Other Racing Is Fun Too

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Being diverse in any way as a motorsports fan or observer can add greatly to one’s enjoyment of racing. It’s easy to develop a narrow focus and follow specific forms of racing, but to expand your horizons will further enhance your appreciation and knowledge of the sport.

If you strictly follow NASCAR racing, be sure to get off the couch and attend in person whenever possible. Nothing beats that atmosphere. And to enhance your involvement, take in a local NASCAR short track event around your hometown. After all, look how many young guns come up through the weekly ranks.

You may be surprised, too, by reaching way out there with friends or family to otherwise overlooked types of racing. I can only tell you that, first-hand, when I made the plunge, I found it very rewarding in rounding out my racing repertoire.

Bet you never thought of attending some of these:

Soapbox Derby, go-karts, unlimited hydroplane boats, quarter scale remote control races, motorcycles (motocross, short track, road racing), midgets, winged sprints, Indy cars, Legend or Dwarf cars, trucks, drags.

Just pick one — one very different from what you normally enjoy or attend, and go for it. If you know others who make any of the above-listed categories of racing their mainstream, take in a show with them and bring the families.

We were just talking about Darrell Waltrip this morning, and I remember watching him run at the old Nashville Fairgrounds in the early 1970s, before he ever signed up for NASCAR Cup Series competition. He was a kingpin there on his home track. But, funny thing, I also remember Fluky Buford, and he never made it to Cup.

A lot of guys were very contented with remaining on the short tracks or support classes. They had fun, it was affordable, and so they stayed. That’s not to say that any number of them couldn’t have cut it in Cup, or anywhere else they may have chosen.

If you can get your hands on some older NASCAR record books, you’ll see where they used to list champions by state and track for late model sportsman, modified, and other classes.

Yes, life did exist before the Nationwide Series. The group has had many name changes, but actually began in 1950, when Ohio driver Mike Klapak won the national championship three years straight. Then, beginning in 1962, Rene Charland won the title four years in a row. To rival that phenomenon, two drivers each won the championship three years in a row, back-to-back: Red Farmer, 1969-71; and Jack Ingram, 1972-74.

The Sportsman division was my very favorite back in those years. It was always jam-packed with top-flight talent, some of whom stuck exclusively in those ranks their entire careers, and others who ventured off up the ladder. But the luster has been lost these days, as not much before 1982 is documented anymore.

Even in checking by track, like at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, the Sportsman (Busch than Nationwide) race there begins in the NASCAR record book with 1982. Of course, the Saturday 300-miler there began before that. In the mid-1970s, it was called the World Service Life 300; into the 1980s, it was the Miller High Life 300. Bobby Allison won it, Gary Balough won it, but those stats are hard to find.

These weekly racers fought it out in their home regions throughout the year, while anticipating the year’s big events during the calendar year, like at Charlotte and Daytona. In the late 1960s, and through much of the 1970s, the division participated in the Permatex program of qualifiers, which got them “invited” to the big track events, and awarded them double points. You would need a weekly short track car, and a superspeedway car as well, known as your Permatex car. Sometimes, the weekly racers would get upstaged by a number of Cup drivers who would enter. But the whole deal was huge and very professional.

The sportsman division was scheduled at Daytona from the early days, but the very first “Permatex” 300 race was in 1966, won by Curtis Turner.

It’s just an evolution kind of thing, with my point being the heavyweight drivers who came out of these festivities. Often times, what was a gigantic promotion at the time, is almost a complete lost today. Another example is the NASCAR Modified Series road race at Daytona, won numerous times by Bobby Allison. Indeed, speedway modifieds on Daytona’s twisty road course.

I’m just glad I decided all those years ago to partake of such off-chute races, because look at all the fun and growth I would have missed. You, too, may do that in these modern times, and years from now say you were there.

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