(first published 8/19/12) I couldn’t believe it! Rummaging through my stuff in Salt Lake last week I uncovered a treasure trove of slides that I had forgotten about, including a roll taken at my first NASCAR race, the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville, VA. Shown above are pole sitter #5 Geoff Bodine (finished 28th); #12 Neil Bonnett (f 5th); #44 Terry Labonte (f 2nd); and the nose of the race winner, the #11 of Darrell Waltrip, all driving Chevy Monte Carlos. All photos were shot from the stands in Turn Two on Kodachrome.
In 1984 Winston Cup cars still pretty much ran stock sheetmetal. If not totally stock, at least they were easily identifiable with their counterparts in the parking lot. Behind Waltrip is the #15 Thunderbird of Ricky Rudd (f 27th); the #47 Buick of Ron Bouchard (f 19th); the #33 Chevy of Harry Gant (f 4th); the #88 Pontiac of Rusty Wallace (f 13th); and the #7 Thunderbird of Kyle Petty (f 10th).
The fall in Virginia can be damn near paradise–sunny, mild temperatures, and lower humidity (it’s never low). Frollicking through Turn One are the #70 Pontiac of JD McDuffie (f 25th); the famous #43 Pontiac of Richard Petty (f 8th); and the #64 Thunderbird of Jimmy Hensley (f 22nd). At the time, NASCAR short tracks started a maximum of 36 cars (as opposed to 43 on the longer tracks), but only 31 cars started this race. Attrition was high and only 16 cars were running at the end.
All of the drivers of the cars in this shot were winners: Ron Bouchard in the #47 Buick won once at Talladega in 1981; #11 Darrell Waltrip was a three-time Winston Cup champion and won 84 Cup races; #15 Ricky Rudd won 23 Cup races; Rusty Wallace in the #88 Gatorade Pontiac won the 1989 Winston Cup and had 55 Cup wins; Harry Gant in the #33 Hal Needham Skoal Chevy had a total of 18 Winston Cup wins; and Bobby Allison in the #22 Miller Buick won the Winston Cup in 1983 and had a total of 41 Cup wins.
The announced attendance for the day was 36,500. I can attest that there was a butt in every seat. Moving their way up through the pack after poor qualifying runs are the #9 of Bill Elliott (f 3rd) and the #43 of Richard Petty (f 8th).
Martinsville has been described as “two drag strips connected by U-turns”. This very shaky shot of the leaders in Turn One shows leader #5 Geoff Bodine in a Hendrick Chevy (Hendrick campained a single car in ’84) who would drop out after leading 37 laps with a bum oil pump; #12 Neil Bonnett in a Junior Johnson Chevy (who led 50 laps); #11 Darrell Waltrip, also in a Junior Johnson Chevy (led 313 laps); and the #44 Chevy of Terry Labonte (led 50 laps). As can be seen in this photo, the inner two lanes in the turns at Martinsville are concrete.
Just about out of the frame in the lower right is the #27 Old Milwaukee Pontiac of Tim Richmond, possibly one of the most gifted NASCAR drivers ever, followed by the #22 Miller Buick of Bobby Allison and the #9 Coors Thunderbird of Bill Elliott. Also in the frame are the Thunderbirds of Dick Brooks and Buddy Baker. About to be passed by Richard Petty is the #48 Chevy driven by journeyman Calgary, Alberta racer Trevor Boys (102 Winston Cups races, two top-ten finishes) in the #48 Chevy. Boys dropped out of the race after 103 laps with a blown engine, finishing 26th.
I was really pleased to see that I had captured Buddy Arrington, the last NASCAR owner/driver to campaign a Dodge, in his 1983 Dodge Mirada. Lee Iaccoca had attempted to interest Richard Petty and Junior Johnson in running the Mirada. Both teams built cars and tested them at Daytona. Although the cars looked aerodynamic, they hit a brick wall at 185 mph (298 kph), about 8 mph (13 kph) slower than the GM offerings of the day. Only two small teams ran the Mirada-Arrington and Negre, mainly on short tracks where poor aero was less a detriment than on the superspeedways. Of all the Broughams, I probably like the Mirada best, as long as it doesn’t have a venereal (vinyl) roof.
Running Martinsville successfully takes a tremendous amount of patience. The race is long, the straights are short, and forward bite (rear wheel traction) is hard to come by. Although Richard Petty hasn’t fully straightened his car out exiting Turn Two, he is full on the throttle. Petty got the majority of his 200 wins on short tracks, but won’t catch up to Bill Elliott, a superspeedway ace, on this day. Elliott finished 3rd and Petty 8th.
It was easy to hate Darrell Waltrip, aka “Jaws”, due to his propensity for incessant jaw jacking, bitching, and self-promotion. But Waltrip put on a clinic this day on how to win short track races.
Waltrip led over 300 laps and won by over a lap over the 1984 Winston Cup champ, Terry Labonte. I remember watching Waltrip setting up a backmarker for a pass. It took him about six laps to get around this guy. At the end of the race there wasn’t a mark on his car-no bent sheetmetal, no door donuts. Pristine. Waltrip would have described his car as being “ate up with motor” (a tip of the hat to Aaron Severson) that day.
The #71 Olds of Lennie Pond is what a number of cars looked like during the race. In spite of his lack of sheetmetal, Pond finished 9th, nine laps down.
Earnhardt was never easy to pass, especially at Martinsville. Here he moves up the groove to make it hard for Bill Elliott to get around. The low groove is the preferred way to go.
I’m not sure how many laps it took Elliott to get around Earnhardt, but get around he did. Elliott went on to finish 3rd, a lap down. Earnhardt finished 12th, eleven laps down. As with the #11 of Waltrip, there wasn’t a mark on Elliotts car, which is understandable–Awesome Bill was not only the driver and chassis man, but also car owner. Waltrip’s impetus to bring the car back in one piece was Junior Johnson. Johnson didn’t cotton to drivers that bent up his race car. For that he would kick your ass or fire you.
The only memento that I bought at the track that day was a seat cushion that says “Martinsville Speedway”, a necessity due to the unforgiving nature of the concrete grandstands. I still have it. A quaint custom at Martinsville is for the race goers to throw their empty beer cans and used chicken bones down to the walkway between the chain link fence and the first row of seats. It was almost like rain, a constant fusillade of detritus the entire race. I marveled at the guy sitting next to me, and the incredible amount of beer he ingested during the race. I thought, “how will he be able to walk when the race is over?” Well, he couldn’t. Good thing he had friends that drug him away.
Makes me miss the days of being able to differentiate cars without having to rely on the stickers.
The names remind me of the Tim Wilson song, “She named me Dale Darrell Waltrip Richard Petty Rusty Awesome Bill Irvin Gordon Earnhardt Smith…Johnson, Jr.”
Second your like for stock looking cars Sean. Haven’t thought of it as Nascar since they went to the templates and identical (or nearly so) bodies.
Great batch of photos Kevin. Hope you find some more.
Does anyone remember Lake Speed?
He was my hero when he was running a Grand Prix in the early 80s.
Lake Speed? 2nd best Nascar driver name ever. The winner of course would be Dick Trickle.
Dick Trickle is the best name in any pursuit!
Probably not in porn.
I remember doing some fine dining in a “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” Hooters one weekend afternoon in either Knoxville or Oak Ridge, TN, in early ’90s. They had the race on the radio, and every time the announcer said the name “Dick Trickle” all the waitresses would go tee-hee-hee. I suppose the correct word would be “tittering.”
A Mirada! Awesome!
Actually, I think that Mopar is a Cordoba. It has a chrome grille, while the Mirada had a body color slatted grille, aping the 810/812 Cord. A fine Corinthian Nascar?
Who knows what the damn thing was. Lee Iaccoca wanted Petty and Johnson to run Miradas. Neither one did because the Mirada was speed-challenged. In the Martinsville program Arrington’s car was described as a Mirada. In any case it was slow and sucked a valve on lap 314. Such is life.
Its a Mirada or Magnum. The quad headlights are a giveaway.
The really bizarre thing is that Buddy Arrington also raced a bustle-back Imperial in Nascar. Here’s a pic from imperialclub.org:
According to wiki he alternated between Mirada, Córdoba, and Imperial that year. That appears clearly to me to be the Córdoba, it has an upright grille and single headlamps.
The chicken bones + beer cans wasn ‘t just Martinsville. I witnessed the same thing at Charlotte Motors Speedway in 1985.
Guys with beer hats picking fights. Good times.
Ain’t it the tits? Eating fried chicken, drinking too much beer, and punching out a fellow redneck? You are right, good times.
I really miss Tim Richmond, Earnhardt himself said he would not have won as many championships as he did if Richmond didn’t pass away, and the way NASCAR handled his illness turned me off to them for many years. Go to Youtube watch the finish of the ’86 Winston Western 500 at Riverside. That cat was amazing, and he was already dying and did not know it yet. R.I.P Tim
I would agree with the assessment that Ironhead would never have been as successful if Richmond had stayed healthy and in the series. With a talent like his, he could have been one of the racers like Mario Andretti who could race in any series in any equipment.
Yes, the way NASCAR essentially retreated in horror from Tim Richmond was shameful. In the end, they treated him like a pariah rather than a member of their community. I guess it was still the 1950’s for 1980’s NASCAR.
I miss identifiable sheetmetal that had a relationship to what was in the showroom. It fired my childhood imagination and made me lust after those coupes. Today’s NASCAR, meh…
Today NASCAR is very to similar to today’s country music. Over processed and fake.
totally agree. NASCAR got useless once they started with the phony cars. first it was two door rear wheel drive versions of four door v6 front drives, and now generic cars with stickers. as a side note, whenever I happen to see a side shot of a current NasCar on TV, it says 79 Nova coupe to me…anyone else see that?
Real race cars turn left and right
NASCAR stockers can turn right, sometimes with disastrous results. That was Dale Earnhardt Sr’s mistake in the Daytona 500 in 2001. Ask Marcos Ambrose if oval track racing is for pussies. I think he would say not.
Ambrose is back in OZ racing a V8 supercar now due to debut at the end of the season in Sydney I wonder if he can still turn right.
Ambrose won two Sprint Cup races, both were at Watkins Glen, so I suspect he can still turn right as well as left. I am less of a NASCAR fan now than I was several years ago but will still watch the occasional race. I will say that I would rather watch them race at Martinsville than at the cookie cutter tracks that have become so common over the past 10-15 years. As a general rule there is a lot more action (defined as passing for position) on short tracks than on the longer ones.
Give me rally racing any day. Identifiable sheetmetal and a real-world racetrack I can identify with.
If not the bodies, were the mechanicals standardised by this time? At the Goodwood festival of speed a few years ago they had some Nascars including what I think was a Buick or Chev that ran a V6 Turbo.
I think the other observation of parts of the crowd drinking themselves into a stupor is also not just Martinsville…
The series below Cup cars (the Nationwide Series, previously known as the Busch Series) did run V6s years ago, but not turbos.
At one time you had to run a “production” block from the manufacturer. Toyota has’t had a OHV engine in years (and maybe never had one in a V8) so an exception was made for Toyota to make one, because it has to be a OHV. I think the other manufacturers also run for racing only blocks now.
The block is about the only thing that ties the car to the nameplate today. At least back then, the sheetmetal matched, even if underneath there was nothing from a street car. Things changed fast, once Detroit went front wheel drive on the cars sized for the Nascar series. Nascar had no choice but to allow them. Every year, the cars would get a little bit more modfied until they resembled nothing.
is a car from the ARCA Series. ARCA is a minor league series that uses Nascar hand me downs. The car in that photo is a Ford Taurus.
Thanks dej, I’ll look up the entry list to see which car I was thinking of – looks like either I mixed something up or the Goodwood commentators did (even I picked up a few mistakes)
I think by that time just about everything underneath the sheet metal was a purpose built racing frame, suspension, etc. And even those bodies didn’t really share all their panels with the production cars; they just looked like it. You have to go back to the early 70’s or before to see some really stock bodywork. I think the last year for inside door panels was ’62.
Somewhere in my library I have a book that states that the last “body-in-white” NASCAR stocker was a 1972 Torino built by an independent racer. But even with stock bodywork, the front chassis was lifted from a 1965 Galaxie, and the rear end was probably the Chevy pickup truck swing-axle setup, just like every NASCAR stocker out there today.
Two of the most creative interpreters of the NASCAR rulebook were Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson. Their brilliant minds made racing interesting.
Man, these photos bring back some memories. I was a *huge* NASCAR fan from probably 1986 or so into the late 90’s, and this is what I remember the cars looking like way back when. I’m too young to remember the Mirada running; Dodge had already departed. (I did have a Hot Wheels “Mirada stocker” that was a favorite though.) And by ’86 the Monte SS Aerocoupe and Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 had arrived so, the sloped noses and extended back glass were the order of the day.
It strikes me that there are almost no Oldsmobiles…but I suppose there weren’t very many until the switch to the GM-10 bodies. Guess it wasn’t very slippery, though it seems like it would cut the wind better than the flat-nose Grand Prixs. At any rate, I do really miss the cars having something that looked like production sheet metal!
Do they even run at any short tracks these days?