Curtis Turner for 2016 HOF

Curtis Turner for 2016 HOF

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time for Somebody to Lend a Helping Hand

There’s an old saying about charity beginning at home. And that’s what needs to be happening right now in NASCAR. We’ve got some racing greats who gave their all for the sport of stock car racing who are having some hard times getting medical care, paying the doctors’ bills, and meeting their everyday needs.
Recently, we found out that former racing great Fred Lorenzen was living in a nursing home as a result of his Alzheimer’s and that he was forgetting things, is beginning to forget names, was getting injured from falls at home, and that he pretty much wasn’t able to take care of himself. This is a far cry from the Golden Boy who wheeled his #28 Holman-Moody Ford around the track and winning. Fred gave his all for stock car racing and for the NASCAR under Bill France Sr. And how is Fred and his family being repaid by the France family for the sacrifices he made? They’re not. The Frances continue to hide behind the “independent contractor” clause. Despite the fact that NASCAR has a multi-million dollar charity which could easily assist Fred, it doesn’t. There are also a number of drivers who have charities who could step up and help Fred out. But they don’t.
Two time Busch Series champion Sam Ard was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson‘s Diseases several years ago. Sam and his wife Jo had to sell off Sam’s trophies, Martinsville clocks, championship rings, and other valuable memorabilia to try to keep up with the staggering medical bills of both Sam’s diseases and Jo’s blindness. The Old Timers Racing Club, through their Medical Hardship Fund, has been holding the Legends Helping Legends Fundraisers to assist drivers like Sam and other racing folks from the glory days of NASCAR. I attend them and was at the one they held for Sam. Racing greats like Rex White, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, and others turned out to sign autographs for the fundraising event. All of those drivers, who like Sam, have no sort of medical help or pension fund to fall back on because of NASCAR’s continued hiding behind the “independent contractors” clause.
Both Mr. Happy and Dale Jr. stepped up and made donations to Sam’s care. Mr. Happy donated a van which was used in one of the Shell commercials he was in. The shocker was when Kyle Busch donated $100,000 to help with Sam’s care. Still, this is only 3 high profile drivers out of a how many? And where is NASCAR and the Frances in all of this? Neither the Frances, NASCAR, nor their “foundation” have donated a penny. There was a fundraiser at Richmond which raised $36,000 to help the Ard family out which had some fancy PR spin put on it to make it appear it was NASCAR making the donations but it wasn’t. For a supposed charity which pulls in untold millions and only donates $9 million to various charities, all of which benefit NASCAR and/or the France family either directly or indirectly, not to donate to former greats like Sam who helped put NASCAR on the map is almost criminal. All it takes is adding one sentence to the charter or rules to make it happen.
And what about all the high profile drivers who were shocked by Busch’s donation? What happened to the one-upmanship that drivers of old use to engage in? Drivers not wanting to be bested by their competitors? We didn’t see any of Busch’s vocal rivals step up and match his donation or try to beat it. Only Mr happy and Dale Jr. stepped up.
And what about Sam’s current condition? This is from a friend of the Ard family:
Sam is now a totally bed-ridden invalid. He is cared for at home by his wife 24/7. His request was and still is not to be placed in a nursing home.

It has been draining physically, emotionally, and financially. They are in desperate need of help at this time.

As you can see, Sam’s condition isn’t improving and the physical, mental, emotional, and financial drain on the family is still there. I know the toll it can take as I’m taking care of someone who was has been suffering with a seizure disorder for over 3 years.
Right now, Jo spends app. $300.00 a month for items which the VA does not provide. She struggles and juggles to make ends meet each month on his social security check. Any help would be appreciated, even gift cards to places like Walmart and grocery stores. There is a hole in her roof which she can't afford to have repaired. She is in need of a cooking stove, washer and dryer as theirs are about shot. 

If this isn’t the perfect opportunity for Lowe’s or Home Depot to step up and help them out, I don’t know what is.

And how much did the Frances pay towards Bobby Allison's medical bills from his terrifying crash at Pocono that nearly took his life? Zip. It took Bobby over 20 years to pay those medical bills off. It would've taken the France family one check to pay off Bobby's medical bills. But no, they preferred to hide behind the "independent contractor" clause.

So, here’s what I’d like to see happen. I know the folks from NASCAR are reading this along with some team PR and marketing people. Get off your duffs. Set up a charity to help out drivers and other folks who were in the racing business who need medical assistance or help with their medical bills or their medical care. NASCAR, ISC, and SMI could have a “Sam Ard Day” at one of their tracks and take the ticket money and donate it to help Sam out. Or they could take 10% of their ticket sales for all NASCAR events and donate it to the Racing Legends Medical Hardship Fund since it already exists. You team PR and marketing people, hit your drivers, team owners, and sponsors up for donations and services that they can provide to help these ailing former greats. Home Depot and Lowe’s could donate materials and personnel to help make houses wheelchair accessible or makes repairs that are sorely needed or donate things like washers, dryers, stoves, ovens, or fridges. The Big 3 could donate vans that are configured to transport a wheelchair-bound person. UPS and FedEx could ship medical supplies and medications to these ailing folks for free. Drivers could donate 10% of their race earnings or souvenir sales for the year to help out. If a driver got the testicular fortitude, he could donate his entire race winnings to help out. Team owners could pass the hat in their shops for donations or make their own donations separate from that of the teams and drivers. The ones who own vehicle dealerships could even help out by doing what I suggested the Big 3 do. Or they could modify a vehicle to be donated.
And how about some of you TV network people? How about donating some airtime to promote fundraisers like the Legends Helping Legends Fundraiser events? Or even send a camera crew out there to cover them? Speed’s got the personnel to do it and it’s just up the road in Mooresville. Or blocking off a day and instead of showing those fluff and reality shows that few people watch, how about running a telethon to raise funds? This would be the perfect event to put the Motormouth Brothers to work. Have them shill for the fundraisers like they do for everyone else that owns or sponsors them. You could get some current drivers in there to help out or answer the phones and get some former greats like Buddy Baker, Rex White, Junior Johnson, and others to tell some stories about the good old days of racing and get their opinions on the current state of the sport. Get Wanda Lund on there to talk about some of her recipes and some of her stories about her husband Tiny and some of the other racing greats. It could be a fundraiser and a history lesson in one.
And why should the current day drivers and crewmembers get involved with something like this? Because if it wasn’t for the likes of Sam Ard, Suitcase Jake, Rex White, James Hylton, and others, there wouldn’t be a NASCAR or a job for them. These folks pioneered the way for them to be able to do what they do today. They kept NASCAR from going under when it looked like it was going to fold several times. Think about James Hylton. He got his start as a crewmember on Rex White’s team before he became a racer and was the 1966 ROY. Rex was a pioneer of using jackscrews and using camber to turn the cars. He wasn’t just a racer, he was also a mechanical genius. Rex got his start turning wrenches for Frankie Schneider. Suitcase Jake was probably one of the most famous names in the garage outside of the drivers because of his mechanical and crew chief abilities and for his moving from team to team.
Think about today’s drivers. How many of them have come up through the ranks of being a mechanic first? How many crew chiefs started out working for free on somebody’s car as part of a volunteer crew? Or how about some of the great practical jokes that were played like those done by Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, and Tiny Lund? These are the things which took a regional racing series and turned it into a national brand name. These are the people who worked 2-3 jobs and sacrificed so much to be able to have a racing career. If not for these folks, today’s drivers would still be running in some lower level racing series trying to scrape together a couple of bucks to buy tires, parts, or gasoline to run their next race. Just like these racing pioneers had to do. So maybe it’s time for these big buck, high profile racing folks to remember these former greats and help them out since the sanctioning body that they sacrificed everything for won’t. After all, these drivers, team owners, and crewmembers wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for the likes of Sam Ard, James Hylton, Rex White, Suitcase Jake, Junior Johnson, and others too numerous to name from the history of the sport.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. The horrible part is that NASCAR with it's own charity set up is at the top of the list of ignoring their own. I know there is a tax deal involved, which is stupidity in itself, but there is absolutely no reason that NASCAR couldn't have their lawyers form a sub charity out of the main charity to funnel funds to these people in need that made NASCAR to begin with. Take a million dollars a year to set aside for our own. Hell, we aren't talking about giant money here for our people. Give the ARD's 50k to get everything back on track and throw in say 15-20 k a year after that. That is nothing to NASCAR yet it would be a major improvement in the Ard lifestyle.

    Living in a situation like the ARD's has one really big problem that folks don't understand. After a while they get forgotten. Not in a mean way, just out of sight and out of mind. I just lost my sister after six years in a nursing home where she could do nothing for herself. People slowly stopped visiting, asking about her, caring about her really. Even the church where she was so active kind of overlooked her even though it received funding from her every year of her illness.

    NASCAR has never cared about those that made it what it became. The history and foundation of it seems to only credited to the France Family. They have always looked out for their own, the family, over those that gave so much to the sport as a whole.

    A lot of us old timers, those that date back to the NASCAR of the 60's were not at all surprised by the truth of the Tim Richmond issue or the Jeremy Mayfield saga. That is the heart of NASCAR, the real heart.

    As to setting up an assistance plan for our own? Try this, simply take the money from these gigantic fines and set up a program with just that funding. Don't put it in the NASCAR charity account where it ends up as a tax break for NASCAR and a look good deal for them when it is money from the competitors in reality and not from NASCAR or it's profits. The people that a fund like this could be of major help to really don't need hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, they just need help surviving.

    Sorry for the rant mike, just as sore a subject for me as it is you.

  2. Thank you for a very well written, succinct summary about the state of Sam and Jo Ard. Being from South Carolina, I cannot tell you how many times I enjoyed #00 and his style of driving. Seeing the Thomas Brothers entry almost guaranteed the other competitors a second place finish. It has always been too bad that this association (NASCAR is an association, supposedly) has done nothing to help any of its past competitors who have serious needs in the process of lining NASCAR's pockets. Sam Ard's life was directly affected by putting money into NASCAR's pocket in a time where purses were a mere pittance and the salaries and perks for name drivers were slim to none. And we all know that Social Security and Disability payments will not pay rent, buy groceries, and daily living expenses of anyone anymore although millions try. I personally have two parents in their 80's on Social Security trying to survive on their pensions, and it is a struggle.

    And when I think of the driver's foundations out there, it would appear that one of those could help. I cannot help but think that maybe these drivers do not want to realize that that could well be them in 25 years or so. All of the money you make now would mean nothing in 25 years if something like that happened to them. So, with the exception of Jr and Shrub, Sam is ignored.

  3. It would appear once again the emperor has no clothes. For Shame Brian (& this time the entire France family) for not having as usual ANY respect for the past. Guess they never heard of humanity. Mike I usually don't agree with lots of your stuff but this you've hit dead on. To Nascar one of your most loyal fans just got one more step closer to saying see-ya. This is indefensible & as a long time fan I've heard all the can't read/under educated/backwards/comments made about Nascar fans & this is the one to make me ashamed to know I've supported this for thirty years. Nascar charities will not receive another dime from me (Pettys thing is not Nascar either really). Don't get why Bobbie Allison would be involved in any Nascar functions without being handsomely paid tho.Signed Earner Note: this article will be advising all the pools & boards. Keep it up Mike

  4. Dang Mike, I usually look for something to disagree with you about. Not this time. You are right on the money! I'll do my best to attend the Legends helping Legends event again. If all works out, I'll see you there.

  5. Mr Clause, you're ideas have a lot of merit to them. I think that could be a good solution on using the fines to help the legends out. And you're right about the history of NASCAR. How often do you see anything about the Staley Brothers or Raymond Parks Jr regarding the founding of NASCAR? Like you, I've been a fan since the 60's and have seen and heard a lot. The deal with Tim Richmond was and still is a disgrace and I think Jeremy Mayfield is in a similar situation.

    Islanddude, you're exactly right about where all these people who are in the sport now will be in 25 years. They don't see that far ahead and don't think they'll ever hit hard times. One of my buddies from Ultra Motorsports was smart enough to plan ahead. When the team folded, he started out with one tractor-trailer rig doing local hauling. He now has 7 rigs hauling coast to coast. He planned ahead. Fatback McSwain opened his own garage and seems to be doing quite well. As for the rest, in 25 years we'll probably be reading about some former Cup champion going through what the Ard's are going through now. It's sad really how good folks like the Ard's have been cast on the scrapheap once they served their purpose by NASCAR.

    Earner, I know for quite a while Bobby wouldn't do any NASCAR event unless he was paid by them. So this might explain why you saw him at various NASCAR functions in the past. Right now I'm continuing to delve into the NASCAR Foundation and it's money and just how much it takes in. We know they paid out $9 million last year. But how much did they take in is the big question.

    Even though we don't always agree Don, that doesn't keep us from being friends and supporting a worthy cause.

  6. all of these special foundations are just for tax write off purposes, that the middle class tax payers subsidises for the wealthy, and their businesses, nascar included, along with the millions of dollars in the recently passed "bush" tax cuts that were spacifically targeted for nascar. all this while 57% of u.s. corperations pay no taxes.. dont believe me, google it.


  7. What a great article Mikie,

    This could be the first honorable thing that Nascar leadership has ever done, if they would pick up on this idea.
    In their present smoke and mirrors game, that has proven to be their trademark, they are doomed to lose.
    This could be their final chance to show a little bit of character and perhaps get most racing fans back to believing that the Evil Empire is truly attempting to salvage the slightest bit of decency that it may at one time had.
    I personally don't think that they have any character left, but will continue to hope that a change of leadership will come.

  8. Mike, you, mrclause, islandDude & anonymous all make a lot sense regarding the plight of our racing Legends who have fallen on hard times. I really have nothing to add, except to commend you for making such a strong case that the France family & NA$CAR, the vehicle that made them very wealthy, should be helping out those who contributed to the early success of NA$CAR.