One of the oldest friends I have in racing is Bill Kimmel of Clarksville, Ind., and I’m proud to be friends with the rest of the Kimmels as well. Bill is the patriarch of a very proud racing family, and is of course the father of Frank Kimmel, the eight-time ARCA champion, and Bill Jr., the crew chief on that operation. I first came in contact with Bill Kimmel when I was selling National Speed Sport News as a kid of not quite 11 years of age. He was racing what we called “hardtops” at the Jeffersonville (Ind.) Sportsdrome in 1949. Those were mostly 1939-41 Ford coupes and sedans, with a Hudson or two from the same time period thrown in. We had a real interesting introduction.
Back when I was a newspaper editor in Salem, Ind., I had a lawyer friend named Delson Cox who happened to be a race fan and who was also a pretty good pilot. He owned a Mooney, which was a pretty fast single-engine aircraft, and we took a lot of rides together. One day he called me and asked if I was working the ARCA race at Talladega that weekend. I told him I wasn’t, but I was game to make the trip if he wanted to go. So, Sunday morning we load up the Mooney and head for ‘Dega.
I keep thinking about some of the offbeat suggestions I’ve made over the years that have made the “powers that be” simply roll their eyes and walk away.
Last year sometime, I mentioned my idea of using plastic bags filled with yellow or black paint to get the attention of drivers who didn’t pay attention to that color flag.
Simply splatter one on a windshield and they get the message, I figured. ASA didn’t think much of that one, but I still think it would work. Nowadays, you wouldn’t need the bags. A paintball gun would work very well.
The first time we paved the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway at Louisville, it was a little rough. The weekly Figure 8s and late models we were running on it didn’t have much of a problem. However, when it came time for our first USAC midget race, we started hearing some complaints.
Got to thinking about some of the stranger tracks I’ve worked on. First one that comes to mind was a UMRA TQ Midget race in the coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. First indoor race for me. Very small track, and VERY narrow turns 1 and 2. Reason was a big hole inside those turns covered with 2×8 boards – something to do with the ice-making equipment for hockey games.
I’ve written before about meeting Lee Petty and having breakfast with him in that little cafeteria they had at Daytona in the ’60s. One day I had the pleasure of seeing him crack up at one of my answers. Just before we left the garage the evening before, Harry Hyde told me to check the spark plugs before I went back to the motel. Now, as I’ve also said before, I’m no mechanic. It was even worse in 1966.
I had occasion to meet ol’ Pops (and if he didn’t know your name, he’d call you that, as well as expect you to call him by the same handle) in the late 1960s when he ran a couple of ARCA races when I was flagging. As I recall, both of them were 500-lappers; the first at the old Dayton Speedway. Curtis couldn’t be there on Saturday to qualify, and somebody else qualified the car for him. When it came to a big-name driver whose name had been used heavily in pre-race advertising, John Marcum didn’t stand on ceremony. I suspect that there were parts of the ARCA rulebook back in those days that were deliberately vague to give John some wiggle room.
John Marcum 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, emailed 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.
Today’s Season Preview Topic: Jimmie Johnson is attempting to do something that’s never been done in the history of NASCAR: four straight championships. What will they need to do to get over the hump – and is it possible?
Today’s Season Preview Topic: Last season, the 12 drivers that made the Chase were from just four teams (Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress and Roush). What other team has the best chance to break through and stop their Chase dominance, or are the advantages of the Big Four just too much?