Tales from the Lighter Side ~ Terry Labonte, Ward Burton and More
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and our always warm greeting goes out to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this sunny warm day in the hills of North Georgia. It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time for another trip to the Lighter Side of NASCAR. While the rest of the print media deal with packages and downforce, we’ll attempt to amuse you or stir a memory or two via quotes and stories from or about folks with whom you are all familiar. Same rules apply. Quotes in Italics and my comments, if any, in parentheses.
"I don’t even know why I’m going to watch it. I know he is going to win. He has gotten so smart sitting in the (TV) booth. It’s obvious that nobody else will stand a chance with all the knowledge he has gained."
Terry Labonte, referring to Darrel Waltrip, who was about to run the truck race at Martinsville
(I thought that I was the only one that felt that way)
"The doctor just told me that the first time I came back it was a full-fledged miracle. He kind of explained to me how many miracles can you have. That kind of woke me up."
Ernie Irvan, announcing his retirement
(A lot of us are glad that you got your miracle Ernie)
"I’ve got some really good words for him. Unfortunately, I can’t say them on TV. I wish I had something I could’ve shot at him."
Ward Burton, referring to Dale Earnhardt Jr. after the two had a meeting of the metal at Bristol
(Umm, like maybe your 12-gauge?)
"There is ‘fast’ and there is ‘fast fast.’ Bristol is definitely ‘fast fast.’ "
(I wonder if he refers to track speed or wreck speed)
“No, I… I mean, first off, you look in the mirror and you see it. And then you see it, you're sitting in there in your little cocoon, and the fire starts wrapping around. And it's like, OK, as soon as this thing gets stopped, now would be a pretty good time to get out.”
Ken Schrader, referring to a fiery wreck at Pocono
(Yep, and quickly too)
“It’s basically the same, just darker.”
Alan Kulwicki, commenting on the difference between racing on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon
(Sometimes simple questions deserve simple answers)
"When you pull into victory lane it makes you feel good that you just ruined their day."
Jeff Gordon, discussing the boo birds in the grandstands
(If that’s the case, he’s ruined a lot of days)
“I guess it (the championship) will sink in once I see my daddy's eyes next week.''
Dale Earnhardt Jr., referring to his Busch Series Championship
(We wish that you could still see them June bug)
"Bottom line: We’re out here in the da** desert blowing tires."
Kenny Wallace at Phoenix, obviously not enthralled to be there
(Hey, at least you weren’t sitting up on Rattlesnake Mountain)
“I recall several funny incidents, considering that no one got hurt, particularly at Darlington. We were there for the first Southern 500 in 1950. It was miserably hot as usual on Labor Day, and I’d never driven 500 miles. I thought what a treat it would be to have something cool to drink in my thermos bottle, located behind the seat and fitted with a rubber hose for sipping. So I filled mine with tomato juice. I wrecked early. I wasn’t hurt, but the juice splattered all over me. The first person to the car looked inside and saw me covered with what he thought was blood. ‘Gawd, get an ambulance,’ he exclaims, ‘Baker’s done cut his head off!’"
(Gee, and it sounded like such a good idea. Wait ‘til you see the follow-up)
“Another time, at Hillsboro, North Carolina, I put beer in my thermos. After a few laps, the beer, jostled by the bumpy ride, foamed and the top came off the jug. The inside of the car looked like a washing machine. I had to explain that one to Bill France”
Buck Baker with the rest of the story
(I guess he wasn’t familiar with NASCAR’s “zero tolerance policy”)
“This story has been told countless times, but not very accurately. I don’t know whether it’s worth wrecking the myth that surrounds it. Most versions have me driving my Chevelle racecar out of Daytona Speedway while the gas tank was laying on the ground. There was an argument over fuel, and I did drive the car from the track to my garage with no gas tank. Whether or not I had a gas tank didn’t matter, because that car had an illegal 11-foot fuel line with a 2-inch hole in it that held 6 gallons of gasoline. I could have driven to Jacksonville 90 miles away with the fuel in the line. The incident prompted NASCAR to change the fuel line opening to 3/8 inch.”
Of course, that is the legendary Smokey Yunick, telling his side of one of the “legends” of NASCAR
(This guy makes today’s mechanics look like monkeys in comparison)
“At a dirt-track race in Savannah, Georgia, in 1953, I had two Hudson Hornets for Herb Thomas and Dick Rathmann. Thomas won the pole, but Dick was having problems. I kept telling Dick he was lifting too late in turn 3. Finally, he gave me his helmet and said to show him. We climbed in the car. He had no seat, helmet, or harness. I told him to touch me when we got to the point where he lifted going into (turn) 3. We went into the turn wide-open, and he never touched me. We spun around the biggest telephone pole I’d ever seen and left the doors handle on the driver side sticking in the pole. The only thing Dick said was ‘Don’t stall it.’"
(Old Smokey could even tell tales on himself)
We have one more from Smokey today. This isn’t NASCAR, but it is vintage Smokey Yunick.
This one isn’t a quote, but a pretty funny story…
One time we were at qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. Driver Jim Hurtubise had a car he built himself. It was the old-style construction, with torsion bars and straight front axles. Everybody else had independent suspension. In fact, he had two cars--one he had wrecked and the other that wasn’t ready. To hold your place in the qualifying order, you had to keep a car in line. When the track closed, the position you held at that time was the same one you got the next morning. That gave Jim all night to prepare his car. He put the car that wasn’t ready on the line. Somebody challenged the legality of the car, which was sponsored by a beer company. The hood was raised, and there were four cases of beer holding up the exhaust header. There was no engine in it.
(The car and beer are in a racing museum in Bedford, Indiana.)
Back in 1990, Michael Waltrip set about earning a little piece of fame that no one really wants. It was during a practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he lost the car and headed for the wall. What he hit was not a wall. At that time, Bristol had an iron gate that swung open to allow emergency vehicles and infield traffic to exit the track. Mikey’s car caught the edge of that gate, and the result was phenomenal. The gate survived nicely, but Mikey's car was torn and twisted into something unrecognizable. Big brother Darrell came really close to breaking the 4-minute mile getting to that car, totally prepared for the worst. Lifting away the torn roof, he was treated to the sight of Mikey, standing on the ground since there was no floor left, asking sheepishly "What's the matter?" Mikey managed a self-evacuation from the car through what had once been the engine compartment, and to the amazement of doctors and fans, was unhurt. We saw the car years ago at the Motorsports Museum at Talladega… an example of worst wrecks…
A couple of years ago, “tough guy” Jimmy Spencer was asked in an interview what his favorite Holiday might be. His answer belies that tough guy image and speaks to the Jimmy Spencer that some of us love.
“I have a lot of them. I think Easter's a pretty neat day, but I look forward to Christmas day…I do. I know the good Lord sent Jesus down and he was born, but it won't be long now that Christmas won't mean the same to me with my kids being gone. To watch my kids ' faces growing up… the memories and the pictures and watching them with pride with the things you had gotten them. Believing in Santa Claus…I still believe in Santa Claus. That day, when you see a child see Santa and the excitement he has coming down the steps on Christmas morning. Then, the older they get they realize that Christmas is for Jesus. It's life; and then they get old. But you can never turn back time; you've just got the memories.”
That’s all for today folks. Just enough time left for our Classic Country Closeout, and your scribe found some really old Grand Ole Opry shows that I don’t believe we’ve seen before. Nothing not to like there. Please enjoy:
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!