It's a question we all get asked a lot. No matter where we are, no matter what race we are covering, whenever the topic of the website comes up, somebody asks, "What does the 51 stand for?" I've told the story many times. And then one day, somebody told me, "You know, you should do a "Bump & Grind" story on that. So here it is! Today you'll finally know why I chose the number 51!
The answer is simply, my Dad (Bob Sr.)! Huh, you ask? Well, the number 51 was my Dad's racecar number. He was one of those nutty Figure-8 racers back on Long Island (NY) at Islip Speedway. He was seen once on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" when the network showed portions of the World Championship Figure-8 race from my old hometrack. In fact, my Dad still has a torn banner commemorating that race in the back of his garage at the same house I grew up in.
A perfect example of that was his racing. When I was young, maybe three or four, Dad gave up racing. He had drag raced for several years and then competed in the Figure-8's for a couple more. But why? To spend more time with his family, that's why. Instead of forgetting about racing though, he took us each and every Saturday night to Islip Speedway to see drivers like Charlie Jarzombek, Fred Harbach, Jim Hendrickson, Greg Sacks and Gary Winters do battle. I think I was a fan club member of every one of those guys.
Later on, after I had begun writing for Area Auto Racing News when I was 15 and then Speedway Scene after that, Dad and Mom spent numerous hours and a good chunk of their hard earned cash taking me to racetracks all across
Dad built this go-kart in the '70's too!
the northeast and east coast to cover the Modifieds (Featherlite Modified Series). Even after I started the TV business, he still sacrificed his weekends just to haul a golf cart to a racetrack so that my company's production crew and I didn't have to carry all the equipment wherever we went at the track. He always tried to make things easier, although I think he liked coming along with us. We definitely had a good time!
And just like all heroes he is indestructible. Dad gave us a scare several years ago when he fell 30 feet out of a tree while trying to take it down on a customer's property. We are all lucky he survived.
To this day, he still tries to help in any way he can. Although he is still in NY and I live in NC, I still call him for advice on anything and everything. He is always there to help!
A couple of years ago I got the chance to interview Dale Earnhardt after he won his first and only Daytona 500 in his 20th year of trying. I was so thrilled to interview Dale because, while I was a kid, he was one of my heroes. I called Dad and Mom to thank them that day for helping me get to that point in my career. But while I had interviewed a childhood hero, I was thanking my real one.
Why write this story right now, you ask? Well, this January Dad is celebrating his 58th birthday. I don't know if he realizes why I've worn the 51 all my life or why the website had the number 51 in its title, but hopefully this explains things a little bit. So if you see my Dad at the track this coming year, "Say Hi," and at the same time remember, he's the 51-guy!
Dad and I at Lime Rock Park (CT) in the early '90's. Look, I'm wearing a #3 Earnhardt hat.
I was too young to remember my Dad racing his green and yellow number 51 around the racetrack at Islip, but I've seen the pictures, and I'm very proud to say that my Dad was a "racer." He wasn't the best out there, but he gave it his all and I still love hearing all the old stories from, as he puts it, "the good 'ol days." He didn't buy a chassis from one of the builders like there are today. He and my Uncle John built the car from ground up. In fact, if you look closely at the picture of his racecar, the nerf-bar that is over the numbers on the door panel is actually an iron post from a stop sign. Now Dad never said where he got the stop sign post from, but that's OK, he's my Dad, right?
Dad's Early '70's Figure-8 car.
The point is, to me, 51 is my Dad. Everything I have ever done, any sport I have ever played and any racecar in which I have had my choice in number has been 51. I still play both football and baseball and in both sports I still where the number 51. When I started my
own business, I decided to use the number 51 hence 51Sports!
That's why when I thought about doing a Short Track website, I knew 51 had to be a part of it.
The bottom line is, my Dad is my hero. Dad has worked hard to get everything he has. He was an electrician but couldn't get into the union because of the politically correct game that
was being born at that time. So, to put food on the table for his
family, he started his own business. From painting, to roofing, to landscaping, Dad has done it all for his family. He always put us first. And now he has a successful roofing business on LI (and he still works all by himself).
That's Dad (just below th Winston sign) with my brother (Matthew), myself and the LI Trackside TV crew! That's the golf cart he hauled around.