Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Unsung Story of Car #44 At The 2009 PPIHC

As far back as I can remember my favorite race car number was always 44. And history will show that the number 44 has always been the number of champions whether it was racing, football, basketball or what have you. It was that fascination with the number 44 that led to it being my official number from my earliest go cart racing days and on up through my years as a road racer. As a matter of fact, the only car that I didn't have the official number 44 on was Lucky during the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana simply because they required a three-digit number. Since then it has become somewhat of a family tradition for the number 44 to grace the side of our cars and even my son Will has used it for years starting with his carting days the same as it had for me.

When I filled out my application for this years Pikes Peak International Hill Climb there was a line where they asked your preference for three car numbers. Naturally I requested the number 44, then 44x and last 444. It didn't take long for the phone to ring asking me what my next choice would be as the number 44 had been requested by so many other applicants. Lucky for me that when I made my plea the wonderful lady was eager to listen but it seems the difficulty was not going to be her. The real problem resulted from last years fiascoes in that the race director had trouble identifying some cars during race day. For years PPIHC had allowed the same number to be used if it was in different run groups. For example.. if someone in the vintage class had the number 95, then it would be ok for someone else in a different class to use the number 95 also which is the norm in many racing events where different classes run. But the strict rules from this years race director is that no two cars can have a given number regardless of what class they are running in.

That said... My plea was just one of many added to a long list of applicants all asking for the number 44 and like everyone else I would just have to wait and see who the lucky individual would be. I suppose it's more akin to the PPIHC lottery than anything else. Besides, for me it was personal.

Just a few days before I had to make my gut-wrenching decision to call off this years adventure to PPIHC the phone rang... It was the lady from the head office calling to say, "Gary, I have some wonderful news for you... You got number 44!" It was such a happy moment for me and the wonderful lady really made my day as she shared my exuberance. Call me crazy but it was just as exciting for me as the race would have been. The truth is it's a phone call I will never forget and just knowing that the number 44 officially belongs to Lucky and I for the 2009 PPIHC makes me proud even though not a single sole will ever know.

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