Saturday, May 23, 2015

I did that to a Nascar driver?

Jersey is not just a state of mind, it's a way of driving. When you are Jersey, you never know -- and maybe don't care -- who you wind up angering on the road.

Unless, of course, someone pulls up alongside of you on the highway with a grin on his face and you realize the guy in the pickup truck you just rudely tailgated is a Nascar driver.


James Marvin Phelps / Foter / CC BY-NC
It was back in the fall and I had just finished attending a press conference at the Nascar Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte, where drivers in the Sprint Cup postseason playoff had met with the media to discuss the dynamics of the next round. I was headed home on I-77, a highway that is miserable to drive under the best conditions -- too much traffic, not enough lanes. And it's guaranteed to be a slow haul anytime it's close to rush hour, as it was that afternoon.

The only way to get through it was to be aggressive. Be Jersey.

So after entering the highway and quickly maneuvering into the left lane, I found myself behind an older Chevy pickup truck that was going a tad too slow for my liking. I edged to my left to see that the truck was not the problem; there was a slower car ahead. First chance we got, we both moved into the middle lane to pass the ass on the left.

I fully expected the truck to move back into the left lane right away, but it didn't. Instead, it stayed in the middle lane and I was boxed in just long enough for my eyes to narrow and the blood pressure to rise. Maybe two or three seconds.

Anyway, the truck finally pulled just far enough ahead to give me a tiny opening. And of course, I took it. I pulled my little Honda Fit up almost to the truck's bumper. If I was a bit too close, I rationalized that it was his fault because he should have moved back over to the left already.

So the moment I cleared the car on the left, I jerked the wheel and accelerated, zipping back into the left lane and speeding away. I left the slowpoke and the pickup truck far behind -- one small battle won.

Or so I thought. I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed the truck suddenly hauling to catch up to me. It quickly pulled up next to my car on the right. I glanced over and the driver was looking down at me and smiling.

I just did that to Ryan Newman?

I had no idea it was Newman in that pickup truck. The next time I saw him, I made sure to apologize.

He laughed. But really, what was he going to say? It's not like I came out of nowhere and put him into a wall or something.