Wednesday, February 12, 2003
After 200 mph, time to rein in the horses
By GODWIN KELLY
DAYTONA BEACH — In the Winston Cup garage area he´s known simply as Cigar Joe, the Speedway employee who runs the recycling center.
His real name is Joe Frobe. He´s been a part-time employee at Daytona International Speedway since 1978 when he moved to Edgewater from Pittsburgh with his wife, Betty.
The 73-year-old Frobe has done various odd jobs at the Speedway over the years, starting out working the Unocal gas pumps between the garage and pit road.
Now he greets all who pass by the Safety-Kleen recycling station with a wave and smile.
“Chocolate Myers from Dale Earnhardt´s old pit crew gave me that nickname because I always have a cigar in my mouth. I never leave home without one or two. Anyway, that´s where I got that name.
The reason I took this job is I just like being around people and I enjoy them. They all treat me good.
I´ve seen this garage area go from nothing to everything. When I first got here, the inside of pit road was all dirt. I worked for Unocal back then driving a 500-gallon tanker truck.
They had two trucks like that. We´d come from either end of pit road and fill up refueling tanks for the sportscar teams during the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
We had to crawl up a little ladder to the top of their fuel vats, then dump the gas in there. I mean, dirt is blowing and my eyes are burning. I said, ‘I don´t like this deal.’
That was only the first year I was here, in 1978, then they did away with that. Then the Speedway started to pave everything. I worked 16 years with Unocal, then I went out and supervised a ticket gate for four races. I didn´t care for that.
I helped refurbish some of the older grandstand seats and when we got done there, I asked them ‘Do you have a job that an old man can do?’ And they put me down here at the recycling station. I´ve been working here for six years.
I work for the track and it´s hard to believe how this place has grown the last 26 years. It just seems to be getting bigger and bigger.
I´ve seen a lot of strange things happen while at my post at the recycling station. I´ve seen two cars banging into each other during testing and other little fender-benders.
I saw one time back when Winston Cup director Dick Beaty made the teams push their cars in and out to the track. Why did he do that? Because a car almost hit somebody coming through the gas station too fast. That was funny to some people, but to those crew guys, they were mad.
I first saw Daytona International Speedway when I came down from Pittsburgh with my wife Betty as a race fan. I came down here seven times as a race fan before we moved down here. We would spend one week of racing here, then spend another week just traveling around Florida.
After I moved to Edgewater and started working here, I was really amazed at the changes. I´ve been around the track with a maintenance crew and I couldn´t believe how steep the banks are.
Everybody in the garage area treats me good. I say hello and hang out with them. You never know who will stop in here. Bill Davis, the man who owns the No. 22 and No. 23 Dodges, came over one time with an oil pan and I told him what he had to do to dump the oil.
That was the first and last time he came over. I don´t know why, but he came over that one time. I used to know most of the guys on the teams. No more. I can´t keep up with them. The faces are changing on me. But drivers come by and say, ‘Hi,’ and if they have time they talk to me.
It seems like everybody wants my job. I get a lot of people saying to me, ‘Man, I want that job when you leave.’ I said, ‘No, you can´t have this job. This isn´t a job. This is a position.’ You see, the only break I get is when I get up off my chair to talk to somebody because at all other times I´m sitting here working my rear end off.” -- Joe Frobe