This isn't one of those deals where I ask you to guess who's driving which car and where the photo has been taken. In fact, this photo doesn't even have any cars in it. But, when I saw this photo, a flood of memories came rushing back.
I was trying to find a picture of the late Emanuel Zervakis when I decided to see if his son Butch, an RR member had any photos posted on his page. Turns out, Butch has a number of simply wonderous pictures posted of his dad driving and of others winning in his father's famous #01 cars out of Richmond.
This picture, though, again posted by member Butch Zervakis, just stopped me in my tracks for many, many reasons.
Here are the straight up facts. The photo was taken thirty years ago, on September 11, 1982 in Victory Lane of the old 1/2-mile Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. Butch Lindley had just outraced Morgan Shepherd, Sam Ard and Tommy Houston for the win in the Harvest 150 NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman race. For all you youngsters and newcomers who watch today's Nationwide Series, it was sponsored for many years by the St. Louis brewery and called Budweiser Late Model Sportsman in its inaugural touring year as a national series, before becoming the Busch Series.
The folks in the photo, left to right, are Kenneth Campbell, Butch Lindley, Teresa Dennis and Emanuel Zervakis. Teresa is the only member of this smiling congregation still with us.
When this photo was snapped, none of us knew that on the same exact date, 19 years in the future, September 11, 2001, our nation would suffer a terrible tragedy as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center tumbled, the Pentagon burned, and selfless heroes in a hurtling airliner battled terrorists over the fields of Pennsylvania.
None of us knew then that winner Butch Lindley would return to Richmond three years later in a coma from which he never awakened and spend countless hours, days and months with wife Joan at his bedside in the head trauma unit of Richmond's renowned Medical College of Virginia Hospital division of today's Virginia Commonwealth University.
On this happy day, Butch had driven the #01 Zervakis entry made famous by Sonny Hutchins and Geoff Bodine to victory over some of the best in the racing business at one of the toughest old tracks on the circuit. In addition to beating Shepherd, Ard and Houston, some other very, very tough competitors finished behind Butch that day, including Jack Ingram, Rick Mast, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Tommy Ellis, and Ray Hendrick.
For car owner Zervakis, the victory was especially sweet. It was his home track and of Butch's four 1982 wins for the "Golden Greek" in 14 starts, they'd swept the two Richmond races. Emanuel had already had a successful career as a driver with two Grand National wins in the #85 car owned by Monroe Shook out of Keysville, Virginia and built by Rex White and Louis Clements before his driving career ended in a flaming modified crash.
He'd also been the highly successful promoter of Richmond's Southside Speedway and winner of untold NASCAR Late Model Sportsman "Big Money" events with Hutchins and Bodine driving before the start of that year's 1982 touring concept. In fact, Bodine lived in a motor home parked in the lot of Emanuel's Southside Glass Shop in Richmond. Before he passed, Emanuel would become the chassis consultant for Harry Gant the year Harry was "Mr. September" and then would buy and operate the famed Stock Car Products out of Richmond.
Holding the microphone in the photo as he interviews Butch is the late Kenneth Campbell, at the time Public Relations Director for the Richmond track. Campbell at one time in the 60s-70s was a partner with Paul Sawyer in the Richmond track and he operated The Campbell Company promotions company as well as an antiques business. In those days, the PR job wasn't considered "full-time" and Campbell was also the East Coast booking agent for Roller Derby, Lawrence Welk and the Statler Brothers.
During the 60s, Kenneth formed a broadcasting company with Ned Jarrett and Sammy Bland which originated some of the first NASCAR Grand National live radio broadcasts.
I later spent 10 years sitting directly across the hall from Kenneth (he always bristled when Paul called him "Kenny") as Media Relations Director for Paul's fabulous new 3/4-mile Richmond track. After Butch was injured in Bradenton, Florida in April 1985 at DeSoto Speedway, it was Kenneth Campbell at Richmond who arranged the first huge fundraiser for Butch, on Saturday night of the Richmond September 1985 Cup weekend. Fans paid $5-$7 each to attend and ALL of the Cup and Busch Series drivers came and met the fans with all proceeds going directly to Butch's medical care.
Kenneth even had a hand in a flop racing movie titled "Stock Car" whose prints seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Kenneth also provided the publicity for all the Championship runs Dean Combs made in Richmonder Irv Sanderson's Datsun Baby Grand car.
However, on that September 11, 1982 we didn't know what would happen in 1985 to Butch. We didn't know that Butch would hang on for just over five years before succumbing back home in South Carolina at the convalescent center where wife Joan kept watch and his racing friends like crew chiefs Larry McReynolds and Mike Beam would visit, hold hands and chat with the unresponsive Lindley.
The fourth person in the photo happened to be my own "Miss Wrangler" for 1982 - Teresa Dennis. There was no beauty queen for the unsponsored Richmond Saturday Bud LMS Series Harvest 150 race, so as sponsor of the next day's Wrangler SanforSet 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race, I let Teresa do the honors. You'll notice she is wearing Wrangler indigo blue denim jeans to complement the blue and yellow Wrangler sash barely visible in the photo.
Teresa is from a racing family - some would say racing royalty. Her dad, Bill Dennis was an accomplished NASCAR Modified driver and one of the first to ever build a Late Model Modified - a potent #54 Falcon. Her dad also happened to be the 1970 NASCAR Grand National Rookie of the Year, driving for Richmond's Junie Donlavey. Bill would go on to become the first driver to ever win three consecutive Permatex 300 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman races at Daytona - again driving for Junie Donlavey in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Nobody did that again until a fellow named Dale Earnhardt came along.
Teresa's brother, Ricky Dennis also had racing ambitions and tried his hand in Late Model Sportsman briefly. In 1984 he teamed with fellow Richmonder, Rick Townsend to found the highly successful Townsend Race Cars. With Townsend building and Dennis selling, the two Ricks soon earned the reputation of building the Late Model Stock Cars you needed to buy if you were going to be a winner. When Dale Earnhardt's children went racing, he went straight to Ricky Dennis to buy their cars.
Today Ricky Dennis operates Arena Racing, the indoor racing series for mini-cars.
Teresa at that time in 1982 was manager of a then famous Richmond night club, 2001, which had a sister operation in Charlotte. The outgoing and always laughing Teresa was highly respected by all the racers. For many, many years - before computer updates - she worked what we used to call the "scoring loop" between NASCAR Scoring and the Press Box. Every 10 laps she "phoned" the press box (on a regular Bell System/Western Electric dial phone - no cell) with the rundown information that was converted by Bob Latford and typed by Judy Tucker to distribute to the press corps. This is where all of the "official" rundown info that was disseminated originated. We worked diligently to keep it timely and accurate. Teresa was simply wonderful on that scoring loop with Morris Metcalf directing.
Teresa was also thoughtful. When visiting Greensboro for a job interview she phoned and babysat my daughters in her motel room so I could take my wife out to dinner and a movie before I went back on the road. The last time I worked with Teresa was in 1999. She had married and was living in Mechanicsville, Virginia. I used to always leave a couple of boxes of Girl Scout cookies on her seat in the NASCAR Scoring booth to tide her over through the race.
So, what's in a photo? To me it's many, many memories of a now distant time and some of the folks who we cheered and others who behind the scenes helped "put on the show." Racing has never really been about the cars. It has always been about the people. I am really glad that Butch Zervakis had this little treasure in his stash that I missed when he originally posted. Thank you, Butch for the memories.
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
updated by @dave-fulton: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM