NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Nostalgia on a Smaller Scale

Maybe I’m stepping too far afield this week, but it does have something to do with racing history, and that’s what we’re usually about here.

Nearly every day, I visit a forum on the Internet which has to do with NASCAR modeling. I’ve always been interested in models, and I admit to doing quite a bit of it when I was a kid. In case you’re interested, it’s www.randyayersmodeling.com.

Not like these guys though. These people are experts. Now, back in my slot racing days in the ’60s, I could paint an AMT or Revell hard plastic body well enough that it would look just like a car being raced in the NASCAR Grand National Series or in ARCA. It wasn’t anything like the work these guys do, but it would pass muster with the casual observer as it zipped by them at about 300-scale mph.

We even had a class of stock cars at a slot racing center in Louisville. Hard plastic bodies only, three-inch maximum track width, fenders cut for tire clearance only, maximum 0.375 tire width, etc.

Lots of fun.

These guys, however, build what we used to call “static” models, those that just sit on a shelf and look nice.

I know a little about how much work goes into these things because my son built models of one of John Force’s Funny Cars and one of Don Garlits’ Swamp Rats. Bob Daniels thought so much of them that he put them in the trophy case at what was then Indianapolis Raceway Park, and had our trophy guy make a plate telling everybody who made them.

As much time as he spent on those, it’s nothing compared to what these people do.

It’s easy enough to pick up a diecast model of one of the NASCAR or other series racers that has campaigned in the last several years, I know. You might find a Dodge Daytona or Plymouth Superbird, but just try to find a 1/24 diecast of say, Richard Petty‘s 1964 Plymouth. Or the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 driven by David Pearson. Or any car from what these guys call the “darkside” era – 1948 through 1972 – when guys named Fireball, Pops, Little Joe and Fast Freddie showed the way.

They also have a “grayside” era, from the beginnings of the fabricated chassis up through 1989.

My favorite, as you might expect, is with the darkside era.

These people don’t content themselves with making the body look EXACTLY as it did when the car was raced. They get down to basics. Engine wiring, the whole works. They get questions about what color the seat was in such-and-such a car, just exactly where the fire extinguisher was mounted, was the steering wheel dished or flat, etc.

What I’m saying is that a lot of loving care goes into these pieces.

So, I was somewhat unhappy early last week when I read of something that happened to what amounted to a pet project for some of them. A display in the offices at Atlanta Motor Speedway containing models they had built, models of famous cars in the speedway’s history.

One of the modelers happened by the speedway offices and noticed the display was gone. He asked what had happened to it, and was told that the case was either damaged or destroyed.

Now. I know there was a pretty severe storm that damaged the main building at AMS some years back, and I understand all that. What bothers me is what he found out.

This individual was told that they were thinking of putting it up again but had no idea if or when they would. He told them to contact him if they needed help repairing some of the models.

On his next visit, still no display, so he asked about it again. The lady called somebody and was told where the models were, and was told to take his name and number just in case.

What he saw next made him “freaking, smoking mad.” The lady hung up, turned around and opened a long file cabinet. Inside was a stack of models which had just been thrown in there, one on top of the other and with no consideration for possible damage – and there was a lot.

No consideration for the loving, painstaking care that went into the making of these models, and the countless hours spent on them. When the time came to change the display case at IRP, my son got his models back.

This particular situation, to me, smacked of serious disrespect for a part of the Atlanta Motor Speedway fanbase.

And from everything I’ve heard Bruton Smith say about his feelings for his fans, I’m willing to bet he doesn’t know a thing about it.

Maybe he does now.

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