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My Dad and Nascar

Discussion in 'GENERAL SPORTS TALK' started by Ramhusker, Feb 26, 2017.

  1. Ramhusker

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    My Dad passed away a week ago today and I just wanted to share a few stories that were shared by one of his best friends and his partner in crime in his dabble into the racing life. I always knew my Dad had deep roots in the early days of Nascar and had heard hundreds of those stories told by him and his compadres. Here are some that I just heard this past week. These are copied from facebook posts I made.

    I thought I'd heard all of Dad's racing stories but Bill Wilkerson told us a couple of good ones today and I have to share. Some of you know that Bill and Dad used to run a race team in the mid 70s. Bill bought a race car and Dad turned the wrenches. Bill helped work on the cars but said Dad usually did most of the work because Dad would spend too much time fixing Bill's work. Bill said Dad sure was good spending Bill's money. They mostly had lots of fun but worked awful ...hard trying to develop a recapped racing tire. While they were never able to find the right compound, they created many memorable stories. They painted one car in the old Junie Donlavey blue and gold colors and slapped the 71 on it. They later got an old Bill Dennis car too. These old cars raced in the Late Model Sportsman Series which is now the Nationwide Series. Al Grinnan was hired to be the driver and they raced against the likes of Tommy Ellis, Sonny Hutchins, Ray Hendricks , and Red Farmer. One weekend, they took the car to race at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. They unloaded the car but the driver, Al Grinnan, doesn't show. So they start to load the car back up and the track promoter comes over and says he has a kid that he wants them to give a shot in the car. Bill says no, he's not risking his car to a kid he doesn't know. Back then , you got show money just for showing up and place money for where you finished in a race. So the promoter offers Bill show money, place money, and $1000 to let the kid drive the car. Bill still refuses. The promoter then evidently gets a little upset and tells Bill that he won't even pay Bill show money anymore. That changed Bill's mind. He and Dad proceeded to change the seating to fit the kid. They gave him a fire suit and helmet and the kid climbed in. At the end of the night, the 18 year old finishes second place without putting a scratch on the car. The kid's name? RICKY RUDD. He was my favorite driver his entire NASCAR career and I never knew this story. I'll have to tell you the other story later but it's a good one as well.

    Another new story for me about my Dad. Bill Wilkerson and Dad take one of the race cars to Southside Speedway to race some time in the late 1970s. Southside, for those who don't know, is a small oval just outside of Richmond. Back then, a lot of the big boys of NASCAR would come race the local talent during the race week at Richmond. This particular week, Wendell Scott, the first African American driver and the first and only winner in the highest division of NASCAR was p...resent promoting the biographical movie of his life, Greased Lightning. This movie came out in 1977 starring Richard Pryor as Wendell Scott, Beau Bridges and Pam Grier. There was another movie made about Wendell's life. Dad spots Wendell at the track and tells Bill, "Hey Bill, let's go talk to Wendell". Of course Bill must think Dad is crazy and says, " Are you kidding Amos? I don't know that man". Dad says, "Oh come on Bill" And starts walking towards Wendell Scott and his entourage. As Dad gets close to Wendell, Wendell spots Dad and says "Amos!" Bill says they then start talking and joking around like two long lost buddies. Turns out Dad is old friends with Wendell Scott. Dad had told us many stories about Wendell over the years like him using a tree limb to pull the motor out of his old baby blue #34 Or the fact that not only did Wendell drive the wheels off his car but he also turned wrenches on it as well. Wendell Scott deservedly was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. My sisters and I made sure Mom and Dad were there as well when the Hall opened by purchasing a brick that was placed on the walk outside the entrance in their honor. It kinda really feels appropriate now.

    Ok, Bill Wilkerson told another fantastic story about his and Dad's racing escapades today at Dad's memorial and this one might be the best of all. First, I'd like to thank Bill so much for these recolllections of their time together. It is priceless to me and my sister and with each new story, I'm more and more enthralled in what was my Dad's life. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that Dad wasn't one to brag about his exploits in the racing world. Looking back on hearing him tell his stories, they were never about him but what he witnessed. He was not one to boast but to share. And hearing Bill Wilkerson tell these stories, he's the same way. He tells these stories to tell of Dad but he's smack dab in the middle of these experiences as well. So here is a fantastic gem. Once again, Bill and Dad are fixing to go racing but this time, they have stepped up their game and are getting ready to race at Richmond against the big boys. Back then, Richmond was the 2nd race of the season right after Daytona. Bill and Dad had just got back from going down to Daytona to purchase an engine from Darrell Waltrip. Now that is enough for this to be a good story to me but it's just the beginning. Race weekend at Richmond arrives and Bill and Dad have been hard at work, in their spare time mind you, getting the car ready. They go to load the car up on the trailer and it won't move. They have to break down the transmission to see what the problem was and Dad says, " Who put this throw out bearing in?" Bill sheepishly says, "Me". I'm sure Dad knew that already since it's just the two of them competing against everybody else's 10 or more men teams. So Dad informs Bill the bearing is n backwards and they won't make qualifying in time. They manage to get the car loaded, call the track, talk themselves into a provisional starting position and head to Richmond. Once there, they go to work on the car. As Dad climbs under the car and goes to work, Dale Earnhardt walks up and asks what's the problem? Bill explains the problem and goes off to scrounge parts from his competitors. Now for those of you that know how competitive NASCAR is know that THAT probably isn't an easy thing to do but Bill pulls this feat off all the time out of necessity because it's expensive to race much less race competitively. When Bill gets back, he finds Dale Earnhardt under the car with Dad fixing the transmission. while under the car, Earnhardt tells them the set up is all wrong in the front of the car and helps Dad set up the car. Well, when you get a provisional start, you start shotgun in the field, meaning dead last. It's a 150 lap race but by lap 102, Bill and Dad's car is in 4th and moving up. By lap 104, they take 3rd and are closing in on guess who? Yep, Dale Earnhardt. Shortly after, they are passing Dale when Dale takes a right turn, imagine that, and puts Bill and Dad's car into the wall destroying it. After the race Dad goes up to Earnhardt and asks, "Why would you help us just to put us in the wall?" Earnhardt says, " Well, because you were about to pass me!" Bill says there was nothing to do at that point but shake their heads and laugh. Bill says those encounters happened all the time when with Dad because he never met a stranger and he'd make you talk to him. And once you knew Dad, people said you couldn't get enough of him. I sure never did.

    Sorry this was so long and I know those of you that don't follow or have never followed the sport really don't know what these stories mean but they are way cool to me, especially now.
     
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  2. Memento

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    I don't mind the length. Even though I'm not a Nascar fan, I enjoyed reading your post. It sounds like your dad lived one hell of a life. Thank you so much for sharing those stories.
     
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  3. LumberTubs

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    Thanks for sharing @Ramhusker.

    Sounds like he led a full life and made some good friends.
     
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  4. Hey Man

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    That's some really good stuff, thanks for posting. I have been following auto racing my whole life and I'm 54. I still go local dirt track racing. I follow Nascar, was a Big Davey Allison fan. Followed him when he finished 2nd behind his father at Daytona.
    I frequent Williams Grove speedway near Harrisburg, Pa. And one opening day race the announcer says they have a driver that has pulled a car from Washington state and the guy ended up winning the feature event, Kasey Kahne in 2001 .
    Your dad did what he loved.
     
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  5. Dodgersrf

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    Loved those stories.
     
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  6. Selassie I

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    You're definitely a chip off the old block Bo.


    Great read.
     
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  7. RamFan503

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    Awesome stories Bo. That was a fun read.
     
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  8. ramfan46

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    Sorry about your loss. This story is incredible as an Earnhardt, NASCAR and racing fan in general. It's also special to me with the Wendell Scott connection. Throw in the Rooster driving for your dad and that's incredible stuff. Love the stories and I'm glad I met you in Tampa last year! You've got the best bench racing stories for sure!
     
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  9. Dieter the Brock

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    #9 Dieter the Brock, Apr 24, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
    Dude yes, thank you Ramhusker
    Again this is an epic read
    To know there was so much more badassness that will never be uncovered is a testament to how f'ricking cool your dad is
     
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