Hall of Fame Contender: Curtis "Pops" Turner
|Curtis Turner with mechanical wizard Smokey Yunick|
Curtis Turner was born is a small town in Virginia called Floyd back in 1924. Curtis was known for a number of things. He made and lost more money than most of us will ever see in the timber industry. He was known for holding some wild parties. He was also known for his abilities behind the wheel of a stock car. He was also one of the Founding Fathers of NASCAR along with Raymond Parks, Red Byron, Red Vogt, and the Staley Brothers whom you rarely hear about. Curtis was one of the first drivers to use an airplane to get from one race to the next. Curtis tried to start a drivers union which got him and Tim Flock blackballed for life in 1961. Of course, Big Bill France didn’t know just how popular Curtis was with race fans until the other racing series that Curtis ran in while he was blackballed pulled in more fans than NASCAR was pulling in. Probably a good place to find out about Curtis Turner is to read the book “Full Throttle”. It covers the days from when Curtis hauled sugar to make moonshine and getting shot at to his popularity with Ford Motor Company and how he used that to get the Wood Brothers the backing of Ford to his untimely death. Characters like Curtis don’t come along very often and there definitely aren’t any like him in today’s squeaky clean, politically correct NA$CAR. Some of the “supporting” characters in Curtis’ racing career were the Clown Prince of Racing Joe Weatherly, Smokey Yunick, the Wood Brothers, Big Bill France, Bud Moore, and a who’s who of racing from the good old days of racing.
Probably one of the more interesting things (to me) that happened during Curtis’ career was after Big Bill France re-instated Curtis in 1965. Nobody wanted to take a chance on Curtis because of his age. But one team did step up and gave Curtis the break he needed to get back into racing. The same team he helped give a break to years before. The Wood Brothers. They never forgot what Curtis did for them by getting Ford to back them in their racing efforts so they fielded a car for him. And as sort of a jab at the owners who wouldn’t hire him, Curtis had his age as the car number, the #41. Unfortunately for us fans, Curtis retired from racing in 1968 and went back to the timber business. He lost his life in a plane crash which some have attributed to the fuel in his plane that he got before starting the next leg of his flight back to his home in Roanoke, VA. He was given the nickname of the “Babe Ruth of Stock Car Racing” by Sports Illustrated in 1968 and was the first NASCAR driver to appear on their cover. By the time he appeared on that cover, he had won over 350 races in NASCAR, ARCA, MARC, and USAC. Curtis was also the genius behind Charlotte Motor Speedway, which you’ll never get Bruton Smith to admit to nor the betrayal Bruton pulled on a vote as to whether or not to keep Curtis on the board of the speedway.
If you look at the “total package”, which is something I urge the voting members to do, Curtis rates right up there and is worthy on being inducted into the HOF.
A couple of side notes, Floyd, VA., where Curtis Turner was born, is also the home town of Tony Stewart’s crew chief Darian Grubb and USAR driver Jeff Agnew. Curtis’ daughter Margaret Sue, Pam Roberts (Fireball‘s daughter), and Sybil Scott (Wendell’s daughter) use to be the 3 Musketeers of the infield when they followed their dad’s careers around from track to track and maintained a life-long friendship.
Somebody’s Fibbed About The Split Screen Coverage
Back when BSPN first got their segment of the broadcast contract, fans were hoping that this would be the advent of the same split-screen coverage that Disney/ABC/BSPN had used for their coverage of the IRL. His Imperial Incontinence, Faux King Brian, dashed all the fans hopes when he stated that split screen coverage would not be allowed because it wouldn’t allow the sponsors to present their form of branding. Well, it seems we’re now catching Faux King Brian in yet another fib.
When asked about the split screen format, here’s a non-answer given by BSPN:
“Since we returned to NASCAR racing in 2007, one of the most common questions from our fans has been ‘why don’t you do the commercials side-by-side?’” said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content. “We’re very pleased to be able to do it now with NASCAR Non Stop and showcase the advertiser while still showcasing the race. ESPN’s mission is to serve sports fans and this is a way to give the fans more racing action during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.”
Now here’s an answer from BSPN that’s actually an answer:
"Currently, we are not allowed to do side-by-side per our rights agreement with NASCAR," Rich Feinberg said before the Daytona 500. "But I know that in our partnership we have discussions with them about that and overall we understand the frustration."
So it’s not the sponsors or advertisers who prohibited the split screen coverage but NA$CAR itself which prohibited it. When will Faux King Brian ever learn that his fibs will eventually come back to bite him in the backside? Like the COT will make the racing more exciting, the COT will solve all of the aero problems, we want to bring back our long time fans, it’s Dale Jr’s fault NA$CAR isn’t doing better, and I know what’s best for the sport.
IMS to Drop NA$CAR?
Racer magazine is reporting the sales of tickets for this year’s Brickyard 400 are lagging behind last year’s low turnout of an estimated 140,000. Last year’s attendance was down nearly 50% from the 270,000 that attended in 2007. IMS officials are stating they believe the over-saturation of Cup, NNS, and truck races in the Midwest is a contributing reason, especially the addition of Kentucky just 170 miles away along with Chicago, Michigan, and Kansas.
Considering that the France family and ISC have abandoned IndyCar (IndyCar does not race at any ISC tracks), that maybe IMS is considering dropping NASCAR because it is becoming a money loser since the Goodyear tire fiasco.
One Manufacturer’s History Speaks Volumes
Toyota had partnered with Dan Gurney’s All American Racers and dominated the IMSA prototype ranks, virtually destroying that series (which was revived by Panoz and became the ALMS). Gurney and his AAR team built an Eagle powered by Toyota into the CART series. Toyota suddenly dropped Gurney and driver Robby Gordon in favor of providing engines for Newman-Haas and Ganassi. As in fighting continued within CART, Penske brokered a behind the scenes deal to take Honda and Toyota to the IRL, because of the Indy 500.
They were the engine to have when they went to IndyCar, as Penske and Ganassi were cleaning up. Honda partnered with Andretti-Green and when that team’s drivers began dominating, so Toyota joined Chevy in leaving the series.
In Formula 1, Toyota was spending more than Ferrari per year, something to the tune of $750m. They even were caught with design information from Ferrari, as one of their car designs looked very much like the previous year’s Ferrari dominating car. But in all their years in F1, they only mustered a couple of podium finishes. So they left and put their money into NASCAR.
Toyota, through their Lexus brand, provided support of Ganassi’s Grand Am team. After winning a couple of titles in the prototype division, in late 2009 Toyota announced they were leaving Grand Am. This forced Ganassi to scramble and he ended up putting together a deal with BMW.
Toyota’s track record is clear. If they ever win a title, both driver and manufacturer, in Cup or after a number of years with limited success, they will be gone. If they pull out, gone is the money NASCAR relies on, because I’m sure the next TV contract will not be anywhere close to the current one.
Alex Tagliani on Pole for Indy 500
In a feel good story for the upcoming Indy 500, Alex Taglaini put his car on the pole for former driver Sam Schmidt, who was paralyzed as the result of a crash during testing. Beating out the powerhouse teams like Ganassi and Penske is no small feat. Ganassi driver’s Franchitti and Dixon both managed to run out of fuel which put a serious dent in their qualifying efforts. Former NA$CAR driver John Andretti was the only one of the five Andretti Racing drivers to qualify. Simona De Silvestro, coming back from a fiery wreck earlier in the week, was able to qualify 24th. This leaves the Queen of Hype, Ana Beatriz, 2 Ganassi cars, a Penske car, and others to try to make it in on Bump Day qualifying.
2012 All Star Race Rumors
Rumors are already surfacing regarding next year’s All Star Race and the Queen of Hype’s silence over next year’s plans on driving in NA$CAR. I’m not sure where the rumor started but according to the rumor she’ll be running in the 2012 All Star Race. I don’t see how she can get in based on her current driving levels in the Busch series and the fact that she has yet to drive in a Cup race, much less win a race in any of NA$CAR’s Top 3 series, but considering past results of the fan vote have been rigged to get certain drivers with high dollar sponsors in, it wouldn’t be a real surprise if the Queen of Hype did get in.
Rolling Thunder Modifieds Rolling On
Last year’s Rolling Thunder Modified Touring Series winner Trevor Edwards continued his dominance of Newport Speedway having now won both races in the tour’s history at Newport Speedway. Trevor was also the pole-sitter for the double-points event. Eldon Zacek of Concord, NC finished 2nd. Chris Brown of Ft. Washington, KY assumes the Series points lead after two races this season while finishing 3rd. Jeff Woods of Vinton, VA was fourth and is now 2nd in points while Ed Ditges of Orlando, FL rounded out the Top 5.
Lauren Edgerton of Chesterfield, VA becomes the first woman racer in the 20-year history of the Rolling Thunder Modifieds and Lauren finished 6th. Vance Hall of Richfield, NC finished 7th and moves to third in the points.
The Rolling Thunder Modifieds are scheduled to return to Dillon Motor Speedway on July 9, 2011 for their 3rd race of the season.