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Woody: Thanks For Memories, Help

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 13 2010

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Their recent passings didn’t get a lot of media attention, so I’d like to try to make up for it a bit.

It’s the least I can do for Judy Tucker, who last week lost a battle with illness, and Marti Rompf, who passed a few weeks before.

I doubt that many NASCAR fans knew Judy or Marti, but it was behind-the-scenes workers like them who helped built the sport. Bill France laid the foundation and drivers supplied the bricks, but people like Judy and Marti were the mortar that held it together.

Over the decades both held a variety of jobs with assorted teams and tracks. Judy generally dealt with the media and she was perfect for the position. If you needed a favor – REALLY needed a favor – you didn’t go to the boss. You went to Judy.

Often the need for such favors arose at the last minute – your sports editor wants a ticket to the sold-out race, which starts in two hours. You call Judy, explain your predicament, and somehow a ticket materializes.

Or you show up at her office in a sheepish panic after losing your press credential the night before at the Boot Hill Saloon. You explain what happened and Judy rolls her eyes (while smiling), and gives you another press pass.

She didn’t lecture you; she just gave you the darn thing.

Same thing with parking passes, which at big races are gold-plated. I once made a rookie mistake by leaving my car unlocked in the motel parking lot with my parking pass stuck on the windshield. When I came out next morning the pass was – naturally – gone.

I went to the media office and told Judy what had happened. She rolled her eyes, smiled, and gave me another parking pass.

Could we have taken advantage of Judy’s generosity and slipped the “lost” credential or parking pass to a racing buddy or new-best-friend bar maid? Sure we could have. But I never did, and neither did anyone I know. To have taken advantage of Judy would have been unthinkable.

Besides, if you REALLY were in a pinch for a pass, there was no need to fib to Judy. She would help you out, quietly, without frown or fuss.

There’s no question that Judy Tucker holds the NASCAR record for the number of media sob stories heard over the years.

Marti Rompf was the same way. She worked with some big-name drivers, but if you needed an interview she’d do her best to make it happen – whether you were with USA Today or the Podunk Times. Marti was one of those old-fashioned PR people who believed her job was to link up drivers with the media, not shield them from it.

Did some of us take advantage of her willingness to help us out? Of course we did; we’d request an interview at the last second, leaving Marti to face the driver’s irritation. But she never complained and she never said no. If you needed something – a quote, an interview, stats – just ask Marti and she’d immediately set to work to get it for you.

I’ll miss Marti and Judy, and the sport will miss them too.

I just hope that when I get to Heaven and discover that somehow I’ve misplaced my credential, Judy and Marti are working the gate.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 13 2010