The Frontstretch: Driven to the Past: Scoring Wasn't Always So Easy... by John Potts -- Thursday July 29, 2010

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Driven to the Past: Scoring Wasn't Always So Easy...

John Potts · Thursday July 29, 2010


I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as many comments, or as much e-mail in addition to comments, as I got last week after this column talked about Richie Bisig. One old fan who e-mailed me asked why Richie’s car had “Yo Yo” painted on the left front fender.

Ah, therein lies another tale…

The way this one was told to me, Richie felt he got short changed (or short-scored, as the case may be) after a Figure 8 race at the Sportsdrome Speedway in Jeffersonville, Ind. one night.

Now, the ‘Drome’s scorer at the time was the late Dave Renn of Sellersburg, the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. On this particular night, Richie’s number didn’t come up on his sheets as often as it should have, and consequently there was some doubt about his finish.

In those days, as most oldtimers will recall, when line scoring a race it was customary at many tracks to have someone call the numbers onto a tape recorder as they crossed the start-finish line. This could be used to double check a lap or two if needed.

This was rarely needed when Dave Renn was scoring, but on this particular night Milt Hartlauf (who told me the story) decided to check the tape and invited Richie to listen with him. Milt Jr., a youngster at the time, was doing the tape for them.

In listening to the tape, at regular intervals (say about a lap), they heard young Milt say “Yo Yo” instead of calling a number.

These also happened to be the laps when Richie’s number was missing from the score sheets.

Richie asked Milt to stop the tape and asked, “What’s this ‘Yo Yo’ stuff?

Hartlauf said he replied, “Well, Richie, I think it’s probably your car. We seem to be having trouble reading the number at night.”

Richie answered, “Well, #@%#! You’ll be able to read that #@$*&%$# next week!” and left, his complaint satisfied.

From then on, Richie was careful to make sure his number was readable in all kinds of lighting, and he also added the “Yo Yo” to the fender.

Dave Renn had an absolute policy when it came to numbers. If he couldn’t read it from the press box or scorers’ stand, he wasn’t going to waste time trying to figure it out. He just skipped it.

Before officials lives were made considerably easier by computers and transponders, scorers relied on a variety of tricks to determine a winner.

Y’see, back in the day we didn’t have all these little transponders and timing lines in the tracks, sending the information to a computer and making things easy. Matter of fact, we still don’t have ‘em at Corbin (Ky.), but we’ve got a lady scoring named Robin Money who is just about as good as Renn was. This is the only track I’ve ever worked at where I can’t recall hearing a single complaint about scoring since I’ve been there, and I came around in 2002.

Still, we try to educate car owners about making sure their numbers are readable. Some combinations of colors just don’t work at night, and some don’t even work in the daytime. I don’t know how many times I’ve checked over a new car coming in and told the driver or owner he might want to dress that number up a little, like put a border on it or change the color.

Another scorer friend of mine who worked at Louisville, Bob Lovorn, once came up with a great way for competitors to see if their numbers were readable from the tower at night.

“Take it out to a shopping center parking lot,” Bob said, “park it 150 feet from the nearest light pole, and take a color Polaroid picture of it. If you can read the number in that picture, we can probably score it.”

I can do line scoring, but I don’t like to. I mean, I’ll get the job done, but it gets in the way of my trying to enjoy the race.

I was taught the “flip-clock” method of individual scoring by Milt, and I don’t mind doing it that way. Sometimes you have to take some steps to make sure there isn’t any fiddling going on.

Once, I heard a story about a scorer who, when her husband spun out, wrote down on her card a time one second off the time of the car he had been behind while he got going again. When he did get back on the track after a lap, he pulled right in behind that guy, and the final tally showed he didn’t lose that lap.

Another time in the 90s, when I was handling the scoring at a long race on a track in Indiana, a competitor came to me and said there had been some “irregularities” with the scoring of one particular car in this type of race in the past. He wanted to know if there was anything I could do to keep it from happening. I said I’d try to take care of it.

After some thought, I decided to assign seats for the scorers. I took the suspicious car’s scorer, put her in the front row, and then put two experienced scorers who had worked with ASA, ARCA, and even NASCAR on each side of her.

Funny, no problems at all that day.

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07/29/2010 11:41 PM

You really SCORED with this one!

old farmer
07/30/2010 02:24 AM

Excellent posting, as usual!

Don Mei
07/30/2010 11:15 AM

Good article. I scored motorcycle road races for years back in the seventies and eighties. Wasn’t too bad with a 25 or 50 mile race for one or two classes but twice a year we did 6 hour enduros at Bridgehampton and the old Loudon road course, with gas stops, rider changes etc. Lots of fun!…not!! We developed some reasonable systems over time but it was still a PIA.

John Potts
07/30/2010 11:39 AM

As always, thanks for the comments. Don, I’ve had some experience with motorcycle road racing while at IRP, and I cannot imagine scoring those things with the comparatively itsy-bitsy numbers on them.

07/30/2010 01:50 PM

A friend of mine was from somewhere in Carolina. He was a long time NASCAR fan. He was telling me that if you got there early enough you could volunteer as a scorer. Each car had it’s own scorer, & they just randomly assigned the volunteers. He said he always wanted someone who would fall out early. Then he’d have a good seat to watch the race. He told me, “just my luck, I always got someone like J.D. McDuffey that chugged around all day”. RIP J.D.

07/30/2010 07:15 PM

Super job, John. I’ve never kept score and have wondered what that would be like. I’ve never envied those who do. DB

07/31/2010 10:34 AM

Scoring problems go back a long way. I read where the first Indy 500 had scoring snafus and the wrong driver got the win.

07/31/2010 11:33 AM

Here’s the article.

John Potts
07/31/2010 12:22 PM

Thanks, DoninAjax. I’d heard the story, but never read an account of it.