The Frontstretch: Driven To The Past : Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures by John Potts -- Friday November 21, 2008

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Once again, something I read on the website Dayton Speedway Lives brought back some memories. A photographer named Scott McIlwain wrote about his experience attending the last Dayton 500 in 1979, and mentioned that Glenn Ohlmann was the winner.

Glenn Ohlmann was from Louisville, and was a regular competitor at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway as well as in ASA. We lost Glenn to cancer not too many years ago. If I might be pardoned for paraphrasing a line Richard Burton spoke in “The Longest Day,” the thing that bothers me about being one of the few is the way we keep getting fewer.

My story about Glenn doesn’t concern his victory at Dayton, but rather a night at Lonesome Pine Speedway at Coeburn, Va. I believe it was in 1982, the same night the late Alan Kulwicki got his first ASA feature win.

Something happened to Glenn’s car, causing us to bring out the black flag. I can’t remember exactly what it was, probably something dragging that we were afraid would fall off and cause a tire problem. After I had used the black flag for about five laps, it became obvious that Glenn was either not paying attention or was just ignoring it. And his pit crew wasn’t much help in trying to get him to come in. Each lap, I got a little hotter under the collar.

Glenn Ohlmann won the last Dayton 500 in 1979 and holds the distinction as the driver who ignored John Potts’ black flag for the most laps in his career.

This situation had to set a record for the number of laps a car was black flagged and didn’t come in, because we went more than 30 laps that way. I didn’t want to throw a yellow just to get his attention because we had a really good race going on up front. I remember thinking that I wished I had gone ahead and used my idea of bringing paint-filled plastic bags to the flagstand. A black one would have been real handy. Anyway, after more than 30 laps, we got a caution for a blown engine and I thought surely, we’ll get his attention now.


Now, we had the same policy NASCAR uses, that after three laps of trying we stop scoring the car, but I decided to take it a step further. Since this was going to be a fairly long caution, I asked race control to send me a scorecard with a big black 45 on it that I could show to Glenn the next time by. They did, and I showed it to him, but still nothing happened.

The next time the field came by, I held it up and showed it to him again, then showed it to the pit crew, which was right across from me, and then ripped it in half. Just for fun, I ripped it a couple more times and then threw the pieces away. Would you believe the crew got the message and got him in the next time around?

Desperate people take desperate measures sometimes. – - – - – - – -

Speaking of the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, we did use plastic bags there — but for a different reason. During a real long race, we’d have them filled with cement, and we’d put boxes of them inside the turns. When the track started getting a little slick, corner workers would toss the bags out there, the cars would wipe the cement through the turn, and the situation would clear up. Our local guys got so accustomed to this that they’d wave at the corner workers and point at the track, telling them it was time to toss a couple out.

Hey, it worked.

For one ARCA 500-lapper, I was working the third and fourth turns. John MacIntosh, the man I watched to learn how to flag and one of the best I ever saw, was in the flagstand. After about 250 laps, one of our local drivers started pointing at the track; so, I got some baggies out of the box and started doing my thing. Of course, the trick was to pick a spot where you had a good distance between cars…

So I picked out a spot, and for two laps did a good job of tossing the baggies out there right behind the car on the front side of the gap. Unfortunately, after those two laps, he must have slowed up a little, because the next time around, I tossed one right behind him. Iggy Katona, the seven-time ARCA champion, had closed the gap far enough that the bag went right between his nose—this was before full-faced helmets—and the steering wheel, and impacted against the other side of the car.

MacIntosh was treated to the site of Iggy’s car coming down the front straightaway trailing a cloud of cement dust.

I ran for the front straightaway. As John was reaching for the black flag, I managed to get his attention and wave it off with the “safe” umpire sign. He understood, and, of course, the dust cleared up after a lap or so.

But I’ll never forget the look I got from Iggy the next time he went by my position in the turns…

Contact John Potts

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©2000 - 2008 John Potts and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

11/21/2008 08:40 AM

Iggy Katona!

What more need be said?

11/21/2008 08:41 AM

Of all the writers on this site, you I am going to miss the most. Nascrap nowadays is a joke and I get tired of hearing about it. However, your “tales from the old days” is really a rememberance to me as I was in the grandstands with my Dad and alone for many of them and you just keep bring up memories….Thanks a ton for that….and I can’t wait for your stories next year!

11/21/2008 11:08 AM

Racing lost it’s soul when it got to the point that the team with the most money, wins. Rest assured, Alan Kulwicki was NEVER the one with the most money. I don’t give a damn how many championships Hendrick, or JJ win. To me they will never equal the one AK, & the Underbird won.

Rick Erwin
11/21/2008 11:06 PM

Johnny,just wanted to thank you for your lifetime of work & dedication to our sport.Reading your column reminds me how proud I am to have been a competitor & fan during this era.

11/22/2008 01:10 AM

Ah, Dayton Speedway! I went there several times as a kid and was there at the 79 Dayton 500. The racing there on those high banks was like watching marbles being swirled around in a bowl…a LOT of fun. As a little joke, they had an official-looking sign going into turn 1 that said “Speed Limit 155”.

It was there I learned the hard way why the seats down front are the last to be filled. By the end of the race I looked like I had stoked a coal furnace! Those were the days.