Ernie Irvan in Jacksonville

On Friday evening, January 31st, I had the pleasant opportunity to meet and photograph Ernie Irvan at our local teams' hockey game. In the annual NASCAR drivers promotion, Ernie was the guest of honor this year. Working as the teams' ...

On Friday evening, January 31st, I had the pleasant opportunity to meet and photograph Ernie Irvan at our local teams' hockey game. In the annual NASCAR drivers promotion, Ernie was the guest of honor this year.

Working as the teams' photographer, I get the pleasure of meeting some of my favorites each year as the team brings in a NASCAR driver as part of pre-race activities. As always, I put in my dibs for an autograph and some photos, as racing is my first love and hockey is there in the sidelines.

To my surprise, Ernie was a rather small framed man and about my height of 5' 9", if that. He seemed pleasant and low-key as he signed the articles I had brought in. I told him that all I did was, "rubber", and he smiled and said, "but this is a hockey game". I preceded to tell him that yes, it was, and hockey pucks are rubber, so all I do is Goodyear Eagles and hockey pucks. After joking around for awhile, and getting a photo or two of myself with him, they proceeded to escort him to the front of the building where the mass mob awaited him, cheering and hollering. As he walked away, he turned and said to me, "good luck with the rubber", and I said back, "good luck with yours."

I went up front to photograph the autograph session, and I always like to hang around and watch a driver during a session to get an idea of how they are with the public. I firmly believe that the fans will "make you or break you" but I sure wouldn't want to be in their position of having to sign articles for the masses on a consistent basis. In talking with him and watching him joke around, posing, and signing, a person could tell that he truly was a different person since the accident. Slower in his speech and movement. I'm so impressed that this man has been through so much, seen the grim reaper, so to speak, and STILL wants to drive.

He signed jackets, shirts, books, calendars, you name it, his pen touched it. They issued tickets for 600 signings, and time allowed for him to sign more. I sure wouldn't want to do that 3 or 4 times a week.

Between 2nd and 3rd periods, Ernie came out onto the ice and tried his hand at racing a fan with radio-controlled cars. Of course the cars used were the #28 and #88. It was fun to watch him with this car, he was so intense. His mind was on that little race car, and needless to say, he won both heats.

So another year goes by, and another driver comes through, and it sure is fun to meet them and see alittle of what they are like.

By the way, we won the hockey game and standing in the sidelines was Rick Hendrick. Why he was there I don't know.

Terry

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ernie Irvan