The Living Legends of Auto Racing and The Auto Racing Legends are delighted to announce that the Daytona Beach based racing organizations will be merging as one entity. The merger became effective on March 1, 2008. continue reading
The Morris is Morris Lee Metcalfe of Morristown, Tennessee and late of Winston Salem, NC. He's better known to us and the automobile-racing world as NASCAR's Chief Scorer, Morris Metcalfe - that's the coveted position he held for many years. continue reading
The Steering Committee of the Birthplace of Speed Centennial Celebration has announced the preliminary schedule of events that will take place March 26-28, 2003. continue reading
Fans who say they get the thrill of their lives watching a beach-road race haven't seen anything yet. The real thrill comes when you're right there in the car with the man at the wheel. Since that's an impossibility for most of you, here's a play by play description of a ride around the road-beach course as told by a reporter. continue reading
Tim Flock was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Tim, his brothers, Bob and Fonty, and his sister Ethel loved race cars. They loved racing, race tracks - anything about racing and especially beach racing. Tim raced through the 40's, 50's and 60's. continue reading
When I was asked to write about living with a famous Dad, I wasn't sure exactly what to say. You see my Dad is famous to a lot of people, but to us he is just another family member doing his part. continue reading
It is a hot Friday night in July. The paycheck in my pocket is just enough to keep us going for another week. I enter the track and wave to the ambulance crew who has patched me up once or twice. The sound is ear splitting. The track announcer promises speed, thrills, and chills. continue reading
Joe Lee Johnson, winner of the very first World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960, has donated the trophy he received from winning that historic race to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Johnson's gift came in honor of the 50th Anniversary of NASCAR. continue reading
I am not sure where one would start to give an adequate but brief history of the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, but I will start with the Indians. Before 1821 the Chattahoochee River divided two tribes: the Cherokees north of the river and the Creeks to the south. It took 100 years to "remove" all the Indians from Georgia, starting in Savannah in 1733 and ending in North Georgia in 1835. continue reading
NASCAR came to Lakewood for the first time in 1951. With the disbanding of the National Stock Car Racing Association (NSCRA) at the end of its '51 season, the drivers picked themselves up and integrated with NASCAR. continue reading
There were drivers bold in the days of old,
When the tracks were dirt and clay.
And I sing in praise of those bygone days
And the men who showed the way. continue reading
It began with the trippers -- the men who hauled illegal moonshine over the back roads of the South from January 16, 1920 to December 5, 1933 when it was against the law to manufacture, sell, or transport liquor in the United States. If nothing else, the boys learned to handle a car while being chased by men determined to catch them. continue reading
The Living Legends of Auto Racing based in Daytona Beach will once again be doing a bus tour during Speed Week 2017. This year, the tour is scheduled for Friday, February 24 at 8 am leaving from the Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum located at 2400 South Ridgewood Avenue (US 1) in South Daytona in the Sunshine Mall. continue reading on the News-Journal
LLOAR and ARL Merge!
The Living Legends of Auto Racing and The Auto Racing Legends are delighted to announce that the Daytona Beach based racing organizations will be merging as one entity. The merger became effective on March 1, 2008.
The decision to merge came about as both organizations recognized that uniting the clubs would serve the best interests of both organizations and their members and through the hard work and dedication of President Ray Fox.
Both The Auto Racing Legends and The Living Legends of Auto Racing are dedicated to preserving the history of auto racing as well as supporting a number of various charities as well as a scholarship program for local students.
Both clubs will work under the banner of the Living Legends of Auto Racing, which was originally the mother organization, with Ray Fox as President. The agreement includes that present memberships will stand for their duration, and most importantly, those members of the racing community honored by the Auto Racing Legends will stand in the Living Legends Hall of Fame as will the ARL memorials. In addition, other aspects of both organizations will be combined in order to provide the best of both organizations.
This is a true merger that respects all members of both clubs President Ray Fox said, I am so happy to see everyone coming together.
The Living Legends of Auto Racing is looking forward to continuing to honor the history of racing and the pioneers of this great sport.
The Morris is Morris Lee Metcalfe of Morristown, Tennessee and late of Winston Salem, NC. He's better known to us and the automobile-racing world as NASCAR's Chief Scorer, Morris Metcalfe - that's the coveted position he held for many years.
He was in Lansing, Michigan this past summer getting ready to take a ride with veteran NASCAR Race Driver Dick Passwater in the number 77, a 1953 Olds "88" that Dick piloted to fame in those early days of NASCAR racing. As I've told you before this car is the one Dick donated to the R.E. Olds Museum a few years back and is the only original Rocket "88" NASCAR racer we know of still in it's original form.
It was my distinct pleasure to have first met Morris at the annual August NASCAR race at the Michigan Speedway in 1997. We had taken the '53 Olds to the speedway to help celebrate Oldsmobile's 100th Birthday. On the very warm and sunny Sunday morning before the race, we had the car sifting on display in the garage area awaiting an escort to move the car into the track where Dick would drive it on a demonstration lap for the fans.
As dick and I stood by the rear of the car talking with Richard Petty who had stopped by, this older gentleman approached the car. We heard him say, "Why that's Dick Passwater's car," and just as he said that he looked up and spied Dick and said, "My goodness, that's Dick Passwater!"
After he and Dick Exchanged old-buddy how you dos, Dick introduced Morris to me. Morris then told me this story. He said that Dick's car was the very first car he ever scored for NASCAR. It was at the Old Hickory Track in North Carolina. Morris said he had come to see the race and they announced they needed scorers over the PA system, so he volunteered. He drew Dick's car and as luck would have it, the car won that race. As a perk for doing the scoring gig, NASCAR gave Morris the price of his ticket back and that soled him on a good way to spend his Sundays at the racetrack for free.
From that meager beginning, Morris worked his way into the NASCAR family and in the end was elevated to Chief Scorer, a post he held for 17 hears before his retirement in 2002. During his career with NASCAR, Morris scored incredible 3,000 races. In addition to his career as a NASCAR Scorer, he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Miami and a Master's degree from the University of Texas while working his day job as an industrial engineer for Western Electic. He worked for that company for 30 years.
His greatest legacy is the fact that given the great opportunity for crisis in the work that he did, there was never a controversy in NASCAR scoring during his tenure. This says volumes for his competency.
On this day, Morris had traveled the 40 miles north from the Michigan Speedway to visit the R.E. Olds Museum. While there, he asked the Docent where Dick Passwater's car was. They told him it was just up the street as Lansing's annual Car Capitol Celebration that the Museum sponsors each year as a fundraiser and they added that Dick was also in Lansing also. Morris's eyes lit up and he walked the three blocks to downtown and found Dick and the car. It was a delightful surprise for Dick as well as the crowd, to have such a famous personage visit our celebration.
After a round of introductions of the team of museum volunteers and other interested spectators, Morris answered a ton of questions and delighted us all with some of his most interesting stories of his relationships and involvement over the years with so many legends of NASCAR racing.
Too soon time slipped away. When Morris had to leave, Dick offered him a ride back to his car in the old number 77 Olds, the very racecar Morris had first scored, some 48 years ago. What are the chances of that happening? Morris made no hesitation to accept the offer.
After they got seated, Dick fired the big old Rocket engine to life and they rolled through the crowed bellowing the low sweet powerful exhaust not e of the straight pipes which produced such sweet music for the ears of the true gear heads, young and old alike, Morris was just beaming the whole way.
His visit capped a great day for all of us and for those fortunate enough to have been there, it was a date we will never forget.
God Bless America,
The Steering Committee of the Birthplace of Speed Centennial Celebration has announced the preliminary schedule of events that will take place March 26-28, 2003. This marks the 100th anniversary of the first sanctioned timed trials of automobile races on the sands of Ormond Beach in 1903. The Winton Bullet #1 and the Olds Pirate drove in a Challenge Cup event, which the Bullet won by 1/5 of a second. A reenactment of that famous race will be only one of the highlights of this unique weekend.
The fun begins with a dedication of the refurbished city park on SR A1A and Granada Boulevard to be named the Birthplace of Speed Park. The Ormond Beach Historical Trust, together with the City of Ormond Beach,s trying to secure local and state funding to construct two racecars that will represent the Bullet and the Pirate. The dedication ceremony begins at 4:00 p.m. and will feature legendary NASCAR drivers, paying homage to their roots, as well as area civic leaders.
Friday kicks off the weekend with Centennial Receptions in the Casements Cultural Center, the Ormond Memorial Art Museum, and the MacDonald House Museum and Welcome Center. These activities will begin at 5:30 p.m. and last until 9:00 that evening. The three facilities will be showing exhibits related to the Centennial all week.
The Centennial Racing Festival will be held on Saturday, March 29. Granada Boulevard will be lined with multiple decades of cars that will stretch from SR A1A to Fortunato Park in a 'STREETSCAPE OF CARS,' starting at 10 a.m. Fortunato Park will feature a display of very special classic cars.
THE ANTIQUE AUTO BEACH RACES will begin their festivities at 2 p.m. on the beach, south of the Granada Boulevard approach. This is where the Winton racecar and a replica of the Olds Pirate will participate in a reenactment of the first timed trials. This will be followed by 50 pre-1932 cars, competing two-by-two down the 1/8-mile beach course until one driver is declared the overall winner.
Crowd favorites are sure to include the Ford Model A fire truck owned by Bud Pike of Ormond Beach. Pike says the beach races are a real family affair in his household. 'The whole crew gets involved,' says Pike. 'My son and two daughters now have antique cars of their own and give Dad a real run for his money.''
All events surrounding the Centennial Celebration are free with the exception of the Centennial Gala on Saturday night.
Fans who say they get the thrill of their lives watching a beach-road race haven't seen anything yet. The real thrill comes when you're right there in the car with the man at the wheel. Since that's an impossibility for most of you, here's a play by play description of a ride around the road-beach course as told by a reporter.
You climb into the car, and while you're adjusting your belt and straightening the crash helmet, and while your driver is doing the same, his pitmen are adjusting the braces which hold the doors shut against the pull of centrifugal force, tightening the straps which hold down the hood, and making sure that everything is ready for a fast lap of the course.
Your driver looks at you and grins, and you smile back in a rather sickly fashion. He throws the car into gear and roars off northward on the beach. After the first quarter-mile, you relax slightly. This isn't so bad. You've driven this fast on the beach yourself. Then, just ahead, you see the north turn, where the racing cars swing through a narrow approach to cut back to the road backstretch.
Your driver seems to slacken speed only slightly, and with a slight movement of his hands, the car dashes into the approach. With a slight skid, quickly rectified, you're going down the backstretch, and now you are beginning to realize what racing speed means.
You blast down the backstretch gaining momentum with every turn of the wheels. You feel the car skid slightly as it whips through the first curve at nearly 90 miles per hour. Then you feel it slide slightly the other way as you burst through the second curve. Then, almost before you can think, you're nearly on the south approach.
Out of the corner of your eye, you see your driver reach cautiously for the brake pedal, and you start to heave a sigh of relief. But the sigh is cut short as you realize he only touched the brakes with his foot, apparently just feeling them to make sure they were still there and that your speed is practically unchecked as you zoom into the approach.
Then your side of the car goes into the air. You look down in the car, and your driver seems to be sitting three feet below you on the same seat. Your side of the car bumps down on the beach, your driver pours the gas to the engine, and you're away -- up the beach to the pits. As he straightens out, your driver grins at you and says, "She was on two wheels most of the way."
Editor's note: The driver was "Mad" Marion McDonald.
Tim Flock was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Tim, his brothers, Bob and Fonty, and his sister Ethel loved race cars. They loved racing, race tracks - anything about racing and especially beach racing. Tim raced through the 40's, 50's and 60's.
Tim raced on the beach; he raced on dirt tracks; and he raced on super speedways. He raced anywhere, anytime. The stiffer the competition, the faster the cars, the better Tim liked it. The roar of the cars, the smell of the gas, the heat of the engines, and the race to the checkered flag were glorious. Racing? "It's in a man's blood," Tim Flock once said. He followed the circuit and got his share of wins, but he was most proud of his record 18 pole positions in a single season and his two Grand National championships.
Tim frequently appeared at race tracks and other racing events as a goodwill ambassador. He had a special rapport with the fans, and they loved him.
When I was asked to write about living with a famous Dad, I wasn't sure exactly what to say. You see my Dad is famous to a lot of people, but to us he is just another family member doing his part.
We were lucky because we probably had the most normal childhood of any of the racing children. We went to a good Catholic school in a carpool with cousins and had a great time. Even though we didn't see much of our parents in the fall and winter, we were able to travel to new and exciting places in the summer. Sometimes we flew in Dad's plane and sometimes we rode in Mom's motor home.
We left right after school and went from Hueytown to Texas, from Texas to California, from California to the Pocono's, from the Pocono's to Michigan. We got home from Michigan, had a few days to rest, and then it was off to Daytona. I remember how neat it was to go back to school and tell stories of our trips over the summer to Disneyland and Knots Berry Farm in California, the Grand Canyon, and Daytona Beach.
Not only was the travel exciting but we enjoyed the different places, meeting new people, making new friends along the way, and giggling at the people who interrupted our dinner for an autograph from this man at our table. We did not fully realize the impact he had on so many people.
I remember staying at little race tracks across the country until 2:00 a.m. and starving to death (or so I thought) waiting for Dad to sign autographs. We would fall asleep in the truck or the car before he finished, but he wouldn't leave until the last fan got an autograph.
It is a hot Friday night in July. The paycheck in my pocket is just enough to keep us going for another week. I enter the track and wave to the ambulance crew who has patched me up once or twice. The sound is ear splitting. The track announcer promises speed, thrills, and chills.
Damn! My engine is running sick. I am more than a little disgusted with this thing on wheels. But all is not lost! A driver from Carolina has not arrived, and the car owner offers me a ride.
The heat is ten ragged laps of over enthusiastic fender banging. My car seems lighter. It has a quicker steering response and is alive with horsepower. The engine sings!
The owner smiles when I win the heat and the semi-final. I will start 19th in The Feature. The track announcer promises a bonus to anyone who breaks the win streak of the track champ.
The field rolls forward with engines reving. The fans yell encouragement. Twenty-four cars in a double row ricochet through the first two turns. It is too loud, too fast, and too tight. Sparks fly and fenders are redesigned by impacts. I am making no progress.
The champ is two places in front of me. Two other front runners are working me high and low, outside and inside. Slots open but I can't find the right grove. Hey, the champ is behind two cars that are slowing! I make a stupid move to the outside of all three and the right rear rubs the wall. Dripping with sweat I realize that I have bitten the wet sponge I carry in my teeth into two pieces.
Two cars impact hard and one hits the wall. A crack and a loud, slow roll right in front of me. How did I get away with just a fender nick? The tow truck picks up the two cars. No ambulance rolling. Racer's luck. All is okay.
The flagman insists that I restart in 12th position. The champ is 11th. I'm positive he should be behind me, and I stop to yell at the pit steward. Okay, I've had bad calls before.
The champ can stay at his present position and use up the track. I loosen the distance and anticipate the green just enough to pull along side him. I am on the outside with just enough momentum to pass before we enter the first and second turns. He taps my back bumper, and I pour it on.
There must be a leak in the header pipe. My eyes are burning from the alcohol and nitro mix. I can't blink or I'll be in second place. I can only push it to the ragged edge.
Three laps left. Something is wrong with the engine. The sound is not the same. Then I realize that I am hearing only my engine. Either the champ has fallen back or I have gained ground. I quickly check the oil pressure and the heat gauge. Just that quick glance, and the champ moved up ten feet. Let it go! If it blows, it blows. Run hard and go for it!
I am waiting for something to go wrong. I hear a strange sound in the headers and imagine there is a binding in the rear. It sounds like the car is losing power. The white flag is 50 feet ahead. Now I'm on the final lap with 75 feet between me and the checkered flag.
Wow! It is like a grand slam home run, a touchdown, and winning the Indianapolis 500 all rolled up into one. I yell for half a lap. I'm out of breath. I'm exhausted. I'm happy. I'm relaxed. It is the highest high I've ever had. Three years of trying -- thousands of hours of hard work -- scrimping and saving to make a race. Yep, it was worth it. You bet it was worth it! The first win is never forgotten.
Joe Lee Johnson, winner of the very first World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960, has donated the trophy he received from winning that historic race to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Johnson's gift came in honor of the 50th Anniversary of NASCAR.
"This is one of the most historically significant pieces of memorabilia that we have. It is a beautiful trophy, befitting the historic race that it represents," said IMHOF Executive Director Don Naman. "We really appreciate Joe Lee donating it to us."
Johnson, who now makes his home in Cleveland, Tennessee, came from five laps down to win the longest race in stock car history. It came against a star-studded field, including Hall of Famers Lee and Richard Petty, Buck and Buddy Baker, Fireball Roberts, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Tiny Lund, Banjo Matthews, Ned Jarrett, Fred Lorenzen, Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly. Johnson has said it was his biggest win in a career that included a NASCAR Convertible Division title in 1959, as well as hundreds of short track wins.
The race took five hours and 34 minutes to run, and Johnson noted that "it was a toss-up whether the car or the driver would give out first." Johnson was fortunate to be able to keep his car and himself going for the full 600 miles, and he wound up winning by four laps over Johnny Beauchamp. His victory was worth $27,150, and, of course, his historic trophy.
[Editor's note: Joe Lee is a member of the Living Legends of Auto Racing, Inc.]
I am not sure where one would start to give an adequate but brief history of the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, but I will start with the Indians. Before 1821 the Chattahoochee River divided two tribes: the Cherokees north of the river and the Creeks to the south. It took 100 years to "remove" all the Indians from Georgia, starting in Savannah in 1733 and ending in North Georgia in 1835.
The government sold the land in 200 acre lots. The land, known today as the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, was purchased by Stephen Terry, a surveyor for the town of Marthasville (Atlanta). Terry was Atlanta's first real estate agent.
Shortly after the Civil War Atlantans realized they had an inadequate supply of water for drinking and fire protection. In 1875 Terry's property with its mill on Poole's Creek became Atlanta's first waterworks. Thus, 30 years after becoming Atlanta, there came water. When the hydrants in downtown were tested, it was reported on Septemer 12, 1875, "Thousands of spectators, including many hundreds of folks from the nearby rural areas, marveled at this 'manmade water . . . spouting simultaneously." A few years later, Atlanta had outgrown this solution. Another water plant was built and put into use at its present location on Marietta Road in northwest Atlanta. That was in 1893. It is still in service today.
Mr. Terry's former Creek Indian land seemed to have run its course until 1895 when the Atlanta Constitution announced, "Atlanta is to have a summer resort next season that will meet the wants of the pleasure loving people of the city. The old waterworks property and lake south of the city has been leased for that purpose. The plans include an immense bathhouse, music stand, open air theater, and elegant pavilion. Several dozen rowboats will be on the lake."
Some years later, incubated by the coming of World War I, Georgia farmers were called upon to raise more food. A stimulus was needed for the movement, and an agricultural fair was suggested. Lakewood Park, comprising some 375 acres, was picked as the site. In 1916 the Southeastern Fair surpassed all expectations. Permanent buildings, cattle and agricultural exhibits, parades, fashion shows, fireworks, and other diversions were created. A stellar attraction was the horse racing on the mile track around the lake.
During the 1930's the Park and Fairgrounds fell on hard times. But men of a younger age were taking an interest. Mike Benton and John Armour came aboard to help out, and the fair began to regain interest with automobile, boat and motorcycle races.
By the 1980's people had moved to the suburbs, and the fair and racetrack had to compete with Six Flags Over Georgia Amusement Park and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Lakewood has lost its gleam. The agricultural shows are a thing of the past. and the buildings are now used for local flea markets and antique shows. An amphitheater brings in a crowd for special musical events. Its outdoor concert and parking area cover the old speedway's third and fourth turns and most of the straightaways. The track's ghostly old concrete grandstand remains, but the lake is now a dirty pond. The identity and heart of Lakewood is all but gone.
After the fairgrounds were built and the 1916 Southeastern Fair was over, Atlanta decided to try something different. On July 4, 1917 Lakewood saw a horse races and motorcycle races. The horse races lasted five hours, and the crowd was tiring when the motorcycles cranked up. E.G. Walker from Macon won the first race on a Harley. J. Parmalee of Atlanta won the amateur race. The events were a huge success with an announced attendance of 23,384.
The next week Ralph DePalma and the legendary Barney Oldfield ran a set of match races of 10, 15, and 25 miles. Admission for the three races was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. An extra 25 cents gained a seat in the grandstands.
Oldfield was in his Golden Submarine; DePalma was in his Packard. Lakewood added an aviator to do loops over the speedway for extra thrills, and the fans got their money's worth. Larry Brown, the aviator, crashed in front of the crowd and walked away from a destroyed airplane.
A crowd of 15-20,000 saw Oldfield win the first race and DePalma win the second. In the third race the Golden Submarine threw a wheel and damaged the axle so badly it could not be repaired. Although DePalma said he would wait for repairs, Oldfield withdrew, and DePalma was the World's Dirt Champion by default.
During the 20's and 30's the duels on the track were almost as intense as the duels off the track for the sanctioning of the finest mile track in the South. The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) battled each other for the right to hold events at Lakewood.
AAA claimed that a lot of the IMCA results were predetermined. Because race cars were so hard to come by and the schedule ran from late February to early November, IMCA could not afford to have their stars, much less their cars, torn up in racing events. IMCA also felt that racing was unsafe and wanted to protect the racers.
NASCAR came to Lakewood for the first time in 1951. With the disbanding of the National Stock Car Racing Association (NSCRA) at the end of its '51 season, the drivers picked themselves up and integrated with NASCAR.
While other local racing was going on during the year at Cedartown, Macon and Thomaston, France's first Grand National strictly stock car race (now Winston Cup) happened at Lakewood on Sunday, November 11, 1951. Tim Flock won the race which paid a total purse of $4,000. Included in the field were the stars of the circuit: Jesse James Taylor of Macon, all three Flock brothers, Lee Petty, Marshall Teague, Frank Mundy, Fireball Roberts, Bill Blair, Jimmy Lewallen, Gober Sosebee, Glenn Dunaway, Buck Baker, Jack Smith, Billy Carden, Ed Samples and many others. The honorary starter the wrestler Gorgeous George.
As the case with many races, Tim Flock's victory was overshadowed by tragedy. Taylor was thrown from his car and run over by another driver. After a stint at Crawford Long Hospital he returned to racing and later won the GASCAR (Georgia Association of Stock Car Auto Racing). I spoke with Taylor the other day, and he said, "Something gave way on the car. I guess the spindle since it was stock. Anyway, the corner of the car dug in the track and it started flipping. I didn't think it would ever quit."
NASCAR returned to Lakewood on April 20, 1952 with Bill Blair the victor followed by Ed Samples, Lee Petty, and Buck Baker. Defending national champion Herb Thomas continued his bad luck at the track. Leading with less than 20 laps to go, Thomas blew a tire. The next NASCAR race was a modified event on July 27, 1952. In the star-studded field were Billy Carden, the Flocks, Jack Smith, Buck Baker, Gober Sosebee, Buddy Shuman, Curtis Turner, Jack Etheridge, Charlie Bagwell, and Sonny Black. Ed Samples of Atlanta won the rain-shortened main event.
The last race of the 1952 season was held on November 16 and was won by Herb Thomas driving the Hudson Hornet of his brother, Don. Herb's own car broke down near the end of the 100 mile event, and he flagged down his brother and swapped places. The official NASCAR record book says, "Herb and Don Thomas combine to win race," but Herb received the trophy. Herb was followed by Lee Petty, joe Eubanks, Tim Flock and Gober Sosebee.
Cotton Owens of Spartanburg won the April 1953 modified race, and Herb Thomas won the July race in his Hudson Hornet. [Admission was $2.00 plus $1.00 if you wanted a grandstand seat. My how times have changed!] Roscoe Thompson won the August modified race with Sosebee second and Owens third.
In the final 1953 race Darlington winner Buck Baker edged out Fonty Flock by less than a lap.
(reproduced with permission from Pioneer Pages, the official newsletter of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association
There were drivers bold in the days of old,
When the tracks were dirt and clay.
And I sing in praise of those bygone days
And the men who showed the way.
So listen to my story
Of the men of yesterday,
Of drivers and the glory
That long since fades away.
I'll admit today's are among the best,
Earnhardt and Terry and Jeff and Rusty.
But maybe you've heard of some of the rest,
When drivers were rugged and tracks were dusty.
Did you ever see Ol' Leadfoot Turner
Power his way through a turn broadside
Spewing dust trails? There was a burner -
The King of the Ragtops gave 'em a ride.
Maybe you've heard of the great Fireball,
Always charging to get in the lead.
Some say Roberts was the best of all
On a high banked track at thundering speed.
There was LeeRoy Yarbrough, a charging man.
Running flat out was all he knew.
Get out in front his only plan,
And be in front when the last flag flew.
Tim, Fonty and Bob, the three Flock brothers.
Running flat out down to the line.
Crossing the country to race with the others,
Their memory lives on in racing's shrine.
Before The King came a Petty named Lee,
Grand National Champ when it all began.
Founder of a racing dynasty,
Patriarch now of all his clan.
Remember Weatherly, called Little Joe?
A carefree man with a ready smile.
Another champion of long ago,
Who won with nerve and dash and style.
Remember The Hornet, that Hudson machine?
Herb Thomas drove it when he was a star.
Charging in front at the drop of the green,
One great driver for one great car.
On tracks of the mind I see faces there,
Those great driving men of bygone years.
Paschal and Panch and Welborne and Blair
And Buck and Junior, all great pioneers.
There were drivers bold in the days of old,
When the tracks were dirt and clay.
And I sing the praise of those bygone days,
And the men who showed the way.
It began with the trippers -- the men who hauled illegal moonshine over the back roads of the South from January 16, 1920 to December 5, 1933 when it was against the law to manufacture, sell, or transport liquor in the United States. If nothing else, the boys learned to handle a car while being chased by men determined to catch them.
Bragging rights were important, and bets were placed on the fastest car and the best driver. They ran 'shine during the week and brought their skill and money to the track on Sunday. Some of the tricks learned outrunning the police came along for the ride.
The Lakewood (Georgia) track banned everyone who had been arrested. But nothing could keep these men off one of their favorite tracks. One night a car drove onto the backstretch during the race with the police right behind it. The race car and the police car completed several laps before the racer signaled the pits to open the gate. The next time around he came through the pits and out gate with the police car still in hot pursuit.
Another driver just released from the county jail for making and selling peach brandy broke into the police compound, took his car, and raced that week end.
One driver rigged a pump that injected a fluid into the exhaust and set up a smoke screen. At the next race another driver installed a device that left an oil film on the car chasing him.
"But they could drive. I mean, they drove on back roads at night with their lights off, and they flew. Why, they could spin a car 180 degrees on its own length without backing off. Nobody would give an inch, and if you didn't get out of the way, they'd run over you. When the flag dropped you'd think war was declared. They went any place there was an opening -- down through the pits, in the grass, the infield, anywhere," Bill Tuthill recalls.The thin soil in the mountains of the South was not good enough for much except corn. By turning his corn into whiskey, a farmer in the 1930's and 1940's could produce enough 'shine in one night to equal his yearly income from farming. There was only one problem: the sale of untaxed liquor was illegal. The determination of federal, state and local governments to stop the traffic in 'shine gave birth to the tripper.
The tripper moved the 'shine from the still to the buyer. The trip car was a full-sized sedan with reinforced rear springs. It was stripped to a bare minimum and when fully loaded carried 180 gallons (approximately 1400 pounds) of 'shine. When empty the rear end sat high and made it easy to spot. All the police had to do was catch it!
Trippers knew every twist and turn of every back country road and took great pleasure in outrunning the 'revenuers.' Many of the first stock car drivers honed their talent on nightly runs between the still and the nearest large city.
A revenuer could outrun a trip car going uphill, but when the road was downhill or level, the trip car could pull away. Some revenuers installed railroad tongs on the front of their cars. When the revenuer bumped the trip car, the tongs closed over the bumper and the tripper was caught.
The trippers countered by installing the bumper with wire. When the tongs closed, the tripper accelerated, the bumper came off, and the revenuer often lost his undercarriage, oil pan, drive shaft, or tires as he ran over it.
The revenuers tried firing buckshot into the radiator of the trip car. By the time the revenuer found the overheated trip car a few miles down the road, the tripper was gone, but the load was captured. As has often been said, one good idea leads to another, and the trippers moved the radiator to the rear, installed air scoops and hoses to drive fresh air to it, and fitted a steel plate on the front of the car.
Another trick was to use a second car as a blocker. The blocker straddled the center of the road between the trip car and the revenue car. When stopped, the blocker denied any knowledge of the trip car. Many early racers were accused of blocking on the race track.
If you watch carefully, you can still occasionally see the legacy of the tripper in modern stock car racing.