Monday, January 14, 2008
Home, home on the range
If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, when it comes to racing we run into some of the most interesting characters. One of the teams I really enjoyed being around was car #385 a Ford Falcon driven by C.J. "Chip" Johns and co-piloto Dee Grisamore. Long before I ever met Chip I felt as if I knew him since his reputation seems to easily proceed him. Some of the stories I heard about Chip and his little lady had to do with the weekend he invited everyone down to his "spread" in New Mexico just prior to everyone heading off into the sunset to run the Chihuahua last year. If you like a western atmosphere as much as I do you are going to just love Chip's place.
Chip and his car have ran numerous times in the La Carrera as well as various other races and when it comes to pushing the envelope Chip knows how to get-er done as they say in the south and it showed in the final results when he finished in second place in the Exhibition class. Like the others that ran in 2007, those Falcons are really popular and they are a real pleasure to hear and watch as they tend to squat and plant themselves around a tight corner and then roar off as if they were about to blast off.
The # 385 Falcon is colorful but not as colorful as Chip himself. Chip is a good ole boy who not only wears a beard and white cowboy hat but in fact he looks and sounds the part to boot. One second he will race your tail off and if you don't want to end up in a ditch wearing some cactus then you better damn well learn how to drive or pull over cause he is going to pass you. On the other hand, if he sees you in need of anything whether it be a wrench or a hand fixing something he is the first to offer it up in the true La Carrera Spirit. One day as we pulled into the beautiful square of Puebla there was literally thousands of excited fans as far as you could see. Having had a great day on the various speed sections Jon and I were feeling pretty damn good about things.
Every single team had been signing autographs, handing out hero cards and posing for photographs as fast as we could when all of a sudden I looked over and saw Chip. There stood Chip still in his driving suit, wearing his ten gallon Stetson and having a beer. But what really cracked me up was him standing there not in a pair of driving shoes but rather in a pair of custom made cowboy boots, one firmly on the ground and the other on a young Mexican boy's shoe-shine stand getting polished. I'm telling you, those good ole boys really take their boots seriously. No amount of fans, photos, dinner or driver's meeting was going to get in the way of those boots looking good. Speaking of boots, I have kicked myself in the butt a bunch of times for not taking a picture of that.
One of the reasons I was thinking about Chip today is because I got word from him that he had a run in with some livestock. In Chip's own words, "As you may or may not have heard I got stomped by several of my darling cows a week ago Friday. Broke the damn leg in 4 or 5 places crushed the knee cap etc. Am having some reasonably serious surgery tomorrow morning and expect to be in the hospital until wed or so. Then "only three months" on crutch's. This scratching a living from the belly of the Lord is not all that it`s cracked up to be. Please send my regards to all and I will be in touch once I am out of the hospital and back on my wheelchair."
I remember the morning after it was all over at our hotel as teams began loading up trailers for the final return back across the border. As I was having breakfast in the hotel I ran into Chip's group having a bite to eat. When I walked over to say what I thought would be a quick good-bye I was greeted with a handshake and pulled into a chair to join them by Chip himself. Here we were trying to hit the road and get back to California and yet Chip was insisting we find time to "Come on by the ranch. Besides, it's on yer way home anyway." Chip and company are the type of great people who don't forget who their friends are and they never stop reaching out a hand of true hospitality. Please join California's Best in wishing Chip a speedy recovery God help them cows if they damaged his cowboy boots. If you get a chance and want to send Chip a get well note just post them here or email me at email@example.com and I'll see he gets it.