John “Shorty” Miller was a transplanted Pennsylvania Dutchman who was an outstanding flagman/starter. Like all good men in this position on short tracks, and I hope I’m including myself in this group, he took a real interest in the drivers and their welfare. He was also very tough with the rules and would have blackflagged his own brother if he thought it was needed. So would I, but then there were times my brother and I didn’t get along too well, anyway.
As I’ve said before, in the years when I was with ARCA, and at least once at ASA, I had occasion to flag at Dayton and I loved the place. Earl Baltes also had me come over there from Salem, where I was a newspaperman at the time, to flag a race or two. The track itself and the fans will never, ever pass away in my memory. They were among the most knowledgeable and appreciative fans in racing, and I can’t think of a single day I spent at Dayton that I didn’t enjoy thoroughly.
I was particularly happy to see Shorty on their Hall of Fame nomination list. Most of the time starters/flagmen are just part of the track, and people don’t appreciate the love of the sport it takes to do that job properly on the shorter tracks. You have to care about the competitors and take that ride with them. Before I flagged there, Shorty and I became great friends, and I had a lot of respect for him. He and I felt the same way about the job. I’ll never forget his trademark, a red tam o’shanter. We joked about that being his trademark and mine being the white cowboy hat I wore before radios came along.
I remember one of those looonnng ARCA races (we ran a couple that were 600-lappers) when Shorty was still flagging. I was in the infield, and somebody grabbed my shoulder and pointed to the flagstand. Shorty was pointing at me, wanting my attention. When I looked his way, he started patting his head – the accepted signal (again, before radios) for “I need relief.” When I noticed that his legs were also crossed, I knew what the problem was.
There was a caution flag for a spin a couple of laps later, and I was already across from the turn 4 gate. I literally ran to the flagstand. Shorty just tossed me the yellow flag and took off like a scalded cat. He came back a few minutes later under green and sighed, “Thanks.” I just handed him the flag and said, “No problem, Shorty.”
John Marcum told me later that he thought it was a neat deal, and added that we didn’t miss a beat. He said when we went back to green, he thought he was the only ARCA official who had noticed there was a different flagman up there.
“We never missed a beat,” John said.
That’s interesting, realizing that Shorty was about 5’2’’ and everybody knows I wasn’t quite that small.
About Charley Glotzbach and the wasp nest…
This would have been in 1964, I believe, when I was helping Charley at one of those long ARCA races. I’m positive Charley doesn’t remember this because his memory has probably blocked it for years. Anyway, we had the only Chevrolet that was any threat at all to Jack Bowsher, and on this particular day, Glotzbach went out and qualified faster than he had ever run before at Dayton. Jack later beat us by a couple of hundredths, but we were still up front for the start.
After turning in two blistering laps, Charley roared into the pits, skidded to a stop and literally dove out of the car, over the rail and hit the ground rolling. Turned out that a wasp nest that had been on the utility pole next to our pit had somehow gotten into the car, and Charley had some unwelcome passengers along for that ride.
Now who’d do a thing like that? I fall back on the famous words of Sgt. Schultz – “I know NOTHING!”
The race? Aw, we ran really well and even led a lap or two until we had problems with a fuel filter. Charley kept coming in and saying he was out of fuel until Harry Hyde, who was “observing,” suggested we check the filter. Sure enough, it was clogged. When he went back out, we were six laps down. Harry offered to bet anybody around $100 that we’d get back on the scoreboard – which had five places on it.
Somebody took him up on it, and they paid off. Charley made up two laps and finished fourth.