Grand National Scene
By Robb Griggs
DAYTONA BEACH (Feb. 18) - During the final lap of the “Daytona 500,” race leaders Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough decided to have a 200 mph boxing match on the backstretch of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
Several bumps, grinds, spins and crashes later, the two Oldsmobiles came to rest on the infield grass between turns three and four.
The speed slowed, but the action did not. Although the cars had stopped, the drivers continued moving, with Bobby Allison joining the fracas which turned into a nationally televised brawl between Grand National champion Yarborough and the Allison brothers.
Generally, opinions were split as to whether D. Allison bumped Cale first, or whether Yarborough just ran out of track, but each driver blamed the other for starting the backstraight crash.
Although Yarborough accused Bobby Allison of blocking the track for Donnie, films showed that he was not involved in the wreck. He did, however, drive around the track and stop in the third turn.
“I hit Bobby because he just smarted off,” said a very angry Yarborough. “I knocked the hell out of him.”
Yarborough continued by saying that the accident and following incident “was the worst thing I have ever seen in racing. Bobby waited on us so he could block me off. It was evident. The films will show it. I had him beat.
“I knew how to win the race. My left wheels were over in the dirt, and Donnie knocked me on over in the dirt further. He carried me onto the grass. I started spinning and Donnie started spinning.
“Donnie denied doing it,” added Yarborough. “Bobby pulled up over there, and I asked him why he did it. He bowed up and I swung at him.”
I hit Bobby because he just smarted off. I knocked the hell out of him.
“Naw, I didn’t block them. I wasn’t even close,” said Bobby. “I rode up there after the race was over to make sure they were both okay.”
B. Allison refused to comment any further and security police were used to keep reporters away from his garage area.
When told what Yarborough said of the wreck and the fight, Donnie A. became fighting mad.
“I don’t see any damned halo over his (Yarborough’s) head. He was going to win the race, or else. I already knew what he was going to do, and I had decided that if he was going to pass, it was gonna be on the outside.
“He did the same thing to me in Atlanta (November 1977), and I was prepared for anything. When he tried to pass me low, he went off the track. He spun and hit me. He wasn’t fixing to back off, and I wasn’t fixing to back off. I paid my dues just like he did.”
Donnie was asked if Bobby had blocked the track. “I don’t think Bobby slowed down, and he didn’t move anywhere. Bobby came up to see if we were all right (after the race).
“Here’s Cale Yarborough and he walks over and punches Bobby while he’s in his car. Pretty good sportsman, huh? He got out and called me a SOB and a rotten bastard.”
Most reports were that Donnie never struck a blow to Yarborough, but what if he had been able to reach Cale?
“I’da beat his brains out, and I think he knows that,” said Donnie A.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is posted in memory of James Hylton, NASCAR's quintessential "independent" driver. Hylton and his son "Tweety" lost their lives in an automobile accident shortly after Hylton's team competed in the April 27, 2018 ARCA race at Talladega.
By Gene Granger
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- James Hylton, one of the most successful independent drivers in the history of NASCAR stock car racing, defended, interestingly, his position as one of the “Charlotte Five.”
Hylton, 43, of nearby Inman, and four other driver-car owners, angered H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, vice president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, by refusing to participate in pre-race ceremonies for the “NAPA National 500” at CMS on October 8.
Wheeler, spokesman for the track, which this year had its facilities improved by $3 million, vowed that “Charlotte Motor Speedway will not be embarrassed again.”
And he spelled out the penalty for 1979. “Any driver who is not at the start-finish line for driver introductions, will not be allowed to start his engine or to race,” Wheeler said of the two Winston Cup races scheduled for next year at CMS.
He promised to start alternate drivers, those who fail to make the 40-car field, in their places, “even if Charlotte has to pay for them.”
“Humpy doesn’t run NASCAR,” Hylton said. “When you sign in at a race track, you’re under the jurisdiction of NASCAR. This is NASCAR racing, and I’m going to do what they say until it becomes ‘Humpy’ racing. He has no right to discipline anybody.
“NASCAR recommends that you attend driver introductions, but it does not demand attendance. It will be a cold day when he enforces a rule that calls for alternates. NASCAR did away with alternates after Darrell Waltrip bought out seven drivers (for $3,000) for a starting spot three years ago at Michigan International Speedway.
“After you qualify, you have earned a starting position. NASCAR is the only one that can disqualify you. Humpy has no say over who does or doesn’t qualify,” Hylton added.
Humpy doesn’t run NASCAR. When you sign in at a race track, you’re under the jurisdiction of NASCAR. This is NASCAR racing, and I’m going to do what they say until it becomes ‘Humpy’ racing. He has no right to discipline anybody. – James Hylton
J.D. McDuffie (Sanford, N.C.), Ed Negre (Concord), Frank Warren (Harrisburg), Buddy Arrington (Martinsville, Va.) and Hylton banded together in protest of a “promotional stunt” that left the good guy, sponsor NAPA, in a bad guy role.
NAPA agreed to guarantee $38,000 in an unprecedented cash plan, but when it was announced on August 8, the CMS press release said the firm would “underwrite the unique $200,000 incentive program which has been named the ‘NAPA $5,000 Awards.’"
It wasn’t until September 30 that the drivers were told of NAPA’s $38,000 participation. That was eight days before the Charlotte race. But Wheeler informed the drivers the track would pay anything above $38,000.
However, there was a catch, and this is what Hylton called “trick money.”
To receive any of the cash, a driver had to finish within four laps of the winner. The independents protested because they knew their chances of winning any of the money were slim or none. In order to be eligible for the program, a driver had to take part in driver introductions and accept an enlarged, unsigned $5,000 check.
Thirty-five drivers did, five didn’t, and they became known as the “Charlotte Five.”
Seven drivers, including one independent, received from $5,000 to $1,000, or a total of $26,000.
Bobby Allison, winner of the 334-lap, 500-mile race, had stood up for the independents the week before the fuse was lit.
“I remember the time (1975 “World 600”) when I finished third at Charlotte, and I was five laps down at the end. It’s making all those guys look like dummies.
“When James Hylton goes up there to get his check before the race, everybody in the grandstands is going to figure that he’s going to get $5,000 just to start the race. That’s a pretty grim situation,” Allison pointed out on September 30.
With victory in sight in the waning laps on October 8, Allison let his brother, Donnie, pass him and get back in the lead lap. “I hope I cost them a little bit more by letting Donnie by,” the victorious brother chirped after the race. Bobby’s generosity did cost NAPA another $1,000.
“The $200,000 figure has been widely publicized. And everybody already thinks we are getting $5,000 to start the race,” Hylton said on September 29 during a meeting of 17 teams at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. Wheeler met with the drivers the next day, but Hylton still insisted that “it was no more than a Humpy promotion with trick money.”
Before and after hearing of Wheeler’s post-race comments, Hylton said, “We knew we couldn’t possibly win any of that money. They think more of a dog than they do of a driver. If they really cared about the driver, other than the 1O hot dogs (winning teams), they would have to put that $38,000 in the purse. Or the $26,000 they actually used.
“Humpy wanted to have a more competitive race. The race was just as competitive as I’ve ever been in. I finished fifteenth. Right on my bumper an in the same lap at the finish was Connie Saylor. It was that way through the first 30 positions all day. Would you call that embarrassing the speedway?”
We are the only major league sport without any benefits – no pension plan, little insurance, no dental care, no nothing. If you break a leg, it’s ‘We’ll see you!’ They have been talking about a pension plan since the early 1960s that I know of. It probably goes back earlier than that. We still don’t have one, and there’s no excuse for it. It would be good if Humpy got fired up about something like that. – James Hylton
Hylton took the opportunity to point out the meaning of embarrassment.
“We are the only major league sport without any benefits – no pension plan, little insurance, no dental care, no nothing. If you break a leg, it’s ‘We’ll see you!’
“They have been talking about a pension plan since the early 1960s that I know of. It probably goes back earlier than that. We still don’t have one, and there’s no excuse for it. It would be good if Humpy got fired up about something like that,” Hylton said.
“Somebody has to keep the program going,” Arrington said. “We enjoy racing. But we’re all getting older (the youngest of the ‘Charlotte Five’ will be 40 before the end of the year), and one day we’ll have to give it up. And what will we have to show for it? Nothing!
“Maybe they didn’t need us at Charlotte, but they do at other tracks - some of which didn’t have full fields this year.”
“I’ve been calling Billy (NASCAR President Bill France Jr.) for the past month,” Hylton said. “But he says he’s been too busy to talk. If they had only 1O hot dogs at Charlotte, he would have found time to talk, I’m sure.”
Outside of the “Daytona 500,” Charlotte’s “World 600” and “NAPA National 500” are the second and third richest events on the 30 race Winston Cup circuit. However, the top purses work against the regulars, as every Tom, Dick and Harry is on hand for the money races.”
Among the regulars did not qualify fast enough to earn a starting position at Charlotte were rookie Ronnie Thomas, Cecil Gordon, Gary Myers and Jimmy Means.
“Cecil came here with a brand new, good looking Oldsmobile. He worked very hard on the car and spent $800 on tires that are now useless because he didn’t make the field. We need two extra starting spots for the regulars who don’t make the field,” Arrington said, with Hylton agreeing.
The two drivers brought up another problem for Wheeler to pursue.
“You have to run 15 Late Model Sportsman (LMS) races to be eligible for big Sportsman event, such as the ones at Charlotte, Daytona and Talladega. But a rookie, you, a sports writer could buy a license, qualify for the ‘National 500’ and race without any restrictions. Is that right?” asked Hylton.
“The LMS drivers are protected at the big races. We aren’t in the Winston Cup series. And we’re supposed to be the big leagues,” Arrington added.
Wheeler has said that the protest of the “Charlotte Five” was a “dirt-track action, and we’re in the major leagues.”
Hylton says that all the independents want is a decent wage, to be able to make a living, and some of the benefits “we’ve earned in making NASCAR Winston Cup racing a very profitable business.”
Grand National Scene
EDITOR'S NOTE: With his first column on the first full page of copy in the first issue of what was then officially known as Winston Cup Grand National Scene, publisher Robb Griggs laid the foundation for what would become one of the most successful publications in the sport's history. And what a ride it was ...
Beginning with this debut and continuing until the issue dated October 14, 1982, Grand National Scene featured essentially two covers. The "outside" cover was found on the right-hand side of a folded page. When unfolded and opened, Page 1 served as the "inside" cover.
By Robb Griggs
There are probably several people who question the wisdom of beginning another auto racing publication, but then there are many who question starting any type of new business these days.
But we feel that times are getting better (like racing), and we also feel that there is a definite need for a publication such as the one you are now reading. We can say this while also owning another racing publication, "Southern Auto Racing News." "S.A.R.N." is a· monthly magazine which primarily covers short-track racing in the Southeast, but it also contains full Winston Cup race reports.
However, the Grand National coverage in "S.A.R.N." is limited due to the type of publication it is, and this is the situation in every racing newspaper and magazine in the country. Some publications have a great deal of Grand National coverage but also throw in short-track events and visa versa, as with "S.A.R.N."
Winston Cup Grand National racing is easily the biggest, most competitive, and most popular of all forms of major motorsports, and while there are many excellent auto racing newspapers, there is usually something missing when it comes to Grand National races. We feel that feature stories and photographic coverage are the two areas that are most lacking, so "Southern Auto Racing News" has decided to attempt to remedy this situation.
If you are a dyed-in-thewool GN fan, or driver, car owner, etc., you know what we are talking about. What "Grand National Scene" is doing is trying to give you more info on the events, people and places along the Winston Cup trail. We have a great deal of hard work ahead of us as we try to cover 30 major events coast-to-coast, but we have a great deal of help from people like David Allio, Mike Slade, Dozier Mobley and Jimmy Todd with their ready cameras, the folks at Winston Sports, and the many capable PR men at the speedways along the circuit. Many of the stories and photographs you read and see will be the products of these people, and we will do our best to give credit where it is due.
Winston Cup Grand National racing is easily the biggest, most competitive, and most popular of all forms of major motorsports, and while there are many excellent auto racing newspapers, there is usually something missing when it comes to Grand National races. We feel that feature stories and photographic coverage are the two areas that are most lacking.
We hope you will join us by becoming one of our first regular readers by subscribing today. Between now and the end of May, you can take advantage of our special subscription offer of just $1,00 for a three-month trial subscription. This is just one of the two ways we are using to assure you that you are getting the news you want. If you decide to subscribe for six months ($5,00) or a full year ($10.00) and during that time you are not satisfied, you can just drop us a card or letter and we will refund the remaining portion of your subscription. With every six-month or yearly subscription to “WCGN Scene” we receive during May, we will also send a FREE sample copy of “S.A.R.N.,” now in its fifth year of publication.
In addition to the 30 GN races, we will also be bringing you coverage of the major superspeedway races for Sportsman and Modified cars in which GN drivers compete, in addition to as much coverage as is possible on the Winston West GN tour.
In each issue (we publish bi-weekly 25 times per year) this space will contain short takes of info, viewpoints, gossip from around the circuit, and with so much coming up, let’s get to some of it.
Five-time USAC stock car champion Butch Hartman has had a tough time of it so far this year but will give it another go at the “Winston 500” May 1 at Talladega.
The day before the GN race at Talladega, a 300-miler for Sportsman will be held, and among the entrants is 19-year-old Sterling Marlin, son of GN regular Coo Coo (Clifton). The veteran Marlin feels the time is right for his son, who relieved his Dad at Nashville last year and made a fine showing. Sterling will be driving a Chevrolet sponsored by Cunningham-Kelly.
Up Delaware way, Dover downs has scheduled a 50-mile Baby Grand race the day before its GN event. Another son of a GN driver will be in action. David Pearson’s son, Larry, will drive. A feature on the elder Pearson is on our schedule.
With Joe Whitlock going to Charlotte as the new PR director, DiGard Racing has hired former Florida TV newsman Brad Bosworth to handle the team’s publicity chores. DiGard, by the way, is in the process of moving its operation from Daytona to Charlotte.
We’ve all heard, by now, that famous CB hit song, “Convoy” haven’t we? Well, GN fan Hubert Moore of Marietta, Ga. put it to good use. He and his local CB club have organized an Atlanta to Talladega convoy for the April 30-May 1 weekend.
This could be the year for a Chevy victory at Talladega. The GM make has never scored a win at the world’s fastest track, but with Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, A.J. Foyt, and Benny Parsons all in Chevies, the Talladega ill fortunes may end for Chevrolet. The $236,885 purse is the largest in Talladega history.
There has bene quiet a lot written and said lately about the number of Chevies in the GN fields. Some folks feel that NASCAR has favored the GM products in recent years. At the other end fo the scale (short-track racing), the story is the same, with some tracks having nothing but Chevies in the pits each week. According to people who know more than we, the reason is simple – money! It takes a lot less money to build and maintain a Chevy mill than any other make. We’ll be talking to a former Grand National chief mechanic about this situation and bring you the entire story in our next issue, so stay tuned.
After listening to President Carter’s energy message, we gave some serious thoughts as to how all this will affect stock car racing. We definitely feel the handwriting is on the wall as far as drag racing goes, but we’ll hold our thoughts on oval tracks until all comments are in. We do sort of wonder if our President has spoken with Smokey Yunick on the energy subject, as that is one of Smokey’s primary interests these days.
What "Grand National Scene" is doing is trying to give you more info on the events, people and places along the Winston Cup trail. We have a great deal of hard work ahead of us as we try to cover 30 major events coast-to-coast, but we have a great deal of help from people like David Allio, Mike Slade, Dozier Mobley and Jimmy Todd with their ready cameras, the folks at Winston Sports, and the many capable PR men at the speedways along the circuit.
David Pearson admitted recently that 10 years ago he would have driven the Wood Brothers’ Mercury for nothing, just to have driven it. He went on to say that racing wasn’t as much fun as it was a decade back, but that any time you’re winning, it’s still fun.
On the other end of the pack, independent Frank Warren says he would like to drive the cars of Pearson and Richard Petty just one time. He feels that he and a lot of other members of his rank would be competitive in such cars.
Lennie Pond will drive in a number of selected GN events this season, but will also race some Sportsman events. He will also be “driver of the day” at Charlotte for the May 28 Modified race, an event in which he will compete.
A short track name that may ring a bell is that of Wayne Niedecken of Pensacola, Fla. He is a 23-year veteran of the bull rings and is known as the “Professor” to his many fans and to his competitors. He is also known for building his own equipment, equipment which has a reputation for not only quickness, but reliability. His son, Wayne Jr., has been building a name for himself lately, and last year, Wayne Sr. turned the faster of their two cars over to Jr. The kid has been burning them up since and the pair have announced plans for trying the GN circuit with Jr. at the wheel. No definite word as yet as to when the debut will be made, but it is hoped to be this year. The last WCGN driver from the Gulf Coast area is reigning rookie champ, Skip Manning.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Dave Marcis, who left the Harry Hyde team for the Roger Penske Mercury, is now running as an independent.
His current arrangement is part-time only and with a Monte Carlo “borrowed” from the Penske shops. It seems the Cam2 sponsorship was for 10 races in 1977, and for now, only four remain on the contract. Penske will be choosing these four races, and meanwhile, Marcis is driving to maintain his point standings.
If the Penske team does well in some upcoming races, Cam2 may extend the contract and go for the national championship. While all parties involved are walking softly, one must wonder just how Marcis does feel. Bobby Allison failed to win last season in the Penske car, and Dave left a winning team for Allison’s vacated seat.
Bruce Hill, 1975 GN “Rookie-of-the-Year,” has been hired by Johnny Ray to campaign his Chevy for the remainder of the year.
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