The Frontstretch: Driven To The Past : When It Was A Lot More Fun... by John Potts -- Friday April 10, 2009

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Driven To The Past : When It Was A Lot More Fun...

John Potts · Friday April 10, 2009

 

I know that racing, like everything else, has progressed over the past 50 years, but I’m not sure that’s all been good. Seeing all the NASCAR officials, one to a car, lined up in the pit area at Texas reminded me of how few officials we used to get by on. I recall an ARCA race at Salem in the 60s when some USAC officials came down to watch, and one of them asked John Marcum where all his officials were.

John said, “I’ve got Bud Holloway inspecting and handling pit steward duties with ‘Little’ Potts (my brother, Bob) helping, Don Brown driving the pace car, Potts flagging, Frank Canale handling the scoring, and I’m overseeing everything. How many do I need?”

USAC had started getting larger at the time, I suppose. Even in the early days of ASA, there weren’t that many of us. Racing wasn’t near as sophisticated in those days. There was a lot more shadetree engineering, guys trying out their own ideas. And, for my money, it was a lot more fun. I suppose the progress has been for the better overall, but I’d like to go back once in a while. Even some of the IndyCar fans feel that way, judging from what I read on TrackForum.com. They long for the days when teams built their own cars and all sorts of creations showed up at Indianapolis in May.

ARCA has also progressed to the point where it is now a top-flight sanctioning body, and Marcum can be proud of what it has become. No more rolling into a track and letting the local officials handle things. One of my favorite memories of ARCA involves the last race on their schedule in the 1977 season. It was at Salem, and Moose Myers was leading the points by a slim margin, driving Jim Stovall’s No. 0 Chevrolet out of Fort Wayne, Ind. We didn’t have an ASA race that weekend, so I wandered over from Scottsburg to watch. That’s always been one of my favorite tracks, and it still is. I’d be there pretty often if I could still travel.

Anyway, I got there and Steve Stubbs had come up from Louisville to watch also. This was after John Marcum had passed on, I believe, and Canale was in charge. He invited us into the tower for the day, I suppose for old times’ sake. ARCA was running heat races and a 100-lap feature that day, in a companion show with a non-USAC midget program. I had promised Stovall I’d help him in the pits for the feature, but in the middle of the second ARCA heat race, Canale became disenchanted with the midget series’ flagman for some reason, and lost his temper. Frank could do that really well.

Andy Hampton (14) and Ralph Latham (29) take the green flag from Frontstretch’s own John Potts in an ARCA race at Salem in 1965.

Stubbs and I were heading down the steps to the tower door when he yelled, “Potts! Will you do me a favor and flag the feature?”

“Uh, okay, but you go tell that guy he’s not flagging.”

I told Stubbs to tell Stovall about it and I went to get my flags during the midget feature. When it was over, I climbed up there and found the radio hanging on the rail. I checked in, and heard Stubbs say, “Okay, Big John, let’s show ‘em how we used to do it in this outfit.”

Turned out he had reached over Canale’s shoulder, picked up his radio, and said, “I’ll handle this, Frank, then all you’ll have to do is take care of the scoring.”

Frank was agreeable.

We had a ball the rest of the day, and it went pretty smoothly until Myers lost power going down the backstretch with five laps left, and I lost sight of him. I figured he had come to a stop behind the tower, when Steve said, “Hold that yellow! He’s moving again.”

Moose went through three and four with Woody Fisher’s Chevy right on his bumper, then sailed down the front straight about 10 feet ahead of Fisher. He slowed again on the backstretch, and the process was repeated the next lap. And for the next three. I couldn’t say for sure that Fisher had pushed him, and Moose finished high enough to win the championship. I guess the most important thing was that Canale couldn’t say for sure, either.

After the program, in our traditional post-race gathering under the trees in the parking lot hosted by Louise Stovall (Weesey Burgers!), I told Jim I was sorry I couldn’t help him. What he said in reply made me proud.

“Potts, you were right where I wanted you!”

Maybe the crowd thought two ASA officials hijacked an ARCA race, but I was glad Canale had asked me.

It was a simpler time, for sure. But it was a lot of fun, too.

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M.B. Voelker
04/10/2009 09:36 AM
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Sounds to me like your version of simpler and more fun involves letting people get away with cheating.

That can’t have been much fun for the people who were robbed of their legitimate positions by the cheater.