In the early 1980s, Greg Sacks was the terror of the East Coast open wheel modified circuit.
In 1982, his team entered 38 races and won 28, including two stretches of 11 in a row. And they were big shows, not local bullrings.
Sacks had an eye on the Indianapolis 500. He visited the track on Pole Day in 1989.
“I went as a guest of UNO, said Sacks, 57, from his Port Orange, Fla., offices. “Through Al Unser, I got the opportunity to drive the Pace Car for a lap, which was very, very cool. I also had the opportunity to be down on pit road with Davy Jones when he qualified. It was such an overwhelming experience, even as a racer.”
He had a nibble, but the timing and circumstances just weren’t right.
“A friend of mine at U.S. Tobacco put me in touch with a guy who worked for Pat Patrick,” Sacks said. “I was looking for a sponsor for a Winston Cup team, and he called back and asked if I’d like to compete in the ‘500’ in one of Pat Patrick’s cars. There wasn’t an actual offer, so I don’t know, but we had made a family investment in the stock car series and I decided to pursue the higher levels of NASCAR.
“As I look back, I’d loved to drive one of those cars.”
It turned out that he made Indy a different way, one of the drivers who made the field for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. He finished 18th that day after starting 13th and competed in the Brickyard 400 three other times.
“I was driving for D.K. Ulrich in the Jasper Motorsports USA Ford #77,” he said. “I was lucky enough to do the tire tests that year. During those tests, we had telemetry on the cars and that helped me get around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The most important thing I had to learn was not to focus on the highest speed I reached but the lowest speed going through the turns. It was a huge factor getting the turn speed up.
“It’s such a technical track. It’s different than many of the tracks I had driven. You had to hit your marks with such precision. Everything is dictated by the move prior to it.”
Race Day had him in awe.
“It was a little surreal,” he said. “You feel like you’re walking 3 feet off the ground. The admiration of the fans puts you on a different level. You feel so lucky to be part of something so special. The photos with Mrs. Hulman on the Yard of Bricks. I led a couple laps that day and still have those checks.”
Today, he is in a different business. Sacks’ company unveiled Grand Touring Vodka at Daytona earlier this month, will sponsor the Nationwide car driven by Aric Almirola this weekend and in six weeks, figures to be in 26 states.
“We’re the official vodka at both Daytona and Homestead,” he said. “It gives me the opportunity to stay involved in motorsports.
“And I wouldn’t rule out a ride at the Brickyard.”
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