by Dan Johnson
Kenny Rogers may have put it best when he sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them”.
In the thousands of columns I have written, this will be undoubtedly be one of the toughest. Within the last week or so, I sent my “retirement” letter to Oswego Speedway.
I am one of the lucky ones. Growing up in Oswego, all I ever wanted to do was write about Oswego Speedway. Yeah, I know that’s pretty boring by today’s standards, but that’s 100 percent true.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait until Thursday, so I could spend my allowance and go to Garafalo’s and get the Eagle program, read it cover to cover, especially the Iver the Driver column.
From the Buccaneer Bulletin to the Oswego County Messenger to Auto Rac’r Magazine, those outlets gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet and see if that’s what I really wanted to do. Bill Foley took me under his wing and showed me the do’s and don’ts of race reporting. I always wanted to be like Bill and hoped he approved of how I put to use what he taught me.
My break came in 1990 when Carol Haynes suggested to the Caravan family to take a chance on this unproven guy to write about Oswego Speedway for The Valley News. My first night as a writer was the night we lost AJ Michaels. Talk about baptism by fire. It was game on from there, and the rest, they say, is history.
For over 20 years, twice a week, it was off to the computer to write about the people, machines, and stories from Oswego Speedway.
Even though it started with a typewriter and twice a week trips to Fulton to drop off copy before the days of computers, fax machines and e-mails, I was living the dream, never missing a deadline.
I cant thank the Caravan family nearly enough for the chance they took and the belief they had in a guy that grew up blocks from the racetrack.
Still writing for the Valley News, the next step came about in 1997 when Carol again took a chance and hired me to write for the Eagle program. How cool was that? To receive the chance to write the same column that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on as a kid was unbelievable.
Carol, George, John, and everyone at Speedway Press, and Mitchell’s Speedway Press, thank you so much for letting me live out my dream. Honestly, I couldn’t believe I’ve written for the Eagle for 15 years. That time has flown by.
The next step in the progression came days into the Pat Furlong-Steve Gioia ownership of the speedway, when again, the administration in control took a wild chance.
I still may have the e-mail I received from Steve Pryor asking me to be the infield announcer. Really? Never thought of doing that, but, like I told my kids, take a chance and try things, you never know what may happen.
It was a great ride and had the time of my life with the best seat in the house. Doing the walk through Classic Weekend was both terrifying and satisfying. I can’t tell you how cool it is when the drivers, buckled up in their cars minutes before the start of their biggest race of the year, either give me a smile and the thumbs up or try to mess me up and get me to laugh. That journey every year was priceless.
Everyone knows the drivers at Oswego and all the fans have their favorites. All the drivers there are my favorites. They are an incredible bunch to work with, and to a man, they went out of their way to help me.
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