Alan Kulwicki stood in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. And he was only standing, with no purpose, no destination and no focus.
Anyone who knew Kulwicki would say this was not like him. He always had drive in everything he did. It was December, around 1990, and the NASCAR Cup Series was in town for the annual championship banquet. Beat writer Steve Waid asked him what he was doing.
“Nothing. Nowhere to go,” replied Kulwicki.
“Ever seen Times Square?” asked Waid.
“No,” was Kulwicki’s answer.
The two left on a miniature sightseeing tour. Times Square was followed by Greenwich Village and listening to a band. Waid was a Big Apple veteran, having already covered the awards ceremony for many years. Wisconsin native Kulwicki still needed to be under someone’s wing to fully enjoy New York. His title was a few years off in the future.
This is one of the multiple stories around NASCAR that do not make it to the public. Waid recently shared this with me at the National Motorsports Press Association convention. He was part of the work force from NASCAR Scene, a publication that ceased operation.
Waid has been reporting on different forms of NASCAR since the 1970s. The first race event he covered was in Martinsville and he admits he “didn’t know anything about this.”
That Virginia event began a career of auto racing writing and broadcasting. His words and voice became familiar to many racing fans. But the paper he wrote for has now gone the way of many print publications, the same way as cassettes and record albums.
Still, Waid showed up and spent some time around his peers at the NMPA weekend near Charlotte. “I’ve got some things lined up. I am in a position where I don’t have to make a decision right away. I’ll be fine.”
And that positive attitude came through during press conferences, social gatherings and the award ceremony. Waid was a presenter for several categories during the media’s awards banquet and provided plenty of laughs for the crowd. It seems a second livelihood, as a standup comedian, is well within reach.
With his experience in writing I sought any words of wisdom he would share for my own career. “I’ll tell you something,” he began during one of our conversations. “Write about the people. Everybody has a story. It is an interesting part of the sport.”
I paid attention as he echoed my own personal thoughts about auto racing. And I do agree with him about there being interesting people to write about. Waid might not have known that readers of his work over the years think of him as one of those people.
NASCAR racing gets a lot of attention and generates a lot of stories. Over the years the veteran reporters have become as worthy of recognition as the stars they cover. NASCAR stories that get written about can be as interesting as the people writing them can.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic and co-hosts the One and Done racing talk show Tuesdays at 11am ET on www.wsicweb.com.)
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