Each year about the time we’re getting ready to race again, I have to think about the guys who have had an effect on my life as a race official and publicist who have passed on, people like Milt Hartlauf, Bob Daniels, Bob Harmon and others. This time it’s John Marcum, the founder of the Midwest Association for Race Cars, which later became the Automobile Racing Club of America.
John gave me my first chance to work bigger tracks on a regular basis, and I have to say knowing him was a real experience. Mickey Thompson of Dayton, who oversees the Dayton Speedway Lives website, e-mailed me recently about a race at Tri-County Speedway near Cincinnati (later Queen City Speedway). A driver in an AMC product dusted the field pretty badly and they found two four-barrel carbs on the car in the post-race inspection. Frank Canale, the VP of ARCA at the time as well as chief scorer and general factotum, wanted to know how the guy thought he would get away with it, since the rules specifically stated one (1) four-barrel carb. The owner said Marcum had told him he could run it if he brought it. Of course, by the time the inspection was going on, Marcum was on the highway and, since this was before cell phones, out of contact. I don’t know what became of it.
Mickey wanted to know if I knew who the driver was. Well, the only guy I knew who campaigned AMC products was Billy Clemons of New Albany, Ind., who had a Hornet and then a Javelin that he ran in ARCA as well as at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville. I don’t know that Billy ever had two four-barrels in either. Mickey added that he was familiar with John’s do-whatever-you-need-to-do-get-cars-to-the-track policy. Once, when he said he didn’t have money for tires to come on, Marcum told him, “He’d take care of the tires.” After the race, when Dave Dayton handed him a tire bill, he told Dave what John had said, and Dave replied, “He did. He told me to extend credit to you guys.”
John was a lot like Big Bill France. He did what was needed to put on a show.
He had another policy that I used to refer to as “Run What Ya Brung, But Don’t Beat Too Many People With It.” In the early ’60s, there was a Studebaker Lark running with MARC and then ARCA that was obviously under the wheelbase minimum. Then the same owner showed up with a new Studebaker Hawk. One day at Dayton when the late John “Shorty” Miller was flagging and I was helping Charlie Glotzbach, the car was pitted next to us. Before the race, when they had the hood up, I noticed that it had one of those Paxton superchargers that Andy Granatelli had made optional equipment for Studebakers.
I went up to the tower and asked Canale when they started allowing superchargers.
“What do you mean?”
“That Studebaker’s got a blower on it.”
“No it hasn’t – you’re crazy.”
I went back and checked, and sure enough, there was a supercharger on this engine. Back to the tower. Same question, same answer – Frank swore that the car did NOT have a supercharger. In the race, they were running pretty well, but had some kind of problem and had to pit. They opened the hood, and I took another look. Okay, one last trip up the tower steps.
“Hey, Frank, are you sure that Studebaker doesn’t have a supercharger?”
“Potts, what makes you so sure that thing has a blower on it?”
“Well, if it doesn’t, it’s got the first belt-driven air cleaner I’ve ever seen.”
I was told in no uncertain terms to stay out of the tower.