I bid you welcome gentle readers, to another throwback race with our good friend, the Lady in Black. This one was run at Dover International Speedway on June 1, 2003, and for those with short memories or weren’t watching races 12 years ago, the actual race statistics and “other” driver names can be found by clicking right about here. This tale is one I still remember writing, as it tells of the very first time we saw the “Lucky Dog Rule” in action… and our irascible Lady took it upon herself to rename it immediately. I’m told by many more than anticipated that you folks enjoy our occasional trips back in time, so without further ado, here she is… the Lady in Black… complete with attitude.
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, the Lady in Black, coming to you from Dover Delaware, the longtime home of the Monster Mile and more recently, the residence of quite a nasty old girl named Isabel. We’ve grown accustomed throughout this soggy year to ducking raindrops and canceling qualifying, but by doggies, this is the first time we’ve had to cancel Friday! NASCAR, however, took it right in stride and the show went on as scheduled, both Saturday and Sunday. The Busch league race on Saturday went to some kid named Snickers, I’m told, while out on the left coast a Muskrat outran the trucks. Sunday dawned bright and sunny in Dover and you’d never know that a hurricane had passed by two days before, unless you slogged through the infield. The Three Stooges in the TV booth mentioned that the crowd of 138,000 had gotten here by planes, trains and automobiles, but I’m betting that at least some of them got here by boat, especially if their trip involved I-95 from the south.
The day’s festivities were opened by Rachel Proctor, who gave us a nice rendition of the National Anthem, followed by a flyover by the 121st Fighter Squadron from the District of Columbia National Guard. After that, it was time for the gang to hit the concrete. (Pun intended) Courtesy of Isabel, they lined up by owner points, so it was Mutt Kennel on the point, flanked by Dale the lesser, and so on down the line. Only Ricochet Craven had to go to the rear, because of an engine change. Kennel got a terrible start when they waved the green, and the lead went to Kreatin’ Havoc. Back in the pack a bit, Bobby Lobotomy missed a shift, ran his tachometer up to 9900 rpm and collected Black Haired Mikey’s left front fender as he slowed.
They raced all the way to lap 4 before two of the lads got feisty. It was Coast Guard pinching down the Army of One, causing Mule Skinner to loop his car. He’d have been OK but for someone Bammin’ the BAM car. That one spun into the wall, then down the self-cleaning embankment directly in front of Skinner. This was the very first test of NASCAR’s new rule, which prohibits the kids from racing to get to the bar when the yellow rag flies. Like all good grade-schoolers, they’ve been told to slow down and line up single file in an orderly fashion, then proceed slowly until the pace car picks up the leader. Only then will the bar be open for business. There is a new rule that applies to behavior in the bar as well. There will be no more passing to the left allowed. You are expected to enter single file and remain that way until you reach your assigned bar stool. If all of that doesn’t remind you of a nun with a ruler, then I went to a tougher grade school than you did.
It was far too early for most of the kids to hit the bar, so they soon got back to the business of racing. At lap 12, it was the #12 of Flyin’ Ryan to the lead around Havoc and by lap 22, he had caught and passed the Army of One. Then he began to look like that rabbit out in front of the dog pack as he lapped car after car and the lead lap list got shorter by the minute.
At lap 42, just as he’d been lapped, we saw Munchkin’s Rolling Drugstore hit the pits for right side tires, since his front one had run out of air. Three laps later, the seemingly invincible leader came in for four new Goodyears because of a flat right rear. He rejoined the gang almost two laps behind the new leader, Havoc.
Lap 81 saw the yellow fly for the second time when Captain Nemo blew a right front Goodyear and hit the turn one wall a ton! The impact erased the right front of the Nautilus, and the fuel pump that used to be there as well. Nemo brought it to the bottom of the track in a blaze of glory (literally) and quickly exited from a bonfire that would have made any college homecoming committee proud.
This caution was the first real test of the new rule, since there was a serious safety issue involved. I’m proud to say that the boys did just fine, and their proper deportment allowed the safety vehicles to get to the ashes of Papa Joe’s car in record time. That part of the rule seemed to work like a charm. There is another part however, on which I am reserving judgment for a bit. For no reason that’s been explained sufficiently to me, the new rules also call for giving the first car off the lead lap in scoring, a lap back. The Stooges spent the afternoon referring to this practice as the “Lucky Dog Award.” That’s OK for them, but I think that I can do better. Rather than calling the recipient of the free pass a lucky dog, I’ll be calling him, “One Lucky Arse PUP.” Then of course, we would have the One LAP UP award. That sounds much better to me, and we’ll all know what it stands for. This time the One LAP UP was Toad Bodiddley.
They must have been looking for new records to break on Sunday and someone decided to go for the longest caution in the history of the sport. When the Nautilus hit the wall, it tore a hole in the boilerplate, which I had thought was extinct now. Of course, we can’t have safe racing with a hole in the wall, so they had to haul out the welders and have at it. Fine! I’ve sat through many of those repairs at Pocono, but they always had the good sense to round up the kids and park ‘em at the bar while it was being done. On Sunday, they were left to slowly circle the track over and over and over… for half an hour. All that beer time wasted! Actually, it wasn’t totally wasted for Ricochet Craven, who had managed to pick up a big chunk of Nemo’s car with his grill and needed repeated bar stops to fix it. The first time he came in was when the kids were still getting in a nice straight line out on the track, so NASCAR gave him a demerit, but I think he would have been at the end of the longest line in any case.
When they finally got around to thinking about a restart, we learned a bit more about the depth of that LAP UP rule. The New Man, still being a lap down to the field, had pitted for beer only, with no tires on the side, trying to wind up at the front of the “Loser List”, but others must have had the same idea because he was fifth at the restart. By lap 136, he managed to pass Mongo, which put him back at the front of the loser list, only to have the leader lap yet more cars within the next few laps. It soon became apparent that we now had a race within a race where this Loser List was concerned.
At lap 165, Bobby Lobotomy cut down a right front tire and introduced himself to Mr. Boilerplate, bringing out caution #3 of the afternoon. The One LAP UP was Rickety Rudd, who had just been lapped by the leader. After a round of Budweiser, they restarted on lap 171 with Flameboy in the lead, followed by the Awesome One, Havoc, the Bud Stud and Stewpot. On the next lap, we saw Waltrip the Sequel slow on the track, and then take his NAPA Parts Cart to the lounge for the day. Then, by lap 181, we saw the Bud Stud pass the Flames for the lead and he was soon followed by the Home Depot Demon. By lap 199, the Demon took the lead by moving up to the high line. At about the same time, we bade a fond farewell to the Army of One when the engine went into meltdown and the Mule Skinner retired to the lounge for the afternoon.
Around lap 213, we saw the Bud Stud move up to the high groove and pass Stewpot back again. Those kids were so fast that soon there were only 18 left on the lead lap. That was fixed on lap 236, when the man in the stilt house went back to work, waving a flag for debris on the track that just might have been reported by the Tide Ride, since he was the winner of the One LAP UP award. When all the rest of the gang hit the bar for refreshments, Mutt Kennel stayed out for a bit to get his five free pretzels. That was the first time he’d seen clean air since the beginning of the first lap.
On the restart, it was the Flames and the Home Depot Rolling Hardware Store quickly around Dale the lesser, while on the low side, Kevin Glue had stayed away from the bar for some reason and managed to slow the entire line to a crawl. By lap 245, Stewpot was back around the Flames and into the lead. Four laps after that, Ricochet Craven blew the chance he’d been given, when he blew his engine as well, and managed to collect a bit of wall to add insult to injury. No caution waved for all that, but the day was minus one orange car.
They continued to circle for quite a while, but the battle was all for second place, with Stewpot out to a comfortable lead. By the time the slicing and dicing was done, Jeremy Mayfail had taken over the second spot and appeared to be closing in ever so slightly. In that “Race within a race” the New Man was the first car on the Loser Lap and that proved a good place to be.
At lap 287, the rear deck lid of Shredder’s car (That had been BAMmed earlier), gave up and went flying into oncoming traffic. It was collected by several of the combatants, most notably by Johnny Been Slow. After Miller Time was enjoyed by all, they were lined up with Stewpot in the lead, followed by the Bud Stud, Havoc, Flameboy and Mayfail. The New Man was back on the lead lap and pitted twice for extra beer. Could he possibly go 104 laps without further refreshments? All of the Stooges agreed that he could not, and his chief pit bull agreed with them.
On lap 326, we were treated to what had to be the NASCAR version of the competition caution, when Kenny Wall-Ace got near the wall but never touched it. (Someone must have moved it) The caution flag flew all the same, and most of the kids hit their bar stools for beer and tires. The LAP UP that time went to Mongo. How fitting is that? In order to stay in the clean air, the Bud Stud settled for only two tires, while the rest got four, but one lone car remained on the track to take the lead. It was that dreaded #12 that they’d thought they were rid of, but surely, he couldn’t make it all the way to the end without a beer.
Rapid Ryan was out to the lead in a hurry, while Dale the lesser began to fade back in the pack, complaining that he may have a flat tire. On lap 348, Curtains Busch slowed with a blown engine and took his Brute to the lounge. Up near the front, the #19 and the #20 were arguing over which comes first, and at lap 363, Flyin’ Ryan pulled under Dale the lesser to lap him. The Bud Stud got very loose and looped the Budmobile hard into the wall to bring out the final yellow rag of the day. It turned out to be one of those things a race fan never wants to see, because they had to bring out a stretcher to take the lad to the lounge. It seems that the lights were on but no one was home. At least, a bell kept ringing and no one answered it. One LAP UP that time was Toad Bodiddley. Shouldn’t they make it a part of the rule that you only get one of those per race?
Only about half of the kids pitted that time, and the #12 was not one of them. Now, we all knew he was crazy! Still, at the restart, it was Flyin’ Ryan and Jeremy Mayfail leaving the rest in their wake and really having a dogfight over first place. They got together a couple of times, but it didn’t appear to be serious, just good hard racing, as they say. They announced that the Bud Stud had been transported for observation, but no one appeared too worried. After all, there was a great race out on the track and we know he has an “Iron Head.” (Take that as a compliment. I haven’t used that term in over two years) Behind that lead duo, there was another good fight between Stewpot and Flameboy (Stewpot won). He then went on to pass Havoc for third, but that would be as far as he went for the day. (Dang Goodyear! Didn’t they know that he had the fastest car?)
At the checkers, it was Flyin’ Ryan over Mayfail, Stewpot, Havoc, Flameboy and the rest. Now folks, that young engineer had enough beer left to do a Polish Victory lap and some fine looking doughnuts before coming to Victory Lane to do his sponsor plugs. How thorough would you guess that inspection might have been? A bit of credit has to go to Mayfail for his concession speech. He said that he was happy to have second, and would have felt like [Expletive] if the New Man ran out of gas. Overall, if you don’t count injuries or hurricanes, it was a very good race.
That’s exactly the way it was at the Monster Mile on Sunday. Would I lie to you?
At this writing, Tuesday morning, we are still awaiting a decision from NASCAR as to the competition status of Dale Earnhardt Jr. On Monday, it was confirmed that he had suffered a minor concussion and a sprained right foot. He is using crutches and trying to stay off the foot. Be good and mend fast June bug. Talladega wouldn’t be right without you!
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout and I have what I hope will be a small treat for all of those that love Country as much as I do. I’d been roaming through my files last week, looking for a fun song whose name I could not recall. That didn’t prove to be a problem, as Google seems to understand me quite well. The name of this one is “Ole Slew Foot” and the singer is that master showman, Porter Wagoner and his Wagonmasters.
In that video, you saw a very short interlude from a fiddler…. A very good fiddler… probably the best fiddler I’ve ever seen perform. His name is Mack Magaha, and he got his show biz start with the Bluegrass duo of Reno and Smiley. Next up, I’ve found a sample of Mack’s fiddling with Reno and Smiley, and gentle readers, if that young man looks like he’s having the time of his life, I promise you, he was. I’ve seen a lot of Country stars in my time, and I don’t think any of them could match the pure joy exhibited by Mack Magaha with a fiddle in his hand. Here then, is Mack with Reno and Smiley as they have fun with “Down Yonder.” Start those toes to tappin’!
As we saw first, Mack’s career took off in a huge way when he joined Porter Wagoner and the Wagon Masters. We saw that group perform at least three times, and it well might have been more, because we never wanted to miss Mack Magaha. Here he is as a Wagonmaster, taking over the stage with a little number borrowed from the great Boots Randolph; it’s not “Yakety Sax”, but “Yakety Fiddle.”
Gentle readers, even if you don’t like a fiddle, you still have to admire the pure talent just dripping from that man as he plays, dances, smiles that infectious smile and just makes sure that everyone is having just the best of times! For our final bit of fun today, this is Mack doing a duet with fellow Wagonmaster, Buck Trent, whom many will recognize from his many appearances with Roy Clark on HeeHaw. Here are Mack and Buck with “The Black Mountain Rag.”
As a quick closing note, Mack Magaha passed away about 2 months after the race showcased here today, on August 15, 2003. You have to know there were smiles in Heaven when he arrived, fiddle in hand, because I know he wouldn’t have left it behind.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!