Stuber figured that traveling to Charlotte would be a nice thing to do for his 50th birthd
Garry Stuber was hurrying through the pits at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS) when a man in a green firesuit rushed up and hugged him.
Jim Roach lives in Kahoka, Missouri, about 100 miles from Stuber's home in Waterloo, Iowa. Both men race IMCA Modifieds, and they know each other well. At the World Short Track Championships on the dirt track across the street from the 1.5-mile LMS, Stuber's black No. 4s and Roach's green No. 13 were parked near each other, and Roach had his arm around a slightly stupefied Stuber.
"I kept trying to find a two-car trailer so we could come out here together," the animated Roach says. "I came here last year, too. I enjoy it here."
The two friends are similar in many ways-particularly with racing and fixing cars-but they're also studies in contrasts. Roach, no longer married, pretty much lives racing. It's the first weekend of November, and he says he's run more than 60 races in 2006, mostly in someone else's car. His living depends on his race results. When he needs mad money to tide him over, he heads over to Four Seasons Quik Lube to change oil. Then he's back on the road.
He drives 250 miles one way to a car owner's shop, then he and the team go to that weekend's race.
Stuber, meanwhile, says he raced three nights per week a few years ago, but he has trimmed his schedule to about 15 races at a local track in Independence, Iowa, and makes a few interesting trips, like the one to Charlotte.
"My wife [Sandy] keeps telling me to slow down," Stuber explains.
And apparently he listens.
The Stubers were in no hurry to get to Charlotte. With the races starting on Friday night, they left Iowa with friends Al and Cara Johnson on Wednesday morning and rambled their way east. They visited the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. During the day on Saturday, they went to the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and a few other attractions, although they couldn't go to Nextel Cup race shops. They weren't open on Saturdays.
On Sunday, they went to not-so-far-away Asheville, North Carolina, to see the Biltmore Estate-Cara Johnson said the tourist attraction had already been prepared for Christmas, and they were excited. Then they hit another place or two in the Carolinas before heading home.
A direct trip from Waterloo, Iowa, to Concord would be roughly 1,070 miles. Stuber figures they drove 1,275 miles to Charlotte and planned to cover the same amount of territory on the way home.
"We tell ourselves that if this stops being fun, we'll quit," Stuber says. Photo by Tom Gi
Why make such a taxing trip? Stuber's 50th birthday was imminent, and 2007 will be his 20th season in IMCA Modifieds. Stuber figured that traveling to Charlotte would be a nice thing to do for the big "5-0."
Besides, the Stubers own a truck repair shop in Waterloo-they've had the shop for 22 years-and they can make a trip whenever they want to.
Stuber was asked how much the roundtrip from Iowa to North Carolina would cost.
"I don't know, and I don't want to know," he says, then adds: "It'll cost $1,500 to $2,000. If we win tonight, we'll make $2,000, including a $500 bonus for pre-registration. If we finish in the Top 10 tonight, though, I'll be happy."
Roach drove to North Carolina to spend a few days with his 20-year-old son Tyler, who works as a tire man and fabricator on the No. 1 Craftsman Truck Series team. Tyler Roach lives in the Lake Norman area with two fellow employees for the truck team.
Since Roach didn't spend as much on motels, he said his trip-15 hours and about 930 miles-would cost $1,200 to $1,500, and he needed to finish in the Top 3 in the IMCA final to at least break even.
But the Midwestern drivers weren't worried about money on Friday night. The third heat race was interesting, with Stuber on the pole and Roach starting right behind him.
Afterward, Stuber says he was having a ball.
"We tell ourselves that if this stops being fun, we'll quit," he says.
Stuber says it has always been fun, but it's changed. He used to go racing with his dad, Bob Stuber, and Garry and Sandy's daughters went along, too. But Bob Stuber died in 1995, and daughters Joy, 24, and Molly, 20, no longer join him. Now Al Johnson goes along as Stuber's crew, and their wives join them.
"It's a different fun," Stuber says of going racing without his father and his daughters.
Nothing was easy Friday night during the heat races. Stuber says part of the reason they left Iowa was the weather-50-some degrees in the day, teens at night. It wasn't supposed to be extraordinarily cold in Charlotte Friday night, but it dropped to 30 degrees by 11 o'clock. And it would get colder later in the night.
The racing was hot, though, with lots of wrecks, while the sparse crowd in the 14,164-seat Dirt Track was freezing, as were the drivers and crewmen, although Stuber says it was quite comfortable, in the 70s, in the cars.
Stuber was also worried about the temperature on Saturday. He put tape on the front of his engine to keep air out of it and let it warm up.