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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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