THE FAIRGROUNDS REPORT
9/27/99-by Shawn Brouse
A TRIBUTE TO THE G-MAN
My mind has spent the better
part of the last several days aflood, swirling with a jumble of
memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions and realizations. Some of
these have stemmed from time spent with other grieving members of the
racing fraternity while the rest have come to me from deep inside, on
a personal level.
It is because of all these
overwhelming, mind numbing “things” and with great sadness and regret
that I dedicate what you are about to read to the memory of our
beloved fallen racer, Kevin Gobrecht.
I will try to honor Kevin
here the best way I know how, by recounting every fond thought,
story, reflection or observance I have amassed during his career and
over the course of the last few days. I will also get a little
“deep”, trying to put into perspective just how much Kevin meant to
thousands of people and how this tragic accident has effected me
along with everyone else.
But, for the first time in
all the writing I have done, I do not know if what I am going to say
is going to suffice. I don’t know if I can do a good enough job. I
have spent hours trying to figure out what I want to say and how I
want to say it. Now, as I begin, I still have no idea where to start.
At any rate, this one is for
I honestly don’t know where
to begin, except to say that Saturday afternoon, my world along with
the rest of the sprint car racing community was sent reeling, rocked
by the news that we had lost one of the best drivers to ever circle
the clay here in Pennsylvania and across the nation at the age of 30.
My nephew called me with the news. It set me down in a chair.
That moment has turned out to
be one of “those” moments for me. The kind where you will always
remember the exact circumstances surrounding it……like where you were,
what you were doing and what time of the day it was.
A co-worker of mine likened
my moment to the one he experienced when he received the news of the
untimely death of Toby Tobias. He was nailing a truss together on top
of his newly built garage when it came over the radio.
I had made plans to attend
Lincoln’s Manufacturers Night at Kevin’s home track but after the
phone call, I didn’t feel like going. It took awhile, but in time, I
realized that I needed to make that two-hour drive to the pigeon
hills, now more than ever. I felt like I had to be there, like I
The trip south to Lincoln
went fast as my mind raced with memories of Kevin. I don’t know how
many times I re-lived him taking the No. 12 for a flip at Williams
Grove. The one memory that keeps coming back into my head however is
my first Gobrecht moment, which came at Selinsgrove in 1995 or 96.
Perched in the fourth turn
end of the grandstand, the sprint heats were already underway when I
saw the family trailer come rolling off the bypass, headed for the
big half-mile. Kevin pulled it up to the closed track gate and
crawled out then headed for the office. It didn’t take long until the
fans realized that Kev was sitting there, waiting to get in.
As he paced beside the
trailer, it became clear to me that the officials were not allowing
him to enter the event. During a lull in the races, all kinds of fans
started yelling “Come on Kevin, why don’t you come in?” G-Man looked
over at us and threw his hands up in the air and yelled “They won’t
let me in!” That was all it took. The stands erupted and it wasn’t
long before the GCS 92 was pit-side.
As it turned out, the rig had
broken down en-route to the track. If memory serves, I think they got
To be honest, until that
point, I don’t think I would have known Kevin if I had fallen over
him but it gave me a face for a name, and as it would turn out it
would be a pairing I would see much more of in the next couple
I arrived at Lincoln still in
shock over the day’s developments.
I started off the night by
enjoying a nice chat with longtime race fan, Port Royal supporter and
fairly new friend Robert Strickland of Newport, PA in which we
discussed the untimely death of Kevin. We ended our meeting having
come to the conclusion that as usual, they all know the risks
involved when they get behind the wheel and one never knows when “it”
might happen. He walked away from me saying “I gotta go get me a
goddamn cone of ice cream!”
Pit-side on this night was
the Gobrecht family owned No. 92, tonight driven by Jimmy McBee in
honor of Kevin.
As I expected, G-Man shirts
abounded and of course the night was filled with many “moments,” a
couple of which occurred as Lincoln announcer Wayne Harper confirmed
the news to all in attendance as the flag stood at half staff.
As Harper’s voice related the
story of Kevin’s death a night earlier in Nebraska, I could see a
young lady directly in front of me finally come to terms with the
realization. A little later on, each sprinter came out adorned with a
commemorative G, paying tribute to Kevin. It really hit her at that
point and I quietly watched as tears streamed down her cheeks.
I have never witnessed such
deafening silence at a racetrack as took place on Saturday night.
During Wayne’s statement, the proverbial pin even failed to drop for
fear of making a sound. As I stood and listened, I looked across the
During the oration and
through the National Anthem, I could see silhouettes leaning against
trailers and still others who were resting their head on someone
else’s shoulders. It was truly a somber and somewhat eerie moment
that speaks volumes about what Kevin meant to everyone.
Earlier in the evening, I
heard how a well-respected and widely known photographer called an
acquaintance of mine because he just needed to talk. Along the same
lines, I had the unfortunate chore of breaking the news to another
race buddy of mine and in response he looked at me, patted his heart
with his hand and walked away at a loss for words, not able to talk.
In the middle of some down
time a little later on, I got to hear a story recounted about Kevin
that happened recently.
The gentleman beside me
recalled how just a short time ago he was on his way to work around
five in the morning when he stopped at a local convenience store. In
the parking lot was Gobrecht with his recently purchased RV. The man
said Kevin yelled over to him and said “Hey, come see my motor home,
I’m showin it to everybody!”
“I just can’t believe it,”
said the man. “I just can’t believe this happened, he was so nice to
The start of the 25-lap
feature saw the customary vacant pole position observed before Apple
Chevrolet pilot Greg Hodnett sped away to his first career Lincoln
win. What made this win very special was the fact the last time the
Apple No. 12 graced Lincoln’s victory lane, it did so with The G-Man
behind the wheel in 1997.
Does it get any more fitting
Winner Hodnett reflected on
the death of his fellow competitor “I cannot put into words how bad
we feel right now. We were pumped for this one all day.”
Needless to say, it was a
long ride home.
The next day brought more
Gobrecht moments for me.
Once again my nephew gave me
a call. This time it was to tell me that he observed a “moment” the
previous night at The Greenwood Valley Action Track in Millville, PA
where Kevin used to race micro sprints.
Nick, a successful go-cart
driver at 17, told me that the whole place fell silent as the
announcer recounted his story about Kevin. “He was the only driver to
ever rip the light wires down here,” said the announcer. Having never
been to the facility, Nick tells me that Kevin’s accomplishment was
no small feat. The wires are very high at Greenwood.
We ended our conversation
with talk of attending the upcoming funeral.
Later in the day it was off
to Selinsgrove for the season closer of stock cars which just
happened to be the speedway where Kevin got his last home state win
in the lid-lifter on April 18th. It was his first career
win in Snyder County and the following day he left to fulfill a
dream. He would soon be driving for Dave Blaney on the World of
I spent some time talking
with another avid race fan/friend of mine named Morris. He likened
The G-Man to the great Mitch Smith. “It was gas ‘er and go, wreck or
win for Mitch,” Morris said. “Kevin was the same way”
Later on that night the crowd
of fans and racers on hand stood silent as Reverend David Park lead
the invocation. He prayed for the entire Gobrecht family while
recalling Kevin’s lap-five pass of Rahmer to win the season opener
just five months earlier.
I could see it as he spoke,
Kev dove to the inside of Freddie in four then blistered the track
for his first win. In victory lane he was forced to remain
tight-lipped about his new Amoco deal but everyone knew we had just
witnessed an outlaw win at our track.
The funny thing is, he said
he wasn’t even supposed to drive the car on that night. He related
that he was at the shop saying goodbye to the guys earlier in the day
when Pauch called off and they asked Kevin if he would drive the
Zemco machine one more time.
I am glad he did!
As I listened to the prayer I
got one of those feelings. The kind that occurs when you are totally
aware of just how earthly you really are. I wondered, why did it take
this to happen for me to really pay attention to such a thing. I have
listened to Rev. Park’s invocations all year but I never really
respected them until Sunday night.
And that leads me to this
morning, Monday morning, when I left home for work at 5:30.
Just two miles from my home
is a four-way intersection which I negotiate each day. This morning,
as I crested the hill which leads down to the intersection, my eyes
about popped out of my head. Through the intersection went some crazy
fool, going at least 50 M.P.H.
Had I been just seconds
earlier, there is no way that whoever was driving would have been
able to stop, even if they wanted to. I consider myself quite lucky
A few hours later, as I
gathered accurate information about Kevin’s arrangements, I got more
I thought it odd that I
didn’t see my buddy Rob Strickland at Selinsgrove the night before,
now I know why. He past away suddenly Sunday afternoon, leaving
behind a son and a daughter. I hope he got his cone of ice cream.
So what does all this mean?
Here is how the last three
days events have effected me.
I’ve come to the conclusion
that irony plays a large roll in life, at least it seems to in mine
and it took Kevin’s death to make me see that.
Somehow, I almost feel like
we should have had our guard up for something like this to happen.
After all, wasn’t this season about the most tumultuous one we have
had in a while before the accident in Nebraska? We had so many driver
changes and abrupt, shocking moves by car owners and drivers. We are
on the verge of losing a couple of speedways to malls or financial
ruin and now this. Ironic?
It is so ironic that this
normally outlaw boycotting “journalist” broke down late in the day
and went to last summers outlaw show at Williams Grove in which The
G-Man pulled off a stunning win. Also ironic is the fact that I took
with me someone who had never seen a sprint car race before, much
less a WoO event and then a darn local beat their butts in a
fantastic race. The kind we all live for!
Extremely ironic is also the
fact that Hodnett returned the Apple car to Lincoln’s victory lane,
just hours after Kevin’s death, for the first time since Gobe put it
there in 1997.
And how bout Rob and I ending
our talk with that “it could happen anytime” talk and a day later he
My mom, who is not by nature
an avid race fan, felt compelled to go with me to Williams Grove on
one of those blustery cold, late winter Sundays earlier this year.
She just wanted to go to a race she said and though I was concerned
for her being out in the cold we went and she got to see The G-Man at
his best, taking a win from Hodnett in turn three on the last lap.
Just two weeks ago, Hodnett spoke of how that race changed the way he
runs every event today. My mom now says she is so glad the mood
struck her to go to a race that day. Isn’t that ironic?
And what about me getting a
personal reality check on the way to work this morning in the wake of
a pretty reality based weekend?
The other big lesson I’ve
learned is one of what the definition of family is. I realize now why
I felt I had to go to Lincoln on Saturday. I understand what I
I had to be with family.
I never really realized just
what kind of ties I have been making over the last ten years or so.
Indeed, racers are a family.
No matter if you are a
driver, crew member, fan, reporter or an official, we are all family.
Whether we realize it or not we function like one on a continual
basis, enjoying hour upon hour together, forging relationships while
doing something we love. It is only natural that we need to spend the
hard times together as well.
Racers are definitely the
tightest knit group of people I know and I am proud to boast such a
large family. Thanks for making me aware of all of them Kevin.
I truly feel a sense of
personal loss over the untimely death of our family member, Kevin
Gobrecht. It is because of that sense of loss that my nephew and I
will attend The G-Mans funeral services on Thursday night. It won’t
be easy, but it is what families do.
Look at it this way.
For Kevin, long gone were the
days when he heard the apple turn-over jokes passing through the
grandstands. Instead, the talk was of the talented, educated man who
was realizing his dreams, who was headed for the top, winning one of
the sports premier events and finishing third in another. The talk in
the stands and in the pits was that this guy was a PA Posse member so
he must be good. He was doing his home town fans proud out on the
road. He was The G-Man and everyone was saying that he was going to
be a top gun on the tour. All of this was talk about him, and he got
to hear it.
Now, for us, long gone is
Kevin Gobrecht. But isn’t it more important that for him, the
critical apple-turn-overs turned into the affectionate G-Man and Gobe,
which led to success and gave him a chance to live and realize his
dreams. How many of us will ever be able to say we really are living
our dreams? How many of us will get to hear the critical talk do a
360 and become affectionate?
God needed one more driver to
fill his starting lineup and he chose Kevin. I can here the announcer
now. “Starting on the pole will be Jan and along side him comes Kenny
followed by Daryl and Mitch and ………….”
Thanks for everything Kevin.
We love you and miss you but will never forget! See you next lap