We raced them at local drag strips and cheered them on at national drag racing events. We also paid attention to our favorite makes on the NASCAR circuit; these cars started out as stock models but were modified from bumper to bumper.
Several of my friends and I made trips to Florida for the Daytona 500. I always cheered for the drivers who drove Fords because I drove, raced and worked on them.
I operated a small industrial supply business in 1995 and sometimes drove a charter bus for The Free Enterprise System. As the Brickyard 400 weekend neared, I received a charter that involved taking a group to practice, qualifying and the race. But rain washed out qualifying, and the starting order was determined by practice speeds.
The race was held on Saturdays back then, and that year’s event was scheduled for Aug. 5 (my birthday).
It was raining race day morning as I drove my group out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And by the looks of the ominous clouds, it appeared that the race would be postponed until Sunday. Some of my passengers headed for their seats in a suite on the front stretch while some remained on the bus with me.
Hours had passed but there was no official announcement that the race had been postponed. The folks who had stayed behind finally decided to join the others in the suite, and they invited me.
In a strange turn of events, the rained stopped around 3:30 p.m., and the track-drying equipment was deployed. The cars were lined up a short time later, and the green flag waved about 4:30 p.m.
For the thousands of people who had already left the IMS, they made a beeline back to the track and caught some of the race, which was over by 7 p.m.
It had been a long day for myself and my passengers, and I still had to return them to their pickup location.
But my day was far from being over. My group was affiliated with General Motors and was part of the group known as GM Goodwrench, the main sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s winning car.
We were soon down on the track. From there the party moved a few times inside the track and then a couple of times to locations at hotels. It went on for hours. After having spent so much time with some members of the group, I felt like part of the gang.
I met Earnhardt and car owner Richard Childress that evening and chatted with them briefly. Earnhardt always drove a Chevy, but he got to talk and laugh with a Ford guy that day.
My long day was getting longer and longer. As I remember, I parked the coach back in the company lot about 1:30 a.m.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools.