For 32 years, Grand National/Winston Cup/NASCAR Scene writers and photographers recorded the sport’s history. That legacy lives on here.
The SCENE is a product of the American City Business Journals.
The SCENE is a product of the American City Business Journals.
From the Team
When I walked into the Concord, N.C., office of a fledgling trade paper called Grand National Scene I thought I had made a huge mistake.
The “office” was a converted country store. The “equipment” consisted of a single, low-functioning computer. My metal desk had a Corona typewriter and a chicken wire tray.
I had left The Roanoke Times - housed in a three-story marble building complete with the latest in newspaper technology and company cars - for this?
I had accepted the job of the paper’s executive editor because of the promises its owner, Robert Griggs, had made me.
He told me the paper would grow. It would be profitable. It would fill the needs of NASCAR fans that weren’t getting enough news and entertainment. Stock car racing would eventually flourish and so would Grand National Scene.
When I first set foot in that converted country store I didn’t see how all of that could possibly happen.
But it did - and then some.
As the years passed, Grand National Scene saw its circulation rise meteorically. It left that country store for newer facilities and then, by the early 1990s, it was housed in a large, custom made building that came with all the computer-driven equipment available at the time. It even had its own photo studio, large enough to accommodate race cars.
Everything I was told would happen did happen.
When NASCAR did away with “Grand National” as the name of its elite circuit, the paper became Winston Cup Scene.
Then, after it was sold to American City Business Journals, part of the massive Conde Nast publishing group, the parent company struck a deal with NASCAR to use its name and logo. Thus came NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, later NASCAR Scene.
But the publication was far more than just an eventual behemoth with different names.
It became the main source of entertainment, information and news for all of NASCAR - fans, competitors and officials alike.
That is largely because of professionalism. Naturally the staff - writers, photographers, designers, and advertising executives - grew as time went on.
But so did their talent and dedication to motorsports and professionalism
They all had a single purpose, which was to do the best job possible. They didn’t treat their tasks as a hobby to dabble in the sport they loved. They treated it as a career, one that would be enhanced immeasurably as long as they worked hard to satisfy the readers.
As a member of “management” there came a time when I thought it would be best to get of their way and let them do what they did so well.
They were so skilled that what became known popularly as “Scene” became part of the lifeblood of NASCAR. The swelling number of readers considered it a trusted source of news and said repeatedly they read it religiously week after week.
In time, the escalation of superior technology that provided a source for lightning-quick information threatened the printed word. Newspapers across the country were severely stricken. Some passed.
So it was for Scene.
But that same technology has given Scene new life. The Scene Vault is the source for news about the NASCAR that once was.
It is a gateway to the past, a link to an archive of stories, photos and more that represent the people, places, races and news of bygone days - presented by those professionals that served the paper and with whom you might well be familiar.
For veteran fans, The Scene Vault takes you back to days you remember and all that transpired therein. For new fans it offers a look at once was and a new source of entertainment and valuable information.
So feel free to unlock The Scene Vault - and enjoy!
Steve appeared on the cover of the Scene three times
YouTube Videos Courtesy of NASCARMAN
To this day, I can remember my heart pounding out of my chest. It was a Monday … August 8, 1994, to be exact.
Working at a small, weekly newspaper in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, the office told me I had a call. I answered, and it was Deb Williams, editor of Winston Cup Scene. I’d been on retainer for the paper that year, so I figured she was simply calling to ask about a story I’d filed.
Oh, no … not this time.
Rick, we’re going to be hiring a new staff writer, and we’d like to see if you’re interested.
It was as if the air had suddenly rushed out of the room, my head suddenly spinning and my ears ringing. Would I be interested in working full time for Winston Cup Scene? Would I be interested in my dream job?
And then … I didn’t answer. That’s how stunned I was. I didn’t answer, and it took Deb to bring me back to my senses.
Rick … are you there?
I was, and I somehow managed to stammer out my reply, that, yes, I was in fact interested. Over the next few weeks, I campaigned for the job as hard as I possibly could. Dick Beaty, who served at the time as Winston Cup director, lived in Sparta and said he would put in a good word with Tom Higgins, the legendary NASCAR reporter for The Charlotte Observer.
But Dick, I said, Tom Higgins doesn’t work for Winston Cup Scene.
How little I knew.
Hell, he and Steve Waid (who served at the time as Winston Cup Scene’s executive editor) are so tight they breathe out of the same damn lung.
Beaty wasn’t the only weapon in my arsenal. NASCAR inspectors Bruce Roney and Walt Greene also made their homes in Sparta, and they, too, spoke as highly of me as they dared without perjuring themselves. At Bristol, pace car driver Elmo Langley allowed me to temporarily place a bumper sticker that read, “Deb and Steve – Hire Rick!!!” in the rear side window that faced the press box. For good measure, I stuck one on the inside retaining wall closest to the press box.
Then, at precisely 3:43 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20, 1994, I got another phone call from Deb.
Are you sitting down?
Can you start November 1?
In the journal I kept, I wrote the same line over and over again, twelve times.
I got the job!
Steve got on the line and said that I would be getting paid $20,000 a year. I almost laughed, because I couldn’t have cared less what I would be making. I was going from a tiny newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina with a total press run of less than 5,000 copies a week, to one that surpassed 100,000 in paid circulation the week after I started.
There is simply no way to put into words what working for Winston Cup Scene meant to me over the next nine years. There were days that made my initial enthusiasm for the gig seem like a dark depression, and then there was the day Adam Petty lost his life.
He was such a good guy …
I’ve been a collector all of my life, and at some point, I decided I had to have every Grand National and Winston Cup Scene that had ever been printed. Most from the earliest years came in a mass purchase from Gary McCreadie, the paper’s original editor.
We made the deal at Darlington … and I thought I was going to have a stroke when a page from the very first issue slightly tore as I showed it to Deb in the press box. I can still hear that faint ripping sound.
A want ad for issues missing from the collection was approved, and I added each week’s new and unread edition like clockwork. After I left Winston Cup Scene in August 2003, I dropped by the office a few years later to pick up the issues I’d missed. After that, former freelance photographer Kevin Schwarze rounded out the archives with the paper’s final four years of production.
For the most part, that is. A handful of holes remained, and longtime and loyal readers filled them. The archive I’ve amassed is, to the best of my knowledge, the only complete 1977-to-2009 run in existence.
Now, it’s yours to enjoy. It’s history that cannot be lost. I encourage you to dive in and remember the good times, and the bad. Your favorite drivers at the height of their fame, and the folks you maybe enjoyed rooting against. You’ll follow many competitors – like Dale Earnhardt, for instance – throughout their careers.
One final thing. The Scene Vault is a place to celebrate the sport’s history. If you’re here to do nothing more than complain about how things aren’t the way they used to be, then I would respectfully ask that you move on. My goal for this website is for it to be a place where major-league stock car racing’s past meets its present …