History ~ Praising and Preserving It
In the days since I wrote my last article touching on Daytona history, I’ve had several other brushes with our sport’s past that had me giving thanks for all of our opportunities to look back – and wishing that there were even more efforts to preserve those memories before they’re lost forever.
First I got a double dose from lifelong friend Dave Fulton, whose love for the sport’s history probably exceeds mine – and whose contacts, from the years he spent working fulltime in marketing/public relations positions with Wrangler, 7-Eleven and others, keep him involved to this day.
Dale Earnhardt & friends in Nashville victory lane 1983
Dave had one friend send him a newly rediscovered video from victory lane at the July 1983 Busch Nashville 420, where Dale Earnhardt, driving Bud Moore’s Wrangler Ford, had just broken Darrell Waltrip’s four-race Winston Cup winning streak at Waltrip’s home track. Holding a trophy in one hand and a Busch beer in the other, Dave is prominent in the video, and the young Earnhardt winner’s interviews make this piece of history gold.
The second item was a contact from the granddaughter of the late announcer Sammy Bland, who was looking for somewhere to donate a collection of tapes of Sammy’s syndicated radio show from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Dave made a contact for her with Ken Martin of NASCAR Productions, and things got rolling to preserve more priceless history. The “grand slam homer” from that effort would be some kind of program or other attention given to Bland, Ray Melton, Bob Montgomery, Lewis Compton and the other legendary announcers who fought the track noise and tried to help us follow the action.
Sammy Bland, center, who announced at Richmond, Darlington and elsewhere, is shown here with Ned Jarrett and Richmond’s Kenneth Campbell
Then I heard from Race Fans Forever colleague Vivian Simons, whose “golden era” of racing closely parallels Dave’s and mine. She sent me information on her early mentor, ‘50s and ‘60s racer Dick Joslin. Like many of the top drivers of that era, he only dabbled in NASCAR’s traveling series (never more than four Grand National/Cup races in a season, and one year running nearly fulltime in the Convertible Series) but was a regular winner and frequent track champion on the Florida ovals of the era. He won the Sportsman Division race on the Beach-Road Course in 1954. His story made me think of Emanuel Zervakis from my home of Richmond, another top driver whose best rides were local (although he did win two GN/Cup races and was disqualified from a third victory) and who later excelled as a car owner.
Dick Joslin on the Daytona sand, where he won the 1954 Sportsman race on the Beach-Road Course in this car
The Eastern Museum of Motor Racing here in Pennsylvania has awesome history resources, which Stephen Bubb and Beth Wishard are working to make even better. Both regularly drop interesting photos and stories onto the EMMR Facebook page or in other media outlets.
I’m planning a trip to Richmond next month during which I hope to do some newspaper archive research to learn more about the sprint car races run at the Richmond Fairgrounds (now site of Richmond Raceway) in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I’ll also be looking for Paul Sawyer’s “Mid-Atlantic Championship” modified and late model races that were run in the same period. That info will be made available to anyone who wants to help preserve and spread it; it’s just something I think should be available to those who would find it interesting.
. . . not that everyone would. Back when NASCAR was attracting all the “latest thing” fad followers, most knew nothing about the sport’s history, and a lot didn't care (although some did). Given the here-and-gone nature of a lot of short tracks over the years, you know much of that historical record has disappeared, but even NASCAR’s record-keeping and that of many of its top tracks can be sadly lacking. Information about the Convertible Division, the old Short Track Division, even the GT/Grand American Division of the ‘60s and early ‘70s exists mostly because of devoted individual researchers, not those directly involved.
The Convertible Division at Bowman Gray Stadium. Despite this big crowd, the division eventually failed, which might be why Daytona wasn’t too good about preserving its records.
Maybe future generations of fans – if there are any – just won’t give a crap about history, but I think it’s important to understanding a sport. Would the Daytona 500 BE the Daytona 500 if not for the Beach-Road Course before it? Does it help to appreciate Richmond Raceway if you know about the old fairgrounds half-mile dirt and asphalt ovals that once occupied the same space? I think so.
If you have any information that might be of historical value, check around and see if someone would benefit from seeing it. Museums like the EMMR or the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be good starting points, as might he stock car racing collection at Appalachian State University’s Belk Library Whatever you do, don’t throw it away.
Maybe, just maybe, someone who only knows today’s Cup racing by the latest model Cup cars would appreciate the sport more or at least be entertained to see what a NASCAR Grand National stocker looked like in 1969 or 1949. Maybe the geezers among us will one day become so disgusted with modern NASCAR that those old cars will all we want to see. (I really hope that doesn’t happen.)
Either way, we should do all we can to keep the historical resources available. Thanks for doing your part.
Racing at Virginia’s long-gone Floyd Speedway. If we all pass on our racing histories, fans of the future will know more about places like this and perhaps appreciate racing a bit more as well.
No Loose Lug Nuts this week – go look at some racing on YouTube or MAV-TV (if it’s available to you) or re-read a good racing book. You need to be primed for the action to start . . . sooner every day.