By Mark Naugle.
Not Just any body
1992 Gold Coast 300. Bob and I were in Vegas for the publicity run a week before the race. We were staying at the Gold Strike hotel in Jean near the Start/Finish area. Getting to the hotel on Friday afternoon had been a little bit of a challenge as I-15 was down to one lane in either direction for roadwork. We checked in and had dinner and then went to the bar to see what other racers had shown up.
There wasn’t much going on so we decided to take the truck out for a little night run. Since the racecourse was on the east side of the highway was closed to prerunning we drove down pit road then took a right under the freeway. We were looking for an old racecourse that branched off and went over to Goodsprings. Bob and I were all strapped in with 10-gazillion candlepower lighting up the desert as we headed up the alluvial fan looking for a trail off to our right.
We’re hauling ass up the hill having a good time when Bob and I look at each other and, “ Was that a body on the side of the road?” It sure looked like one to me! We were pretty freaked out but we decided that we should go back and check but I had a hard time letting off the gas. We finally got turned around and there was quite a sight to behold on the valley floor below us. Because of the lane closures, traffic on I-15 was backed up in both directions. All the way back up the hill past Stateline into California. We slowly made our way down the hill and sure enough. It was a body. Laid out in the desert next to the road, arms folded across his chest. Older white male. Holy Shit!! We hauled ass down the hill, back under the freeway and over to the Texaco station at the offramp. We called 911 and reported what we saw. The dispatcher told us to wait there and the NHP would come by. So we waited. For close to an hour. It took that long because of the traffic. But if the guy was dead, time didn’t really matter, did it? During out wait, Bob and I got a little worried. What if who ever dumped the body saw us go up there and went and moved it? What if they thought we did it?
The NHP showed up with two cars. We told the officer where and he said he had to get gas and would meet us at the underpass. We waited and then when the cops arrived, we headed back up the hill. A wee bit apprehensive. As slow as we seemed to be able to go in the prerunner was faster than the NHP 5.0 Mustang could go. We moseyed up the hill and stopped about ten yards from the body. Still there. Arms still folded across his chest. Just as the first cop stopped behind me and opened his door, The Body lifted his arms straight up towards the heavens and then sat up.
The cop runs up to him, looks back at us and says, “You boys didn’t check close enough. This one’s still alive!” Of course we didn’t check. I didn’t want my footprints near him and Sheriff Bubba asking, “Boy, why’d ja do it?”
As it turns out, our “body” was an 88-year-old gentleman who was tired of the traffic on I-15 and took the dirt road up the hill, in is brand new Lincoln Continental and got stuck in the alluvial wash at the top of the hill. He had seen the lights of the freeway below and decided to walk out. He had made it to where we found him, exhausted and had laid down to die.
After a couple sips of the officer’s lemonade he was back on his feet and sat down in the patrol car for the ride out. The officer then asked Bob and I to drive up to our new friends car and check how far so he could tell the tow truck driver. It turned out to be about 4.5 miles and he must have been moving a quite a clip and the car was 100 yards into the sand wash and buried to the floorboards.
The next morning we at the catered breakfast that the promoter provided before the prerun when a guy at another table said, “You run around in these deserts long enough and you’re bound to find a body sometime.” Oh, let me tell you a story!