This Saturday morning you can take a “Ride Through History” at the Chapman Cultural Center. This event is a part of the summer long display inside the museum that shows just how big a role motorsports has been to Spartanburg County. In addition, on Friday there will be a reception from 6:00pm to 8:00pm in the auditorium of the Chapman Cultural Center. Buzz McKim, from the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will be the featured speaker talking about Spartanburg’s place in the racing industry, both past and present. Saturday, ESPN-Spartanburg Droppin’ the Hammer will broadcast live from the event from 10:00am until 1:00pm. The display area will open at 10:00am and take the checkered flag at 5:00pm. The Chapman Cultural Center is located on St. John Street in Spartanburg, not far from the intersection with Church Street.
Spartanburg still plays a big role in racing across the country. Kurt Busch and his Spartanburg-based Phoenix Racing Team rolled into victory lane at Daytona last Friday night. Jeremy Clements and Crew Chief Ricky Pearson crossed the line in eleventh place. Saturday night, Tony Stewart won the Coke Zero 400 with Spartanburg resident Steve Addington calling the shots from pit road.
Each weekend, drivers across the country strap into dirt super and crate late model cars that rolled out of Barry Wright’s shop in Cowpens. Many drivers drop the hammer on engines built by Clements Racing Engines, PAR Racing Engines, Kenny Lamb or from Fulton Competition. Yes, Spartanburg still plays an important role in motorsports all cross the board.
As we look ahead to Saturday’s events at the Chapman Cultural Center, I can’t help but think about the tracks we still have in the county, and the ones that have faded away. I also picture the legendary drivers of the past while looking at the current crop of drivers from our area.
So I am going to use my imagination to paint the picture of some races we could have seen if some of the great teams, drivers, mechanics, and tracks of the past were still in operation today. For this imaginary ride (or race if you will to steal a Dusty Rhodes quote) down memory lane, we will be competing at the following tracks: I-85 Speedway, the Greer Dragway and the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds Speedway. The drivers will be Spartanburg County residents or drivers who drove for Spartanburg based teams.
I-85 Speedway closed several years ago but with some magic dust we can make it race ready for the dirt portion of “Spartanburg Speedweeks.” Several classes of racing will take place including Limited Sportsman, Crate Late Models, Super Stock 4, Classic Modifieds, and Super Late Models.
The Limited Sportsman class will be a fan favorite with drivers including Wally Fowler, ‘The Outlaw’ Robert Bradley, Kyle Davis, Lance Smith, Strawberry Davis, Benji Whiteside, Danny Tessnier, and Mike Duvall in the Bill Petty car from Spartanburg. David Smith would have the pole for the Crate Late Model feature with Lee Cooper, ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ Jeff Cooke, ‘Big A’ Anthony Sanders, Travis Knight, Owen Osteen, Wayne Clayton, Charlie Walker, Travis Blackwell, Phillip Seifert, Dan Ivey, and Dennis Williams among the other contenders. Super Stock Four would have a group of Mustangs and Toyotas hoping to catch a couple of Plymouths. Ryan Owens and Brandon Davis would fight for the lead with the likes of Brandon Lambert and Alan Sisk leading the fight behind them.
The Classic Modifieds would feature some of the best from the glory days of racing. Can Joe Eubanks with his Bud Moore flat-head Ford outrun Cotton Owens and his #70 Plymouth Coupe? These two would settle the win between them with the pack battling for third place. The Super Late Model Race would be a dandy. The lineup for this event would include Chuck Piazza, Joe Littlejohn, Jr. Jeremy Clements, ‘Kid-Quick’ Zack Mitchell, Jeff Cooke, Doug Osteen, and ‘The Night-stalker’ Billy Bishop, battling with a host of drivers from the Barry Wright Race Cars shop including Steve Francis, Jonathan Davenport, Buck Simmons, Carl Edwards, Scott Bloomquist, Chris Madden, Mike Duvall, Rodney Combs, Ken Schrader, and Rambo Franklin.
The Drag Racing portion would take place at the Greer Dragway. The drivers, like Jay Norris, Hank Guyton, Everette Short, Turtle Brannon, Paul Mosley and Dallas Calvert, would hope to get by Kevin Scales and Gene Fulton. Cotton Owens would have the Cotton Picker on hand as he and David Pearson would both make a few passes with the nose of the Dodge Dart off the ground for the length of the dragway. For a true blast from the past, the Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Stars would roll into with the Nitro Funny Cars and Tommy ‘TV’ Ivo would bring his high powered station wagon to match race Cotton Owens and the Cotton Picker Dodge Dart Wagon.
The final races would take place at the freshly paved Fairgrounds Speedway. The track would measure 2.25 miles in length with 32 degrees of banking in the corners that would be the widest corners on any race track around.
The preliminary race would be 100 laps, or 225 miles. Larry Pearson would have the pole in the Chattanooga Chew Chevy. Other drivers in the field include Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Mike Bliss, Johnny Benson, Jason Keller, and Johnny Sauter from Phoenix Racing. Buckshot Jones and Todd Bodine from Buckshot Racing, Glenn Jarrett driving for the Woodruff-based Thackston Racing Team, and since we are modifying the rules somewhat, Johnny Halford former ARCA Series winner, Kirk Shelmerdine who won an ARCA race driving for James Hylton, Leroy Mabry from Campobello has his Chevy ready to roll, Tiny Lund in his Bud Moore Mercury Cougar, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, and George Follmer in Bud Moore Mustangs, Roger Mandeville in his Mazda, Alan Purkhiser in his Chevy from the CARS Pro Cup Series joins the starting grid along with UARA Late Model Driver Scott Bishop. The Dreams Come true Motorsports Team used the Pearson’s Shop for several years and their drivers include Steve Grissom, Tim Sauter, Stanton Barrett, and Travis Geisler. The scramble would be on as every race shop in Spartanburg County would work to get cars ready for other drivers who raced for Spartanburg teams over the years. Those names include Bob Wellborn, Fireball Roberts, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock, Sam McQuagg, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Donnie Allison, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal, Peter Gregg, Harry Gant, Art Malone, Stick Elliott, Larry Frank, Johnny Allen, Cale Gale, and Casey Roderick.
Then the Spartanburg 500 would feature some of the greatest names in all of racing. The lineup for this race would include the following starting with drivers from Cotton Owens Garage Buddy Baker, Mario Andretti, Charlie Glotzbach, Bobby Johns, Al Unser, Sr., Marty Robbins, Junior Johnson, Pete Hamilton, Ralph Earnhardt and Cotton Owens. From Bud Moore Engineering there will be a few Fords, Mercurys, and Pontiacs with drivers Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Darel Dieringer, Morgan Sheppard, Billy Wade, Ricky Rudd, Geoff Bodine, Joe Weatherly, Benny Parsons, Lake Speed, Dick Trickle, and Wally Dallenbach. Bud Moore would be busy as he will be serving as Chief Mechanic for Buck Baker, Speedy Thompson, and Jack Smith. Derrike Cope using Leroy Mabry’s shop in Campobello will be in his Ford. Phoenix Racing would field three cars for drivers Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Bill Elliott. Rex White is in the field in the Clements Racing Chevy. James Hylton will be in his Pop Cola Mercury. Four other drivers will be in Hylton prepared cars; Ronnie Thomas, Lennie Pond, Al Holbert and Greg Sacks. G C Spencer is at the wheel of his Dodge along with Joe Frasson also in a Dodge beside Tommy Irwin driving a Ford. Joe Littlejohn Sr. in an Oldsmobile lines up beside Elmo Henderson in a Ford. Dick Brooks starts on the outside of the front row in the Mario Rossi Dodge with the Silver Fox, David Pearson on the Pole. Since this is a Spartanburg race, Pearson will be at the wheel of a Cotton Owens Dodge.
Could the 426 Hemi powered Dodges get the best of some of the newer cars? Could Hylton pull off another win? Would Brooks and Rossi have a trick up their sleeves, or would one of those Bud Moore cars get to the front, runaway and hide?
I won’t declare a winner in the Spartanburg 500 or any of the other events in this very fictional article, I will let you picture this in your mind and come up with your own winners. But if you want to be a winner, attend the “Ride Through History” at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg this Saturday morning from 10:00am until 5:00pm.
|< Prev||Next >|