(Panther Racing Photo)
A HUNDRED TEAROFFS
How about it? The last of 2011 turns out to be
TEAROFF lap 100. Looking back on the race, it becomes very clear
that the stars of the show are the people who race.
listen to what some of these passionate folks have told us along the
8/15/07– Being Dale Jr.
Ken Schrader, quoted in his
GOTTA RACE!, discussed the weekend when Dale Jr. was 16 and
came along with Kenny on a weekend of racing.
kid was 16 years old, he went on one of our weekend racing trips.
From earlier stories you might have gotten the idea that there is a
little bit of partying going on during these trips. You would be
wrong. There is a lot of partying going on.
Weekend began when we went to Granite City, where we won; then on to
Topeka; Moberly, Missouri; back to Topeka where we won again; and
then back to St. Charles, Missouri. During that weekend, Junior got
acquainted with his future sponsor (Budweiser), so when we got back
to Topeka the second time – where we knew were going to meet up with
Dale Sr. once more, we said, "Now, don’t look at your daddy, don’t
tell him nothing about what we did, and whatever you do, don’t
breathe on him."
He must have breathed because later on I got
cussed and yelled at, and I took it quietly because I had it coming.
But after the rant went on long enough, I asked Senior, "I guess
this means we can’t take Kelly next year?"
2/14/08 – Doug Wolfgang
But, just as the dorky
glasses went away after his 1977 accident, so did Doug’s accelerated
perception ability. It was two full years of recuperation from the
burns and other injuries at Lakeside before Doug returned to the
"I probably ended up running 100 races after the
accident, and I bet I won 30 of them. But these weren’t at the
highest level of sprint car racing – and I was finding myself a
completely different driver. Suddenly things in front of me were
happening FAST instead of in that slow motion, and I would back off
way too much in reaction. Still today I don’t know what to make of
it. I think about it a lot. But, in the end, I interpreted it as
God’s way of telling me, okay, now it’s time to hang it up.’
"And I did."
6/18/08 – The Night Buzz Rose Was Worried
Buzz talks about the night he ran Manzanita
Speedway, and they required him to have a roll cage for the first
time. After 35 rounds of the 50-lapper, he was running right up
front. But then he blew up.
“When we got to the track, I
was really worried. I had come from midgets and sprints, not hard
tops. I didn’t know what this contraption over my head was. I was
used to flipping and flopping all over the place. We didn’t know
about arm restraints back then. All night I kept thinking I’m going
to get this son of a bitch upside down and it’s gonna chop my arms
off. I was terrified.”
8/6/08 – Wallace on Wednesdays
Meeting up with our buddy Kenny
Wallace at the fairgrounds track in Slayton, MN:
believed in my soul I would never be a complete driver unless I ran
dirt. I am running dirt races today because I need to feel like a
real race driver...At first, I sucked. And here was maybe the
hardest part – I had to totally park my ego and put on blinders.
Because when I went on the track people would rush up to the fence –
not to watch me race, but to see how bad I was going to wreck….Guess
what? I’m going to keep doing this until I can do a clean slide job
on Schrader at Pevely. I don’t know exactly what the last laugh is,
but I’m at least at the chuckle stage.”
6/18/09 – Catching Up with Brad Doty
“I just plain love sprint car
racing. I’ve never had any bitterness about my accident, but I can
admit to being kind of envious about guys who still can do it.
What does get me cranked up are those people who piss and moan
about our sport. It’s so hard for me to listen about how this is
wrong and that is wrong. I can’t fathom nay-sayers, whether it is
about the economy, about racing, or about some personal trouble they
may have. Sure, life isn’t all wine and roses, but I think it’s
pretty neat to be here.
And, in my view, tomorrow is gonna be
9/04/09 – South Dakota Chris
Journeyman racer, Chris
Prussman, talks about school days – and stock cars.
college time, “when I was in class it was As. But I knew too many
people, went to too many parties. By 1991 I left school. My heart
had already been donated to racing.”
11/15/09 – Ernie’s Excellent Chase
At the end of his life, New Hampshire’s Ernie Gahan ruminated on
winning the NASCAR national modified crown in 1966.
October I thought I had the championship in the bag. Then NASCAR
scheduled some big modified race in Atlanta on November 6. Crap. I
sure didn’t have a superspeedway car, but I went down there with my
hat and picked up a ride. It was kind of a sled, but I drove my butt
off. I couldn’t believe it when Ray Hendrick, my closest competitor
in the points, driving Junie Donlavey’s real hot ride, drove plum
into the wall. I always teased him afterwards that he shouldn’t have
been concentrating so much on giving me the finger on the way by.
“So, I got tenth and the championship. And doesn’t Bill France
come right up to me and say, ‘Now, Ernie, we’re gonna have to send
you off to that Dale Carnegie School of Speech.’ I said, ‘Bill, I am
a damn race driver. Not a speaker. I’m not gonna get up in front of
the whole country like some kind of hypocrite. My thing is winning
“I had a helluva time back in those days, but look
what’s happened to the sport since. I should probably regret some of
the things I said back then. But I don’t.”
2/21/11 – Dinner in Daytona
Ralph Liguori talks about the day he ran the monster but little
known 1½-mile dirt track in West Memphis, Arkansas.
was running in a NASCAR race down there about 1955 and I was really
cookin’. I go to pass Tiny Lund in his big ol’ Oldsmobile, and,
wouldn’t you know, that instant he breaks a spindle. He gets to
flipping and comes flying right out the side of the car. He was
sliding down the track and don’t I just run him right over.
“Shoot, I thought, I just killed Tiny Lund. And he was a friend of
mine. But I kept right on racing. I had to finish ’cause I needed
the money so bad.
“Back in the pits later I heard that Tiny
was still alive, so I went to the hospital to see him. He was one
mess, but he managed to ask me, ‘How come you hit me like that?’ I
said ‘Tiny, I thought you were dead anyway, so why should I kill
myself trying to miss you?
“Banged up as he was, you should
have heard the roar of his laugh. The whole room shook. He was one
big guy, and I guess that was a good thing.”
3/8/11 – Sprint Car World Record?
Outlaw standout Paul McMahan
talks about the night last February when he toured the half-miler in
Volusia, Florida, in time trials in 12.2 seconds, 132.209 mph.
“I was lucky, I guess. I just cut a good, solid lap, one
that I felt positive about. To be honest, though, I wasn’t even
really conscious of the speed until a little later. In one of the
prelims there were 12 of us out there running up there on the
cushion. We were still doing 12.8s and that did get my attention. My
parents were there, and they were a little white-knuckled.”
4/21/11 – Pruett’s Perspective
So, the logical next question was
what specific race has been the most meaningful – the most moving –
to Scott personally? He didn’t hesitate a second. Like most every
racer, his response was about an event when he really was racing
“In 1990, I crashed testing on the West
Palm Beach course and broke my back, my heels, my knees and was out
for almost a year. I was 30 and I focused on my trauma like a job.
Six days a week, 8 to 12 every morning, an hour off for lunch, and
back to rehab and exercise from 1 to 5. I did that for months on
end. Then came the moment – the IROC race at Daytona. The night
before I was nervous, excited, anxious. The night afterwards I felt
a huge payoff for all that work. I won it after a battle with
Earnhardt and Elliott.”
5/4/11 – The Running of the Racers
Nick Sweet, a young but gloriously
talented A.C.T. driver from Vermont spoke of an incident at a fan
appreciation event at Thunder Road Speedway last spring.
“That’s the most emotional part for me,” Nick Sweet continues. “On
Quarry Hill this year I saw a little kid waving frantically. It was
one of those timeless moments. I swear it could have been me 20
years ago. I was such an avid fan. Just like him I would be on top
of anything racing I could find. For years I’d sit in the front row
of seats down by the first turn, waving flags and watching the cars
my dad worked on. And you know what? That little guy on Saturday was
waving a picture of me!”
9/14/11 – About That Last Lap
J. R. Hildebrand
explained to us what he was thinking during that agonizing last-
turn incident that cost him a Brickyard victory in his rookie year.
"I was going 220 mph – everything is happening very quickly –
but it’s interesting to reflect on how much I was processing going
into turns three and four. I essentially had two choices. One, to
brake hard, down shift, follow that car through four and pass him on
the front stretch. Or two, try to get around him.
My attitude was
to go by or go home. My team had finished second for three years in
a row. I didn’t want to get beat by pussy-footing around. I knew it
was a low percentage move. My tires were used up and, after a lot of
green flag laps, there was a huge marble buildup in the high groove.
But I went for it.
I got as close to the #83 car as possible,
but my car washed up.
In that split second was an eternity.
You go from being in control to a helpless wall magnet. Nothing I
could do would change that trajectory.
When I finally hit, I
could no longer steer with the wheel. The right side was torn off. I
discovered the way to keep it straight was to stand on the gas. I
made a deliberate decision to keep it against the wall. I knew I
could not finish if I spun.
You see, to me this was no random
crash. There was a conscious line of decisions I made to try to
finish the race. I was aware of everything that had happened. I was
saying just what I felt. There were two factors in it. I knew full
well that the only reason I had finished up front was the Panther
guys. They were so amazing to me all month. I was full of gratitude.
And saying what I did was no stretch for me. I suspect it is the
way my parents brought me up. It wasn’t a time to go pointing
fingers. It was a time to be a man about it."
11/17/11 – Rt. 169 South, Algona
sprint car owner, Daryl Arend, reflecting on some of the 55 guys who
have shoed his cars.
“I never really made a bad choice
with a driver. I had my way of picking them. First, no wreckers.
Second, a calm head on the shoulders. Buzz Rose outclassed everyone
as an intellectual driver. If we could get second, that’s what he
would bring home. And, right before the race, he was likely to go up
to someone and say, “You’re gonna run THAT right rear tire?!,” just
to psych ’em out. Randy Smith was good, too. At that time he was
real arrogant, and that had its benefits. And Terry McCarl. I liked
him because he was aggressive, and I watched how people responded to
his positive manner. But, third, you need to be able to talk a good
story about hogs and how they gobble up slop. Then I’ll know you’ve
been there. I always admired A.J. Foyt. There’s a guy who has packed
his own wheel bearings. He knows what grease is, what grease does.
He would know that whine will last six more laps before the wheel
Happy New Year
to Coastal 181 readers one and all!
TEAROFF 101 will be posted the second week in January.
© 2011 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181
If you were interested in this
Tearoff, you might enjoy the books below: