Taking lemons …
ORLANDO -- Too wet to go out or run cars in that pall. So he sat in the tower, did nothing at all.
With apologies to Dr. Seuss and The Cat in the Hat, that was Carl Weisinger's lot Sunday at the World Street Nationals.
This was Race Day -- his biggest weekend of the year, with most of the East Coast elite Super Pro Street and Outlaw 10.5 guns, as well as some of the most savvy Heavy Street and Drag Radial drivers, waiting to carve their names into his Orlando Speed World Dragway lore. And the day before, he had packed the place with the largest crowd in the history of the facility.
But he didn't panic. Besides, Weisinger isn't one to sit around during a rain delay and watch dollars swirl down the drain. This was an excellent time to take care of business he hadn't had a free second to address before. As the showers came down after a few pairsof Super Pro Street racers made their runs, umbrellas popped up in the grandstands. So did a deliciously devilish idea in the racetrack owner-promoter's mind.
He summoned public-address announcer Patrick Budd and asked him to page a certain young lad from New Jersey to report to the tower. When the fellow arrived, Weisinger used the down-time on the track to ask him a question that had been nagging him.
"Why have you been on the Internet, trash-talking me?" Weisinger asked him, turning on his self-described ol'-Arkansas-boy charm. "I really don't know you, haven't met you before. Would you tell me just what I did to you that would make you write those awful things about me on the Internet all the time?"
Busted in front of a room full of reporters and photographers, many of whom were aware of the cowardly posts on a particular Website of questionable repute, the young man grinned nervously and said, "I don't know." (Curious thing about Internet forums -- people aren't so tough without a computer and a cloak of secrecy.)
Weisinger tried to ease the kid's guilt, telling him that he hadn't stewed about it for too long. "I've known about it only since September," Weisinger said. "I didn't know it had been going on for two years." The keyboard jockey had no defense.
But oh, no. Weisinger had more. He's way too smart to leave the conversation that way. He handed the young man something besides a dressing-down and a valuable lesson. He handed him a paper ticket, the kind that entitles a person to something at such an event.
"Now, I want you to take this ticket and go downstairs. See that tent over there? The one with the blue top? There's a lady in there, cooking for us. And she has all sorts of good stuff in there -- pork chops and chicken. You like collard greens? It's sort of a Southern thing. We have beans. You eat beans, right? That's kind of a Yankee thing. Go down there and get you something to eat, get a nice plate of food, and enjoy the race. We want you to have a good time here."
That's why Weisinger has succeeded in hosting the World Street Nationals for 16 years. He has survived storm and stupidity to put on the longest-running heads-up doorslammer race in the country, the one considered the "granddaddy" of open outlaw events.
For only the second time in 16 years, the World Street Nationals finished on a Monday, and this was the second straight year that rain significantly affected with the schedule. Last year's winners were decided by on-track performance.