Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
I'm getting some strange hits on the blog lately. Paris, France? Berlin, Germany? That's strange. I appreciate them all, but where are these hits coming from? I want more hits from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, and places like that. That's the roots of NASCAR.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Since this is mostly a NASCAR based blog, I can't help but lead off with a few NASCAR drivers that died far ahead of their time. Of course there's Dale Earnhardt, but I get tears in my eyes when I think about Davey and Clifford Allison and what their lost lives mean to the NASCAR world.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
You may ask "Why is this?" OK, I, as the little knowing, little seeing Jimmy C. will tell you why. With waning sponsorship, and cash on hand in general, the major teams who have dominated NASCAR for years have been culled. Sure, teams like Roush-Fenway, Hendrick, and Gibbs are doing just fine, but some of the smaller teams are only running limited schedules, or have folded up entirely. For instance, the famed Wood Brothers are only running selected races this year with 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Bill Elliot at the wheel of their number 21 Ford. Though the winningest number in NASCAR history, the 43, will likely run all the races, it will be mostly owned by a guy named George Gillett, who might be a genius at running a hockey team such as his Montreal Canadiens, or the football team (read 'soccer' in America) the Liverpool Football Club, he has shown little in the way of putting people in position to win races in NASCAR. We've already seen the fiasco that was the Elliot Sadler and AJ Allendinger soap opera played out on Jayski.com.
The 2000 Cup champion, Bobby Labonte is still looking for a job, but is rumored to be close to signing on with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing as either the driver of the 41 or, hold on for a second, the 8! Better get out my '8' gear and dust it off again. 2009 indeed shows just how fickle this sport can be, when a past champion and a very recent rookie of the year, Regan Smith, are both looking for jobs. Such is NASCAR in the year 2009.
In any other year, a past Cup champion and winner of 21 Cup races such as Bobby Labonte would not have a problem finding a ride in the Cup series. Neither would 2008's ROTY Regan Smith. But times have changed, and Teresa Earnhardt has been the owner and chief executive of what used to be Dale Earnhardt Inc. for years. I understand that the DEI name will be kept for other reasons besides stock car racing, but basically, DEI is now EGR, or Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Though Teresa Earnhardt certainly did not bring about the hard times which NASCAR is currently experiencing, what was DEI has certainly shown us just how fast what once was a good race team can fall into nearly obscure depths. If nothing else, the demise of DEI as a racing team shows us just how much weight Dale Earnhardt Jr. carried on his shoulders when he was there. In 2007, Dale Jr. left DEI. In 2009, DEI basically is no more.
But what's bad news for many can be good news for a few. It's been announced that a few smaller teams are getting ready to spread their wings and attempt to fly, at least around the track at Daytona next month. R3 Motorsports, owned by Robert Richardson Sr. is planning on putting a car in the field for NASCAR's greatest race. Tommy Baldwin, a former crew chief, and Daytona 500 winning crew chief has announced that he will be fielding cars under the banner of Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2009.
Other small teams will be attempting to make the field at Daytona and other tracks as well, because the failure of a few old teams leaves room for some new teams to try their hand at racing. As happens in life, racing teams turn full circle eventually. (No pun intended here) Petty, for the most part is gone. Though Richard will be present in the racing community, he will in fact only be a minority owner of the number and car that made him famous. The number 8, which was so hotly contested just a year and a half ago, will apparently be up for grabs by the driver who can bring a sponsor with him, and little else matters.
Speaking of sponsorship, the time is right for some of the companies all over the land, and indeed all over the world to investigate the world of NASCAR. Think about it: Your name plastered on a rolling bill board 38 weeks out of the year, in America's second most watched sport! What a deal! In the NFL, most sponsors only option is to buy the naming rights to an arena. In NASCAR, you can have your name on proud display for much less money. Let's face it: Even if Plaxico Burris plays football again, you're not likely to see "The Rubber Bullet" company logo plastered all over the back of his jersey. You're equally not likely to see the "Humane Society" logo on Michael Vick's jersey anytime soon either. NASCAR: It's more bang for your advertising buck!
Here's to the new year. I wish success to all the teams competing to race in NASCAR in 2009!
Monday, January 12, 2009
So, you might be wondering who the old codger standing with Dale Earnhardt in the picture above might be. At the time this picture was taken, the gentleman on the left was somewhere around 90 years old and still working in his office every day. His name is Raymond Parks, and though you've probably never heard of him, the man standing on the right, the Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, probably owed his career to the man he's standing with. Virtually every driver, crew chief, owner, crew member, and anyone else associated with NASCAR owes their livelihood to the old man, Raymond Parks.
Though he left the sport for good in around 1955, Raymond Parks sparked what was first known simply as stock car racing into what later became NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing. Parks ran away from home, an impoverished farm near Dawsonville, GA when he was only a teenager, seeking to find a better life. Young Raymond became a whiskey maker, and later, more importantly to this article, a whiskey runner. From a runaway beginning during tough times in the early 1930's, Parks quickly became an entrepreneur in Atlanta during the mid 1930's, and eventually a very rich man. He made moonshine, and he delivered it. In other words, he learned out to drive. What made this endeavor especially interesting was that this pursuit of success took place during America's period of prohibition. In other words, alcohol was against the law, and Raymond Parks operated on the other side of the law.
Raymond Parks eventually found the new found fad of stock car racing, basically begun by his friends and foes alike in the moonshine industry. These moonshine runners quickly learned how to build better and faster cars in a necessary attempt to outrun or at least outwit the law officers who were constantly in pursuit of this band of outlaws. Just to blow off steam, some of these outlaws gathered in cow pastures all over the south land to see just who was the best driver. Then, as is the case now, bragging rights were an important part of a driver's psyche. No driver who likes to drive fast likes to get beat. Some things never change.
Raymond Parks, through his various moonshine running endeavors, and an illegal lottery, or numbers racket as it would be called today, became a rich man in Atlanta in the 1930's. Parks began branching out into other more 'legitimate' industries. His profits continued to grow. One of Raymond Parks' interests turned to stock car racing, since he, with the benefit of a mechanic named Red Vogt, had built some of the best moonshining cars around the north Georgia area.
To the south of Georgia, at Daytona Beach, Florida, a man named Bill France began to organize and promote races at a track that was half on the beach sand at Daytona, and half on the main road through the area, the paved A1A. The races promised a good payout, and Raymond Parks had some cars built, and put some of his own drivers in the cars. The drivers were his cousins Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, who had run 'shine for Parks in the past, and were known as some of the best runners in the Atlanta area. Pictured below is Lloyd Seay, Raymond Parks, and Roy Hall, from left to right. In a lot of ways, this group of cousins became the first super team in stock car racing. They won races at the new Daytona track and many more tracks, including the famed Lakewood track in Atlanta.
When Raymond Parks started his team, he put his drivers in the best cars he could afford, with tricked out engines, courtesy of Red Vogt, and proceeded to win races. Parks himself was not unknown to drive some of the race cars himself, since he has once been one of the best drivers to take a load of illegal alcohol down highway 9 from Dawsonville to Atlanta. Parks eventually went to prison in Ohio for 9 months, his background having caught up with him finally. Roy Hall was to spend more time in prison, his indiscretions creating much more flak for him than had his cousin and car owner. Lloyd Seay was killed by a relative over a debt, and brutally, the super team was dissolved. After Parks came back from prison, he continued to build his business until World War II happened. Still a young man, Parks was drafted into the US Army.
Raymond Parks served in the infantry in Europe, and fought bravely during the legendary Battle of the Bulge in 1944, which was Germany's final attempt at pushing the Allies into the sea, as they had done 4 year before at Dunkirk. The Allies prevailed, and eventually Parks rotated back to his hometown in late 1945. Raymond Parks was no fool. His sister had basically run his business while he had been away at war.
Quickly, Parks returned to his ventures, one of which was racing. With his two drivers out of hand, he turned to another World War II veteran, Red Byron.
Red Byron had raced mostly in Alabama and sometimes in Georgia prior to the war. He joined the Army and tried to qualify as pilot, back in the day when the Army and Air Force were one. He was turned down due to vision requirements, but became a gunner and engineer with the Army Air Force. He was sent to Alaska to help fend of the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. In an incident in which he was a crew member on a B-24 bomber, Red Byron took major wounds in his left leg, among other wounds. Japanese flak had possibly ended Byron's career as a racer.
Back at the base in Alaska, Byron was sent back to Seattle, and there, the Army doctors wanted to amputate his left leg. Byron refused, and eventually was sent back to a hospital near the home of his family in Colorado. Though Red Byron was told repeatly that his left leg would kill him if it were not amputated, Byron rehabilitated himself at his family home and headed back to Alabama, and eventually Atlanta. Byron wanted to race. Eventually Robert "Red" Byron hooked up with Raymond Parks. Though his left leg was not functioning properly, Red Byron persisted on becoming a racer. Mechanic Red Vogt invented a series of pins that allowed Byron to keep his left foot on the clutch pedal, though Byron himself had to twist his body in an opposite direction to keep from putting too much pressure on the clutch itself. Byron, looking very old beyond his age, appears below.
From a long to a short story, Red Byron became the first true NASCAR champion. He didn't race for many years after that, but he did indeed become the first true champion of what we now know as NASCAR. This WWII vet, disabled as he was, still had the drive and determination to become the best of the best. For a few years, Red Byron, even with his war disable leg, dominated the sport. He became NASCAR's first true champion, and today my hat's off for Red Byron, who died many years ago. Red Byron was a true champion, and we as fans of NASCAR should remember how this sport began and who its first true heroes were. People like Raymond Parks and Red Byron. I invite any of you who would like to read more on the subject to check out at Neal Thompson.com
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Some of that hatred is probably justified. I imagine a few Budweiser cans were tossed over the fence by some Junior fans at places like Talladega in the past. Strangely enough however, the only fan we saw being taken away in handcuffs was wearing a Lowe's vest. How very odd. Odd indeed.
On many message boards, Junior Nation fans are called idiots, rednecks, and sometimes even words that could be called disparaging. Personally, I don't mind being called such names, because in some areas, being called a redneck is actually a term of endearment. I just wish I lived in a place like that.
But getting down the the meat of this post, being a Junior fan does not mean that you have to be either a prepubescent teen age girl or a 40 year old woman who wishes she was still a prepubescent teen age girl. Junior Nation fans cover virtually the entire spectrum of humankind. Junior Nation fans cannot be classified by sex, race, career choice, or even by their intelligence quotient. I've met bank presidents who were Junior fans. I met one that was a Kyle Busch fan too, for some reason.
Why do Dale Jr. fans like Junior? Some of them are female and realize he's still single, even after all these years in the limelight which has become NASCAR racing. Being Mrs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. probably ranks highly on the all time lists of things to do for many women. But that's not all there is to it all. Not at all.
Some of us simply respect the roots of NASCAR and where it all started. In some ways, Junior is a throwback to an older era, where times were much more simpler and easy. Junior would have loved to have raced in his father's day, back in the 1980's and 1990's. For any of you who detect accents, it is obvious that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born and raised in North Carolina, which for some of us here in South Carolina, still makes him a Yankee.
Dale Jr. is a link to the past with many of us fans who have been around for more than 8 or so years. He probably won't win 200 races or 8 championships, but we love the guy. He's as honest as the day is long, and he tells the truth, always. Is he the best driver out there? Probably not. But we love him for his ability to be candid about all things racing though.
Dale Jr. will probably not be remembered as the best driver ever, but he will be remembered as one of the most popular drivers ever. If you want an honest opinion about a race track or a race car, Dale Jr. is your guy. He will tell you the truth.
Dale Jr. has a lot of respect for the traditions that were started way before he was even alive. I was alive before him, so I know. Dale Jr. has become the most popular NACSCAR driver mostly because of his personality, not just his driving abilities.
Like him or not, Dale Jr. keeps fans watching NASCAR. Thank whatever God you to pray to for that.
The 1994 season had not yet officially begun, only a hand full test sessions had taken place, when the news came from Daytona that Neil Bonnett had died from injuries sustained in a practice crash for the Daytona 500.
Neil, popular driver and broadcaster, was taking the next step in his comeback effort after three years of recovery from injuries suffered in a 1990 crash at Darlington. Everyone knew how much Neil and Dale Earnhardt loved to hunt and fish, but during a press conference announcing his comeback Neil admitted racing meant much more to him. During Neil's comeback efforts he tested for RCR and was a key part in the development of the new Monte Carlo coming out in 1995. Neil found something during all this testing and he felt he had a great chance at the pole and Daytona 500 in 1994. I guess we will never know what happened to the car that fateful day, but I can tell you that it was not driver error. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the car, but all the answers in the world will not bring Neil back. There are no answers to the question why. The only comforting thought can be that unlike Alan Kulwicki and Davy Allison, Neil lost his life doing what he loved, driving a race car.
Neil's 18 career wins and 20 poles will be remembered. So will his talents behind the microphone and in front of the camera. Most of all Neil will be remembered as a man who gave 100 % to everything. Whether it be his family, hunting, fishing, or his ultimate love, racing. Neil Bonnett was a Racer!
I have so many fond memories of Neil and his family and I wanted to share some of them with you. I started to follow Neil's career when he was racing in the IROC series. Neil was one of a kind and will be missed, but his memories will live forever.
These are quotes from a Neil Bonnett fan, and the site is Here if you'd like to read all the quotes and see all the pictures. Neil was indeed a great race car driver, a great broadcaster, and an all around good guy. I miss him every day.
Thanks to Neilbonnett.com for the information and the pictures.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
This next pic is of Cale Yarborough. Cale was an iron man in his day. He drove hurt or sick, but nothing could keep Cale down.
This next pic shows Richard Petty, a young Kyle Petty, and Bobby Allison. These were all guys to beat back in the day.
Buddy Baker. He was a legend in NASCAR for many years. I miss hearing Buddy call the races.
The Silver Fox, or better known as David Pearson talking to Buddy Baker. David is second on the all time win list, and mostly only ran part time in the Grand National series, or what later was known as the Winston Cup and now the Sprint Cup. Had David run full time, who knows how many races he would have won? At 105 wins only running part time, David might have been one of the greatest drivers ever.
Davey Allison talking with Sterling Marlin. Davey was tragically killed in a helicopter accident at Talladega in 1993.
Once again, the Silver Fox, David Pearson.
The man, Dale Earnhardt. This was taken in the late 1990's.
Lake Speed, one of NASCAR's drivers from the 80's and 90's.
The great AJ Foyt. AJ won at pretty much every series he ever ran, and is still revered as one of the best race drivers ever, regardless of series.