Thanks to a lot of people getting their brakes fixed in Hope this spring, Scott Medlock won a free trip to the Daytona Speedway — where the gas pedal gets a lot more exercise than the brakes.
Medlock is in his 14th year as manager of the Hope Lordco auto parts store and when he noticed a contest for selling the most Raybestos brake parts, he pulled out all stops.
“Lordco has all sorts of sales contests,” said Medlock, who is also a third-term councillor for the District of Hope. “It’s one of the reasons I really like working for Lordco, because of all the incentives they have.
“This contest was co-sponsored by Lordco and Raybestos and it ran from January to May 15, I won it for most sales volume in similar-sized stores. There were 10 branches in my category and eight categories, so eight managers got to go, as well as inside and outside sales staff. 38 people got to go.”
Staff from all over the province met at the Vancouver airport for the all-expense-paid trip thatƒ spanned the July 1 long weekend.
“It’s nice to meet people we’ve been talking to over the phone over the years,” said Medlock. He had seen some of them before, on his two free trips to Phoenix, Ariz., and one to Las Vegas for NASCAR races.
What he hadn’t seen was the sticky heat of a Florida summer.
“It was so hot and humid,” he recalled. “We walked out of the nice air-conditioning of the airport to get our shuttle bus and it was 36 degrees Celsius and over 100 per cent humidity.
“They even had ceiling fans, outside, to keep the air moving.”
That kind of oppressive heat could take a toll on the race cars and drivers, and Medlock suspected that’s why the races are held in the evening in the summer.
“The races started at about 8 p.m., so it was starting to cool down,” he said.
Before that, he and other fans got to step out on the track, where he was amazed at the steep angle of the banking.
“It was at 18 degrees in the turns,” he said. “You won’t find many roads that are that steep.”
The Lordco staffers were also allowed into the pits before the race, where they could get up close to the cars.
“We were watching the cars get teched, to see that they were within specifications,” he said. “That’s something I hadn’t seen before. It takes maybe five minutes per car and there were 40 in the race.”
“Stock” cars have evolved a lot since the 1950s and ‘60s, when drivers drove cars that shared the same sheet metal with the cars you could buy off the lot. That’s all changed now, said Medlock.
“All the cars are the exact same body shape. They just decal them up to look like a Ford or Chev. They all use the same tires, though you can have different tire pressures and choose how often you change them. They have Toyota, GM and Ford blocks but they all have to be between 350 and 358 cubic inches.”
Friday night was the Firecracker 250, a 100-lap race for mostly up-and-coming racers. Saturday’s event was the Coke Zero 400, of the Sprint Cup Series.
“All the common-named racers are in that series,” said Medlock. “There were just over 100,000 in the stands, plus another 15-20,000 on the infield, with their RVs.”
Surely, no one was sleeping during the races.
“A lot of guys were wearing ear plugs — but it’s something to be able to experience,” said Medlock, whose ears went all-natural. “You feel the sound … and being at Daytona made it feel even more special.
Medlock figured the cars took a minute to a minute-and-a-half to make it around the 2.5-mile oval, when they weren’t driving under caution.
“The 400-mile race lasted three to four hours, despite the cautions, when they drive about 50 miles an hour,” explained Medlock. “We were joking that they could drive from Vancouver to Kamloops and back in that time.”
The group was seated near the pits, so they got to see the quick and efficient work of the pit crews. Medlock wasn’t able to count all the lug nuts on the tires but there’s a bit of a controversy, currently.
“The rules say you have to start and finish the race with five lug nuts per wheel — but some guys are going with only three for the middle of the race, to save time.”
Don’t try that at home.
It wouldn’t be NASCAR without crashes and Medlock’s group were treated to a big one.
“It was just past us. About a dozen cars got tangled up. They played it on the big screens, too.”
It just happened to be Medlock’s birthday that night, making the experience even better.
“I didn’t want to leave, it was so nice,” he said. “It makes me want to work hard for the next contest.”