The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: Rainy Days in ASA, Kenny's Cussing, and Butch's Bad Break by John Potts -- Thursday September 6, 2012

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With a phone call this week, somebody wanted to know what was the longest distance I ever drove only to be rained out.

That would have to be one of the ASA races we ran in Atlanta. Woke up Sunday morning with the pouring rain like it was coming out of a bucket, and it stayed that way until we pulled out at 3:00 p.m. Rex Robbins asked if I was giving up on it clearing up. I said I wasn’t so much worried about that as the track filling up with water. This was back when Atlanta was a “pure” oval and a bit bowl-shaped like Dover. I loved it that way. We don’t have enough tracks like that nowadays…

No real questions this week, so maybe we’ll just pass on a few stories. One that comes to mine involves the first time we ran the USAC Silver Crown Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1985. We had a couple of practice days a week or two before, and the consensus among the teams was that they were going to have to pit in order to make the 150-lap scheduled distance.

Ken Schrader’s won at every level he’s raced in, from Sprint Cup to the local short tracks but there’s one slippery USAC event in particular he’ll always feel like it “slipped” away.

Well, Rick Hood won it without pitting, with Ken Schrader a lap or two down in second place. Rick pulled in for the trophy presentation, and Schrader was waiting.

“You lyin’ b*****d! We all agreed that we were gonna have to stop, and you didn’t. I’m never believing another word you say!”

With as involved and technical as inspections are nowadays, it brings to mind when ASA got a sonic tester to check the wall thickness of roll cages. Boy, that was high tech in those days.

The powers-that-be decided that I would be the guy to test the cars. They gave me the tester and a piece of rollbar pipe, which was the proper thickness to test the tester each time and a pocket knife.

“What’s the pocket knife for?”

“You have to scrape the paint off the cage to test it.”

In the process of doing this, as I had expected, scraping paint off the cage — even a dime-sized spot — did not sit well with some teams. Butch Miller’s bunch in particular, were downright irate about it. They wanted to put the knife somewhere the sun didn’t shine. This was at Michigan International Speedway in the 1980s, by the way. Everything went along fine until I got to a new car, checked it, and it came up about .025” too narrow. I checked it in three or four places. Even retested the tester twice. Still came up .065”.

I told him he couldn’t run. He went ballistic.

He explained that he had just purchased the car earlier that week, from one of our regular front runners, and had only repainted it. The name of the regular front runner is being withheld to protect the guilty, but you may rest assured I went back and and checked his new car again.

Amazin’, ain’t it? Long-time competitor finds out through the newsletter that we’re testing cages for thickness at MIS, sells his old one and builds or buys a brand-new car.

To the guy who had purchased the old car, I suggested that he go back to the seller and get the rest of it. When I turned the tech sheet over to Rex Robbins, the guy was already there, voicing his complaint. After I explained what I’d found, Rex told him he could run, but he had to add 100 pounds to the car.

That’s when I spoke up again.

“We’re running faster than the Winston Cup cars here, he’s got what our equipment says in an unsafe cage, and you want it to be 100 pounds heavier if he rolls it?”

I’m glad Rex saw the logic in that argument. I was seriously considering black flagging that car on the parade lap.

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SHOEMAN
09/06/2012 12:22 PM
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really enjoy some of your stories, Mr. Potts.

jerseygirl
09/06/2012 01:15 PM
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Great stories, thanks for sharing them. Love the picture of Schrader, too. I have his book – Gotta Race and its a really fun book to read.

Earner
09/06/2012 02:38 PM
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Can’t believe Schraders not on more broadcasts & shows as he is hilarious to listen to

Andy
09/06/2012 03:53 PM
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Sure wish it was Kenny & Mikey doing the FOX broadcasts instead of DW and McReynolds. I bet Kenny’s put enough cars together than he can supply the viewer-friendly simple information that Larry provides.

Since Schrader will never retire, maybe we’ll just have him to all of the in-car stuff.