Interview with JIMMY MOSTELLER - by Harold Reeves

Sunday, June 8, 2003

Jimmy Mosteller: There's so much that we could talk about in racing, but I'm gonna have to tell you.....this River Bend Museum that JB Day and Willovene have - and so much help they've had to really fix up this place is absolutely unreal. I've been in a lot of museums over the country but the pictures he's got on every wall here, I think, is something that every racing person-male, female, whatever it might be-it's worth their time to come here to see it. I believe you'd agree with me.

Harold Reeves: I would. I certainly would. I was commenting earlier to another fellow, I've never been anywhere in my life that had more photos and memories of the past in any one location than right here.

JM: It's right here, and look at all these restored racecars that they've got. I don't know anywhere that you can go to at this time and come to a museum that's got... what are we looking at? Maybe 15 cars out there.

HR: At least. And JB's wife told me this morning that he assigned one man to do a car, and it would take between 9 and 13 months.

JM: Well, there's one, I understood, that took-Dilbert Gober (Sosebez) car-took about 14, 15 months and they worked on it five, six days a week, but we've got to give a lot of compliments, lot of credit to Mr. Day and his crew that he's got up here. Years ago, he used to ride a bicycle from Easley, South Carolina, all the way to Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta to see the races there and then he'd get a ride back with Cotton Owens or somebody like that.

HR: Is that the bicycle that's inside, that's been restored?

JM: From what I have heard, that is the bicycle that he rode from up here all the way to Lakewood to see the drivers run there. So it's wonderful that we have people that are so interested in racing that they will do what he's done and made the investment he's made, but what I like most about right here is not the past 40 years in racing, but we go back into the late '30s, the '40s.... pictures on the wall showing how racing really started. And that's what we.... the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association as well as LLOAR is most interested in. We're trying to bring back the past and put it in print, put it on tape, that the race fans of today can look at those things and see where racing started.... really, on the short tracks, the dirt tracks in this country.

HR: Jimmy, let me ask you something, 'cause I was 11 years old when my father took me to Macon, Georgia, to the Central Georgia Fairground and the racetrack there by the ball stadium. The year was 1951 and you were calling the races, I remember.

JM: Central City Park in Macon, and you mentioned the fairgrounds. See, that's where we used to run.... was the fairgrounds over the country. Same thing in the Carolinas, same thing in Alabama. In fact, they still have an asphalt track now at the fairground in Birmingham. But there's one thing for certain. We love to go back where it started and where it's come to today.

I was telling somebody at breakfast this morning that, when they first built Jeffco Speedway at Jefferson, Georgia, just out of Jefferson, we ran a Grand National, which is called Winston, of course, now run a Grand National race there. The purse was about $5,000. Cale Yarborough won it. Well, he was another generation of drivers coming along at that time, but in the top eight or ten drivers, I'd say, it started at maybe a hundred dollars and went up to a thousand dollars. Cale won a thousand dollars. But the men from there back that was in the race....they didn't get a whole lot, maybe enough to get home and maybe not enough. Some of them had tore up their racecars.

The sad part about it is, in the early days there was no money. I remember at Lakewood Speedway when you used to pay two dollars to get into the fairgrounds at Lakewood. Then if you sat in the cement grandstand they had, you'd pay an extra dollar and a half. Three dollars and a half to get in the grandstand at Lakewood. That's the reason all the hills were filled up with race fans from over the country. They could afford the two dollars but they couldn't afford the buck and a half.

Georgia, had three racetracks. Dalton had two. Boyd Speedway at Chattanooga, and one at Chickamauga. Then you drop down South coming back toward Atlanta. This is just an example of the racetracks. I used to work three to five races a week in the State of Georgia. We'd run Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night. I'd do a Sunday afternoon show and then I'd come to the Peach Bowl on Sunday night. This is the way over a period of, say, 50 years in racing that we just sort of "guestimated" or estimated that I had done from 2,500 to 3,000 races in my lifetime.

And I'm honored and pleased to be inducted into the National Dirt Track Late Model Racing Hall of Fame in Kentucky. I was honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Dawsonville. That is the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, Thunder Road USA. I'm elated over the fact that you have invited me to join the Living Legends, of Racing out of Daytona Beach, Florida. Ray Fox headed this thing up, you see, so I'm thrilled to the fact that I have been a part in my lifetime of the greatest sport in the world, automobile racing.

HR: Jimmy, would you take a moment to pick one or two of the highlights of your lifetime career in calling races and something that was very exciting that happened to you along the way. Could you describe something for us like that?

JM: Well, there's been so many things. I've always been one that says.....well, back years ago, we didn't have a lot of racecars, as you know, but it was up to the announcer to make a show out of it. I've said all my life that racing is show business along with racing.

And I don't have to say to the world or to anybody.... the hardest sport in the world is driving a racecar, because those drivers not only have to drive them, but back years ago, they had to build their engines; they had to build their transmission; then they'd go to a racetrack and, if something happened, if somebody got them in the wall, and there's a lot of that going on, or they were going over an embankment somewhere, like you were talking about the fairgrounds in Macon, Georgia, Central City Park there.... they'd go over an embankment out into the fields.

Go back to another track that was right downtown Atlanta, Brady Avenue, Peach Bowl Speedway. Now you talk about beating and banging. That's what you had at the Peach Bowl, but the drivers that run there, they were the future in automobile racing. We've got some of those drivers here with us. In fact, I'm looking right now at Jack Jackson and Charlie Mincey and so many drivers out of the Georgia area. That was tough down there. Jack Smith was tough. Roscoe Thompson, so many great drivers that raced on the short tracks, and then all of a sudden, back in late '49 and into the '50s, tracks started springing up at every crossroad, I believe, or every little town in the Rome Georgia.

We had one track at Gainesville, Georgia. Now, there's a town that had three racetracks.... Looper Speedway, and then they had the Gainesville Speedway, Lanier Raceway, and so many tracks around, and then you had them at Cornelia, had them at Toccoa, but for the excitement of racing, when Ed Samples, Gober Sosebee, you see it one time.

Jerry Wimbish, that's a driver we don't want to leave out, out of the Georgia area. I'm more familiar with drivers in Georgia and the Carolina drivers that used to come down, the Virginia drivers, the Florida drivers, you name it, Alabama drivers. I remember when one time there was a driver out of Hialeah, Florida, a guy named Bobby Allison, and Red Farmer, those guys came out of Florida, and they finally made their home in Hueytown, Alabama.

I'm not really answering the question you asked me as to the excitement. I'll just have to put it this way. It was up to the announcer to make some excitement out of every race that I've ever been to. That's one thing that I've tried to do. One of the writers in Atlanta wrote an article in the ATLANTA JOURNAL so stating that you don't know the drivers without Mosteller. That was a compliment, and I still appreciate it. I have a copy of it. And now they're wanting to write a book on my life and Jones and Eddie Samples. A lot of these people are asking me. And I'm gonna give the time to do that. And as for the excitement of racing, I've seen some bad things happen, and I don't like to kind of go over the bad things in life. There's been so much good to overshadow it with.

And the driver from Jacksonville.... I'm trying to think of his name. Lost his life at Lakewood. There was a number of drivers that lost their life at Lakewood because the track was a horse track, to start out with. It was another fairground, but I saw two drivers, two great drivers, a fellow by the name of Bob Flock that you would know well.

HR: Yes.

JM: Bob one of the Flock Brothers, was following Wilbur Rakestraw going up the back straightaway at Lakewood and, bang, it was so dusty, he was following Wilbur, and they went off the track and Bob though, I guess, he was still on the track, but both of them went into a cess pond or, actually.... well, they've got another name for it, but I won't use it.... where their sewage would go to. That was Lakewood Speedway, the Indianapolis, we used to bill it, of the South. That was when Langhorn Speedway and Lakewood were 2 of the largest tracks in the country.

I'll never forget when they first opened Darlington. They were blowing tires up there. It sounded like the Fourth of July, because drivers going that quick on an asphalt track, they were blowing tires.

A fellow by the name of Red Byron, was driving a Cadillac for Raymond Parks. He has done so much for this sport that why we are here to honor him today. He would drive right up against the retaining wall at Darlington. There was a reason, he told us, for that. He said, "Well, if you pull a right front tire, then you're not down in the center of the track and go up and hit the retaining wall head on," and those kind of barriers. And today, some of the drivers are still doing that, but Goodyear, Firestone, and other people that's built racecars for a lot of years, they're building a better tire. They're building a racing tire that can stand up to a lot, but still they have a lot of trouble with tires. But they change them so often, so frequently in their pit stops, today, they've got that down pat. Anytime you go into the pits, they can change four tires in 14 to 17 seconds, not actually change the tire, but put another wheel on those cars. Hey, that is really getting it to perfection. I give the Wood Brothers credit for inventing that when they made their first trip to Indianapolis.

HR: Now, let's go back to Lakewood a moment. Coming out of two, wasn't there a soft spot over there caused by that lake and the drainage and everything? And the drivers had a tendency to pull in, drop down coming out of two or a shortcut around that curve, and they got their left front wheel into that soft spot.

Listen, Ernie Moore and Alf Knight two more people that did a lot for the sport of automobile racing. Ernie Moore was with NASCAR, and then I joined NASCAR, but I couldn't travel all over the country, since I worked for a company for.... well, I spent my life with them. That was the Hav-A-Tampa Cigar Company out of Tampa, Florida. I worked for them..... well, I'm still working for them even though there's no more Hav-A-Tampa. But Ernie Moore and myself, we'd go to Boyd Speedway, like on Friday night. We'd be at the Peach Bowl on Wednesday night. We'd be somewhere else maybe on Thursday night. We were trying to get the tracks organized enough that everybody wasn't running the same night, because that splits up not only your spectators; it splits up your racecars.

JM: Well, the thing is this. The reason they were doing that....if you remember at Lakewood. I remember it well, that, running over a hundred miles an hour on a track, that was not only rough but also very dusty. They tried everything from calcium, you name it, on Lakewood, but after a few laps you had the same condition. But they would set their cars as they'd come by the grandstand to go in the number one turn. As they started off in number two, they would call what "they'd pinch a corner." They would pinch that corner, knowing they were gonna drift out a little bit, but if they got down in the loose stuff close to the lake there, then they'd lose the car. That's one reason Lakewood was so dangerous. Then you go up the back straightaway, you get the number three and four turn. They had holes in those turns that honest to goodness Les Snow with the old Midwest Association of Racecars hit that cement retaining wall right up there where all those people sit, and that was the worst accident I believe that Les ever had.

But Lakewood was a show track and it was up to the announcer, as I alluded earlier, to make a show out of it, whether it was Lakewood, whether it was the Peach Bowl, whether it was one of the short tracks of the country. The announcer had to make a show out of it. One announcer wrote once, how many times at the Peach Bowl I might make this statement. He liked to lost it"; "He almost got in that number four turn." Things like that.

And then as he'd come off the number four and I'd make this statement: "Man, he really knew what he was doing"; "He corrected it beautiful and didn't get in the retaining wall." The announcer wrote that for a reason. He says, "Mosteller is gonna keep your attention," and that's what I wanted to do.

HR: That you certainly did. You really did. I've got one other individual I want to ask you about, and I'm sure you remember him and worked with him. Ernie Moore, the starter and flag man.

That's the reason, Bill France, when he was in Atlanta and Ernie Moore were a great part of it; Alf Knight was the general manager for a long time of the Atlanta International Raceway. That's before it became Atlanta Motor Speedway. But Ernie Moore was my close friend. He and his wife and a fellow by the name of George DeLong..... I don't know whether you know him or not.... one of the best starters in the business. Worked with NASCAR for years. He, Ernie, and myself.... we traveled all over the country.

And then a few years down the road, we had a number of racing associations in the Atlanta area, but a gentlemen by the name of John Cabaness started SRE, or the Southern Racing Enterprise, and we were racing throughout the Southeast.

But there comes old Rex White. I wish people that'll be listening to this would realize the number of race drivers that come right here to this River Bend Racing Museum. In fact, we'll have about fifty of them lined up here after a while. This is history. And I don't mean to be repeating myself, but I'm proud to be a part of the history of this sport, and I'm of the opinion. But I was talking a few minutes ago about when Bill France come into the Peach Bowl Speedway in Atlanta, I think he was going under Bill France Enterprise at that time. In fact, that's when they started organizing a sanction body. Back in those days, it was strictly stock.

HR: Now, are you going back to '46 or '47?

JM: Forty-seven. When Bill France was there. I don't know what we're doing here, but I can't help but mention some drivers. Now, yonder's one of the best drag racing men in the country, right yonder. Hubert Platt, what he did for the sport of drag racing, and he's a member of our association. In fact, on the board. We're doing everything night and day that we can, just as you are, Harold, to let people know what's going on in automobile racing, for a lot of years.

And getting back to Bill France....see I'm jumping. Please forgive me. But when Bill France first organized at that point in time in a 25- or 30-mile radius of Atlanta, there were, I'll say, 20 to 30 of the top race drivers in the country. I'm talking about the three Flock brothers, a fellow by the name of Jeff Brogdan, Eddie Samples or Ed Samples. Then you had Red Byron; you had Lloyd See, Roy Hall, and so many great drivers. And that's the reason sometimes I hate to mention any driver because I would love to tell the world about every driver that every drove a racecar, because they were part of the show.

HR: Now, let me ask mentioned earlier about a book. When can we expect to see this book sitting on the stand at Barnes & Noble or someplace like that?

JM: Well, I don't know. At the present time, Ann Jones is writing a book on Rex White and as soon as she gets through with that, I'll either go with Ann or go with someone that I can sit down with, like you and I are doing right now. Talking about the past. Give them my opinion and my history on the sport of automobile racing, and there's so many good announcers. They are part of the show so they, too, need to be mentioned in these books, or even a book on themselves. See, I've been, in my 50-plus years, this is my 55th year in it. I've been a promoter, co-promoter, co-owner of racecars. I sort of stood at the hind side or the back side of being a car owner because it was bad for an announcer to own a racecar that was competing against the other drivers, so I sort of stayed on the back side of it.

But to help us get more cars.... and to give an example.... I remember one time when we went to a track here in South Carolina, and it rained all the way from Atlanta up here and when we got there, we only had seven racecars. Seven racecars. So we would have a couple or three more cars. A racecar driver by the name of Neil Roberts, who was a flagman, he said.... he was driving, I think, about a '54 Chrysler.... he said, "I'll put a number on my car." In fact, you can remember.... or I can remember the days, and possibly you can.... that the numbers you see on race cars today. They used to carry a bottle....even I did....carry a bottle of white paint and black paint. If the car was black, dark in color, we'd go out there a put a number on it. So we would add our own personal cars in the field so that we'd have a few more cars.

But we would let the race fans know, "Our field, due to the excessive rain, we'd been out of Atlanta, is not as large as we had expected, but we're going to put you on a show." So what we would do, we would make a show out of it. We would run, say, all seven cars, or nine cars at that particular race, and when that heat was over, then we'd invert them. Whoever won it would start in the back. As I stated a moment ago, we'd make a show out of it. We'd even ask the race fans. If you'd like to go racing, you can do it right now because there's not a whole lot of cars here, and who knows how well you might be." These are the show business things that I'm talking now.

HR: If I remember correctly.... and you brought this to my mind.... that happened to Lee Petty in Charlotte. They had had a cloudburst, and they asked anybody in the audience that had a car that wanted to get out and help dry the track, please get on the track. And he enjoyed that so much, he entered the race. And I think he had a Buick Roadmaster that day and totaled that car out.

JM: I wasn't gonna tadpole... Neal is dead, but I wasn't gonna say this, but when they brought him out to qualify, he went in the number one turn and he flipped that Chrysler the worst you've ever seen. He made a flip, but it wasn't damaged so badly that he wanted to take.... he wanted to qualify that car.

HR: This was Neal who?

JM: Neal Roberts. He was a driver, he was a flagman, same way with Jerry Wimbish. Jerry could do anything. From announce, flags, start, you name it. And so Neal got qualified to get in the race with the car and at that time we picked up another flagman. Since he was gonna be the flagman, we picked up somebody out of the stands and taught him how to use the flags. But that's the reason that today I make every race fan, if they want to talk to me on a mike, part of the show. And the little children.... I can go to Dixie Speedway or Rome Speedway and the little children.... "Is Uncle Jimmy gonna be there?" They're gonna line up 'cause they know Uncle Jimmy will talk to them. I used to do that at the Peach Bowl.

HR: Jimmy, it's been a pleasure talking with you this morning at the River Bend Museum owned by J.B. Day and his wife.

We've been interviewing Jimmy Mosteller, definitely a living legend of his time, the Voice of the South. Thank you so much.

This is Harold Reeves, and it's Sunday, June 8, 2003.

Interview with BRICE STULTZ by Harold Reeves

Monday February 10, 2003

In front of the Living Legends Museum in Holly Hill Florida, located 3 miles from Daytona International Speedway and 12 miles from the worlds most famous Speedway (The Old Road Course) and the Worlds most famous beach, Daytona Beach, FL. It all began one day in 1955 for this gentleman on the north turn of the old road course that was 4.35 miles. They had a lot of fun down there and these are forgotten memories. This gentleman has taken his time to sit with use and talk awhile. His Name is Brice Stultz (nickname, Spider) from Collinsville Virginia.

Brice: I started racing when I was 19 years old, bought a 39 Ford standard coupe and it took us about 2 years to get enough money to get to where we could run it. Going on from there matter of fact we were racing maybe a couple of races before Glen Wood came on the scene. Glen was an exceptionally good competitor and boy he jumped from beginning to go racing in a hurry. He was good at what he did, and then it proved that through the years that he was an exceptionally good driver, and did well in racing.

Looking back I have pictures of the first race Glen ran in. I talked to him, we had a lot of thinking back time, good days you know of time gone by.

Incidentally, when we brought the car down from Martinsville VA we towed it with a 46 Dodge, 6-cylinder pickup. That's how we brought our tools and equipment and we towed the vehicle. It took all night long to get here. The next morning we stopped at the Steak & Shake for breakfast around 8:30am, then we went down to the beach, we were late for time trials so we had to start in the rear. From by best recollection we started 83rd in the total back, we were so far back it was unreal. As the race went on we managed to pass a lot of cars, we got on up in the pack pretty good. Then on the last lap I got in the soft sand and sloped over on the edge of the south turn and had to jump out and run to get to safety. The race was over and we finished 49th, passed quite a few cars but I had to be 20 or 30 cars ahead of when I finished, but that's another old story.

Harold: Now coming to the black top on the beach, (today it is know as A1A) about what kind of speed were you guys running?

Brice: The average speed I believe I'm right on that, we had to be running 100 to 110 mph. I don't think we ran 125 or 130 mph because that was unheard of in those days. The car ran real well but we got so much momentum coming down the black top it was hard to slow down coming into the south turn, turn 1.

Harold: What was it like when you hit that sand going into turn 1 and you would be running, what about 55 or 60 mph?

Brice: Yes I think that was about right. You would have about a handful trying to keep traction and not do what I did and get into the soft sand. When you got into the soft sand you just could not steer it, like running in deep snow you just couldn't control it.

Harold:But how about the sand and the wind when you got on the beach and going north? Bet that held you back a little bit didn't it?

Brice: Well the wind would hold you back, but if you got out in the water is was as hard as asphalt and that was no problem. The biggest problem you had was somebody throwing sand up on windshield and sand getting in your car and creating a little whirl wind in there. It would get in your ears, up your nose and in your eyes. But we could not fault someone for that because we had plastic shields over all our windows to keep the sand out of our way. We pick up on that because we had been there quite a few years as spectators you know and that was really not a problem, the biggest problem I had was sand would get on the windshield and pack so hard that you could not scrap it off to see where you were going, it was just terrible.

Harold: What was it like getting ready to go into the north turn?

Brice: That was also hard slowing down because a lot of cars would do a 360 there because they were running so fast that if your brakes were not just right they would lock them and just do a 360 on the sand before you would go on to the north turn, you would have to stop and back up to get back to racing. I didn't have any problem with that, the biggest problem I had was coming off the sand onto the asphalt we were afraid we were going to snap and axle. We only had one axle and we would hit that pavement and if you didn't hit it straight on you would snap an axle. But we didn't have any problem with that, so that worked out very well.

Harold: Now what month was this race held and what was it like a nice sun shining day?

Brice: Well it was in February, Friday the 25th. The sun was good, it was not a hot day, and it was a little overcast. , A good day for racing.

Harold: You started 83rd?

Brice: That's right.

Harold: What was it like trying to pass some of those cars; it had to be worse than any interstate driving we do today?

Brice: Well really the car ran well and I was able to pass who ever I came up on and would pass them right and left. We started in the back, slow cars started in the back and my car ran well and I did not have any trouble passing.

Harold: Now what month was this race held and what was it like a nice sun shining day?

Brice: Well it was in February, Friday the 25th. The sun was good, it was not a hot day, and it was a little overcast. , A good day for racing.

Harold: You started 83rd?

Brice: That's right.

Harold: What was it like trying to pass some of those cars; it had to be worse than any interstate driving we do today?

Harold, Fireball, Curtis Turner, Lee Petty,

Brice: yes Buck Baker The Thompson boys,

Harold: Speedy and Al,

Brice, yaw they were really a threat mater-a-fact, they did win they won. Banjo Mathews. I wish I could bring them all to mind.

Harold: Now who were some of the officiators that day, I know Bill France Sr. was there?

Brice: Johnny Brunner, Sr., Joe Epton, I worked with Joe quite a few years after that Daytona race.

Harold: You were how old?

Brice: I ranged from 20 to 23 years old, had a job that didn't pay much money and had my head set on having a race car and I put everything I could put my hands on into it.

Harold: At the time you were service manager at The Ford place in Martinsville?

Brice: No I got that job when I went home from Daytona in the first of March in 1955. I got a job there as service manager, when I went there they had about 17 mechanics. Not counting the body shop, not counting the parts people and the used car people. We had a good line, when I left there 22 years later we had 46 people in the service department, we had a good operation.

Brice: Well really the car ran well and I was able to pass who ever I came up on and would pass them right and left. We started in the back, slow cars started in the back and my car ran well and I did not have any trouble passing.

Harold: Now some of the historical names of that year understand were the Flock boys,
Bob, Fonty and Tim, yes
Harold: Now you were driving what year model Ford on the beach:

Brice: A 1937 Ford that I have today.

Harold: Is it a coupe?

Brice: It is a 2 door flat back.

Harold: How many horsepower would you say you had that day?

Brice: You know I don't know how to rate it, nobody had an engine larger in cubic inches than we had, I don't think. The 55 Chevrolet, the 52/53 Oldsmobile were coming out at that time and they had fast engines but really we were lucky enough to run with them and sometimes we would out run them.

Harold: That was a good size Ford agency for its day.

Brice: It really was, we rated the Richland Motor Company, and Magic City Ford in Roanoke, and we always were 2nd and 3rd in service operation.

Harold: This was in Martinsville so did you ever see anything of Clay Earls?

Brice: Know him well, knew him very well before he went into the racing game, before the war, World War II. Knew him after the war, and serviced his cars quite frequently. He had some fast cars in those days; we serviced them and knew the people who drove for him. When they weren't driving for him they were racing on the racetrack, people like Gordon Mangrem and some of those guys. Clay kept good fast running cars, he really had fast cars.

Brice: A 1950 Ford Station Wagon, my brother took his mattress off his double bed and put it in the back and we slept on it at night. We were down on A1A where the Sheraton Hilton Motel is today. We pulled into the campgrounds there and next to us came Wendell Scott a colored drive from Danville, VA. We knew him and race with him 2 or 3 time a week and he was a good guy, I really enjoyed Wendell.

Harold: What was your car number?

Brice: 24X

Brice: Ya, I came down the black top went into the first turn, the south turn, went into fast and just couldn't control it and got into the soft sand and had to jump out and run to keep from someone running into me maybe hurt me. I had no problem; someone could have run into me, but it didn't happen. Those pictures on the wall there are exactly what happened. It was exciting there for a few minutes. The race was over and it was the last lap that I got hung up. In that particular race I finished 49th started 83rd, I had to be quite a few places up ahead of 49th to finish were I finished that day. That was the sportsman race on Friday February the 25th.

Harold: Down here at the Living Legends Museum, this race is pictured on the wall we have snap shots and this car went off the second turn, do you want to describe that?

Harold: So tomorrow when we go to the beach will it be like old home week and bring back a lot of memories because the car you are bring to the beach is the same car that you ran in 1955?

Brice: That's right, I hung on to it all these years and had it 10 years before I decided to refurbish it and get it going again and it turned out very well we think. It's a good-looking car in our opinion. Looks good, runs good and we are very proud of it.

Harold: We want to thank you for taking the time today to stop by the museum and give us this bit of history. We are going to try and get this in our Cannonball. The Interviewer here is Harold Reeves and again thank you very much and hope you have a good time in the Daytona Beach Area, and a safe trip back to Virginia.


Excerpt from A Chat with JACK ETHERIDGE - by Eddie Samples

Author's note: Jack Etheridge raced for about 20 years. He retired in 1954 to find a real job.

Samples: Tell us a little about the pre-war racing days.

Etheridge: Well, as a kid I would always go to Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta and watch them race. I fell in love with it and would just about do anything to drive one. Raymond Parks had Red Vogt fix up a car owned by Gilbert Daniels. AAA sanctioned a race at Lakewood with all of the big names. This little ole car did good and Daniels sold it on the spot for $700.

Samples: Speaking of Raymond Parks, did you ever drive for him?

Etheridge: I drove a midget at Lakewood for him once. His regular drivers, Bob Flock and Red Byron, had no interest in driving it. That car really flew just to have a Ford engine in it. Beat a many Offy's that day.

Samples: Offenhausers were the class of the day?

Etheridge: Pretty much so. The Ford engines could wind up pretty good though.

Samples: So Red Byron drove Indy type cars?

Etheridge: Yeah, they fooled around with them over at Vogt's Garage. Back in the 1930's those things were two seaters and the mechanics would ride with them. I know in the 1940's Byron went to Indianapolis a couple of times but never qualified.

Samples: What do you remember about starting in stocks?

Etheridge: I grew up with a bunch of those guys in Atlanta. I raced for Airline Auto Service over on Spring Street some of the time. A bunch of us guys would be there or over at Red Vogt's Garage on West Marietta Street. All the trippers and drivers and mechanics had some link with both places. They always worked on trip cars at Vogt's and it just overflowed over to Airline. Trippers and racers were in those days much one of the same.

Samples: What exactly is tripping?

Etheridge: Liquor was made in the mountains and transported to the city. The trippers provided the transportation.

Samples: I always had the image of these trippers as Robert Mitchem in the movie Thunder Road.

Etheridge: Trippers usually came out a lot better when they filled up their cars in the mornings to blend in with the morning traffic going to Atlanta. They called it sneak traffic.
Samples: What was the best car for tripping?

Etheridge: I was talking to Raymond Parks the other day and we both agreed it was hard to beat a '32 Ford. It would carry 125 gallons at 8 pounds per gallon real good. Best trip car there was in my mind.

Samples: Tell me the scariest moment you had in racing?

Etheridge: You mean the day I talked to the Lord? It was in a race in Orlando, Florida. I was on the pole and Roy Hall was on the outside. Every lap he kept pushing me further in toward the fence until finally he pushed me through the fence and out in a lake. When the car hit the water it felt like concrete. The car was sinking. The windows were up, and I had on leather gloves and couldn't unbuckle my safety belt which was a holding backstrap for a mule with a big iron hook. I was in trouble, and I asked the good Lord to help me. I made it to the top about the time the divers entered the water.

Samples: Did Roy Hall say he was sorry?

Etheridge: Yeah, but you know a professional driver knows what he is doing. And Roy was a pro. He seemed to spend more time in jail then on the track, but regardless, he could dirve a race car.

Samples: Who was the best woman driver?

Etheridge: There were some pretty good women drivers. Ethel Flock and Sara Christian were good drivers. I guess the best was Louise Smith. She could hold her own.

(reprinted with permission from Pioneer Pages, the official newsletter of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association)


A Talk with JACK SMITH by Eddie Samples

Additional Information

I looked at NASCAR's list of top 50 drivers of all time, but I did not see the name of Jack Smith. The list was chock full of good racers but very absent of one of the best. I called Jack at his transmission shop in Spartanburg, S.C. and asked to stop by to see him. I wanted to know exactly what I was missing that NASCAR apparently was not.

Jack was born in Illinois but moved to Georgia when he was two. His first race was at Thomaston, Georgia in 1946. He explained, "I used to watch those guys before the war out at Lakewood and knew I could do that. When I got old enough I entered a race in Thomaston. I qualified second to defending national champion Roy Hall but after the race started I spun out a whole bunch so I knew I had some learning ahead of me."

When I asked Jack to name the best driver in the stable of Raymond Parks, (Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Bill France, Bob and Fonty Flock, Red Byron, and Norman Wrigley), he replied, "It would be hard to pick becuse they had such good equipment with Red Vogt working on the cars. A lot of drivers would have won under those circumstances, but I'd say Bob Flock was the best of the group."

Smith's favorite track was the Daytona Superspeedway. "It was a smooth track. Of course I had a good win there in 1960 for the Firecracker race. I led my share of the first 500 in 1959 but had ignition problems. When asked about his worst accident, he said, "Well, I guess the one that gave me the biggest problem was at Darlington in '50 when Curtis Turner and I tangled and I ended upside down with an arm full of stitches. Bad thing about that was up until 1975 I was still having problems with that arm and doctors were still taking broken glass out of it. They put over a hundred stitches in it in '50 and had to keep opening it up to pull more glass out for the next quarter of a century, but I think they finally got it all."

And finally, the reason I dropped by his office: What about the NASCAR Top 50 list? Why aren't you on it? "That's a good question," he laughed. "The credentials are there (21 Winston Cup wins, Most Popular Driver in 1958, Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame and on and on), but I can't tell you."

(reproduced with permission from Pioneer Pages, the official newsletter of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association)