There was a lot of action on tracks close by. There were oval Championships on the line at Pulaski County Motorsports Park to the South and the second day of a big, dirty Fall Classic weekend to the North at Natural Bridge Speedway.
Sometimes the choice is made for you… Pressure from family situations prevented a trip to either of these facilities with full schedules on for racing. For clarity, let’s just say that families going through a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s and/or Dementia is an ordeal on many fronts…
However… It was determined that a quick excursion a little further North could be squeezed in and back to home ground in a rather expedient fashion. The remnants of a plan already in place fell into new order with a visit to White’s Travel Center in Raphine.
A long time friend from what could be a world away was there with what could also be determined as almost improbable. He and I performed together, traveled together and did any number of stand-up comedy shows in what memory serves as “the best of times… the worst of times…”.
Mostly the “best”… As it were… But he also dabbled in a film career which is what brought me to Raphine. He was in a Stephen King movie which has fallen into a bit of a cult following status. The film is “Maximum Overdrive”. He is Pat Miller, “Joey” from “Maximum Overdrive”. I met up with him at the Large Car Magazine Truck Show as he was there in support of the replica of that “famous” Green Goblin Western Star hauling the “Happy Toys” trailer. The stories are his to tell but the truck is cool and as close to the original as is possible. (The original was destroyed in the movie…)
A photo gallery of some of the trucks on display and shared by their working drivers is below!
France. For Americans, France is not top of mind for racing until it comes time for 24 Hours of Le Mans or Formula 1 at Monaco. (Yes, Monaco is actually its own entity but you can only get there along the French Riviera “really rich” or by sea “really, really, really rich”).
Most are unaware of rally sport racing which is practically as common in Europe as short track late model racing is here in America. From open wheel to motorcycles, France has hosted a long history in motor sport. However, as Americans, we rarely acknowledge it. Most of us relegate France to some big, bicycle race that was cool while our guy was over there kicking it only to be kicked himself for dope cheating (another time).
A brief look at French racing sets the stage as an introduction to a man who now makes Roanoke his home. He has a bit of a wheel man background, he is a respected professional photographer in the area and continues to be fascinated by speed.
Benoit Pigeon is, at first glance, a humble and reserved gentleman. As a photographer, his professional focus is also a bit reserved. He very well may be the “go to” camera man for product photography in the region. Furniture, jewelry, industrial, electronics… And yes, cars!
It is quite likely you’ve seen his work on billboards and other advertising in the area. He has a long history with furniture manufacturers and retail centers. He has the required eye for detail and lighting which is essential for making even the most mundane stand out. For his automotive images he takes this attention to detail down to the highlight bouncing off the smallest bit of chrome.
As a driver, he is a family man and a business man so, yes, he has a mini van. However, as he was coming of age back in France, his driving instruction included hands on lessons from Maïté Poussin and husband Jaques Poussin. Benoit was getting first hand driving lessons from rally-cross champions! During this time he was working at a Renault automotive shop which was also an Alpine dealer which catered to sports car enthusiasts. His fascination with cars was being further reinforced. His first race experience was a visit as a kid to a drag race event in southern France. Later, in the mid-1980s, he visited a drag racing school in Florida. He garnered some funny car and dragster track time which led to a magazine article on the experience.
Benoit even pulled a stint with French car manufacturer, Citroen, driving and testing at LaFerte Vidame where Peugeot / Citroen has a private track. The area of the historic palace and fortress with the track close by has been host to car shows and races.
He still had his photography interest floating in his mind and attended photography school, which set his path to land in Roanoke. He met the woman who would be his wife while she was attending a close by university. This led him to America. New York, to be specific. He worked at a custom, professional photographers’ photo lab. From New York, he came to Roanoke and camera / photo store Ewald Clark and then to became a working photographer at Moody Graphics.
He went on his own, developing clients from known associates and expanding his experience as he went, He came to New York in ’92 and has been running his own commercial photography business in Roanoke since 2005.
For racing, Benoit has an impressive resume and his work has been featured in varied print and online outlets. His knowledge of photography and the nature of racing at a drag strip is a key to his image quality. There really is only one chance to grab the shots as those cars power off that line. Watching the lights and the tires compress and feeling the vibrations from the engines all calculate to the timing of clicking off the shutter. His photos bring you into his view and his world within a fraction of a second.
He’s very good at it. He has also developed a reputation for shooting and showcasing the cars for their owners. From specified highlight photos for an article or wall art photos of clients’ cars, Benoit Pigeon has the eye and experience to get it done beautifully.
There is a big garage on the edge of a pleasant and quiet neighborhood in northwest Roanoke County. In that garage a handful of people gathered to work on a race car. Beyond that, the house is similar to the others. There is no other indication that there is anything going on any different from the other homes beyond that big garage. It’s just those racetrack people at the end of the street. They’re good people. Pleasant neighbors and all that…
There is a common stereotype when it comes to “race” people. Old cars in various states of repair sitting in weeds or up on blocks and odd folks coming and going with bits of other cars and driving things barely beyond a salvage yard…
That may fit some. Not so much for Tink Reedy. Nice man. Nice home. Nice yard. There just happens to be a racing car in a big garage. The car is driven by third generation racer Bryan Reedy. Bryan, Tink’s son, took a wheel as his father stepped away. The Late Model #17 is being prepped for the season opening race at Motor Mile Speedway.
Bryan was no stranger to the track. He had been coming with his father and working in the pit crew. He began driving the Mod-4 series in 2007 and grabbed some wins along the way. He also won some in Limited Sportsman. He ran well enough for a third in points at Motor Mile in Late Model in 2017. Reedy and the white and striped #17 was doing well that same year at Martinsville in the Valley Star 300 when it stopped… Suddenly. With nowhere to go but the wall with other cars spinning in front of him Reedy and the #17 were done for the night.
The car was broken and Motor Mile, the home track, was down for a re-think on future racing for 2018… Without a “home track” it was a slow fix on the car. However, it was fixed and ready for Motor Mile when they set the 2019 schedule.
Reedy is simply doing what his father did. Race cars. His grandfather, Orvil, raced and made some runs in the NASCAR Busch Series. His father, Tink, raced to championships at Franklin County and Motor Mile (New River Valley Speedway).
Bryan is friendly, open and unassuming. During a chat at the garage, while changes were being made to the #17 after some practice laps at Motor Mile, Reedy was happy to talk about racing and the new season. He just wants to race, see his friends at the track and run as well as he can. He has many reasons to be looking forward.
First and foremost, he has respect for the sport and his fellow drivers. Bryan made it clear that he knows what the teams put in their cars off the track and the investment of time and money it takes. He takes that with him as he climbs behind the wheel to race. Racing clean and respecting his equipment, and that of the other drivers, is something he takes to heart.
His family and friends… In the garage was his father, Tink. Tink Reedy, despite no longer driving, is still pretty quick. To see him move whenever there was a chance he was in a camera shot was reminiscent of Speedy Ganzales. (A “Speedy” sticker is on the #17, a carryover from the same on some of Tink’s cars) Also in the garage, more precisely, shoulders deep in the suspension of the car, was Clay Highberger. Clay is an “old school” mechanic who knows the #17 like Commander Scott knows the USS Enterprise. He knows racing and he knows cars and beyond the Reedy team also does some wrenching for some dirt track racers.
Sponsors… Without them it’s simply not possible to put a competitive car on the track. For 2019, Bryan scored top 10s and top 5s following a rocky start of the season. 2020 was a bit strange with Motor Mile down yet again for Covid restrictions. Bryan ran at Dominion, Ace and Franklin County during 2020… All the while being conscious of the health guidelines in place. Despite all of that, he did drive to win at Franklin County putting the Reedy name in Victory Lane where his father held a championship. The sponsors rode along to help make it happen.
The car has influences from Bryan’s father. He had changed some of the scheme for a couple of seasons but for 2021 is back to the stripe and color configuration he ran in 2017. His father and Clay said they liked that look better, anyway. The style of the “17” itself is the same type style his Dad ran with.
Bryan is a devoted family man and his daily job keeps servers and computers running smoothly at the community college. By all measure he is your average fellow making a way for his family. Racing just happens to be a thing he enjoys and the family has known for a long time.
Will there be a fourth generation of racers…? Time will tell. His sons are racing karts.
For now, it’s a new season with the challenges of getting the car ready and keeping it in shape to race again. He has lots of support behind him from family, friends and sponsors.
He did point out… There is room on the car for more. The car is white. Sponsor logos really pop on a white car. Interested…?
The racing culture in and around Roanoke, Virginia runs deep. There are drivers running local tracks, there is a deep fan base and there are folks who simply live within that culture day to day. One of these fellows has been deeply immersed in area racing for quite a long time. He is so often behind the scenes that his influence is experienced without notice. He’s a bit like mild mannered Clark Kent… However, he has no cape (that we know of), he simply has a love of the sport of racing and throws a super effort into what he does.
The man is Mike Paris. He doesn’t walk around with his “Race Day” game face on all the time. It’s more likely, if you passed by him walking about, you wouldn’t know from looking that he’s even a racing fan. He has a family. He has cats. He has a Porsche. But he’s not one of “those” Porsche guys… Given the chance he may talk more about the cats than the car… They are named after Formula 1 Ferrari drivers. That’s just Mike.
He’s been around racing a long time. His father was involved selling tickets, driving the clean-up truck and whatever else needed done at Martinsville. Mike’s Dad was a pretty good shooter, too. Here’s a good shot of the “Petty Blue” #43 Plymouth and 4 year old Mike with H. Clay Earles (Martinsville Speedway builder / owner) and The King, Richard Petty.
Our first contact with Mike Paris was, of course, at Martinsville Speedway. It was easy to see he knew his way around. He knew the people around the room and the track. However, unlike many race photographers, he was open and welcoming and happy to share advice on where to get photos. More importantly… Where NOT to get photos. This was before the mandatory photographer meetings. (These days, NASCAR and other sanctioned series tracks hold “must attend” photographer meetings to lay out the rules of where and when photographers may shoot.)
Plus… To give you kids an idea of how long Mike has been shooting at race tracks. Many years ago, the cameras used “film”. It was a special strip of thin plastic on rolls that fit inside the camera and required time and chemicals to get a single photo. The rolls allowed a photographer to shoot 24 or 36 photos before manually switching out to another roll of film. Modern cameras, of course, are digital and a single storage card can hold hundreds of images which are immediately available…
Mike comes from the film days at the race track. Watching for the shot, being patient with the camera, paying attention to the details of racing so those 36 frames per roll are used as efficiently as possible. The rush came after the race… Getting that film to the lab to be processed… Often for next day publication. There was no PhotoShop. You got the shot right in the camera, in focus, with correct light or you had a worthless, blurry waste of a shot.
You’ve seen Mike’s images in local (and national) news publications… He is a practical wiki of walking race information. His photos and time at the track have cultivated friendships and first name relationships with drivers, crews and owners.
But wait! That’s not all! With Mike Paris, you also get racing teams! Mike has been on the pit wall of racing with winning teams. He has been there when the tires need changed, when the fuel goes in, when the car needs “no seconds to spare” repairs… He has done the late nights in the garage and he has been there in Victory Lane. It showcases his love of racing and the people within it to be directly involved with the teams through participation sponsorship. Many companies run money through the sport but few can boast the personal attention and passion that Paris brought with it.
This deep involvement with racing has influenced the sport locally for the benefit of the many race fans that live in and visit the area. Working promotions and planning for a major auto parts chain, Mike was centrally involved with sponsorship of racing events at small local tracks and national series events. He was there for NASCAR, NHRA, Modifieds and Late Model with direct sponsorship deals of winning race teams.
Mike’s perspective as a race fan was a driving force with his work in this capacity. He was outspoken with his view that sponsorship also has a responsibility to create a fan experience. He knew the fans made any event work and the name on the billboards was to issue a “Thank You” for their support.
Now…? What’s he doing now…? Mike’s history, deep experience and friendships from on and off the track presented an opportunity that couldn’t be passed over. These days, Mike is surrounded by the open wheel racing culture. He is working with a racing entrenched promotions company directly involved with the planning and execution of sponsorship events on the IndyCar schedule.
With Covid and the black flag out on the year 2020, Mike found himself working from home. However, even with this, he threw “all in”. He treated his home work area like a place of business. He got up and dressed for work and did his job just as if he was in the office.
(Did he drive the Porsche around the block to simulate the drive in to work…? Maybe…)
This year, 2021, is a hodge podge puzzle of wait and see… Fans and attendance at racing events is still on shaky ground but Mike’s work continues. Racing and the events that make it come together are still whirling in the background.
Mike Paris is there keeping things moving and at the ready for racing. If you see him at the track, give him a “Thank You” wave. He’s earned it.
Below are just a few photos from a large catalog by Mike Paris. All images are copyright / owned by Mike Paris. Duplication without permission prohibited.
Racing has rules… And etiquette. Much of this is communicated to the drivers with flags at safety stations located at key areas around a race course. You’ve seen them… waving different flags as the cars go by. This is not about the flags or what they mean. This is about one of the men who is in charge of those flags.
Bill Tyree is one of those fellows. The gentleman enforcers of the racing etiquette and safety. Bill has been seen by practically every driver of every event at Virginia International Raceway for several years. Granted, it’s in a flash of speed with a glance of the eye. Even under caution with yellow flag in hand, the drivers see the color and concentrate on their job. His job is to keep the yellow visible until the track is safe and the green flag is in hand to go racing again. There is, however, much more to Mr. Tyree than the flags at VIR. As serious as he is about the responsibility and the pride he has in his association with that race track, there is more.
Sunbeam Auto Restorations. A dedicated and going concern which, over time and circumstance, has remained as a loving hobby. The focus is on British roadsters and similar species. The origin was the love of the Sunbeam Alpine and Sunbeam Tiger. The style of which was bred into so many to follow, including the MG roadsters currently taking residence in his garage. One is his own, restored from a less than glamorous example. The other, a friendly client’s golden color 1973 model in for some upgrades on maintenance.
Bill is quite knowledgeable of the British lineage of automobile. It’s an early passion that originated a business, and was also instrumental in the interest at Virginia International Raceway. VIR hosts several events, many of which draw car enthusiasts of all kinds. It was one of these events that drew Bill to the flag stand.
It is the love of the car that keeps it all wide open. It even includes the 1939 Chevy Sedan being given a road ready boost so it can be enjoyed as close to original as possible. It is the same for the British roadster… Enjoy as it is, not compared to fuel injection and driver assist and computers under the hood but as a bit of forward motion engineered for enthusiasm.
The Pontiac…? It’s an anniversary edition Daytona 500 Trans Am that was dropped into his hands and, like all of his projects, brought up to condition with the attention to detail that gave Sunbeam Auto a quality reputation. It’s a daily driver now…
Bill Tyree has many interests. The association with racing at Virginia International Raceway, the enthusiasm of the automobile, the hands on love of classic British style are key ingredients. Sunbeam Auto remains as a hobby to assist fellow enthusiasts. It’s as much a mechanical thing as it is a social thing.
He’s also a gracious host. At a recent, but small and covid aware event at his garage, the discussion ranged from MG upgrades to pre-WWII Chevy water pumps to leaky BMW valve cover gaskets….
I’m afraid I owe him a biscuit for that Bimmer info…