Back in the mid 60’s when I was a young teenager going to the races at Hollywood Speedway there was this old character who ambled through the stands and the pits as the night evolved. He was short, stocky, hard to tell his age, when your 14 everyone else usually looks either very old or very young. I do remember he was wizened, and had the ambling, bow legged gait of an old seaman with a hip injury. He wore a this battered old black beret cap, had a grimy old canvass change purse around his waist…..and under his arm he carried a stack of National Speed Sport News. As he ambled around, this booming voice would cry out; ” HEEEEEYYYYY…SPEEEEEEDDDD… SPOOOORT… NEEEE WWWSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!” I would make sure I got my copy each and every week. When Hollywood closed he came down to Hialeah Speedway and continued there. Same voice, same paper. You could always tell when he made his pass through the pits, everyone would then be reading about who did what and where. I could never bring myself to get a subscription to Chris’s great paper, because I felt I would be cheating the old man out of the 50 cents he would collect from me every week. One night, of course, the old guy did not show up, the paper sales were subsequently turned over to a stand. That was my green light, shortly after that I then got my first subscription to Speed Sport News, and automatically renewed it year in and year out. As I could never bring myself to throw a racing paper or magazine for that matter, away; boxes of them have accumulated over the decades since. If not for Speed Sport News, there would have been no memorylaneracing.com Because it was while going through some old, yellowed stacks of Chris Economaki’s weekly bible we all have read and loved and tripping down memory lane that gave me the inspiration to cobble photo’s, bits and pieces, etc from articles, headlines, adds, together with other assorted literature to tell some history of the sport in a visual, decorative manner. A solid year of work later and viola, five racing posters were born. Wondeful, now what could I do with them? I wrote a letter to the Economaki’s and sent them a full set of the posters, and asked if it was ok if I were to sell them. The letter I got back from Corrine telling me how wonderful they were, how much everyone enjoyed them, and giving me full permission to market them is a treasured memento.
Of course that was after they had been consigned to the ages, so to speak. After the weekly acquisition, there was the matter of information and news to absorb. As a avid reader, during the following week I would consume the entire paper. It would move from my nightstand to the back of the commode, joining past issues and assorted racing magazines. I would read virtually every race result, learning about drivers and tracks I would never have known about otherwise. I would look at wonderment at oncoming races being advertised at exotic racetracks far away, along with the purse breakdown. Pore through the classifieds and day dream about the NESMRA Supermodfied for sale for 2,000 dollars, or the track champion late model for 1,500 or maybe the 4 year old Indy car for 10 grand race ready, I could hit the big time, now where could I lay my hands on that 10 grand? And usually in a chunk or two, I always read every word of “From the Editor’s Notebook.” A great deal of the way I view the sport today I owe to Chris Economaki and his wonderful paper.
But I feel very, very bad about something. And I think many of us have been guilty of what I am about to say, they just are not admitting it. Unlike them, I am going to Man up about it. You see, I am one of those who succumbed to the lure of the paperless internet. I let my subscription to NSSN lapse, and get most of my racing news the same place most do nowadays, on the great information superhighway. I find it amusing that all of a sudden, everyone is posting, on the internet of course, about how they have all been faithful subscribers to Speed Sport News since kindergarten. Right. Sure you have. Just like how everyone in S Florida supported Hialeah Speedway. LOL..that’s an internet expression…Btw. The night they ran their last race, you could not get into the place. Cars out onto Okeechobee Road, standing room only, everyone wailing about how they had been coming here since the days of Red Farmer, how they always supported the track, and how could this have happened? Three weeks earlier there were 50 people in the stands, if that. I’m sure that Chris and Corrine will sell a ton of the last issue of NSSN, how many copies of the one printed 3 weeks ago do you think they sold?
We assume things will last forever, the things that we love and care about anyway. But like love itself, they cannot last without being supported and cared for. Buying the last issue of a paper going out of business, like going to the last race at a closing racetrack is not what is going to save the things we care deeply about. I know that my one, lonely subscription was not what made, or broke Chris and Corrine’s lifelong work . No, mine was just one, thin, strand; one thread of a rope…that gradually lost one strand after another and finally could not hang on any longer. Like newspapers across the land, one either joins the digital revolution or is trampled by it. Maybe someone in the racing community with deep pockets will come along and rescue things, and what does that say about the community? That our greatest paper needs charity to survive?
I have to say that this event triggered a small one around this homestead. I subscribe to three car magazines; Car and Driver, Road and track, and Autoweek. Its no secret, money is tight right now. And I have really been thinking about dropping Road and Track, in fact I have been known to have let my subscription lapse before. I had just gotten the absolute last “final notice” this past week, and just after that I got the shock of the demise of Speed Sport News. That galvanized me into action, and I sent my subscription and check to R&T the very next day….Like I could have done a few years ago with NSSN. Now its different. I already have the loss of one cherished paper on my conscience, and I will not have another one.