Smokey Purser holds two racing distinctions that will never be equaled. He was the first driver to be officially disqualified and the first driver to take a provisional start.
Purser was born in Lumber City, Georgia. He arrived in Daytona in 1919 and soon became known about town as a colorful character. He worked as a mechanic on a dredge boat and referred to himself as a sea lawyer. But most of the cases that Smokey handled were filled with illegal liquor. He occasionally traveled from Florida to St. Louis, dressed as a priest, with a car full of moonshine. On other runs he drove a car with "Fresh Florida Fish" painted on the side and a few dead fish in the back.
Despite his reputation as a bootlegger and a gambler, Smokey had a soft heart. Every Thanksgiving he took food to a Daytona orphanage, and one year he bought and installed ten new pews in a local church. But on a race track, he was entirely different.
Oldtimers say that after one race, as Smokey accepted the trophy, an inspector wanted to see the engine. When he opened the hood straps, Smokey slammed the hood shut, reached under the glove compartment, and pulled out a pistol.
"Well, it looks like this car is legal," said the inspector. Years later Smokey corrected the story: "The pistol wasn't in the glove compartment. It was in my wife's purse!"
In July 1938 Smokey became the first driver to be officially disqualified under the emerging NASCAR rules. The first five finishers had to submit their cars to a post-race teardown to ensure that the cars were strictly stock. Instead of stopping to accept the trophy, Smokey took the checkered flag, sped up the beach, and disappeared for three hours. When he finally appeared at the inspection station, he was disqualified. It seems the officials thought Smokey had altered his car during those three hours. Notwithstanding the disqualification, in the minds of the fans Smokey had won the race.
Purser finished second to Roy Hall on March 2, 1941 and won the March 30 race. Qualifying for the July race was rained out, and Smokey took the first provisional. In just 30 laps he passed 30 cars but went out after breaking a piston.
Lloyd Seay (pronounced See) was well known to Georgia lawmen. "He was without a doubt the best automobile driver of this time. He was absolutely fearless, and an excellent driver on those dusty, dirt roads. I caught him eight times and had to shoot his tires off every time," said one deputy. Another told of a night when he stopped Seay for speeding as he headed north for another load of 'shine. Seay handed the deputy two $10's. The officer said, "You know the fine is only $10.00." Seay responded, "I'm paying for my return trip later tonight."
At age 18 Lloyd took his tripper skills to the track. At age 21, he joined his cousin, Roy Hall, for the beach races in a car owned by another cousin, Raymond Parks. "Lloyd Seay put his heart and life into racing long before the era of great material reward. He raced flat out simply because he loved going fast," says racing historian Greg Fielden.
Although Seay started 15th in the August 24, 1941 beach race, he led the entire 50 laps for his first win in five starts. He won his next race at High Point on August 31 and left immediately for the September 1 Labor Day race at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway. He arrived late, missed qualifying, and started last. By lap 35 he was leading. He battled Bob Flock all afternoon and won the race -- his third in 15 days. It was his last race.
After winning at Lakewood, Lloyd drove to the home of his brother, Jim, in Burlsboro to spend the night. The following morning their cousin Woodrow Anderson, who had a police record for making moonshine, came to the house to settle a disagreement about some sugar that Lloyd had purchased and charged to Woodrow. Lloyd, Jim, and Woodrow left Jim's house and went to the home of Woodrow's father.
Jim later described the shooting in a police statement: "Woodrow got out of the car to see if it needed any water. Then he told me if I didn't want to get mixed up in anything I had better get out of the car. He jumped on Lloyd, hitting him with his fist.
"He pulled a gun out of the bib of his overalls and as I spoke he shot me in the neck. He turned the gun on Lloyd and shot him through the heart and told me if I opened my mouth he would finish me off."
Woodrow told a different version: "We had a little fuss about a settlement. Lloyd had bought some sugar and charged it to my credit and when I asked him about coming to some agreement about it he said, 'Well, you got it, didn't you?' I told him, 'Yes, I got it, but it ought to be figured in when we settle up.' Then both of them jumped on me and I run. I run through the house and got my daddy's .32 Smith and Wesson pistol and come out and tried to get in my car.
"They wouldn't let me get in and it looked like they were about to give me a whuppin' so I started shootin'. One word led to another. The first thing I knew we was quarreling, then I was runnin', then I was shootin'. That's all there was to it."
Woodrow Anderson was tried in late October and sentenced to life in prison.
From the Atlanta Constitution
Lloyd Seay, lanky, blond and youthful, was well known in Atlanta and all along the highways to the mountains. Federal, state and county officers knew him as the most daring of all the daredevil crew that hauled liquor from mountain stills to Atlanta. They had many a wild chase when they hit his trail, but they only caught him rarely, for he handled his car down the twisting blacktop hill-country roads at a pace few of them cared to follow.
He will be missed by race fans as well. Fifteen thousand people saw him race his souped-up Ford around the track at Lakewood Monday, running a hundred miles in 89 minutes to win more than $450.00 in cash.
Lloyd Seay, the smiling blond Georgia daredevil who gave speed fans at the July 27 stock car race here their biggest thrill when he turned his No. 7 Ford up on its running board as he negotiated the north turn, and who won the August 24 race here, will race no more.
Louise Smith raced for the love of her sport. "Money was nothing back then," she says. "Sometimes it seemed like the more you drove the less money you had. I remember one time Buck Baker and Lee Petty and I had to put our money together just to split a hot dog and a Coke. I won a lot, crashed a lot, and broke just about every bone in my body, but I gave it everything I had."
Louise was born in Barnesville, Georgia, but her family moved to a farm near Greenville, South Carolina when she was four. When she decided to learn to drive, Louise started her father's T-Model and had a wonderful time until she realized she did not know how to stop. So she drove the car through the chicken house and had the first of her spectacular crashes. "Needless to say, the chicken house was destroyed, and the car did not look good either. My father tanned me good," recalls Louise.
Louise met Bill France before he created NASCAR. "In those days 300 or 400 fans was a big crowd, and Bill thought I could put more people in the stands," says Louise. The fans turned out by the hundreds at Louise's first race to see a woman compete against the "real" drivers. "They told me if I saw a red flag to stop," she remembers. "They didn't say anything about a checkered flag." All the drivers except Louise went to the pits when the race ended. "I'm out there just flyin' around the track. Finally somebody remembered they told me not to stop until I saw the red flag. So they gave me a red flag." She finished third in that event and went on to win 28 modified races in 11 years much to the chagrin of Lee Petty, Buck Baker, Curtis Turner, Fonty Flock, Red Byron, and Roy Hall. house." Louise wishes he had not said that!
Louise Smith lives in Greenville, South Carolina and is a member of The Living Legends. She is the first woman to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladaga.
In 1947 Louise wanted to race at Daytona. She acquired a special engine, hid it in the trunk of the family Ford, and headed for Florida. NASCAR officials assigned her number 13. "I went all down the line trying to trade that 13 off. They said, 'Aw, Lou, just follow us through that North Turn.' So I followed them, but when I got to the North Turn seven cars were piled up. I hit the back of one of them, went up in the air, cut a flip, and landed on my top. Some police officers turned the car back over, and I finished 13th."
"If you won a race, you sometimes had to fight. I remember grabbing a tire iron one time to help Buck Baker." After another race Louise and the guys stopped at a restaurant before heading to the next race. Louise was in the ladies room when she heard chairs slamming against the door. Everyone was arrested, and Louise had to pawn her diamond ring to get them out of jail.
Louise was known for her hard-charging style and her breathtaking crashes. At Hillsborough (N.C.) she became airborne coming out of the second turn, and it took 36 minutes to free her with an acetylene torch. At Mobile (AL) she tangled with Fonty Flock and ended up sitting on top of her car in the middle of a lake. Before another race, Buddy Shuman said, "Lou, you see that empty house up there on the bank? Be careful. Don't go up that bank and through that house." Louise wishes he had not said that!
Louise Smith lives in Greenville, South Carolina and is a member of The Living Legends. She is the first woman to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladaga.
After graduation from high school in 1942 Russ Truelove, a native of Waterbury, CT, joined the US Navy and the crew of the USS Sherwood DD 520 in the Aleutian and Northern Kruli Islands in the Pacific. He was discharged in 1946 and began racing in New England and the along the east coast in a 1947 Crager. Savin Rock, Plainville, Danbury, Stafford Springs, and Rhinebeck were home to Russ until he joined NASCAR in 1953.
In 1956 Russ qualified fifth at Daytona (128.205 mph) and made a bit of history. While down shifting down from 130 mph for the North Turn, the right tire dug in, and the car flipped six times. Photos of the crash made the March 19th issue of Life magazine.
"I walked away, but spent the night in the hospital. My bell was pretty well rung," says Russ. "I consider myself very lucky to have survived. You don't think about a whole lot but hanging on. You see sand and sky. It all happens so fast," Russ explains. But, he still wonders how Ralph Moody managed to duplicate his gymnastics and still finish the race.
After the race, Russ got a new car body from the factory, but when he blew an engine in 1957, he quit racing. "It was just too expensive for independent drivers," he explains. Russ had two top ten finishes during his Grand National career.
Russ' racing career was revived in 1989 when his wife presented him with a four-cylinder Spec Racer kit car for Christmas, and he was off and running with the Sports Car Club of America. He finally stopped racing when he was hit from behind and knocked into a wall. "The medical people told me to keep out of racing, and I decided to listen to them," he said.
Russ still lives in Waterbury and has served as a director of The Living Legends of Auto Racing, Inc. These days he spends a large part of his time scheduling public appearances for our members. Russ can usually be found posing for photographs with his restored 1956 Mercury and signing autographs for old and new fans at Living Legends events.
Louis Jerome "Red" Vogt, the man who named the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, has long been recognized as NASCAR's first master mechanic. Red's racing career began in the 1920's and ended with his retirement in 1968.
Vogt was born in Washington, D.C. on September 22, 1904. At age 12 he got his first job with a local Cadillac dealership. In his early 20's he moved to Atlanta and opened the soon-to-be famous Red Vogt Garage on the corner of Spring Street and Linden Avenue. Red's recognition as a master mechanic began with his association with Raymond Parks.
Vogt Specials were well known on race tracks throughout the South and can be seen in every old racing film from the 40's and 50's. Although the cars bore several different numbers, the most famous were Nos. 14 and 22 owned by Parks. From 1946 to 1949 the team of Vogt and Parks won four consecutive beach races.
Vogt brought a group of Atlanta car owners and drivers to Daytona inDecember 1947 to meet with Bill France and discuss ways to protect the fledgling sport from unscrupulous promoters. Although he owned a Georgia charter for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Red suggested a joint effort. To ensure a beginning without controversy, Red gave up the Georgia charter and suggested that the new organization use the name NASCAR.
After the inaugural NASCAR race in February 1948, Red Byron said, "You can't win a horse race without a good horse, and you can't win a stock car race without a good car. What the trainer is to the horse, a mechanic is to the car, and I've got the best mech in the racing business. Red Vogt is the reason I win. He puts those motors together like a watch. When other mechanics learn his secret gear ratio, there won't be any stragglers in a race. They'll all travel."
Red operated a garage, maintained race cars for several owners, andbuilt racing engines for many other owners. His cars won untold races on tracks in many small towns on the circuit. Those fortunate drivers, who were the envy of all racers, included stock car drivers Johnny Allen, Red Byron, Bob Flock, Fonty Flock, Bill France, Roy Hall, Banjo Matthews, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, Lloyd Seay, Jack Smith, Curtis Turner, and Jerry Wimbish and Indy car drivers Chet Gardner, Tony Gulatto, Floyd Roberts, and Tony Williams.
In the mid-50's Red closed the Atlanta garage, moved to Charlotte, and worked for the Ford team of Pete DePaolo. He later became crew chief for Carl Kiekhaefer and for Fish Carburetor.
Red receiving the 1st and possibly only lifetime membership presented by NASCAR and Bill France
Red was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame (Darlington) in 1980 and the TRW/NASCAR Mechanics Hall of Fame (inaugural ceremony) in 1987. He passed away on March 7, 1991 at his home in Daytona Beach at the age of 86.
When NASCAR celebrated its 50th Anniversary it took time to honor what they considered the top 50 NASCAR drivers of all time. One of those men was Rex White.
Rex is hardly a household name to racing fans today but many older fans remember and respect his accomplishments. Rex was Chevrolets best drover from the late fifties through 1963 when GM came down hard on its divisions who were providing support to drivers and owners who raced in NASCAR as well as other sanctioning bodies.
Rex has teamed up in 1959 with Louis Clements and they became a very formidable force in NASCAR racing. Rex and Louis met when they were on the Chevrolet Factory Racing Team (see picture) racing the #44, a Black Widow Fuel Injected '57. Before the American Manufactures Association's (AMA) ban on supporting all forms of racing in 1957 you could go to your local Chevy dealer's showroom and order a stock car ready to race. Who built these race cars to order? SEDCO, the Southern Engineering and Development Company. Jim Rathman for Chevrolet ran SEDCO before the AMA's ban on racing.
The SEDCO crew would take the model you ordered from the Chevrolet Lakewood assembly plant in Atlanta and modify it at the SEDCO shop. They only built seven racecars before the ban was put in place. An interesting Footnote is that after the '57 Daytona Beach race Fuel Injection was banned from Competition for the rest of the season thus the term "Black Widow". Not only that but Rathman moved his entire operation to Miami. Chevrolet quit providing made to order stock cars and went undercover with its support for NASCAR through Rex and Louis. The factory support for racing was hidden in Chevrolets Marin engine Division.
Rex won 28 NASCAR Grand National races. That was more Grand National races than the more well-known drivers you often hear about from that era like Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly and Fireball Roberts. It's nice to win more races than your contemporaries but this is where it gets good. Rex was not only Chevrolets best driver and NASCAR's Grand National divisions win-ingest driver he was NASCAR's most consistent. Rex entered 233 NASCAR Grand National races in his career and finished in the top ten 163 times. That's about 70%! Tim Flock is the only driver that is close to Rex in the Grand National event category. Those facts are easy to obtain if you have a copy of Greg Felden's "Forty Years of Stock Car Racing" and know how to work a calculator. That's a record that is not likely to be broken because today's drivers have such long careers.
There are a lot of memories attached to Rex White's career. Just to name a few.
There's a lot to be said for women drivers, and Vicki Wood has said quite a bit. But she knows what she's talking about. She has watched both men and women racers, and she has driven with them and against them.
Vicki stands 5'3" inches tall and weighs in at 136 pounds. Her start in racing followed a trip to the local track in Detroit. Vicki recalls that during the powder puff race she commented to her husband, Skeeter, "If I couldn't drive any better than that, I'd quit." The next trip to the track, Skeeter took her into the pit area, pointed to a car, and said, "That's your car." She finished ninth.
Skeeter also influenced Vicki's driving style. He told her that when she approached two cars if she could not get through on the inside or outside, she should go between them and they would move apart. "I did as he said," Vicki recalls, "but when they saw my car between them, they both closed in and all three of us sat out the race."
At the beach in 1958 Vicki drove the same car as a well known male driver. He drove the car to an average speed of 139 miles per hour with a one-way run of 142 mph. Then came Vicki's turn. Her average speed was only 136 miles per hour, but her top one-way run was 143.
Between 1955 and 1960 Vicki set records on the beach-road course. In three of those years she recorded times faster than any of the men. In 1960 she drove a one-way record speed of 150.375 miles per hour.
Vicki's name is still in the NASCAR record books. She was third in the two-way flying mile in 1955 with an average speed of 125.838. In 1956 she was second with a speed of 136.081. That same year she had the fastest one-way run in measured mile history -- 143.827. In 1958 and 1959 she won the Pure Oil Performance Trials in the passing test against male competition, and in 1959 set a new (all drivers) measured mile record of 147.420. She holds the woman's record for the measured mile (150.375), the woman's record at Daytona International Speedway (130.379) and the woman's record at Atlanta International Raceway (121.30).
Even today there is nothing slow about Vicki Wood. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Vicki was riding with friends on a long, straight, modern highway. The husband of one of the women was driving 90 mph when this 81-year-old grandmother smiled and said, "I thought you said you could drive fast."
Vicki lives in West Palm Beach and can often be found at LLOAR events.