Daytona Or Bust . . . . . . . . . . By Kent Cartner W1092

How many of you have seen the words " ___________ Or Bust" (fill in the name of a city) pasted on the side of a van or bus full of folks heading to some event that was of importance to them. I never really appreciated the meaning of that quote until I started my trek to Dayton Beach to be a part of the C5 Registry gathering and view the inaugural race of the new Corvette C5-R team.

Like many of the C5 Registry members, my anticipation for the race grew as the date drew closer. Hotel rooms were booked, caravan arrangements made and info on GM personnel attending all added to the excitement. The anticipation picked up a notch when Dan Adovasio and Jake Drennon announced that Corvette Brand Manager, Jim Campbell, had helped them secure permission for a first ever parade lap around the famous Daytona oval! (How fast do you need to go to stay on the banked turns?!!)

January 28th finally arrived and John Jones, a friend of mine from the Star City Corvette Club in Roanoke, VA, and I loaded up the 98 Nassau Blue Convertible and headed for Daytona. Arrangements had been made to link up with fellow C5 Registry Members Bruce Phipps, Jim Potts, Lynn Kennedy, Nadine Carmody, Chaz Cone, and Mase Sanford along the route to Daytona. We did not have a "Daytona or Bust" sign on my Blue Baby, but that’s kind of how all of us felt. We would not miss the historical "Corvette Returns to Racing" parade lap and 24 hour race for anything.

The day started out great. I told my trusty navigator John that when the temp hits 68, the top comes down! We did not have long to wait to feel the wind in our hair. Things are going well as we link up with Lynn and Nadine near Raleigh, NC. We hit the road in our RED, WHITE, and BLUE caravan - kind of appropriate for the "only true American sports car". We stopped at a rest area just out side of Florence, SC, where things started to get interesting! As we accelerated out of the rest area merging on to I-95, the left rear of my Vette flew in the air and we heard a loud BANG! I thought I had blown a transmission!

My DIC immediately registered "reduced handling, left rear tire flat". I pulled over to the side of the road, got out and had a sinking feeling as I saw a huge gash in my left rear tire and an even worse 'V' gash in my wheel. Lynn and Kurt Kennedy pull up behind wondering why we have stopped. Nadine, unaware of any problems, continues on the road. At this point I am wondering, WHAT THE HECK did I hit? We saw nothing in the road as we left the rest stop and Lynn and Kurt saw nothing behind us as we pulled over. I immediately checked the front tire, undercarriage and body panels for any damage. I figured whatever could tear up a wheel and tire like that must have done some more damage! To my surprise, I could not find even the smallest nick - what a relief!

OK, time to use my warranty and call 1-800-CHEVUSA for help. They say - "No Problem, a wrecker will be there in 30 minutes!" Lynn & Kurt stayed with us until they were sure we had coordinated getting to a dealership. Nadine called to make sure I was OK. Its nice to know so many care!! Time check - it is now 4:00 PM. One hour and 15 minutes later, the wrecker arrives. In the meantime I had called the local dealer and explained my situation. I asked if they might have a tire and wheel in stock so I could get back on the road to Daytona. After the service tech stopped rolling on the floor with laughter, he informed me that I needed to get to the dealership by 5:30 or wait until the next morning. He further stated that it would be "sometime next week" before I could expect to get the car fixed - Keep in mind this is Thursday evening. The wrecker operator put the pedal to the metal and we arrived at 5:30 PM on the dot! The service tech wrote up the information, took the keys, and locked the door. John and I are sitting on the curb outside the service area with our luggage stacked next to us looking like a couple of dejected hitchhikers.

Bruce Phipps had sent out everyone’s cell phone number on a pre-trip e-mail so at least we could keep in touch. I called Jim Potts in the super stock motor home to see where he might be. Luckily (for me anyway) Jim had a problem with his motor home bathroom plumbing (we won’t touch that one!) and was running about two hours late. He graciously agreed to pick us up (two people he had never met!) As I was coordinating the details, a gentleman from the parts department, Wes Stroman, struck up a conversation with John. John filled him in on our plight and our 'quest' to make Daytona for the parade lap and the race. Wes started asking questions like, "Had anyone tried to get on line and locate a wheel and tire?" Wes took my cell phone number, said he would get on it right away (it was now 7:00 PM) and committed on the spot to getting the car fixed by Saturday so I could at least pick it up on my way back through Florence on Monday. He then offered to take us to a local restaurant so we could grab a bite to eat and wait for Jim. In the mean time, Bruce Phipps, Lynn Kennedy, Tony Petrea all called to check on me.

Jim and his wife arrived, took us to Savannah where we spent the night. Friday morning we met up with Chaz Cone, Mase Sanford, Bruce Phipps, Lynn Kennedy and Nadine Carmody. Mase gets on the horn and calls around trying to find a wheel and tire - no luck. We all start to talk about a plan for SOMEONE to stock a set of wheels and tires so if anyone else in the Registry ever has this problem, we could call in and get a wheel and/or tire. Hind site is wonderful!!!!!

We head out for Daytona in caravan. I jump in Mase Sanfords Mallett C5 - what a ride; we never saw our caravan again. Wes Stroman calls me with an update; he has located a tire in Tennessee and a wheel in Columbia, SC. He arranges for express bus delivery and tells me he thinks there is an outside chance my car may be ready Friday evening - ALL RIGHT - Parade Lap here we come!!!!!!! Wes says it all has to fall together with the tire getting on one bus and the wheel on another. He commits to PERSONALLY picking the wheel and tire up from the bus station and taking them to the Goodyear Tire shop for mounting. He tells me that he wants to get me on that parade lap!!!

We get to Daytona where Mase takes me to the local airport - he thinks we might be able to find a private pilot who would fly me back to Florence if my car gets fixed. It was a valiant effort and a great idea, but it did not work out. In the mean time my story is spreading through the C5 ranks. A lot of folks expressed concern for me and my car, provided encouragement and support, and said they were cheering for me. Wes calls at 4:30 and utters those words I have been waiting to hear - " your car is fixed, come and pick it up." I could not believe that in less than 24 hours from the time I dropped it off it was ready - only one problem - I am 410 miles and about 6 hours away. By the time I could get a rental car and drive to Florence, we are looking at 11:00 PM on a Friday night. Wes says "No problem, I’ll give you my home phone number. Call me when you get within 30 miles and I will meet you."

Tom Crawford gives me a ride to the airport; I pick up a car and am on the road by 5:30 PM. At 11:30 PM I roll into Florence where Wes meets me and leads me to the airport where I drop the rental car. Wes gives me a ride back to the dealership and gets me on the road at Midnight.

Five and a half hours later I am rolling into the hotel at Daytona Beach. We get a wake-up call for 7:00 AM so we can get the car cleaned up and meet with all of the other Vettes for the parade.

Wes had given me the damaged wheel as a souvenir, so I figured what the heck, I’ll make a little sign 'FOR SALE CHEAP' as a joke and put the wheel by my car. Pretty soon folks start asking me what happened, was I all right, did the car get hurt, etc. The Wheel is drawing a crowd, I’m starting to get real 'punchy' about now so I grab a marker and ask folks to start signing my wheel. Pretty soon Jim Campbell walks by and signs the wheel. The #2 Corvette Drivers show up and THEY sign the wheel. By the time we get in the car for the parade lap, just about everyone in the parade has signed the darned thing! Coming off of the track, Dave Hill was standing there waving at all the Vettes, I pulled up, parked the car, grabbed the wheel and took off running down the line of Vettes toward Dave. I am sure he wondered what this crazy guy running towards him with a wheel rim wanted. Dave was gracious enough to sign it with an 'OUCH' as well as his name.

By now the wheel is famous. Dan and Jake tell me I have to hang it on a chain around my neck and bring it to all the C5 Registry events! Someone mentioned it might be easier to loan it to the NCM for display. About that time Liz Hill from the NCM walks up, we tell here about the idea and she says, "Great, send it in." So if you go to the Museum and see a wheel with a lot of autographs and a big 'V' about three inches deep in the sidewall, you will know what happened.

The remainder of the day (and night) is sort of a blur. The race was great, the C5-R team did very well on their first outing and I found out that the C5 Registry people are GREAT! A lot of people helped me out and expressed concern for my safety and for my C5. I also found out what GREAT customer service is like. Wes Stroman at Newsome Automotive in Florence, SC, is one PRINCE of a guy. If you ever get by that Dealership, stop by and give him a pat on the back.

I guess you could say the trip really was a 'BUST' but the way I look at it, no one was hurt, the car was OK, my insurance covered most of the $1,200 expense, my wheel is now famous, and I met a LOT of super C5 Registry folks. Hmmm, maybe I SHOULD put the wheel up for sale on the NCM auction page. Maybe I could get enough to buy a 50th Anniversary Vette!

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