NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Back in the Day…

I just finished putting more than 200 photos of ARCA action and drivers from my time with that sanctioning body, plus some from before and after, on my own Facebook page. I’m not telling you this to publicize it, although everybody is welcome to look at them and enjoy. Some folks say I’m not just driven to the past, I’m stuck in it.

Well, that may be true, but as I keep saying, I miss those days when it seemed to be a simpler time. Racing has gotten much more sophisticated. The cars are faster, the equipment is better – but I’m not so sure all of that is good. I can recall Sterling Marlin saying, “It’s not fun anymore.”

OK, it’s a business now, at least at the top levels, but how many people at the local-track level make a living at it? Darn few, and that makes it a hobby as far as I’m concerned.

Back in the day, as they say, even racing with organizations like ARCA and ASA was a hobby for most of the field and was fun to nearly everybody. Late-model competitors at a lot of local tracks could make a few changes to their cars and run with ARCA when they were in the neighborhood.

The same thing applied to ASA in the early ’70s, and that was the whole idea at the time. We called it “The Circuit of Champions” because most of the competitors were champions in their own right in their own neighborhood.

Some of my best and fondest memories, as readers of this column have learned, are from those days.

I plan to put more photos on my page, some from the earlier ASA days, and some of those same guys running at local tracks all over. Taking photographs off the internet is a hobby of mine, and one I really enjoy.

Anyway, the whole project got me to wondering when this deal got so serious.

The first I can remember noticing that things were getting a little stuffy came in the late ’60s at the Daytona ARCA race.

Jay Wyatt had taken his ZERO Dodge down there. This car was pretty famous and darn near unbeatable in the Cincinnati area.

Therein lies the rub.

John Marcum came out of the inspection shed with a downcast look on his face, and I asked him what was wrong.

“They don’t want to pass Wyatt’s car.”

Naturally, I asked him what the problem was. NASCAR was handling the inspection process, which I suppose was only proper since they had more experience with what was required to make a car safe at that place.

Turned out it didn’t have anything to do with safety. Or performance.

They said the ‘ZERO’ on the side of the car didn’t constitute a valid number.

Say what?

We didn’t have a “0,” so what was wrong with just using that on the scoreboard?

After some thought, I looked John up and gave him an idea.

“Why don’t you tell them that only the O is a number, and ZER is one of the sponsors?”

Then I suggested that he tell them it was HIS sanctioning body, and HE approved the numbers, and THEY should confine themselves to safety and technical issues.

Well, the final result was that Jay got to run that car.

I don’t know just exactly what John told them, but I suspect that the fact Marcum and Big Bill France were good friends had something to do with it.

As I recall, Wyatt was leading the race by a big margin when something went wrong. Probably the engine. Jay was one of those guys whose throttle had two settings – open and shut.

– – – – – – – –

One of my other memories comes from sitting in on an ARCA drivers’ meeting before the 1965 race at Daytona.

They used to have a couple of NASCAR veterans speak to the guys about the nuances of driving that place.

Bear in mind that this was only the seventh year for the place, but those veterans had obviously learned a lot in those years – and most of the ARCA drivers hadn’t been on anything like that track.

Darel Dieringer was the head schoolmaster at this meeting, and he gave out some great pointers.

On drafting, he said the thing a driver had to know was just where to be if his car was tight or loose. Bear in mind, all this may have changed in the years since, but it made sense to me at the time.

“If you’re loose, you should be the car in front because it’ll bring your rear end into line behind you,” he said. “If you’re tight, you need to follow.
It’ll help the front end.”

On picking a drafting partner, Darel said, “If you get up behind a guy and he’s up the banking, then down the banking, inside, then outside, forget it. Drop him like a bad habit and go find another dancing partner, because if he gets in trouble you’re going to be part of it.”

And finally, on the fine art of slingshotting, and the accepted procedure at the time…

“If you pull it off, say on the backstretch, just make sure your car is handling well. Because when you drop down below that guy and go sailing into turn 3, you’re gonna to be going 20 miles an hour faster than you’ve ever gone in your life!”

I don’t know if it was intended to scare them or what, but it would certainly have gotten my attention.

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