Bumpy Day: Lug Nut Is Constant Reminder
I keep an old, dingy, faded yellow lug nut on me all the time.
Since it’s been a slow NASCAR news week, I’m going to tell y’all the story of the lug nut.
I know, I know, the Daytona 500 can’t get here soon enough.
When I was a much younger man, I was a much more intrepid newspaperman. Instead of my weekly drivel, I used to spend a lot of time at the race track doing all those journalistic tasks: interviewing drivers and crew chiefs and taking tons of pictures of race cars and pit stops and all that fun stuff.
I was working for a local newspaper back in 2002 covering the local sports beat and hitting all the race tracks within driving distance. By the time the Rockingham fall race came around, I was a seasoned pro at the whole thing.
Or so I thought.
At the end of a fairly uneventful weekend, I went to take some pictures along pit lane during caution flag stops. I found a good spot at a break in the pit wall where I could get some good shots of Mark Martin’s crew servicing his car. A NASCAR official, fearing for my safety, asked me to move, but I was not missing my shot — when he left, I returned.
I snapped a couple of pictures of the car being serviced and then, as race car drivers normally do, Martin dumped the clutch, nailed the gas and his Ford pulled away in a cloud of smoke. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
But then things went terribly wrong for me.
During his hasty retreat, the left rear tire spun over a lug nut that became airborne and through fate and dumb luck connected squarely with my forehead about an inch above my left eye. After the line of expletives that may or may not have made it from my brain to my mouth, and definitely stunned, I bent down and picked up the nut. That bad boy wasn’t getting away.
Upon returning to the infield media center, I was getting some strange looks as the knot on my head began to swell. I showed off the lug nut and recounted my story to several friends, who were amazed. The cold Mountain Dew I used to reduce the swelling drew even more looks and, within a few minutes, I was being whisked away in a golf cart to the infield care center to have my lump examined.
After hanging out with Ward Burton in the infield care center for a while (it was his wreck that caused the caution that led to the pit stop that led to the offending lug nut), I was seen by the doctor, and despite his professional opinion that I was concussed, I was sent on my way to continue my work. I was paid by the byline, so that was imperative. The Mountain Dew had been replaced by a nice ice pack so I didn’t look as much like a big ol’ redneck.
Despite the ice pack, the knot got a lot bigger and ended up being about the size of a golf ball before it went away. Other than the knot and a headache that lasted about three days, I was fine (fine being a relative term) and armed with a cool story.
The lug nut is a reminder that I may be one of the luckiest people around. And maybe one of the most hard-headed.
Contact Andy Cagle at andy firstname.lastname@example.org.
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