Thomasville, NC(May 5, 2009) — Last year I was given my own little piece of space here at Race22 called “Corey’s Corner”. I was able to ramble about things on my mind, and pretty much what ever else popped into my twisted head. Well, I’m going to bring it back here in 2009, but with a slight twist. Every couple of weeks we are going to put the spotlight on people outside of the drivers seat that make this sport we love go round and round. And of course I’ll have my own say throughout the year about what ticks me off or what everybody else is scared to say.
This week I have a story on a friend I met named “Wahoo”. And no, he has never wrestled Ric Flair, even though he looks like he could hold his own against him. I was recently invited to participate in the “Hauler Parade” at Rockingham Speedway for the big rigs that haul the the ARCA cars to the track. As I gathered amongst the other media situated outside the track, some knew the truck drivers and were speaking their name freely. We jumped in one of the ARCA series trucks and made our way up the line. One of the guys with us was a local radio personality, and I heard him say the name “Wahoo” a time or two. He wasn’t in our group, and when we came to Wahoo’s truck I gladly took my seat along side. Let the ride begin.
Wahoo Sampson was my driver, and he drives a rig for Eddie Sharp Racing. This truck happens to haul the car of local Legend car standout Craig Goess, Jr. and rivals the haulers of the competitors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. For those that don’t know, Eddie Sharp is the king of “development” in the ARCA series, and with over 40 cars in his racing shop, he takes every part of his racing very seriously.
We get going down the road, and instantly I can see this is going to be interesting. Wahoo is an intimidating looking fellow, shaved head and built like a linebacker, not the type of guy your going to walk up and pick a fight with. But the more we talked, the more you could see it, he’s an average guy like you or me who loves racing, and driving for Mr. Sharp.
Wahoo resides in Catawba N.C., but has ties to the Rockingham area. I myself had grew up around Rockingham Speedway, attending events from 1983 till now, I thought I had heard every story there was, I thought wrong. Wahoo had a good one, “I grew up just a few miles away from here, and we used to ride our dirt bikes through the trails and come over to the track. Back in the day, you could run you personal car around the track for $5, they didn’t care how fast you went. That lasted for a while, of course until somebody got hurt. But it was wild to watch regular cars fly around there at all different speeds”.
Wahoo has been with Eddie Sharp racing for about 9 months, but it isn’t his first time driving a rig for a racing team. Previous to this year, he was a driver for 3 years for Dale Earnhardt Inc., but as we all saw at the end of last year, many layoff’s were happening in NASCAR, unfortunately Mr.. Sampson was one of those. But he has found a home at ESR, and he does a lot more than drive the truck.
Sampson is also the gas man on Goess’ pit crew, but the biggest thing to me was…..he’s the cook for the team’s. Notice I said “team’s” as in more than one. Cooking for a race team has to be demanding, usually you’ve got 7-9 people on a team. But at Eddie Sharp Racing, he’s got 4 teams to contend with. So Wahoo gets to drive the truck, help set up when they get there, help with the car, be the gasman during the race, and cook for about 50 people during the weekend. And he even had enough to feed me numerous times throughout the weekend, I’m telling you this guy knows how to get it done.
He has been preped well before he got into the business he is in now. He is a total team player, and he learned those skills from serving our country all over the world, with 8 years in the US Marine Corps. With the Marine training, a strong family with a wife and two children at home, and the close knit family at ESR, Wahoo is happy with life. “Eddie Sharp has the best equipment, keeps his things in top-notch order, and he expects the same from his employees. I’m happy where I’m at right now”. said Sampson.
Sampson also talked about the camaraderie within the big rig drivers of the ARCA series. “I have to see these guys all the time, so we get along great. You never know when you might need something, and It’s good to have these guys around to help, It’s one big family”, said Sampson. And by the laughing and name calling on the CB during the ride, I could tell what he was talking about.
As we rode and shot the bull some more, the trip was finally over. We pulled into the track and the ARCA officials told us where to park. We pulled in really tight beside the 9-time champion Frank Kimmel, but it was not tight enough. The official wanted the whole rig over another 2 inches. Wahoo yelled out the window “Let me drive this thing, I’m trying”, as the official told him what he THOUGHT was best. All in fun.
The weekend wore on and I ran into Wahoo many times between me running between the UARA and ARCA garages. And most of the time he was offering me something to eat, a t-shirt, something. Most of the time I was between stories but did get a chance to chat a few times more. Before the weekend was over, we did get to see him smile for the cameras once more.
Saturday’s UARA race was won by Corey Lajoie, but not in his car. Corey totaled his car a month earlier testing, and had to get a car for the race. Lajoie drove to victory lane after the UARA race and on the side of the car was…..Eddie Sharp Racing. Wahoo was in victory lane posing with the winner. He wasn’t as lucky on Sunday but that day is coming very soon with Craig Goess. Until then they know their equipment is in good hands, and they’ll be fed, and the truck will be spotless, unloaded at the track, back at the shop, gas put in the car, testing, etc, etc.
Wahoo you da’ man, see you soon.