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Minter: It Was a Madhouse Out There

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 6 2010
Rick Crawford was back in truck – and media room – on Saturday. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Rick Crawford was back in truck – and media room – on Saturday. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Hampton, Ga. – There are always a few images that stick with you after a weekend at the races.

One that is enduring from Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway is of Modified driver Tim Brown walking back and forth from the makeshift Modified pits behind Turn One to the Sprint Cup garage on the Turn Four side of the homestretch.

Fans pointed to Brown, asked for his autograph and wanted their picture made with him. It was a scene usually reserved for Cup drivers, but Brown has become famous for his participation in the “Madhouse” series on the History Channel. The show documents weekly racing at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, N.C., and Brown is one the drivers the show focuses on.

And just in case viewers get the idea that the action on “Madhouse” is contrived for the cameras, the 150-lap Modified race on the quarter-mile Legends track ought to dispel that.

Brown and young Corey Lajoie, the son of veteran NASCAR racer Randy Lajoie, beat and banged on each other over the final 10 or 15 laps before Lajoie edged Brown by a half-car length to take the win.

They even kept on banging for another lap before tempers cooled.

Afterward, in the media room, it was a far different scene from the usual post-race interviews, where drivers try to convince the press that they’re pleased as punch to run second or third.

Brown, on the other hand, showed the kind of emotion that makes people want to go out and buy tickets for races.

He opened his remarks by saying he wasn’t a bit happy and admitting that he was a sore loser.

“I definitely don’t think the best car won the race,” he said.

And once Brown finished his opening remarks, third-finishing Frank Fleming weighed in, saying he thought his car was the best, but that he waited too late to make a charge.

And Lajoie was fun to listen to as well.

“The last 10 laps were longer than the first 140,” LaJoie said. “I can’t say [Brown] raced me clean, but that’s Modified racing.”

Brown later said that History Channel viewers need not worry that they’re watching a fictionalized account of racing at the Stadium.

“It’s realistic,” Brown said. “That place really is a Madhouse.”

Snack  time: Marcos Ambrose’s regular rounds in the media center continue to be a much-appreciated gesture. It has become customary for the Australian Cup driver to come into the circuit’s media centers himself and pass out samples of his sponsors’ products.

On Saturday, he was bearing Tom’s crackers and Nacho Rings and making small talk with the reporters at their desks.

It makes one tend to pay a lot more attention to the No. 47 Lance/Tom’s-sponsored Toyota and its ever-smiling driver.

Crawford checks in: Another driver who made an unsolicited trip to the press room was Camping World Truck Series driver Rick Crawford.

He wasn’t looking for a story to be written about him. He just wanted to check in, to reminisce about the old days when he was racing Late Models around the Southeast, and to talk about his truck and his prospects for today’s race.

He talked about the common struggles faced by upstart racing websites, freelance writers and independent race teams. He showed an understanding of this side of the sport that few on the Cup side will ever comprehend.

Even if he never starts a Cup race, as once longed to do, he’ll always be a hero. Too bad there aren’t more like him.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 6 2010
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