For today's History Minute, I chose a return to Smoky Mountain Raceway in Maryville, TN. Twenty-six of the "good old boys" would check in to race 100 miles on the half-mile dirt track on this day. The race, designated as the "East Tennessee 200" and drew 4,500 fans to watch the battle.
Tiger Tom Pistone qualified on the pole with PAUL LEWIS (the man who inspired Jeff Gilder to create this site) started second, James Hylton third, and David Pearson fourth. The green flag waved and Tiger Tom bolted out front where he would stay for 72 laps, never seriously challenged for the lead although three cars waged a war for second place. On lap 70, steam began to pour from the front of Pistone's number 59 Ford and on lap 72 he slid into the pits to cool the engine. After losing a couple laps, Pistone returned to the track, but 20 laps later was back in the pits for good with his Ford finished for the day.
Pearson took over the top spot upon Pistone's departure but holding on to the lead was treacherous as Paul Lewis lurked in second place behind the Cotton Owens Dodge lap after lap until losing first one lap, then a second lap as Pearson would go on to lead all the remaining laps after Pistone parked his Ford. With a hand full of laps remaining, Buck Baker was able to "squeak past" Lewis to move into second place.
For Pearson, who would go on to win a total 105 times in Grand National (now Cup) racing, this was victory 21. It was also David's eighth win in the 24 race old 1966 season. David said, after the race, that "once Pistone went out, there wasn't much competition".
Top five finishers were:
1. David Pearson, Cotton Owens Dodge, winning $1,000.00
2. Buck Baker, Baker Oldsmobile, winning $600.00
3. Paul Lewis, Lewis Plymouth, winning $400.00
4. Elmo Langley, Langley-Woodfield Ford, winning $300.00
5. Doug Cooper, Bob Cooper Plymouth, winning $275.00
Sixth through tenth were Blackie Watt, John Sears, JamesHylton, Buddy Baker and Neil Castles.
Fourteen was Roy Tyner, Wendell Scott 17th, Darel Dieringer 18th, Tiger Tom Pistone 18th, Tiny Lund 20th, and J. D. McDuffie 21st. J.T. Putney finished 25th and Stick Elliott was 26th after completing only 6 laps before experiencing drive shaft issues.
Personally, I think the payday for drivers in those days was really sad. The winner received the perfunctory $1,000.00 which seems to have beenTHE big pay day for the short track races of the era, but the money dropped off quickly after that. For instance, 10th place received $140.00, which still in the ball park for the era was not substantial even in 1966 dollars.Postions 14th through 22nd all received $100.00. The last four positions received nothing, zero dollars. I can't help but contrast that with today's huge pay days even for the "start and park" drivers. To me, this just adds more importance to what the guys who built this sport gave to make it grow. I suppose it is no small wonder that I so deeply admire the drivers of those days and hold them in special esteem.
Oh, and speaking of Paul Lewis, join the Racing History Minute in July for a story of his win in the Cup Series at this same track.
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future.
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM