BEYOND THE PAGE: My memorable first evening at New Paris Speedway

I spent only four hours at the New Paris Speedway Saturday night, but it was one of the biggest whirlwind evenings of my time at The Goshen News.

I have never claimed to be the brightest crayon in the box; not many of us are anyway to begin with. But even I was amazed by my own level of mindlessness between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Here’s a brief recap of my first trip to the New Paris Speedway.

5:30 p.m. — A FIRST FOR EVERYTHING

Racing isn’t one of my favorite sports in the world, but I was still excited to head down to the speedway. This was the first time I had been to any of the race tracks in the area. I didn’t really head to the track looking for one specific story. I was hoping one would fall into my lap, for lack of a better term.

I parked my car and decided I needed to put some sunscreen on given it was 78 degrees and sunny. I put my keys into the camera bag I had, opened my door up, instinctively locked and closed the door and started spraying the sunscreen on my arms and neck.

Only one problem: the camera bag with my keys was sitting on the passenger seat, and all of my other doors were locked.

For the first time in my life, I locked my keys inside my car.

I walked toward the track and asked if an announcement could be made to see if anyone in attendance had a way of opening my door. A gentleman by the name of Mike tried, but couldn’t.

Fortunately, I have roadside assistance on my insurance policy. I was able to call a tow truck company and they were able to come out and unlock my door. The whole process took about an hour, which was relatively efficient given it was a Saturday night.

Reunited with my keys and camera, I was finally ready to find my story for the night.

7:15 p.m. — IT FALLS INTO MY LAP

During the National Anthem, two people drove cars around the track with people holding American flags out the window. This happens at a lot of race tracks, so I didn’t think much of it — until the announcer said something.

I didn’t catch the first half, but he said one of the cars featured two brothers who had met for the first time in 20 years. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I asked one of the track’s owners, Tracy Anglemeyer-Mandell, for clarification on what I had just heard.

My ears weren’t deceiving me. Two brothers, Frank Gasko and Sergio Goff, had been united for the first time in their lives just two weeks prior. Goff carried the flag during the anthem while Gasko drove the car because Goff is enlisted in the Army National Guard.

The story had fallen right into my lap.

Anglemeyer-Mandell took me to the pit area and introduced me to Goff and Gasko. We talked a little bit before Gasko had his race. Afterward, we went into my car to do an interview. I wanted to block out as much of the noise from the cars on the race track as I could.

Some of you might see where this is going.

8:30 p.m. — A SECOND FOR EVERYTHING

We get settled into my car around 8. Gasko, Goff and I have about a 20-minute conversation on how they found each other, their childhoods growing up, etc. It was an awesome discussion for a story that was wild to me.

When we got out of the car, everyone locked their doors. Goff had kept his window down, though, so I reached in, unlocked his door, rolled up the window and re-locked the door. We then started walking toward the track, shook hands and wished each other a good night. I was really excited to head back to the office and work on this story.

And then I checked my pockets for my keys. They weren’t there.

My next thought is something I can’t say in print. I then sprinted to my car, muttering to myself, "No way." Indeed, it had happened again.

For the second time in three hours, I had locked my keys in my car.

I had placed them in the cup holder when I entered my car for the interview. All I could do was chuckle seeing my keys sitting there — less than three feet away from me — almost taunting me from the inside of my car.

Once again, I had to call a tow truck service. And again, fortunately, they unlocked my door in less than an hour. By the time I was ready to leave, it was 9:15 p.m. I had spent less than four hours total at New Paris Speedway, but it felt like a lifetime.

REFLECTION

It’s funny to think about the whole series of events with a few days of hindsight. I called my dad the first time it happened and it was funny. Then I called him the second time it happened, simply stating, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’ All we could do was laugh about it.

For me, the best part is I re-entered my car when Goff didn’t roll up his window, could’ve easily seen my keys sitting in the cup holder, but didn’t and locked myself out of the car again. Just that sequence of events alone makes me smile and laugh at the amazing evening I had at the New Paris Speedway.

If anything, Saturday gave me belief in human beings. Mike, who originally tried to help me out, was awesome. All three owners of the race track — Anglemeyer-Mandell, Angie Gingerich South and Chris Mandell — all helped me out at different points throughout the evening. And, the two tow truck guys were beyond helpful as they worked around my brainlessness.

So, thank you New Paris Speedway for one heck of an introduction. I look forward to seeing you again, even if my car keys don’t.

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN

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