No questions this week, so we’ll do some more driving to the past with a couple of recollections.
While we were talking about rules last week and inspections, I recalled a couple of other situations that the readers may find humorous. It can really be fun to mess with racer drivers’ minds, and it’s something officials like to do once in a while.
One Saturday night at Louisville, my brother Bob was walking up through a late model feature lineup, holding a clipboard. He’d stop at each row, look in each car and then check something on the clipboard.
He was a couple of rows from the front when Jerry Norris asked him, “What the blazes are you doing?” Bob leaned into the car and said, very quietly, “Nothing, but it sure looks important, doesn’t it?”
Jerry said if he hadn’t been belted into the car he would have climbed out and chased him. And once during an ASA event at I-70 Speedway in Missouri, I was talking to Jim Carnforth, our technical director at the time, and he said, “Let’s mess with their heads a little.”
We were between practices and we thought about it for a few minutes, and then started up through the pits. I had borrowed a tape measure and we stopped at every car. I’d measure the steering wheel, call out the measurements to Jim and he’d write it down.
By the time we got halfway through, we had a pretty good crowd following us. Finally, about three cars from the other end of the pits, I was measuring the steering wheel on Stan Yee’s No. 33 Camaro.
The driver, John Anderson, wanted to know what I was doing. I told him it was pretty obvious, I was measuring steering wheels.
He said, “You got a rule about that?”
I replied, “Naw, I’m just curious to know how big they are.”
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The first incident reminds me of one time when I had finished lining up a late model heat race and was walking back up through the lineup when John Sommerville stopped me. He was starting on the outside of the third row, right behind Bill Kimmel, and he said, “Let me see that lineup.”
I showed it to him, thinking he was checking to see if I had messed up the alignment, and he just said, “Hmm, second place.” Naturally, I wanted to know what he meant. He took the lineup card, pointed out the first row and said, “These two guys are mad at each other. They’re going to take each other out.”
Then, pointing to the car inside of him, he said, “They’ll take that guy with ‘em. Kimmel will win this thing and I’ll get second. Danged if that wasn’t just what happened.
Sommerville was a pretty darned good driver from Clarksville, Ind., who once teamed with Jim Robinson, also of Clarksville, to win the ARCA Dayton 500. I recall another remark he made after a race at Salem that didn’t end well for him.
Coming off the second turn, he ran up on a loose wheel. The yellow light was already on, but John didn’t have a chance. He went up over the wheel and then sailed cleanly over the backstretch fence. I was treated to the sight of a 1969 Chevelle in level flight, about four feet above the fence. Never touched it and then disappeared out of sight.
The track crew got John out and left the car there until the race was over. While they were pulling it out, I looked at the path he had carved through a bunch of bushes and small trees, and asked him how it felt.
“Kinda weird, really,” he said. “There was nothing I could do but wait until I got to a tree that was big enough to stop me.”
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Well, folks, Driven to the Past is now a reality in book form. I’m going over the final proof copy now and it should be available in the next two or three weeks. It’s a collection of my memories of more than 60 years in this crazy business, some of which have appeared on Frontstretch and been rewritten.
Darrell Waltrip was nice enough to write the foreword, and one of the best racing authors I know, Dave Argabright, wrote the preface. I’ll let you know when and where you can order a copy.
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.
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