BACK IN THE DAY
As a long time fan and participate of Nascar's top series, I have to wonder what all of the Old School NASCAR fans are thinking about the many changes that they and I have seen over the years. Big Bill France, Sr and Bill, Jr were instrumental in seeing that NASCAR survived and prospered.
When I think about being on pit road at Atlanta International Raceway in the '60s, I'm blown away by all of the changes that have taken place in NASCAR.
I was introduced to the NASCAR scene in 1961 by my dear friend Rex White, who at the time was the current NASCAR Grand National Champion.
Rex didn't have a motor-home, it was a pick-up truck, and he would sleep in it! He would sneak me into the garage area in the back of that pick-up truck and I lived my dream of being around Rex, Fireball Roberts, Fast Freddy Lorenzen, Gentleman Ned Jarrett, and Tiny Lund.
After the race was over, I would reach into the cars sitting on pit road through the passenger side window and unscrew the white knobs with the H pattern off of the Hurst gear shift leavers that some drivers had the luxury of having.
Rex saw what I had done and had me go back and put EVERY one of them back on, although I had no idea which car they belonged to. He told me that they cost the teams money and even the smallest of items were hard to come by.
Although Rex won six races in 1961, he lost the 1961 Championship to Gentleman Ned Jarrett who, with only one win, also drove a Chevrolet. That was two too many championships in a row for Chevrolet and Big Bill wanted parity.
With little support from Chevrolet Rex struggled through the 1962 season until the final race of the year, the 1962 Dixie 400 at Atlanta International Raceway. Driving a new car he had never seen, he won the only race ever won with Chevy's 409 Motor.
Chevrolet had been secretly working on an aluminum 427 CUI motor and Rex had been to GM's Proving Grounds in Mesa, AZ reaching speeds of over 170 Miles an hour in a 1962 Chevy Impala.
In 1963, the news came days before Rex was to leave for Daytona, that Chevrolet was getting out of NASCAR and there would be no more funding. Chevrolet's were all Rex had ever driven and he continued with them through the year.
From 1960 to 1963, Rex won more races in that Gold and White No. 4 Chevrolet than Richard Petty, Joe Wetherly, Ned Jarrett or any other NASCAR driver.
His total of 28 wins has him in NASCAR's Top 25 winning-est drivers after almost 45 years. He is also the oldest living member of Nascar's 50 Greatest Drivers.
Now NASCAR has changed, and I think for the best. Safety was not an issue until Fireball Roberts had his fiery crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1964.
The Car of Tomorrow can withstand flips and barrel roles, the safety barriers around the tracks absorb energy, the Han's device and carbon fiber seats with six point harness's keep the driver safe.
Who cares what they look like, just give me side by side racing and keep the drivers safe!
On a closing note, sadly Rex has never been inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega International Speedway and since this will be his Golden 50 Year Anniversary as Grand National Champion, it is my hope that the writers who vote for the inductee's will put him in the IMHOF.