Worth A Thousand Words

There are many ways in which to preserve history. One of them in particular steadfastly does not lie.

Images. They tell the story without embellishment or inaccuracy. Pictures don’t lie or suffer from lapses in memories. One picture is worth a thousand words. Try it, it’s true.

I’ve always liked to say that today is tomorrow’s history. People look at me funny. But, I’ve yet to find anyone from our sport’s past who visits the Archives that doesn’t enjoy sitting down and browsing through endless amounts of photographs. They may grumble at first that they’ve seen them all before and don’t need to eyeball them again, or some such excuse. But they inevitably do look at stacks of photos, and glow with joy.

Writers tap away at keyboards, and typewriters before that, all day long. And most do a sizeable job at reporting racing news and offering comment on year-to-year happenings. I’m not taking anything away from any form of documentation of history. But it’s those photos I’m going to relish here today.

Just think, you were there yesterday and want to either reminisce over what you saw, or find images that give to you what you missed. Better yet, pick a point in time where you wish you were but will never know what it must have been like. Well, pictures can help.

Beach racing — take it in! The first Daytona 500 in 1959, wow! Look at the crowds, the cars on pit road, the action, and victory lane.

Photographers are lucky people because they are right in the thick of things, week after week, witnessing what we wish we could have. And they do all of us a good service in preserving history.

Take T. Taylor Warren, for example. You can’t look at old photo collections of NASCAR racing without seeing his inscription on the bottom of some pictures. He’s been an icon as a photographer of the short tracks and superspeedways since 1952, though he first started clicking race pictures of his brother in a track roadster in 1947, and is still making pictures.

That’s what T. Taylor does, if you ask him, he “makes pictures.” As with most photographers, he is humble about the part he plays. Most will tell you it’s their subjects that are the newsmakers, not them. But they continue to capture all those treasured moments.

T. Taylor (the T. stands for Thomas), who is beginning to slow down his involvement these days at 83, was at Darlington in 1952, and he was the photographer who captured the photo finish picture from the 1959 Daytona 500.

“I didn’t know what I had until I developed the film immediately after the race,” Taylor told me recently. “Once I saw the pictures, I hurried them over to someone who could get them to Bill France, because I knew they would be important in declaring the winner.”

Asking him about Darlington in 1952, he says, “Yeah, I was there,” so nonchalantly. And his memory is still one to marvel at. Did he make a photo of Curtis Turner when the driver showed up in a dress suit to drive a race car? “No, I didn’t get that one,” yet he remembers the occasion.

T. came to Daytona Beach in 1953, and began working for the late Houston Lawing, who headed up publicity and the souvenir program department.

Taylor has shot from planes and helicopters, and even from the Blue Angles jets. He even did a ride-along with Fireball Roberts to get some pictures. As an example of his workload, During Speed Weeks 1962, Taylor and crew used up 3,000 negatives, 375 just of the Daytona 500.

Close calls? Sure, he’s had them: “I was up at Langhorne, Pennsylvania, when a car upside down came skidding at me on its roof across a ditch. I couldn’t move because I was backed up against a flagstand (between a wooden guard rail and the spectator fence). I shot a picture as it barely missed me, but the negative was blurred.”

T. is contented with his accomplishments, as he well should be. “I’ve seen so many races that I don’t need to see another race,” he’ll tell you. But don’t believe it. He’ll be back here in Daytona making pictures just as he always has, and we’re all very glad for that.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2008

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