BILL'S SOMEWHAT WEEKLY BLOG
Since I seem to have lost my forum, Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper", I will apparently enter the 21st Century and start doing my column as a
blog. In certain times of the year, this may not be weekly; but I promise to keep it regular. Many of the site regulars have only been able to
get my columns via this site, anyway, and representing the very newspaper that was given out at Thunder Road gave me no press courtesies.
So, I might as well do it this way and reach some different readers. Let me know what you think. -Bill
Week of July 15, 2012
BILL'S BACK IN TIME
I Thought I Told Ya Not To !
Stock car history is jam – packed full of stories of somebody getting caught doing something they shouldn’t have been even thinking of trying tot get away with. It is a part of the sport to cheat. If you are not caught doing something strange or forbidden, then it is sort of an unwritten code that it is OK.
Present – day photographer, and former NASCAR North driver and crew chief, Steve Poulin, relates how it was when he decided to launch the career. Actually, his first time on the track was even a little sketchy. A man from North Troy, Vermont had brought a very young Steve along when he brought his convertible B Class car to Lowerr Waterford’s Northeastern Speedway, around 1964.
A very young Steve Poulin with his newly – acquired limited sportsman. [Courtesy of Rich Palmer]
The speedway was well into the process of being put out of business by the more high – profile Thunder Road International Speedbowl , whose very existence was inspired by Northeastern, to begin with. With things going the way they were, there was not always intense scrutiny of who was driving what at Northeaster. Steve, rather big for his age, took the convertible out for some laps with no one being the wiser.
At any rate, once 18, Steve had apparently talked a man named Gene DesLauriers into financing an effort at Catamount Stadium’s limited sportsman class [which was primarily a bunch of Flying Tiger class cars left over from the previous years. Poulin and DesLauriers bought the 1957 Chevy of Hardwick competitor Jimmy Gates, who felt the upgrade at Catamount was going to be too expensive for him.
The team did OK for about three weeks, having replaced Gates’ #38 for #34 – a numeral Poulin would hold onto for years to come. Then the 283 C.I. motor in the car expired, leaving them to look around for a replacement for the end of the year. They went to Jimmy Gates’ father, who sold them a 327 he would occasionally slip into Jim’s car. He said no one would notice – they looked about the same.
Poulin started on the pole for the next race and immediately pulled out to about a half – lap lead. Then the new engine exploded. Back in the pits, the two discouraged partners were looking at the smoking old blue Chevy when Catamount star, Stanley “Stub” Fadden walked by.
Stub Fadden was driving this car – or one just like it when he made the comment ot Steve Poulin.
Ironically, he then sold the Mopar to Poulin that winter. [Courtesy of Rich Palmer]
Fadden never turned his head, He just said, “Those 327’s run pretty good, don’t they ?” Neither Stub nor Steve ever forgot that moment.
When one is discussing New York state modified legend. Wes “Slugger” Moody, there are almost no stories that don’t fall into this category. One particular favorite of mine does not involve the race track. It seems Wes and a friend named Kenny Hathaway were riding motorcycles around their home town of Saranac Lake; and the boys were relatively well – oiled – much like their motorcycle chains.
Going at about twice the speed of sound, both riders missed a turn and ended up plowing into the small barbershop of Curly LeRoux. Hathaway was unhurt, but even more speechless than the shocked barber and his equally astounded customer. Moody, however, was never at a loss for words.
As he staggered to his feet, looking down at the mangled motorcycle, he looked over his shoulder at LeRoux and said, “Can ya take a little off the top ?”
Smokey Yunick [wearing cowboy hat] could fudge things
with the best of them. [Source Unknown]
Perhaps the best clever cheating story I ever heard not surprisingly involved NASCAR Grand National car builder Smokey Yunick, the cowboy – hat – wearing genius who shunned the spotlight reserved for the division’s more high – profile teams. Yunick had been fielding his familiar black and gold General Motors entries since well into the 1950’s, and – it being Speedweeks, once again – he had another entry for the Daytona 500 qualifying.
The car, which I think was a Chevelle, turned out to be smaller than the other cars of the same make: but, he had done the downsizing so exactly to scale, nobody noticed it for quite some time. But the best Yunick story involves a pre – race inspection in which NASCAR tech men knew Yunick was up to something. They stated they were not going to pass the car because “something was up” with the fuel storage system.
In inspecting the car, official had drained every drop of gas out of the tank. Yunick, who had argued, to no avail, with the officials, was now livid. He stomped over to the offending black and gold #13, climbed in, started up the engine, and drive away, well across the pits.; They never did figure out where the secret gas tank was.
Vermonter Bob Bushey, with car owner Ralph Bushey [no relation] poses
with one of his Spud 19 cars. [Bushey Family Collection].
Speaking of fuel storage, 88 year – old Jackie Peterson likes to tell the story of Vermonter, Bob Bushey, who holds a 57 – year record for winning the most features in a season at Plattsburgh, NY’s Airborne Park Speedway. Jackie insists that Bushey held a gravity – fed advantage by storing gas in a kerosene can mounted on the firewall in his engine compartment.
Obviously, with no sophisticated fuel pumps or injection in those days, the downhill feed of that arrangement gave Bushey and hjs car, the “Spud 19” a considerable power jolt when compared to the competition. Fellow Vermont competitor Rex Shattuck complained to Bushey that the thing was always leaking.
“Don’t worry,” Bob assured Rex and a nearby official,” I put stop Leak in there every week.”
Jackie Peterson drove this sprint car in the late 1940’s. He had a time adjusting to stock cars
before becoming Vermont state champion. [Peterson Collection]
Peterson, himself, a veteran of both open wheel and stock car racing for decades, tells of the troubles he had getting used to brakes on all four wheels – as required by the stock car rules. He pointed out that the presence of only two brakes on his sprinter was used to set up properly for sliding through the turns; and he could not get the hang of it in a stock car. Well, according to everyone else, the sprinter was supposed to have four brakes, as well. It was remarkable how many weeks out of the season saw Jackie experience front brake failure.
When Vermont and New England drivers began running against the big names in Southern and Midwest racing - particularly in the Stock Car Connection series of 1987, they suddenly saw some real tricks of the trade. On his memoirs, Beaver Dragon, who spent a lot of that year with a very good Camaro, chasing behind the faster ASA and All – Pro cars, recalls Darrell Waltrip most clearly.
Darrell Waltrip, perhaps with the lead and BB car. He looks harmless
enough in this publicity - conscious photo. [Source Unknown]
At some SCC race like Nashville, Waltrip had appeared with a plastic pony car of his own, sandwiching in the appearance during a Winston Cup year in which he was one of the top dogs. In the course of qualifying, it came to light that Waltrip had jettisoned a big piece of lead [out on the track] that was fashioned to look exactly like a racing radio transmitter. Dragon was even more impressed with the rumor that Waltip had weighed though inspection with his roll cage full of air gun BB’s, which were let out gradually once on the track. That sounds safe !
Finally, this story comes from the older days of Maine racing. It was related to me by Steve Leavitt, of chassis building fame. Apparently, the first management of Oxford Plains Speedway used to hold some sort of lottery for fans to guess the exact finishing order of the top five in a given feature. Gardiner Leavitt, of Kezar Falls, Maine was joining a number of other Maine legends – to – be in what were called B Coupes at Oxford.
Popular driver and parts dealer Gardiner Leavitt, with his B Class Coupe in the 1950’s.
They did what they had to do in those days. [Maine Vintage racing Site]
Five of the fastest boys had gotten together, and sent one of their wives to buy some chances on that lottery with a particular finishing order that involved them. At feature time, these five guys were running in the top five, as planned. They would exchange places, once in a while, to make it look good; but the final order was always in the back of their minds.
Toward the end of the feature, another driver – having made a huge charge from the rear of the field – was threatening whichever of the plotters who was supposed to hold down fifth place. According to Steve Leavitt, that poor guy [I believe it was Froggy Brackett] probably never had a roughing up like he got from Mr. Fifth Place before the checkers waved. For many of the traveling racing teams of that period, that money made the difference between paying family bills and not making it.
A lot of us miss the days when your car number could be your owner’s initials and winning a heat was a big deal, carrying the flag. This is veteran George Pritchard, winning a heat at the Rutland Fair in Ray Richards’ Chevy coupe. Pritchard wrecked out that day and the body ended up on a Devil’s Bowl car driven by Beaver Dragon. [Norm Vadnais Collection]
Today, it just doesn’t seem quite as colorful.
Please email me at email@example.com if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
AS ALWAYS, DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE: www.catamountstadium.com
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