Lasting Memory

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SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: JOIN ME SATURDAY FOR "PRESS PASS" FROM NOON-3 P.M. (ET) AND SUNDAY ON "THE FRONTSTRETCH" FROM 9 - NOON (ET) ON SIRIUS NASCAR RADIO CHANNEL 128.

Words can't describe the emotion I've endured over the last few days.

Nor can I find any to thank so many for being there in this time of need.

My dad, Sam Pistone, passed away at age 78 last Thursday after a long and hard fought battle with cancer. He went down swinging and was surrounded by his family before finally going peacefully, ending a nearly six month nightmare that began with a simple examination for cataract surgery.

It was a shock to the entire family because my dad was a guy who seemed to never get sick and rarely went to the doctor.

Unfortunately that eventually was the cause for his demise.

It was my father and his brother, my uncle "Tiger" Tom Pistone, who brought me into this sport. The two of them were a tight pair during Tom's early racing career around the Chicagoland area and subsequent move south when he decided to take a stab at NASCAR racing.

I did not inherit either of their mechanical understanding of race cars or engines, but knew at an early age I wanted to somehow be part of this sport.

My earliest memory was sitting in the stands as a kid at Rockford Speedway or Grundy County Speedway or the old O'Hare Stadium in Chicago next to my dad and grandfather.

Like many of you I was instantly hooked once I saw my first race.

Thankfully I somehow found a way to make the sport my profession through the safety of the press box and the media center rather than with a wrench in my hand down in the garage.

And I'll forever be grateful to my father for exposing me to the greatest sport in the world.

In a complete reversal of life, it was I that had the chance to bring my dad to the races in the last few years. He was proud of his son's work and became a fixture at a few media centers along the way, happy to share a story or two from racing's old days.

It got to a point where I'd show up for an assignment without my dad in tow and feel a sense of disappointment from several of my colleagues.

When he finally passed last Thursday morning, the outpouring from those friends as well as the rest of the racing community - including many of you - has been overwhelming.

I can't thank enough people like Lee Montgomery, Jerry Bonkowski, Dave Moody, Matt Yokum, Dustin Long, Rick Benjamin, "Chocolate" Meyers, Ron Lemasters, Steve Post, Matt McLaughlin and other talented people you have read or heard on the air for their thoughts, memories and tributes.

And of course my good friend and colleague Jeff Wackerlin, who made a real impression on my dad over the years. Wack's recent RacingOne blog brought back some fond memories of the times we all spent together at the track.

Given the situation I wasn't able to make this year's annual pre-season media tour in Charlotte. It's something I missed very much, not just for the chance to get plugged back into the NASCAR scene but for the opportunity to once again be with my extended media family.

I also received many e-mails from fans who were nice enough to reach out and share their sympathy for a man most did not even know. Again thank you.

I'm blessed to have the support of so many and thank you all.

When the green flag drops to officially start the year at Daytona, the season will be dedicated to my dad.

I know he'll be watching.


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