The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: What Being A NASCAR Fan Used To Be Like by Matt McLaughlin -- Thursday August 21, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: What Being A NASCAR Fan Used To Be Like

Matt McLaughlin · Thursday August 21, 2008


I don’t know if it’s the passing of the years or the consuming of beers, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different it is to be a NASCAR fan than it was decades ago when I first became interested in the sport. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, personal obligations forced me to miss most of the Nationwide race from Watkins Glen. But once I finished up doing what needed doing, I wanted to find out who had won the race — and if the carnage that marked the opening laps had continued all afternoon.

Well, all it took was a few brief key strokes and I was able to find out Marcos Ambrose had won, watched a brief video of his post-race comments, checked out the final finishing order, and reviewed a near lap by lap recount of the race. Had the incidents involving “Vile Kyle” and Jeff Burton incensed me enough (they didn’t — I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused) I could have jumped on a message board and discussed the incidents with other fans not only across the country, but from around the globe (at least to the extent anyone outside the United States really gives a fig about NASCAR’s “B” series — the Toyota Invitational — this year). While I endure a love/hate relationship with this computer — it is part of my job, but I am far from the most technically savvy individual dragging his knuckles across the face of the Earth — the fact that even I could gather all that information in a few short moments at virtually no expense is rather neat.

Still wondering why I reminisce all the time about the old days? All right, kids — pull up a seat and get ready to listen to Gramps in his loud Hawaiian shirt fill you in on how things worked for a racing fan only a few decades ago.

Back then, not only was there no Internet, there was damn little NASCAR racing on TV; only brief, tape delayed segments. Living here in the Northeast, I was lucky if there was a single paragraph account of that Sunday’s Cup race on the final page of the sports section, listed under the odds on the horses at local tracks that day. Normally, there wasn’t — unless it was a big race, like the Southern 500 or the World 600. So, if I couldn’t find the information, I’d call my cousin or uncle in North Carolina to get the scoop. Back then, there were no free weekend or evening minutes — you picked up the receiver of a phone mounted on the wall, used a rotary dial to place the call, and paid through the nose for it. My Uncle would clip the articles about the races from the local paper and mail them to me every few weeks, since he knew I loved racing. Actually, those articles helped me learn to read when I was five.

Live coverage of races, much less press conferences, were unheard of back when Matt McLaughlin became a NASCAR diehard.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports occasionally did do some NASCAR coverage. Most typically they’d join a race in progress, review what had happened earlier in the event, and then intersperse the rest of the race with stuff like lumber sports and javelin throwing. As a young man, I lived for whatever racing ABC would offer me. I simply never would have believed that one day every Truck, Nationwide, and Cup race would be broadcast live in its entirety. For all the faults of contemporary race broadcasts (and there are myriad) if the guys in the FOX booth finally wear your nerves thin, you can mute the audio and watch the action. I’m not one of those guys who’s going to tell you to quit complaining about what you don’t like about today’s TV coverage… I agree with you. It’s not all that much harder to do things well rather than do them poorly, and since the cameras and satellite trucks are already there, the networks should improve their product. But don’t forget, any coverage today beats what us longtime fans used to get as little as 30 years ago.

In addition to live broadcasts of the races themselves, NASCAR fans enjoy a lot of other benefits today. There are numerous cable channels broadcasting shows related to NASCAR racing on an almost nightly basis, and I doubt it would be possible to watch them all even if you wanted to — because many of them overlap. There are shows devoted to pre-race coverage, followed by the race itself… which is then followed by shows devoted to post-race analysis. During the week, there are numerous discussion programs that analyze the previous week’s race and preview upcoming events. Then, you can jump on the Internet and read discussions about the discussion shows and watch video clips of them.

Obviously, the only reason you are reading this right now is because of the Internet. I don’t have a journalism degree. I am not a reporter. I’m a guy with a point of view that some people enjoy who managed to find homes to keep doing this for a long while now. How long? Hell if I remember. Let’s put it this way: When I met Jayski, he was living in his folks’ place in Cape May, New Jersey, driving a maroon T-Bird with like 2 gazillion miles on it. He was working a 9-5 job back then, and he considered his site an interesting hobby that was getting a little out of hand as far as how much time it consumed. The first time we met for a few beers down the shore, he had an Ernie Irvan sticker in the window of his Ford and I was wearing a Bill Elliott No. 94 T-Shirt and Dick Trickle ball cap. Even the Charlotte Observer didn’t have their website, That’s Racin’, up yet, and Mark Martin hadn’t even retired for the first time. Yeah, kids… that was a real long time ago.

Not long after Jay and I got acquainted, he started posting links to articles on other sites “in the interest of giving readers a variety of points of views and some enjoyment” — as he still puts it today. In doing so, the inestimable Mr. J started a cottage industry, a rapid proliferation of independent NASCAR websites and folks who wrote articles to provide content for them, followed by more professionally produced sites, many of them related to newspapers or TV channels. Many, if not most, of those old websites have fallen by the wayside; but some have flourished, and many more are added almost daily. For some fans, they might be reaching the saturation point. One day last year when I was home with the flu, I decided I was going to read every single article posted on Jay’s link page that day. Well I sure ain’t ever going to do that again — while there’s some very good writers out there, many of them lonely pamphleteers who run small websites, there’s also some real drek. But on a personal level, links to the website of the small racing newspaper I used to write for launched my musings onto a larger stage. During the boom, it was almost an embarrassment of riches for a few years; but since it kept me in bikes, beer, and blue jeans, I rolled with it.

There was an era of my life when I was old enough to drive but before the advent of cable TV and ESPN, when the only programming that might offer an insight on life as a NASCAR fan North of the Mason Dixon line was MRN. I live in the Philly market and it has been my home since Springsteen was staging shows at the Main Point in front of a couple hundred fans — or back when no radio stations carried racing coverage. The closest station that carried MRN on Sunday afternoons was in Dover, Delaware, and the closest place to my home that reliably got the Dover signal was an odd little spit of land in extreme southern New Jersey that the locals called “the Baja.” I never have figured out how, but legally that acreage belongs to Delaware, not New Jersey — though it is across the Delaware Bay from the First State’s mainland. The Jersey cops had no jurisdiction there, and the Delaware cops never patrolled it. It was a fine place to run wild down the sandy trails in your four-by or on your dirt bike, or to stage keg parties that sometimes raged on for the entire weekend. While four wheeling down there one day, I found that Delaware station on the radio by chance; and after that, most weeks a buddy and I would jump in my truck and head down to the Baja to catch the race. We’d park the truck on the beach by the water, positioning it for the best reception we could by little more than trial and error.

I’ve always had a thing for black Ford trucks with big engines, big tires, and big pipes. That’s all well and good for trail riding, but in the dog days of summer a black truck heats up inside even with the windows down. My buddy and I would take turns running down to the water for a dip during commercials; a blast of the horns would let the other know that the racing had resumed. We’d sit there baking like clams, downing beers and listening to the coverage from such exotic locales as Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, and Bristol, places I dreamed of seeing one day and places I have been to since. No, AM radio wasn’t in high def, and there were days the signal faded in and out all day; but back then, if you were a hardcore fan, those were the extremes you’d go to just to catch the race.

While in college I worked, sometimes several jobs, and earned some money — the kind you didn’t report on your 1040 — by racing in the streets. For a college kid, I usually had a fair amount of cash in my pocket — a settlement from a bike wreck didn’t hurt any, though the wreck itself hurt a good deal. A young man’s dreams often turn to road trips, and back then we would use the cash to go off skiing for the weekend or crashing at a place down the Jersey shore with 40 or 50 friends stuffed in a rental property. That was, of course, until that fateful phone call from my cousin down in North Carolina telling me he had a couple spare tickets for the 1979 Southern 500 — and asking if I was interested in driving down and going to the race. With my Sophomore year of college about ready to commence, the idea of the biggest road trip of my life had instant appeal. That call came in around 10 on Friday morning, and by noon, a buddy and I were southbound on 195 with him unfolding an Exxon road map trying to figure out where South Carolina was — South, I reckoned. We’d hit North Carolina and go South from there, then ask for directions when we found South Carolina. No, kids, there were no Garmins back then.

We took that trip in a black 70 SS big block four speed El Camino.. It wasn’t Barrett-Jackson bait back then, it was just transportation…fast, loud transportation. That old Elky might not have been the greatest choice for a road trip car, but the bed held more coolers than my Buick GS or Boss 302, though in retrospect the GS did have AC. If I recall correctly, the truck had 3.42 rear gears, but they might have been 3.73s. Either way, that big engine was screaming as we roared South with the speedometer hovering around 85, my naïve trust placed in a Fuzzbuster radar detector the size of a shoebox hanging from the passenger side visor. The truck was “between carpets” that weekend, so the headers heated the floorpans to the point the heel of the sneaker on my right foot was melting. I put on cowboy boots instead. The gas tank had a leak at the seam, so I couldn’t put more than 10 gallons in it without leakage; thus, gas stops were frequent. I’d put seven bucks in the tank while my buddy ran to find munchies. (Gas stations didn’t have convenience stores back then, they had service bays). Then it was back off down the highway — warp factor five.

As we got farther South, we received increasing attention and ever some hostile glances. First off, I was driving like an idiot while drinking beer in plain view. (Terrible idea, kids, never ever do this!) The exhaust fumes coming in through the rust on the toeboard had me a little woozy and, to be honest, those fumes weren’t the only things I was inhaling that had me a little off my game. At gas stops, even if the Pennsylvania tag didn’t give me away, I only had to open my mouth long enough to say hi for people to note, “you’re not from around here, are ya boy?” But when the discussion turned to where we were headed and I said we were heading to the Southern 500, the tension broke. We’d talk about racing, bonding as fans with an interest in common trying to simply figure out what each other was saying.

Reflecting back, I can’t believe we completed the trip without an arrest. If they’d made us empty our pockets or looked in the glovebox, I’d probably still be working on a chain gang scything the grass along North Carolina highways to this day. Keep in mind, we were a pair of Yankee kids with long hair (mine Bruce, Born to Run length… his full Greg Allman length), wearing earrings when earrings weren’t cool, running 30 over the limit, drinking, smoking, and carrying on with that cowl induction flapper wide open most of the run.

Back in the day, Bill Elliott was an up-and-coming superstar who had his then-career best finish of second at the first Darlington race Matt McLaughlin ever attended — in 1979.

It turned out to be both a great weekend and a great race. The three of us stayed at the King’s Inn and met Bill Elliott, a then-virtual unknown. Elliott was sponsored by King’s Inn that weekend, so his team was staying there. (Drivers didn’t have motor coaches back then). David Pearson, filling in for an injured Dale Earnhardt in the No. 2 car, won the race but our boy Bill finished second, albeit two laps behind Pearson. Pearson had been the master of Darlington — Elliott was to become one. We partied most of the night, grabbed a few hours sleep, then headed back North to start the school year. That trip, the first great road trip, altered my life. I became a huge fan of Darlington and Bill Elliott, and it was the first of many impromptu road trips South to catch the races. No tickets? We’d find ‘em. No place to sleep? Either we’d find a room or we’d blow up air mattresses and sleep in the bed of the El Camino there in the lot. The romance of travel, the roar of the stock cars, and getting to meet other fans was the lure — and there was no cure. Gas was cheaper back then, but travel by car was a lot more exciting. Even a trip to the shore involved a very real possibility of a flat tire, busted radiator hose, or simple overheating issues in cars of that era — especially the sort I drove and the way I drove them. But if it broke, you hitchhiked to NAPA, got your part, and fixed it right there. Cars today are much more reliable — flats and thrown belts are rare. It makes for a less stressful trip, but I pity the young man who never got to take a road trip South in a car that could make groves of palmetto pines look like a picket fence catching rubber into fourth gear. Back then, you just carried tools and hoped for the best. To give you an idea, a day or two before I got back from Darlington on that first trip, the water pump on that black Chevy broke and put the fan through the radiator.

Like taking road trips, being a NASCAR fan is a lot easier in this day and age. With the advent of High Def cable TVs, DVRs, satellite radio, the Internet and cell phones that mimic all of the above, it’s easy to stay on top of the action. As a fan, you can get glimpses behind the curtain and the latest rumors once reserved only for those in the garage. Easier is better, I suppose; that’s how I’ve always conducted my social life. But there was a certain charm to those days when you had to work hard to be a NASCAR fan anywhere outside the Deep South and took a lot of grief in polite society for doing so. So, next time some of you newer fans take exception to something I’ve written and want to tell me if I’m going to be so negative, that I should find a new sport, I respectfully ask you to remember I was a NASCAR fan back when being a fan wasn’t cool — and back when it was a whole lot harder than it is today.

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IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
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08/21/2008 07:26 AM

I almost cried- that brought back so many memories of a time when to be a NASCAR fan involved sacrifice and personal involvement. Those days are long gone. (Yes, I know this sounds like the old “when I was your age I had to walk ten miles through the snow and strangle grizzly bears just to get to school” stories, but that’s the way it really was, kids!)

08/21/2008 07:44 AM

The other thing that was fun about being a fan ‘back in the day’ (especially if you weren’t from the South) was the feeling that you knew about this exciting sport called stock car racing, and most people had no idea what they were missing! If you started talking about racing, people’s eyes glazed over and they wandered away mumbling under their breath. It was as if you had this wonderful secret that most people were too ignorant to understand. The people that did know about it really KNEW about it…not just a driver or two and a T shirt with a number on it. I sorta miss that.

08/21/2008 07:58 AM

Matt, thanks for sharing your experience.
What a trip down Memory Lane.

08/21/2008 08:11 AM

Matt, that was a great article, brought back g ood memories for me also.You alluded to the fact that you didnt have a degree in journalism, you dont need one, you are much better at writing than those that have more letters after their names than in their names.BTW, MRN radio still has better broadcasting than the so-called elite(ESPN, FOX,etc).Next race find a MRN station and mute your TV. Keep up the “top-knoch” writing!

08/21/2008 08:33 AM

Great article. I am from the South and as a 13 year old (1963) became a NASCAR fan after seeing a movie called “Thunder in Carolina.” I could only get two races on the radio, the Atlanta 500 and the Dixie 400, both from Atlanta. I would listen to Al Ciraldo (Ga Tech football broadcaster) do the race and talk about all of the races coming up. I wanted so bad to get them on the radio, never even dreaming about live TV. He would bring the action to life talking about Banjo Mathews and Fastback Freddie Lorenzen dualing “side by side, bumper to bumper” for lap after lap. I could only imagine what that looked and sounded like. Now that I have too much info, I could almost care less. Times change.

08/21/2008 09:17 AM

I was raised and spent most of my adult life in Maryland. I loved racing, and people thought I was nuts in the 70’s. Especially when they found out I actually raced. Women didn’t do that back then. I think what helped launch NASCAR to the world north of Virginia was 1979 Daytona 500 and the blizzard in the northeast. People thought I was nuts to drive to Dover, Pocono, Watkins Glen or Richmond to see a race. Got some great memories of steaming Chesapeake Bay blue crabs in the infield at Dover and Dave Marcus and his team joining us. Those were good times. Remember going to Richmond in the snow and after a hurricane. Remember the track setting up generators to pump out the garages and to get power for scoring and lights. I remember Dover before you could fit 90,000 in the grandstands and the only way to Dover was on US 13 and parking at the Blue Hen Mall.

I moved to Atlanta 10 yrs ago. I loved the fall race at Atlanta as that was where the champion was crowned. Winston was great. Saw some great champions and fans in the stands were part of the celebration. Drivers were still fairly approachable even 10 yrs ago. I always was able to spend time with Dale Earnhardt. It didn’t cost an arm and leg to go to race, and you could get pit access without having to pay $$ for pit passes. Now, small loans are needed and you are herded by the rent-a-cops, and only the up and coming or fill in drivers walk to their cars on qualifying day.

Ya know, the only thing that hasn’t changed over the years in racing is that sound of the engines when they start up. The sound and smell. Hearing those engines roar to life sends goose bumps up and down arms. There’s not much “stock” in racing today, but those engines remain.

Ken Smith
08/21/2008 09:38 AM

I used to wait anxiously for my monthly issue of Speed Age Magazine for results and photos of my NASCAR heros!

08/21/2008 09:47 AM

Matt: Wow! I’m completely bowled over after reading your article – what memories it brings back! Thank you SO MUCH!

08/21/2008 10:14 AM

Also living up here in Pa. for most of the 49 years of my life this was a great article to read. Watching old races on the Wide World of Sports on a black and white tv, listening to MRN and having the signal fade out in the early evening. The only reason for all the effort was it was a different sport then. Na$car has been turned into a generation x,y,z or whatever joke. I used to get a copy of the Grand National schedule usually from Stock Car Racing or Hot Rod magazine, (before the Winston Cup schedule) every year and write down the winning driver and make of car. If it wasn’t for National Speed Sport News some years the schedule would be incomplete. Going to the Trenton 300 or out to Islip, NY was a thrill. This year i don’t even have a copy of the schedule. This isn’t due to the easy access but the sad state of the sport. ESPN has an archive section of races all the way back to 40 and 50 years ago. It’s still cool to look at race results from 30 or so years ago. A lot of driver names come right back. It was nice to see car makes also, Plymouth, Mercury, Oldsmobile, AMC, instead of Camry. Things don’t always get better with age.

08/21/2008 11:05 AM

Good work Matt. Just when I write you off you put that out there. Your article reminds me of my first trip to Daytona in 1994 with 7 buddies from the Navy. Singed the side of the RV cooking hot dogs. Last time I went was 2002 and the change in those 8 years was monumental and not for the good.

I will agree with you, if you “don’t look the part” you won’t get any respect from NASCAR fans until you prove you know something pre-FOX like that DW was a damn good driver before he became a cartoon. Hell, just by mentioning terry Labonte, Billy Hagan, Corpus Christi and Piedmont Airlines I graduated to the head table at our local watering hole/wing bar in Jacksonville, FL. Place still has an awesome mural of Dale Earnhardt on the wall.

Bob Tanner
08/21/2008 11:11 AM

As always, a good article, Mike. I go back a bit farther than you and your piece brought back some fond (and not so fond) memories. As far as being a fan goes, speaking for myself, I think that I actually enjoyed NASCAR then more than I do now. The 24/7 availability of information has changed me, and I believe a lot of others, from being a fan to a critic. I find myself finding fault more often simply because I have more information to draw from. For all its shortcomings I personally believe I liked the “old days” better.

08/21/2008 11:26 AM

Been a fan since ’78 so I know exactly what you’re saying in the article.

As a fan, my personal heyday was the ’90’s. I can’t imagine how it would have been if I’d had Sirius radio and the internet. For one thing I watch less racing on TV because of it.

Another example: I’ll never watch racing at california but I’ll listen to it on Sirius and watch highlights on the net.

08/21/2008 11:38 AM

Articles like this are why I’m a Matt McLaughlin fan and have been since the days of SpeedFx. Other favorite articles include his tribute to his father (usually run every Father’s day) and 1313 Turket Court. (See if you all can’t dig that one up too while you’re at it).

08/21/2008 11:41 AM

Articles like this are why I’m a Matt McLaughlin fan and have been since the days of SpeedFx. Other favorite articles include his tribute to his father (usually run every Father’s day) and 1313 Turkey Court. (See if you all can’t dig that one up too while you’re at it).

08/21/2008 01:08 PM

For me it was a 72 Chevy Impala wagon with the back filled with coolers of food and beer (lots of beer) and headed to Pocono or Watkins Glen for the Sports car racing and F1 in the late 70s. Two of us once went to Pocono in that old Chevy for a total of $78, including parking in the infield, food, tickets, and each bought a t-shirt, mine Waltrip (Darrell), and his a Cale Yarborough T. We slept in the car and watched the race standing on the roof!

08/21/2008 01:13 PM

Good stuff!

One of my fondest memories was watching Alan Kulwicki run his #97 Camaro at the Milwaukee Mile back in the early 80’s. Not sure what division it was.

I like what janice mentioned about the sounds AND smells. There’s nothing like a day of burning rubber, spent fuel, burgers and popcorn.

08/21/2008 05:20 PM

EXCELLENT article matt !! Im glad you are able to share your memories from back in the day !! I especially liked the part about how much easier it is to be a fan nowadays but for a different reason …BACK in the day i took quite alot of abuse about my nascar addiction from folks who were too cool to spend sundays watching a bunch of rednecks drive in circles for 4 hrs ( their words) BUT now suddenly its the COOL thing to do and some of these same folks travel to 2 races a year PLUS sit n watch every saturday AND sunday !! I’d love to think these folks are FINALLY as cool as me , but more likely i believe they are part of the new legion . THE BANDWAGON fans !! NASCAR is cool now so EVERYONE wants to be a part of it.. which would be fine if nascar hadnt forgot their beginings and changed everything to what the “people “ wanted ! ONCE again …THANXS for the great memories

Dave G
08/21/2008 07:21 PM

I also am in the Northeast where the press never mentioned racing. I had to struggle to find excuses to get the family car to sneak down to Norwood arena to watch Bugsy Stevens and Pete Hamilton. Back then drivers knew everything about the car and had to accomplish something to get a quality ride. There were a lot of real personalities like Lenny Boehler and Deke Astle. Drivers like George Summers were magical to watch. At the Winston Cup level there was still room for guys like Dave Marcis and J.D. McDuffy (RIP). If you had the mechanical skills and some brass in the sack, you could could show up and try to run. I remember Ken Bouchard towing in a low buck car to the first cup race at NHIS on an open trailer behind a pickup truck. He made the field and had a decent finish. There are very few drivers at the cup level who have any personality. Where is Jimmy Spencer when we need him? I miss the days when racing was more than a business.

David W.
08/21/2008 08:55 PM

You’re talking my language. Sunday rides to get close enough for the radio. Wide World broadcasts and Motor Trend 2 months after the race. I was 14 when Fireball died. One of the saddest days of my life to that point. I quit going to Nascar races after the first Daytona night race. Too many people who don’t know racing but think it’s the place to be. The racing was more fun when there was a 20 MPH or more difference in the field. At least there was passing. I grew up watching Trickle and the other legends of Wis. It’s just not as fun anymore.

the old 3rd sacker
08/21/2008 09:04 PM

Love you, Love Bill Elliott, keep writing babe.
Hot Rod Don

Jake Hollywood
08/21/2008 09:12 PM

“…they didn’t — I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused”
Nothing like a blast from the past.

And the least you could do is acknowledge Elvis Costello with that quote. “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” from My Aim is True – 1977

08/21/2008 10:21 PM

Certainly no slight was intended towards Costello who I met at the record store I worked at in college. He was originally classified as Punk rock in that era if you can beleive it. (So was Tom Petty because of the smirk and leather jacket on the cover of his first album.) I consider a line like “I used to be disgusted…” as so commonly abscribed to its author it would be like noting who wrote, “Tramps like us, baby we born to run”, a long and winding road, get back truckin’ on, Even the losers get lucky sometimes, to thier respective authors. Perhaps I err in that regard considering those songs form the sound track of my life, and for any implied slight to Costello I apologize.

To the rest of you, thanks for all the kind words. To all of you long time fans join with me in raising your favorite libation to our old battle cry of “What a long strange trip it’s been! (J. Garcia, R. Hunter, oh about a zillion years ago)

And to our old time friends at NASCAR one more verse from our budd Tom P…

“It was almost summer,
we always sat in your room,
and smoked cigarettes and stared at the moon,
and I showed you stars,
you never could see,
aw, couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me, (big drum thumps to give Mike Campbell a chance to inhale)
Aw, baby, even the losers, get lucky sometimes!

Jake Hollywood
08/21/2008 11:26 PM

Actually, I miss the old days of NASCAR, back when Bobby Issacs ran only a dozen races, when Bobby Allison was the face of independents (people forget how great he really was and what a independent-minded spirit he was), when Cale and Lee Roy (what a sad life he had) were confused by those folks who didn’t know the sport. Or that Wendell Scott was a real race driver and not a figment of our imagination—where <i>are</i> the black drivers? Or GW Bailey and Coo-Coo Marlin could’ve been front runners if the actually ever got a factory ride. Or that David Pearson was the smoothest, smartest, coolest-headed driver ever—who can ever forget his duel (spin out, dump the clutch, and win) with King Richard at Daytona? Or that Buddy Baker and Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach (in the purple 99) had right feet made of iron? Or that DW was aptly nicknamed “Jaws” and was the biggest jerk I ever worked for?

Awww…the list is endless. I miss the old days, too.

David D. Bucklin
08/21/2008 11:31 PM

Very good read. My 1st race was the Firecracker 400 in ’74. My….how things have changed; and not for the better. NA$CAR is, unfortunately, circling the drain. If Baby Brian keeps getting his way, I give it maybe 8 or 10 years. My God, man…..The Rock, North Wilksboro, no more Darlington on Labors Day weekend. Where are we going & what are we doing in this handbasket?!?!

Smoke-(I had the name before Stewart & probably for a different reason)

big alice
08/22/2008 12:12 AM

Oh yeah! Hey, you were lucky to get radio at all. Where I lived back in those days, I had to wait MONTHS for SCR magazine to see results at certain tracks!

08/22/2008 10:40 AM

Yeah…this one ranks right up there with your Dad.

A very good read for someone who found this sport by accident only a short 10yrs ago…(in the Matchbox car aisle at Target – with a 2 year old boy on my hand – whose favorite color and number were yellow and 17).

08/22/2008 03:03 PM

I would always look forward to the weekly copy of GATER racing news to come in the mail. Not only CUP results, but lots of photos and stories from the local tracks, too. I always enjoyed following the exploits of Reutimann – Buzzie that is!

08/25/2008 11:39 AM

Thanks for the remembories!

My first race was at the July Pocono race in 88. Alan Kulwicki’s autograph, met Ned Jarrett, within 10 feet of Dale Earnhardt as he pushed his car into the garage area, almost got run down by Rusty as he pulled into the garage with his engine shut off! Interviews with every driver after qualifying runs. Second round qualifying! promoter’s provisionals! Good times!!

I couldn’t believe magazines like ‘Winston Cup Scene’ and ‘Grand National Illustrated’ even existed! I was definitely with people who were as rabid for the sport as I was.

My favorite souvenir is still my dealership plaque from ‘Bill Elliot Ford in Dahlonega’. That was from a time before Action Performance totally sterilized that business. Nowadays, its same crap, different trailer.

FWIW, Autoweek magazine has always had decent race recaps and coverage – and always timely. That’s how I stayed up to date, pre-internet, in the Northeast.

That was the best road trip I ever took! It wasn’t an El Camino big block; but, a Buick GN. The sights, sounds, atmosphere.