My Recent Trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Legendtorial for August 25, 2015 – How Much Longer During my recent trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, I realized just how little I care about current NASCAR. I truly have enjoyed every visit to the Hall, but, I’ll get to that later.  On June 23 of this year, Alex Nickerson added an article to the Home Page here entitled “My Perspective, The Fall of NASCAR”.  Go to the Home Page and read that when you get a chance.  While this Legendtorial is not intended to add to or detract from what Alex wrote, it is my way of speaking my mind on the subject of current day NASCAR. My Recent Trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Let me begin by saying that I spent Saturday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte with some really awesome people. We had folks from their early twenties to somewhere around 80.  Most I have known for a long time and some only from that visit, but it was abundantly clear from the beginning that everyone in our group was there for the perspective they could gain from the fourth floor where all of the historic artifacts are housed. Oh, there are historic race cars on “Glory Road” when you enter the Hall, there is a theater, which starts your journey by showing you how the sport began, and how it reached the stage it is now.  It is, of course, a completely biased trip through the NASCAR imagination of history, but some things can’t be changed, nor should they be. Bill Blair, Jr. and his wife, Shelia, were a...

In Honor of Fallen Heroes

This has been one of the most painful years in NASCAR history. Since May, we have lost Wayne Smith, Worth McMillion, Jabe Thomas, Jim Vandiver, Royce Hagerty, Buddy Baker, and now Jimmy Massey. Those drivers combine for 21 Grand National wins and 3 Convertible wins. It is the McMillion’s of the world that this piece is for, however. The ones who are the unheralded heroes. The names Yarborough, Petty, Baker, Flock, Thomas, and Roberts are almost cliché with how they are so commonly referenced, and they are well-deserving of the accolades. Even folks like Bobby Hillin get the occasional mention because of the relative recent time in which their accomplishments occurred. For these lesser known heroes, the post-racing journey is less known. Their accomplishments are disregarded. They go unrecognized, but for them they lived the life and that alone makes them happy. These drivers instead journey to events like the Occoneechee Reunion and the Living Legends of Auto Racing where they can meet up with their old friends and fans and jog each others’ memories. Fallen Heroes These occasions are really quite amazing. Friends reunite and new friendships are forged. I myself have taken advantage of some of these to meet many incredible figures: Greg Sacks, Dick Passwater, Vicki Wood, Johnny Allen, Blackie Wangerin, and the late Jim Vandiver.  The stories are sometimes awe-inspiring, and others are funny, with the occasional dead-serious story thrown in.  I have learned many things about the sport from these folks, and maybe someday there will be a post about them.  For me, those folks are amongst the heroes, because without them there wouldn’t...

Buddy Baker The Gentle Giant

Legendtorial for August 18, 2015 We lost Buddy Baker The Gentle Giant.  Since learning that he had cancer, we knew it was coming, but the words still came with a sting. Since the death of Elzie Wylie Baker, Jr., these words have appeared in print and have been heard repeatedly on television and radio broadcasts.  Buddy Baker passed away on August 10, after a short experience with lung cancer.  Please especially note that I did not use the trite comment “battle with cancer” for had it been a battle, I have no doubt Buddy would have prevailed.  Cancer took the giant with the huge right foot from us at age 74, after a life filled with memories for all of us who are race fans, or who may have encountered the always-exuberant Buddy in any circumstance. Buddy Baker The Gentle Giant It is almost necessary to recount the life of Buddy Baker, although briefly, to give those persons who may not be familiar with him, a perspective of who he was and why his influence on the sport of stock car racing means a lot. Buddy was born in Florence, South Carolina on January 25, 1941, son of Elzie Wylie Baker, Sr., better known as Buck. Buck would go on to become a NASCAR superstar, winning the Southern 500 at Darlington three times among other accomplishments unique to Buck’s career.  I can only imagine that Buddy had the usual childhood of a boy in the South during the decade of the forties, but it would be the decade of the 50s that would begin to influence his life. Buddy’s Dad...

The Return of Pennsboro Speedway – Legendtorial 8-11-15

It Was What It Was In this Legendtorial, we’re going to talk about the long-awaited return of Pennsboro Speedway.  But first…remember last year when I did a Legendtorial about the two most popular phrases in NASCAR? Come to think of it, I doubt many of you remember what I talked about even last week so please allow me to refresh the memory.  For the past two seasons, 2013 and 2014, but not so much in 2015, NASCAR officials and competitors could be heard constantly repeating “it is what it is” and “at the end of the day”.  I was sick of it after the third time and so I’m happy they have sort of let these comments rest of late.  But, tonight, I have a new one for you, as the title of this Legendtorial sets out. At RacersReunion, we continuously talk about how it was back in the day, but I don’t think we have ever set a definitive clarification of exactly what “back in the day” means.  And, as I think about that, I am sure for each of us, the term has a different meaning.  I consider it to mean back when the racing was with stock looking cars on really great tracks with super human drivers behind the wheels of those cars.  I consider it to be racing under the lights on a half-mile dirt track or running The Southern 500 under the hot Labor Day sun in the Pee Dee of South Carolina. Also, “back in the day” meant that we had friends in the infield at each race, most times the same friends in...

August 4, 2015 Legendtorial – “The End is Near”

Some time ago, in fact years back I believe, there was a picture made famous worldwide. If memory serves (and that is doubtful at best), the picture was taken in Times Square in New York. A man, clothed in what appeared to be shredded bed sheets and with a long beard, was carrying a sign stating, “The End is Near”. Some folks attributed his actions to religious convictions, some to his mental condition whatever it may have been, and some to political issues at the time, which seemed to be hell-bent on ending life, as we know it. I have no idea what became of that individual but it is obvious that the end of the world has not arrived, at least not at the point when I am writing this. I have no intention of marching in protest of anything with a sign proclaiming the end of whatever is near.  I will, however, offer up this little comment tonight as to the nearing end of a lifelong passion, or, if not the end, certainly a redirection which is long overdue.  From comments I’ve heard in person, from e-mails and texts, and from comments made by others on social media sites and actual sports news sites, I am not alone in what I am about to say. It was about this time of year, some 63 years ago, that my mother allowed my grandfather and my Uncle Bobby to take me to Columbia Speedway to a stock car race.  I’m convinced the main reason she and my father allowed that to happen was that they had their hands full...

The Original Truck Series

The Original Truck Series The original truck series began long before NASCAR’s current Camping World Truck Series. Picture it: Riverside, California, 1983 (OK, I promise that is my last “Golden Girls” or any other pop-culture reference in this article) June 5, 1983, is an important date in NASCAR history because it is the day that Ricky Rudd wheeled the Richard Childress Racing #3 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet to victory lane for his first Winston Cup Series victory as a driver and Richard Childress’s first as a car owner. It was a rare top-5 on a road course for Harry Gant, and Dick Brooks got the penultimate top-5 of his career. That day, however, there was a storm brewing in the sand hills of North Carolina, particularly the town of Rockingham. At the North Carolina Motor Speedway, there was going to be a race, but not any race in particular. That day there was going to be the debut race for the Buck Baker sanctioned National Pickup Truck Racing Association (NPTRA), the first series of its kind. The premise of the series was simple: a cost-effective matter for drivers to graduate from the Buck Baker Driving School and get real experience while also being a ground for other drivers to race. The series attracted Driving School graduates Steve Sigurdson, Doug West, and George Pultz among the drivers entered in the first race. The plan was to run 10 races as a premise and hopefully sell the series to NASCAR. Pete Keller, a former NASCAR official, served as an official for the series. The series was not even going to have points...

July 28, 2015 Legendtorial – “Are We Having Fun Yet?”

Just before last week’s show was to begin, I asked Jeff to mute the studio microphones so I could let tell him something I would prefer not being made public for obvious reasons. I suppose I should have realized that the others in the studio would be privileged to the conversation but I hadn’t given that particular circumstance any forethought. What I wanted to tell Jeff was that I had been selected and accepted to the NASCAR Fan Council to which I had once belonged for quite some time before being “booted” because of my participation in this radio show. I am aware that I am only one of probably 50,000 selected but my reason for disclosing this to Jeff was with the intention of giving him the information required to complete the application for membership to the Council, information that, in my opinion, further exemplifies the total disconnect NASCAR now has with its “fans”.   I did not want to publicly announce my membership so I could I continue to monitor the Fan Council’s comments throughout the season. Immediately upon my disclosure to Jeff, Bopper began his comments about the Fan Council. Although Bopper’s comments were not made in any particular context as related to me, it wasn’t difficult for those listening to determine why the microphone had been muted at my request. Bopper continued these comments for several minutes after the show went live. Thus far, I have received no notification that I will be booted by the council again, but if that happens, so be it. I am well aware that I am the “foil” for jokes...

July 21, 2015 Legendtorial – “Friday Night Lights”

No, no, this has nothing to do with the book, movie, or television series about High School Football in Texas. You know about High School Football in Texas, right? More Holy that Joel Osteen’s Mega Money Church. From what I understand from friends in Texas, during High School Football Season everything else shuts down on Friday Nights so everyone can attend the game of the local high school.  I have been told the battles in the parking lots after the games are sometimes much more intense than the action of the field.  But, tonight, I’m talking about Friday night lights that ring a 3/8 mile asphalt track in the upstate of South Carolina, known as Anderson Speedway. I had never been to Anderson Speedway prior to this past Friday night, although I have heard many good things about it over the past few years.  With the help of the trusty driving directions website on-line, I was able to map my way right to the speedway.  My trip took me up I-26, I-385, and then I-85 west.  Once exiting I-85, it was an instance and immediate change from the harried traffic of the Interstate system on Friday afternoon to the pastoral setting of a two-lane highway meandering alongside a beautiful horse pasture with the horses the only ones visible to observe the passing of the Silver Legendmobile. Just as my direction service had promised, the sign for Anderson Speedway appeared before me and I made the right turn onto the narrow road leading me down to the speedway property.  It was still early afternoon, about 3:00 p.m. so I parked...
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