The Frontstretch: Driven to the Past: Back In The Day... by John Potts -- Thursday September 2, 2010

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Driven to the Past: Back In The Day...

John Potts · Thursday September 2, 2010

 

I just finished putting more than 200 photos of ARCA action and drivers from
my time with that sanctioning body, plus some from before and after, on my own
Facebook page. I’m not telling you this to publicize it, although everybody is
welcome to look at them and enjoy. Some folks say I’m not just driven to the
past, I’m stuck in it.

Well, that may be true, but as I keep saying, I miss those days when it
seemed to be a simpler time. Racing has gotten much more sophisticated. The
cars are faster, the equipment is better – but I’m not so sure all of that is
good. I can recall Sterling Marlin saying, “It’s not fun anymore.”

OK, it’s a business now, at least at the top levels, but how many people at
the local track level make a living at it? Darn few, and that makes it a hobby
as far as I’m concerned.

Back in the day, as they say, even racing with organizations like ARCA and
ASA was a hobby for most of the field and was fun to nearly everybody. Late
model competitors at a lot of local tracks could make a few changes to their
cars and run with ARCA when they were in the neighborhood.

The same thing applied to ASA in the early 70s, and that was the whole idea
at the time. We called it “The Circuit of Champions” because most of the
competitors were champions in their own right in their own neighborhood.

Some of my best and fondest memories, as readers of this column have
learned, are from those days.

I plan to put more photos on my page, some from the earlier ASA days, and
some of those same guys running at local tracks all over. Taking photographs
off the internet is a hobby of mine, and one I really enjoy.

Anyway, the whole project got me to wondering when this deal got so serious.

The first I can remember noticing that things were getting a little stuffy
came in the late 60s at the Daytona ARCA race.

Jay Wyatt had taken his ZERO Dodge down there. This car was pretty famous
and darn near unbeatable in the Cincinnati area. The photo accompanying this
column shows how it showed up at the World Center of Racing.

Therein lies the rub.

John Marcum came out of the inspection shed with a downcast look on his
face, and I asked him what was wrong.

“They don’t want to pass Wyatt’s car.”

Naturally, I asked him what the problem was. NASCAR was handling the
inspection process, which I suppose was only proper since they had more
experience with what was required to make a car safe at that place.

Turned out it didn’t have anything to do with safety. Or performance.

They said the ‘ZERO’ on the side of the car didn’t constitute a valid
number.

Say what?

NASCAR originally didn’t want Jay Wyatt’s car to pass inspection because it didn’t have an actual number on it, but he was later allowed to run the ARCA race with the car as is.

We didn’t have a “0,” so what was wrong with just using that on the
scoreboard?

After some thought, I looked John up and gave him an idea.

“Why don’t you tell them that only the O is a number, and ZER is one of the
sponsors?”

Then I suggested that he tell them it was HIS sanctioning body, and HE
approved the numbers, and THEY should confine themselves to safety and technical
issues.

Well, the final result was that Jay got to run that car as it is seen in the
photo.

I don’t know just exactly what John told them, but I suspect that the fact
Marcum and Big Bill France were good friends had something to do with it.

As I recall, Wyatt was leading the race by a big margin when something went
wrong. Probably the engine. Jay was one of those guys whose throttle had two
settings – open and shut.

- – - – - – - –

One of my other memories comes from sitting in on an ARCA drivers’ meeting
before the 1965 race at Daytona.

They used to have a couple of NASCAR veterans speak to the guys about the
nuances of driving that place.

Bear in mind that this was only the seventh year for the place, but those
veterans had obviously learned a lot in those years – and most of the ARCA
drivers hadn’t been on anything like that track.

Darel Dieringer was the head schoolmaster at this meeting, and he gave out
some great pointers.

On drafting, he said the thing a driver had to know was just where to be if
his car was tight or loose. Bear in mind, all this may have changed in the
years since, but it made sense to me at the time.

“If you’re loose, you should be the car in front because it’ll bring your
rear end into line behind you,” he said. “If you’re tight, you need to follow.
It’ll help the front end.”

On picking a drafting partner, Darel said, “If you get up behind a guy and
he’s up the banking, then down the banking, inside, then outside, forget it.
Drop him like a bad habit and go find another dancing partner, because if he
gets in trouble you’re going to be part of it.”

And finally, on the fine art of slingshotting, and the accepted procedure at
the time…

“If you pull it off, say on the backstretch, just make sure your car is
handling well. Because when you drop down below that guy and go sailing into
Turn Three, you’re gonna to be going twenty miles an hour faster than you’ve
ever gone in your life!”

I don’t know if it was intended to scare them or what, but it would
certainly have gotten my attention.

Contact John Potts

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Blair L. Kriner
09/03/2010 10:31 AM
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Hey Great article, Things are winding down back here I will have to take a look at those pic on facebook

Don Wilbur
09/04/2010 12:22 PM
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Very good John ZERO and Jay at Queen City

AncientRacer
09/05/2010 10:07 AM
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Did you send a copy of this directly to Brian? Can Brian read?

Matthew L. Lewis
09/07/2010 11:17 PM
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Nice article John! Could you please befriend me on facebook so I can see your pictures? I looked up your name but couldn’t find you. Thanks!