Terry Stiles figured it would cost him $500. Last Friday, on the Fourth of July, Stiles, a 40-year-old blunderbust driver at Riverhead Raceway, sat in his Rocky Point home wondering how he'd be able to compete the next day.
Stiles' car had a rocker arm-stud issue and, because of the holiday, he could not find anyone to help him with it. Basically, the arm studs are like bolts and need to be screwed into the engine tightly. Without the studs, "it would feel like a sparkplug fell off and a cylinder would not be functioning at all," Stiles said. "Unless you're a professional, you really have no idea how to do it."
With no other choice, Stiles posted a message on Facebook asking for help on the holiday. Former NASCAR modified driver Sal Accardi Jr., who Stiles had never met, answered the call. Accardi told Stiles to bring the vehicle to Accardi's Deer Park home.
With the rain pouring, Accardi popped open a tent near his garage and went to work. In a couple of hours, the job was done.
"He just had a smile as if nothing in the world bothered this guy," Stiles said. "It was one of those special moments where if you didn't find a totally nice person, you weren't going to get what you needed done. It's a type of sport with a lot of camaraderie. You don't really need to know the person in order to want to help them."
Afterward, Accardi would not accept any money. For a moment, Stiles was in disbelief. He made one final offer: $100 and permission to drive Stiles' car for a few laps during practice. Accardi accepted.
"You may not think that's very exciting, but someone who loves racing would take that like one of those sweepstakes or win-for-life scratch offs," Stiles said.
Stiles went on to capture the win in the 20-lap race the next day.
"The guy came out of the woodwork," Stiles said. "If it wasn't for Sal, I would have not been able to race and pull off that win. No way."