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Garner Visited Asheville Motor Speedway

The passing of actor James Garner reminds an Asheville man of his brush with Hollywood greatness.

Tommy Thompson was a flagman at the old Asheville Motor Speedway on Amboy Road. One day in 1996, it was Garner who flagged down Thompson for a photo opportunity. The picture is now a prized memento.

"He said he made it a point, anywhere they were filming, he found a local race track to go to," Thompson recalls.

"I've been a racing fan all my life," Garner told News 13 back in '96. "Used to drive hot rods in the 40s and raced off road in the 60s. I've done a little racing in my life."

Garner was in the mountains filming "My Fellow Americans" with co-star Jack Lemmon.

He even invited Thompson to the set for a couple of days.

"But on the movie set is where i spent hours talking to him about racing," Thompson says.

Those conversations gave Tommy a sense of the regular guy, who happened to be famous.

In 1999, Thompson called Garner to tell him the Asheville Motor Speedway was shut down.        

"And I did talk to him one time after they closed the speedway and told him what happened," he says. "And he said he was so sorry."      
James Garner's death brings Tommy back to those glory days of the track.

"Tears come in my eyes, I couldn't help that," Thompson says.
Today, he mourns the loss of a legend and the legendary track where they met.

"You know I've got a lot of top ten memories, and that's right there with 'em."    


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