Remember when we were all young, our parents said on a regular basis “Give me three good reasons”: to let you go 97 MPH; stay out past curfew; sleepovers with more than 5 kids in one house; not wear a proper winter jacket……well I wonder how many parents are still saying that to 74 grown men this coming Sunday? I might think it, but I get right in the pit and all my good sense flys up with the fumes and I am ready for another week of “Fan”tabulous February!!!!!
Team #3, Doug Dixon/Mike Vasser, Good Buddies. I know that Doug got his start working for his father at Fine Line Interiors, watching racers come in to the shop designing and retrofitting, making it work. As for Mike, he got sucked in as a sponsor from Odom Corporation, got the race fever and well his life hasn’t been his own for a year when he said yes on finish day last year.
Back in 1997 I remember typing bios at midnight and seeing that almost every single race team on the roster listed Fine Line as a sponsor. That year, a friend of mine got me my own set of bags for an Indy Lite, loved them and then I realized why bags were so important to a race team.
I have lived in the same place for almost 30 years here in Anchorage, for years I watched a runner do circles in our neighborhood, I finally asked him how many he did and why, he said four circles is a mile. He asked me if I was the Iron Dog Maiden…..hmmmmm I see why our large state if so small in many ways all these years it was Mike Tope my neighbor and his neighbor was Mike Vasser. I was no longer working at Iron Dog, but I remained involved, I knew Mike’s hobby was vintage machine restoration and I found a fuel pump for a Yammer at the thrift store and put it in his mail box…..for months he wondered who it came from……I finally stopped in one day and told him it was me. We discovered a mutual interest in machines, Iron Dog, and I get a bonus, around the corner from my house, I can drive home on any given day and see the daily activity required to prepare for an Iron Dog. It has been fun and has caused my excitement level to be increased. (if that is possible? :))
I asked to come over to the shop to takes pictures of them working on sleds and what I found was something even more special: Fine Line Interiors is filled with CRAFTSMEN(WOMEN) years of patterns hang from a peg board, lounge on an unused sofa, waiting for racers to stop in. They don’t just make bags, they do some seamstress work too…..For Mark and Mike Tope they lined collars with fleece, they remanufacture sled seats to accommodate gas tanks, hoses, storage bins and while they are working on 19 team stuff, the railroad has 49 seats to be reupholstered, restaurants want a booth redone, a stressless recliner for a client gets new leather……Tyson walks in, Marc stops by, Harriett is here, a new puppy dog likes to be in the middle of all the fun. There are fumes of webbing being fray checked, zippers customized, staplers, compressors, and machines whirring and the snip snip snip of the biggest scissors in South Anchorage, I had great fun and I still haven’t been to the garage.
I stopped in the Dixon garage and find “Two Ladies and Two Guys” sounds kind of like a sitcom title to me, the extras in the scene just keep growing. Randy is there because he is Mike’s neighbor and he just wants to help in any way he can, he’s the kind of guy that snowblows the driveway when Mike isn’t home, just to have something to do, he is going to learn first-hand how to stud up a track. Doug is going to school him up, warns him his hand will be kind of numb in a while, but they have just over 1/3 of a track to do……Randy is game. Next up is the electric guru, Dave, he has two helpers a son and grandson, it’s a family affair and that makes it even more special. I love that the garage feels like a neighborhood Hot Spot, activity and cars parked every which way out in the driveway, machines too, but inside the garage it’s a “Man Cave” tools, shop light, a 52 inch TV, refrigerators, Rock Star, Powerade, and the remnants of a good bottle of Crown Royal is now a tool bag, lifts, wrenches, pliers and a knife made in Texas for Doug from his father for Christmas a couple years ago…….seeing eye glasses sit on Mike’s nose, while he and Randy work together studding up the track, in an awkward position they keep at it and when I finish my shoot they are finishing up, the door opens again and in walks another good buddy to help out for the night it is 8:38 PM……past my curfew.
Team 3 Mike & Doug: I hear your advantage will be no “Cool Down Time Required” on the tussocks of the Burn!!! Use it to your advantage. Stay hydrated, wear your earplugs, and be in Fairbanks by Saturday, February 22 for a Podium Opportunity…….I would love to complete my photo shoot with a trophy in hand!!!! Good Luck boys and thank you so much for letting me peek in on your garage and shop and for letting me share it with my Iron Dog world!!!