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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Rivalries…

Seems like we’ve always had rivalries in motorsports. Even drag racing had Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney. They were big rivals, but drag racers don’t rub fenders all that often. At least not on purpose.

I’m not going to go back into the history of NASCAR racing and dredge up any of those old tales. Everybody’s heard most of them about Petty & Pearson, Waltrip and Yarborough, Petty and Allison, etc. I’d rather talk about one I was there to watch.

Benny Parsons and Les Snow were two of the fiercest competitors I ever saw on the short tracks. I don’t think I ever heard an uncivil word between them, and they were even friendly most of the time. Until they buckled into those racecars.

Everybody knows what a class individual Benny was, and those who remember Les will recall that he was a little rougher around the edges. Don’t get me wrong, ol’ BP was just as tough as he had to be on the racetrack, but he had a different image.

Part of Snow’s problem might have been that he looked a lot like a bulldog as well as driving like one.

I mentioned the crash in the first ARCA Salem 500, when a crew member relieving Benny ended up crashing because Snow unlapped himself once, and Benny was all the while holding up the “EZ” sign on the blackboard. There was just so much competition between those two crews that the guy couldn’t bear to watch the blue and white No. 6 Plymouth go past him.

There’s another aspect of this I don’t know for a fact, because nobody but Benny ever mentioned it to me.

Apparently, there was quite a bit of rivalry between the Chrysler drivers during those late 1960s in ARCA. We had Ramo Stott and Les in Plymouths, with Iggy Katona, Andy Hampton and Bobby Watson in Dodges, to name a few.

Over a meal one day I mentioned that the odds didn’t seem to favor Benny.

He responded by saying, “Naw, it ain’t that bad. I really only have to race them one at a time. Besides, any one of those four would rather see me win than for one of the other Mopars to beat him.”

Benny explained that the factory help that was coming down to all four may have been responsible. Each of those drivers may have felt that being second or third behind one or more other Chrysler products might cost him some assistance.

I don’t know. That was just BP’s opinion, and he usually had a good reason for whatever he said.

Anyway, one of the best races in that rivalry took place one Sunday afternoon at Dayton, another of those banked half-miles built originally by
Frank Funk (Salem and Winchester were the others) that had a reputation for taking no prisoners.

Parsons and Snow were battling for the lead, and there was a lot of trading paint going on.

As an aside, this was the same year that John Marcum said at a drivers’ meeting one day that if he saw any rough driving, he was going to signal me to black flag the offender and bring him in to talk to him.

When Snow said, “What are we gonna talk about,” John said, “About five laps.”

This particular day, there didn’t seem to be anyplace to put the blame. When I first saw all the rubbin’ and racin’, they were both doing their share.

I glanced over at John in the tower and he sort of shrugged his shoulders as if to say he figured they’d settle it among themselves sooner or later.

They did. Benny finally got an advantage coming off the second turn, and got in front. The next lap, Snow dropped down low and stuck his right front up against Parsons’s left rear and spun him. Hard. Benny ended up in the guardrail and out of the race.

That was a little too much for Marcum. He walked out to the front of the tower and looked at me, then pointed at Les the next time he came down the front straightaway.

I dropped the black flag on him, and it only took two laps for Les to pull into the pit area, where John was waiting. The conversation between them didn’t seem too animated, and after a lap or two John pointed back toward the track. Les didn’t go back out, however, since there were only a few laps left by this time in the 100-lap race.

If my memory is correct (and there’s no guarantee of this), Iggy won that race.

John told me later that he felt we handled it pretty well, and that Les wasn’t really upset.

I wasn’t too sure of that when I saw Les coming over while I was putting the flags away.

“Hey, I’ve got a question, Potts.”

I told him to go ahead with it.

“How come you didn’t black-flag Benny?”

“Well, Les, he wasn’t causing any trouble at that point. The car was on a wrecker.”

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