The Frontstretch: Driven to the Past : A Few Short Stories... by John Potts -- Friday June 6, 2008

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Driven to the Past : A Few Short Stories...

John Potts · Friday June 6, 2008


Back in the 60s and early 70s, one of the most popular watering holes in Daytona Beach was Mac’s Famous Bar on South Atlantic Avenue.

They used to show racing films each night, some of them from back in the beach/road course days. If you wanted a table, you had to get there early, so the plan was usually to go over as soon as you left the track, order a pizza, enjoy the rest of the evening, and then stagger to the motel when the show was over.

One night in February of 1968, Darel Dieringer came in, and one of the only open seats happened to be at our table. He asked if he could sit down, and naturally we were glad to have a driver there with us.

By coincidence, one of the next films up was the 1967 Southern 500 at Darlington.

That was the first (at least I remember it that way) NASCAR race won by one of the Big Three’s “intermediate” models. Dieringer won it driving a 1967 Mercury Comet owned by Bud Moore.

The rest of us at the table couldn’t believe how “into” this film Darel got.

He was whoopin’ and hollerin’ all the way through, but the kicker came on the final pit stop.

The Comet screams into Moore’s pit, and suddenly the table starts shaking.

Dieringer is up on the table, and actually jumping up and down, yelling “Hurry up, damn it, hurry up!”

Somebody finally yelled, “Sit down, Darel, you WON this race.”

- – - – - – - –

At Daytona in 1965, the second time ARCA ran there, we got there on Saturday and got to the track in time to watch the two 50-mile qualifying races they were running.

There was a persistent rain after five laps of the first one, and John Marcum, the founder, majordomo and supreme authority of ARCA, decided to keep the cars out there in hopes that it would let up. They were running some pretty fast caution laps, and after about 20 minutes they brought the cars in.

Homer Newland, an Ohio driver who was a dead ringer for Fireball Roberts, climbed out of his car and headed for the garage.

Marcum got out of the pace car and shouted, “Newland, don’t go too far, we might go back out.”

Homer said, “Not me.”

Marcum asked why, and Homer said, “You’re on treaded tires in that pace car. We’re on slicks. You’re taking us around at 100 miles an hour, and it’s slipperier than two eels wrestling in a bucket of snot. I ain’t goin’ back out there.”

- – - – - – - –

Stew Reamer recently told this one in National Speed Sport News, but he got it from me, so I’m going to tell it again.

Once at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, we were getting ready for a 500-lap ARCA race. At the drivers’ meeting, John Marcum told everybody, “If I see any rough driving out there, I’m gonna signal Potts, he’s gonna get the black flag out, and you’re gonna come in so we can talk.”

Les Snow, a regular bulldog of a driver piped up, “What are we gonna talk about, John?”

Marcum said, “About four laps.”

- – - – - – - –

One of my favorite stories is a hand-me-down. It didn’t happen to me, but was told to me by Mary Barnard while I was a newspaper editor in southern Indiana. Mary’s husband, Russell, owned the Salem Speedway in Indiana for a time.

Even Tony Hulman was required to follow the rules at Salem Speedway.

It’s a great example of how everybody should be required to follow the rules.

It seems Tony Hulman came to Salem for a USAC sprint car race, and got there a little late. The pit office had closed, and it was necessary to go to the office to get credentials.

They were lining up the first heat at the time, and Elmer George, Tony’s son-in-law, was in it, driving Mari Hulman’s H-O-W Special (I always heard that stood for Hell On Wheels, which described the team pretty well at the time, but I’m not sure).

Anyway, Tony told the gate guard that his son-in-law was in the first heat and he had to get inside immediately.

The guard told him to go to the office to get his credential.

“Look, I’m Tony Hulman, I own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I need to get in there.”

The guard’s reply?

“Yeah, and I’m Little Red Riding Hood. You go to the office like everybody else, mister.”

Tony went up to the office, told Mary Barnard what had happened, and she quickly signed him in and gave him a credential.

Then Tony asked for the name of the gate guard.

Mary said, “Don’t worry about him, Tony, I’ll fire him myself.”

Tony replied, “I don’t want you to fire him, Mary. I want to HIRE him.”

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06/08/2008 07:06 PM

Would love to see a piece on Ellis Palasini, who tore up the southern tracks in the 60’s and 70’s.