Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Darrell Waltrip’s Cheap Battery

Some of the good memories and stories come from experiences off the track. This one has to do with a show car.

We used to make an effort to bring all kinds of show cars to Indianapolis in the week prior to our Busch Series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. That might sound easy now, but this is in the days before the Brickyard 400, and Indianapolis wasn’t always the preferred destination.

The summer that Days of Thunder was released, we managed to get four or five show cars and put them in front of theaters, suitably accompanied by posters for the Kroger 200 (Bob Daniels, our GM, never missed a chance). I even took one of those stand-ups of Darrell Waltrip and pasted a Kroger 200 poster over the Tide box he was holding.

Kroger, who still sponsors the race and I believe is still the longest-standing race sponsor in any NASCAR race series, was also great about putting cars in front of their stores when we could get them. Tommy Houston said he didn’t have a show car but sent his superspeedway car a couple of times so we could use it. He even said we could use it in parade laps at prior races (with specific instructions that I wasn’t allowed to drive it).

Anyway, there was one year when Darrell sent us his Busch Series show car and we met the driver for lunch at Union Jack’s, a very popular watering and feeding hole and gathering place for the race crowd, a mile or so from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Crawfordsville Road. I explained that we wanted to show the car in front of the pub that day, then in front of the Speedway motel the next day, then bring it to the track.

The driver asked if we could get a wrecker to move it and naturally I wanted to know why. Turned out that DW was using the souvenir trailer to transport the car, and once the guy had the trailer set up at the track he needed another way to move it.

I told him to sit tight and have lunch on us, then headed out on a mission.

First stop – Fately’s Auto Repair on Crawfordsville about halfway between the pub and the Speedway. Two old friends from my ARCA days ran that place. I asked if we could leave the car there overnight and they graciously agreed. I just asked that they put it back together after they finished checking it out.

Second stop – the Speedway Police Department. Jeff Dine, who I believe is still the chief, was a race fan and a good friend. Just a couple of weeks before, he had stopped me and my 1965 Corvair on 16th Street. The speedometer cable was broken and Jeff walked up and said, “Potts, do you know how fast you were going?”

“Uh, no, Jeff, I was hoping you knew.” After I explained how hard it was to find parts for one of those things, he let me go with a warning.

I walked into Jeff’s office and told him I needed an escort to take a car from Union Jack’s to Fately’s, then to the Speedway the next day and back to IRP.

“Why can’t you just drive it?”

“Well, this car doesn’t have a license plate, headlights, taillights or mufflers, Jeff.”

“Let me guess, does it have a great big number on the side and a sponsor on the quarterpanel?”

“As a matter of fact it does.”

For the mere price of some comp tickets for Jeff and the officer who would perform the duty, we made the arrangements. Made a pretty neat parade, really – a police car with lights on, the IRP pace car and this racecar headed down the road. The only hitch came when we couldn’t get it started the next morning, but the boys at Fately’s took care of that with their battery charger.

As I walked back through the office door at IRP and headed for my office, I heard a familiar voice say, “John Potts, you’d better stop and talk to me.”

Turning around, there was DW at the front desk. As I’ve said before, we had been friends since I met him while he was in his teens and racing in the Owensboro area. He wanted to know if I was on banker’s hours, getting to work late. I explained what I had been doing and he was actually somewhat impressed by the whole deal.

“Didn’t have any problems, did you?”

“No, just a little delay this morning. And we wouldn’t have had that if you weren’t using that cheap battery.”

I resisted the urge to tell him that it was one of his sponsor’s batteries.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via