappoint my public … my readers … my fans, who were no doubt already starting to camp out at the bookstore.
So what did I do? I DROVE to Kansas … from my driveway in North Carolina to the infield at the race track, a journey of 975 miles.
1994 Busch Series champion and all-around good egg David Green joined me for the signing. We sat down, looked at each other … and waited. And waited. And then waited some more for the Busch Series book-buying throngs to show up.
The crowd never materialized. One person … ONE person, out of sheer mercy, I think … bought a book that night. I was devastated, and not ashamed to admit that I drove away from Barnes & Noble in tears, my dreams crushed.
I’ve written 10 more books since Second to None, and had a good many, far more successful book signings.
But there’s only one “first,” and that was mine. Kansas Speedway … you owe me one.