With all of the Nascar racing going on at Chicagoland Speedway this week I figured I would give it a shot. So I asked if he would be in town over the weekend and turns out he was. I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised when Ray graciously agreed to meet with me.
I won't lie it was a bit of a stressful day. Logistics! First I had to borrow a car to go to Chicago as my extended cab work truck complete with a pipe rack on the roof doesn't fit in most parking structures. My only car is my Coupe and we all know!! It's still not finished!! So save the comments! (big grin) Luckily one of my Boss's slide me the keys...or should I say FOB for his newer Caddy. I am so old school. I felt like I was piloting the U.S.S. Enterprise. That car has more controls/knobs/switches....and lights and buzzers than any video game I have ever played.
I never figured out the stereo or climate controls but did get to spend some quality time trying to find the most comfortable seat settings as Saturday afternoon traffic on the 290 didn't disappoint and was good for better than an hour of my day on the way into the city.
I figured parking would be fun. No surprise that there were no street parking available so you know what that means......
After driving the concrete corkscrew for five levels I find a space. Whew I finally made it!
Running close to the time of our meeting I found myself wondering around inside a downtown hotel completely lost. With the clock ticking I quickly grab the first hotel staffer I can find and get some directions. Turns out I was on the wrong floor. Good thing was a quick escalator ride would put me to where I needed to be.
As I am riding up the escalator to my destination I begin to feel a bit under dressed.
I was immediately reevaluating what seemed to be such good wardrobe choice just a few short hours before... the black T-shirt emblazoned with a yellow 56 California plate on the front felt just a little out of place in this grand room mixed in with a flood of Suits and Gowns.
I spotted Ray and quickly made my way over. He was texting or dialing someone on his phone so I didn't want to interrupt him so I stopped short to give him his privacy during his call. He glanced up and looked at me and then went back to his phone not knowing who I was. (turns out he was texting me) I stood there for a few moments more and Ray looked up again and it wasn't like I was Waldo I was pretty easy to spot he stood and said you must be Jeff.
We shook hands and grabbed a seat. I said wow nice place! Looking up at the ceiling... Stay here often? Ray said he doesn't come to Chicago much anymore and this was his first time at this hotel. I figured since it was his first stay there that I wouldn't mention that when I was checking the place out online that I had read reports of it being haunted.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to gather info for a story for the site. Gotta keep up with the new owners you know. Meeting a Nascar legend was just an added bonus. So I sit down and wheel out my note pad and two pens (just in case!) Well we ended up talking for over an hour and I never wrote down a word. We ended up talking about racing...(more mine than his) We talked about our Dads. We did get talk about music and American Graffiti...a little before we got swarmed with suits and Ray had to move along to his next commitment.
Before the crowds rushed in Ray did show me some progress pictures of the Impala on his phone. Looks to be done or real close to it. I have never had a chance to see the Impala in person before, but after seeing the job that Ray and Axalta have done and hearing the lengths they have gone to on this car I know I am looking forward to seeing it in the future. The car looks like 1972 again.
Don't worry Impala fans before I lost Ray to a sea of people he did say that he would answer questions and float me some photos of the car for an article later.
So I skip out of the hotel feeling like I stepped through a worm hole in time. It felt like I had just spent five minutes talking to Mr E when it had been a lot longer than that?? Didn't talk about much but we talked the whole time?? Felt more like two old friends just catching up.
After a short walk and an elevator ride I locate the Batmobile right where I left it in slot 572... After I set the turbines to speed I descended down four levels before returning to the concrete corkscrew dumping me of at the dreaded pay box.
Graffiti Alert!!!!! Graffiti Alert!!!!! Graffiti Alert!!!!! Graffiti Alert!!!!!
If you have ever wanted to see the Impala in person Ray and Axalta Coating Systems will unveil it in Axalta’s booth #22391 at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas on November 1-4.