Curtis Turner for 2016 HOF

Curtis Turner for 2016 HOF

Monday, May 23, 2011

Curtis Turner, IndyCar Stuff, Rolling Thunder Modifieds, History, and Other Stuff

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.


  1. Full Throttle was a great book, and would make a fantastic movie with the right director and casting. Curtis should absolutely be in the HOF. His adventures in Mexico running the Carrera Pan America, and at Pike Peak, all while also driving the ovals in NASCAR remind me a lot of Robby Gordon. If Curtis had survived, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he were one of the pre-eminent players in NASCAR today - as either a team or track owner.

    The racing world would be much different - and better - if some of the early bright lights were still with us: Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, Mickey Thompson, and others. Little Lord Fauntelroy Brian would be overcome by sheer talent and ambition.

  2. i wonder how much money does toyota have anyways because i know they own an entire town in Japan and they cost a pretty yen

  3. I read Full Throttle a couple of times and you're right Anon 9:34, it would make a great movie if done properly with the right actors. The problem is trying to find the right actor to play Curtis, Joe Weatherly, and some of the other folks. I don't see too many actors nowadays who could play the parts. They might have to do what they did with The Right Stuff and go with a cast of relative unknowns at that time to get the right folks.

    Had Curtis returned as a team owner or even to drive a part time schedule like Pearson did for a number of years, NASCAR definitely would be a different place. And some of the shining stars from back then like Curtis, Joe Weatherly, Billy Wade, and others would probably have turned Faux King Brian on his head rather than let him ruin a once great sport.

    According to their own figures, Toyota's FY2010 total assets were $326.2 billion. Their revenue for FY2010 was $203.7 billion. I don't know if that answers your question Spencer but they've got a lot of yen.

  4. Toyota has been cutting support of racing series around the world for the past several years. Last year was the last for support of SCCA Club Racing in this country. At the same banquet that the announcement was made, they told the audience that Nascar funding would decline by 10%. This was before the disaster in Japan, of course.
    One could assume that additional cuts are on the horizon.

  5. I beleive Indy Car pulled all their races from ISC, not the other way around. Rumor is that Indy Car got tired of the tracks lack of advertising/marketing/promotion of their races, so they bolted to more SMI tracks and Bruton was more than happy to accomodate.

    Like the typical moron he is, instead of working with Indy car instead of against them, its going to bite him in the butt down the road. And that road may be 2012 when the new Indy Car rolls out. It will no longer be a spec series and it will be interesting to see if the fan base comes back.

    In a wierd sort of way, I'm hoping they do so France will finally wake up and see what he's doing to Nascar and possibly do something about it.

  6. Mad Mikie,

    Very interesting to read. I always enjoy your columns.

    Sorry about your Buddy, Bubba..I felt the same way after Keno went to heaven.


  7. i just thought of another that at least should be mentionedas part of the hall of fame, owner Carl Keikhafer (may have butchered the spelling there) had the most dominating 2 seasons in i think 55-56, but left after that, can remember why though

  8. The whole deal with the split between IndyCar and ISC came about after the screw job ISC and BZF did on IndyCar. ISC didn't bother promoting any of the IndyCar races being run on the ISC tracks plus BZF didn't live up to some of the contracts he had with Tony George, then head of the IRL. So when the deal was dissolved by the Hulman-George family, the tracks were the first part of it to be changed.

    In 2012, I do see IndyCar making some big leaps forward with their new cars and powerplants. They're TV ratings will go up as will their attendance. I don't think NASCAR or the France family will wake up to what's going on until it's way too late. Generic cars just don't cut it and IndyCar was smart enough to recognize that. I'm waiting to see if the rumors of Ford and Fiat-Chrysler joining IndyCar come to fruition. If they do, we may see a big push by the Big 3 to get NASCAR to run more relevant engine technology like what's being used in IndyCar.

    Like Toyota, Honda Racing is also making cuts and after the earthquakes in japan, I'm thinking this may actually hasten the pull-out of both companies from racing.

    Scout was a big bubba Rita. 14 lbs of muscle hidden in a furry coat that made him look chubby. That's why I called him Bubba. For 14 years he was my faithful companion & friend.

    Spencer, the whole problem with the way the HOF is being run when it comes to the nomination process is that a lot of pioneers are being missed and the folks doing the voting really don't have a clue as to who the pioneers of the sport were.

    Kiekhaefer was the first super team owner. He used actual car transporters to take the cars to the tracks. In 1955, Kiekhaefer threatened to pull the plug on his operation if his team didn't win a race so rather than lose the money that Kiekhaefer pulled in and their backing from Chrysler, Big Bill France DQ'ed Fireball Roberts and gave the win to Kiekhaefer. Depending on who tells the story, Kiekhaefer or Bill France Sr got tired of the other one and Kiekhaefer shut down his operation.