I took Sunday off from Social Media this weekend and as a result, I missed the announcement that my friend Dave McClelland died. My heart goes out to all his family, friends, and fans. At 85 he lived a couple of lifetimes more than many who had traveled the world with him, and fans will undoubtedly smile when thinking about him and Steve Evans finally reuniting in the afterlife. Dave’s past is storied and includes many awards, accomplishments, and accolades, but it is his wife Louise, their children, and grandchildren, that brought him the most joy. His fans, myself included, will miss his voice but his soul was what made him Dave and that is what I will miss most.
Dave McClelland was a larger-than-life character that was rooted in a love for Drag Racing and its people. His stories were rarely about a particular car, except when they revolved around the people who made up the team. He had great one-liners, remembered things that happened decades earlier like they were yesterday, and was incredible at remembering names. He was also the ONLY announcer I’ve ever met who shared every “secret” he had.
Dave started out in the drag racing world as a fan and a racer and drove his famed Tuna Tank Fiat Topolino. He ran race tracks and timing associations, was an NHRA staffer at various levels, announced drag racing events around the world, and spread the gospel of drag racing like the true gentleman that he was. Because of all those years doing just that, he was awarded lifetime achievement awards, was inducted into multiple Halls of Fame, and more.
And for all those things he was thankful and proud of his accomplishments, but oh so humble.
I have too many stories about the things that Mac did for me, or with me over the years and will reserve some of those for podcasts, dragstrip storytelling, etc. But I will never forget first meeting Dave on Hot Power Tour. When I say meeting, I mean actually having a conversation and spending real time together.
I had been hired to be the “Man on the Street” for Hot Rod’s Power Tour announcing team, with plenty of public speaking experience but no formal announcing of any kind. As I was doing on stage announcing with Joe Pagano, interviews and announcing out in the crowd and around the show, and then being involved in the evening awards and presentations on stage each day, I had the opportunity to spend time with Dave throughout the week. This was Power Tour 2006. Dave was on the tour as the voice of Flowmaster at the time, and was doing all their stage presentations and giveaways each day.
On day two of the event, I had been on stage with one of the folks from GM Performance Division and they had taken my mic to do some talking. The presentation went well and I came off stage for the next person to go and Dave was standing there. He said to me, “Chad, one piece of advice. Never let them have your mic.” I looked at him and realized what he was saying and he continued “You can’t control the pace and finish it up if you aren’t the one with the mic. Whoever has the mic controls the show.” It was great advice and given when I hadn’t had an issue but certainly could have. We spent the week working together, talking about our drag racing pasts, and comparing notes on where we had been together over the years.
Later that week, as Power Tour wrapped up, we found ourselves at English Town New Jersey for the final stop of Power Tour 2006. While there, participants could make fun runs down the dragstrip and I went over to announce some from the tower. Imagine my surprise and excitement when Mac walks in the door of the tower after a little while and says. “Do you mind if I announce with you for a little while Chad?” Did I mind? Are you F’ing kidding me? Of course, I don’t mind! This of course was not what came out of my mouth, but he sat down and we started announcing pairs of muscle cars and hot rods, going down the track, with no winners or money, or anything else on the line. It was awesome.
And as awesome as it was, it would be surpassed by dozens of other experiences I had with Dave over the years.
When my late wife Daphne met Dave for the first time she was so excited she could hardly keep from crying. She did of course as soon as he walked away, but he had that effect on people.
Standing in the staging lanes, or on the starting line, at the dragstrip at California Speedway while Daphne was racing and so were Dave’s son Kevin and grandson Daniel, talking about racing and family, without actually working at a race was one of the things I’ll never forget.
There are so many moments. So many handshakes, so many hugs, and so many funny things he said.
Dave McClelland, thank you for sharing a small piece of your life and experiences with me. Thank you for being such a wonderful human being, and thank you for being you. I will miss you my friend.
I know that the McClelland family knows how proud he was of them all because Dave was not a man who was afraid of expressing his feelings, but I hope they all know how profoundly obvious that love was to all of us around him. My sincerest condolences to you all.
I promise we will share more Dave stories this week on Beards, Burnouts and Beers as well as Powershift, both podcasts that you can watch on the automarketingtips YouTube channel or Facebook page.