return to Michigan International Speedway
Spud was sitting down in front of the TV
one Saturday evening watching a show on racing. The show's commentator
announced that the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)
President and CEO Bill France, was stepping down from his senior position
at the head of the organization. France had banned the potato from competing
back in 2000 when the side dish spanked the
series regulars in his Ferrary Tuberossa. With this sudden turn of events,
the potato flew down to NASCAR's headquarters to lobby the sanctioning
body to reinstate him as an active driver.
With France no longer the key decision
maker, the board would decide Spud's future. Armed with a pound of butter,
the potato was all prepared to 'grease a few palms' if thats what it
took to convince the board members. Fortunately, he avoided a potentially
slippery situation and the the board unanimously agreed to lift the
ban under the provision that Spud could only compete in a car prepared
by one of the regular series competitors. The tater would also be prevented
from carrying any bacon bits, chives or diced onions that may result
in 'debris' on the track.
Upon hearing the news, Spud's
phone began to ring off the hook with offers from many of the series'
top race teams trying to persuade the tater to drive one of their cars.
One particular call came from Bill Davis owner of the #22 Caterpillar
car that won the Daytona 500 in 2002. Davis' regular driver, Ward Burton,
was going into the hospital to have surgery on his lips. Apparently
Burton suffered from a speech impediment whereby he was unable to move
his lips when he spoke. Knowing how fast Davis' cars were on the track,
the potato agreed to get behind the wheel for a race back at the Michigan
International Speedway (MIS).
The potato showed up at MIS
ready to do battle. The 42 other drivers had heard about the return
of the carbohydrate and mobbed the side dish when he emerged from Davis'
hauler, clamouring for an autograph. Spud happily obliged each request
before going to his car and strapping himself in.
As the green flag dropped, signalling the
start of the 400 mile race, the other 42 competitors swarmed around
the potato. Although the Caterpillar car was certainly fast, it paled
in comparison to the power of his Ferrari, and thus he was unable to
pull away from the crowd. Spud soon realized he would certainly have
his work cut out for him this time around.
Midway through the event, Spud was still
mired in the middle of the pack; fighting an ill-handling race car.
The tater was not used to running so poorly and decided to head into
the pits for a new set of tires and to invoke
While his crew turned
in a blistering fast 2-tire change, the potato pulled a sheet of aluminum
foil from his rear compartment and lined it in his rear window. The
tater then roared out of the pits and back onto the track.
Spud got back up to speed, the leaders were just becoming visible in
his rear view mirror; trying to put the tato a lap down. The potato
dove down into turn 3 where the sun was shining and the tin foil began
to glow like a welder's flash right into the eyes of the lead cars.
Blinded by the sun's reflection, the drivers lost control of their cars
and spun into the infield grass bouncing off each other along the way.
With the lead cars
now reduced to sputtering masses of metal, Spud easily cruised to victory.
were suspicious of the potato's come from behind win and demanded an
immediate post race inspection of the car.
The inspectors put
the template on the #22 and began measuring tolerances. Director of
Competition Gary Nelson found that Spud's roof height was 2" too
high, making the car fail post race inspection and disqualifying the
Shocked with disbelief,
the crew began arguing with officials. Undaunted, Spud jumped back behind
the wheel and then roared back onto the track to performing
his signature burnout - smoking all the remaining rubber off his rear
then roared into the winner's circle lane where he jumped onto the roof
of his race car and raised his arm to salute the cheering capacity crowd
The tater then demanded
that the car be rechecked by inspectors. As luck would have it, the
roof height was now 2 1/2" lower - well within tolerance. Spud's
victory would stand!