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Once Upon a Star

Unexpected Encounter.

by Red Cooper
January 5, 2003

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Once Upon a Star_Red Cooper-Unexpected Encounter. There are always things that I wish could be done over. Things said or not said. I guess everyone has experienced times like that. Some are better left as the are. This is probably one of them.

Several years ago a friend of mine and I traveled to Virginia to take part in a race that another friend of ours was in. I'm not really into racing much but it seemed like a different sort of thing to do.

We hopped into my 82 Renault LeCar and headed for parts unknown. At least they were to me. It was quite a drive of a few hundred miles. Since my car was a bit on the buzzy side it wasn't exactly a luxury cruise. We did alright though.

We arrived at the track and I was amazed that it was not what I expected. Someone had taken a farm and turned it into a track. The area was beautiful farm country and in the midst of it all was this racetrack. I suppose I expected some ultra modern speedway like we see on television. All things considered it resembled a racetrack.

My attitude soon changed. We went to a couple of spots on the track where we could see the action. The ground shook under my feet and my ears rang with the sound of high power cars whizzing by. At one point my friend informed me that Paul Newman just went by. I knew he raced but I didn't expect to see him there. Actually I didn't see him it was just his car going by and it wasn't anything but a streak. Every time he streaked by I thought how amazing it was to be this close to a star. I watched him in Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

Later we headed for the pit area to see our friend who was working on his car. I was wandering around kind of bored. As I said I'm not really into racing and it can get boring if you don't have anything to do. At the other end of the building was another race car. It turned out to be Paul Newman's and he was leaning up against it. I casually walked by a couple of times and glanced over to see he was talking to someone about his car. He appeared to be just one of the guys and in fact that is the way he liked to be treated when he races.

Later after I returned to our friend's car I kept glancing over and Paul Newman had disappeared. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone come out from behind a door. It was him. He stopped about thirty feet from me and looked at me. I looked back and said nothing. I just stood there like a statue. A very dumb statue. I think if I'd said hello he'd probably have said hi.

He walked back to his car and I just stood there feeling rather insignificant. I wonder what went through his mind? I'll probably never know. It's one of those rare opportunities that only comes along once and I let it pass by.

I'd like to think that this was my last embarrassing moment but it wasn't. It was the last one that day.

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