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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Some Short Ones

I was happy to hear that JEGS is stepping up to do some NASCAR sponsorship. Although they’re primarily known for drag racing, going back to the days of Jeg Coughlin Sr. and his top fuel cars, into the present with Jeg Jr., a Pro Stock Champion, the huge mail order parts firm from Columbus, Ohio is partnering with Kevin Harvick Inc. for a Truck Series race in September.

However, the company’s involvement in oval racing goes waaaay back. Most recently, they’ve sponsored Kenny Wallace, but I can recall the JEGS sponsorship on the side of Don Gregory‘s cars in ASA. Most of that came about because Bud St. Amant, Gary’s father, was the owner and crew chief on that car, and he had been a drag racer along with Jeg Sr. back in the day.

That car was consistently one of the best-prepared, fastest and best-looking on the track. When Mike Miller had an Oldsmobile Cutlass, Bobby Allison called it “the ugliest racecar in America.” But St. Amant’s crew managed to make theirs look pretty good.

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In a conversation last week, somebody mentioned Baer Field Speedway. The track got its name because of its close proximity to the Fort Wayne airport, and I had heard about that before the first time I went there.

That trip came for a hastily-scheduled ASA race on a Sunday in the ’70s, when we had to load up in Milt Harlauf’s motorhome and head north from Louisville after a Saturday night race at the Fairgrounds.

We got pretty close to the track in the wee hours of the morning, pulling up against a gate to get off the road. Everybody settled down to catch a couple hours of shuteye.

About 6:00 a.m., we found out what “close proximity” to the airport really meant.

An airliner took off, shook the motorhome, and everybody was awake all of a sudden.

Our technical inspector at the time, Jim Carnforth, looked over at me and said, “Did you hear that?”

Maybe he thought I was deaf from all those years close to racecars before anybody thought about ear protection.

Anyways, I replied: “Hear it? It came in the back window, turned left and went out over my bunk!”

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Traveling to racing in motorhomes with the entire crew was a blast at times.

When we went to I-70 Speedway at Odessa, Mo., just east of Kansas City about six times one year, we were taking turns with the driving. I had to be at the newspaper for work about 8 a.m. on Monday, so I suggested I drive all the way out, allowing me to sleep nearly all the way back on Sunday night.

Everybody was OK with that, and I actually enjoyed driving.

Except for once going around St. Louis on the 270 bypass. We were in the Flagship provided by Champion Motor Homes (naturally, the official motorhome of ASA), and the guys had gotten the TV set to work. They were watching the Cardinals play, and all of a sudden somebody yells, “Turn left, Potts, we’re losing the picture.”

A little instruction on how to turn the extendable TV antenna cured that problem.

Then Rex Robbins and Milt got a little concerned about an hour later when we got back on I-70 and I had gotten into a convoy of trucks. Milt looked over my shoulder and swore, pointing out I was doing 90 mph. He wanted me to slow down.

I asked him how I could do that with trucks on both sides and behind me.

With a little help from the CB, we did get backed off to about 70.

On the way back that same trip, Milt woke me up with the rig stopped just west of Terre Haute and asked if I could drive the rest of the way. He said we had a new record going.

I took over, and we got to the Holiday Inn on the southside of Indianapolis, our usual “terminal,” then checked the time. Seven hours and 15 minutes for a 455-mile trip.

That equated to 62.76 mph.

Maybe it doesn’t sound too awfully quick until you factor in one fuel stop around Columbia.

And this was in the days of the 55-mph speed limit!

Those days are behind me. You know you’re getting old when you stop considering speed limits a challenge.

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Bryan Davis Keith

“The ugliest race car in America” reminds me of the car that Don Biederman drove to win the Oxford 250 around 1977. It made the cover of Stock Car Racing magazine. Those were the days of some gawdawful creations.

Bryan Davis Keith

I left for Toledo Speedway from Toronto at ten after seven in the morning and was in my seat at the speedway at ten after eleven. About 280 miles with a stop for gas and a stop at the border. I’ve also been to I-70 Speedway.

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