A few weeks ago, our partners BFGoodrich called me on the phone and asked if I would be willing to go to the Mint 400 in Las Vegas to help with some content and coverage. I told them I would have to think about it and would get back to them in the coming weeks when I got a chance.
In reality, the echoing hiss of my “s” at the tail end of my yes was already fading over the phone before they finished the question or even told me entirely what I would be doing. I was told of the wonderful opportunities I would have to meet and talk with racers like Rob MacCachren, the ability to go wherever I wanted with full media access, the chance to ride in a kickass trophy truck, check out Bryce Menzies’ garage and steal the Red Bulls from his fridge (not to mention the tires from his warehouse) and on and on. I would get to bring my sons out to see the races firsthand and to touch trucks with enough power to tear my house down.
The boys probably would have liked to see that as well.
After arriving in Las Vegas on the short flight from San Diego, it was a whirlwind of driving from here to there, running all over the Fremont Street area and the Golden Nugget, jumping in and out of trophy trucks, and filming down the Vegas Strip in front of a procession of 130 vehicles normally not legally capable of even driving on pavement. Chelsea and the boys met up with me the next day and we quickly headed off to the time trials to see the races and trucks show what they were made of.
Throughout the whole series of events, I had an opportunity to speak with two men who – on the surface and from a distance – couldn’t have seemed more different. Both in their late 40s or early 50s were intrinsically involved in the realm of BFGoodrich. And both were just as fascinating.
The first was Rob MacCachren. Just before the procession of racers made their way into the heart of Las Vegas I met up with him in the staging area. A repeat champion of more races than I’d ever even seen, I’d expected him to be distant and unrelatable, merely waiting for the ‘shoulder to shoulder selfie’ to be done with. However, just after being introduced, Rob began speaking as though we were about to sit down have dinner together and his schedule was clear. I learned that his father, like mine, worked in the construction field and supported him through the beginning of his career. He talked about what motivated him and how, after more than twenty years racing, he still loved what he did. Now, having had a chance to speak with him before the race, it was pretty nice to see that he won the whole thing in the end.
The next day, while standing in the valet queue of our hotel waiting to head off to Bryce Menzies’ garage, a quiet man stood waiting with coffee in-hand. A red BFGoodrich cap comfortably set on his head, BFG Racing jacket, light denim jeans and jogging shoes. He was the embodiment of a working man on his day off. Much like my father on the weekends, it was his time to be comfortable.
I said hello and we struck up a conversation. I soon found his name was Tommy Colvin and he was from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As we spoke, still waiting for his ride to come, I learned the remarkable fact that he knew my tires before I did. Not because he had seen the preproduction models or engineering designs. As he slowly slid his hands over my tread, peering deep into my wheel well I heard him say, “Yep…these are ours.” He literally was responsible for making my tires.
He told me how his plant was tasked with the larger size tires as they actually take more effort to make. I was fascinated to learn that they weren’t made in some sort of push-button injection mold machine. A man – this man – used his own hands and skill to make my tires. Through the hundreds of thousands of miles I had put on all three of my BFGoodrich equipped trucks, he literally had a hand in what kept me on the road…and off.
In all this, I realized something. Not everything in America had been lost to automation and instant gratification. There were still people, craftsmen and competitors, who went to work every day and had a personal goal of making what they did great and worked to make to do the best at what they did. I found the salt of the earth spirit in a man I had never heard of and a man famed for driving faster than anyone else. I found that no matter how far I’ve driven, I was still connected to a quiet man I had only met once from Tuscaloosa, and a racing champion from Las Vegas.
All through my BFGoodrich tires.