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WAID’S WORLD: NASCAR Artist Sam Bass Determined To Overcome Health, Financial Problems

This is one of the last interviews the late Sam Bass gave to a website. It was posted on April 28, 2017. We are re-posting it as a tribute to Sam’s memory.

 

When I stepped into Sam Bass’ spacious Concord, N.C., studio – and admired the many and various pieces of art – I determined that he needed to know one thing about our approaching interview.

“Sam,” I said as I took a seat in front of his desk, “this is not going to be a ‘poor, pitiful Sam’ interview.”

“Fine,” he said with a smile. “That is exactly what I don’t want.”

It would be easy to feel pity for Bass, a lifetime diabetic. He is recognized as NASCAR’s Officially Licensed Artist whose work over the years has been greatly admired and granted him recognition and respect.

Bass’ work is reflected in posters, portraits, car design, guitars, magazine and poster covers and much more.

But now things have gotten dark.

Because of myriad reasons, Bass is now embroiled in bankruptcy and his health has deteriorated to the point where he requires kidney and pancreas transplants. He has already endured the loss of his lower left leg.

By all accounts it would appear Bass is on the verge of losing his business – and possibly even more.

But don’t expect him to cower in a corner. Bass has no intention of doing anything except to press on with determination and strong will.

“I’m not happy about it,” he said. “It is very frustrating to put 36 years into everything I’ve worked on and then be forced to sell because of a bankruptcy issue and liquidate everything I’ve worked on and created over the years.

“But I am trying my best.”

Bass showed up in NASCAR nearly 40 years ago. He was literally peddling his wares, trying to find a foothold in stock car racing, a sport he loved.

“If you think back I know you can remember me in the old Richmond media center,” Bass said, “and me talking to you about doing a gatefold for NASCAR Illustrated and stuff. You saw my works displayed there. This was back in 1981.”

Since that time Bass’ talent, professional drive and willingness to work extremely hard have made him something decidedly rare – a successful and admired artist.

But it has not been without struggles, many of which continue today.

“It is a combination, almost like the perfect storm,” Bass said. “Medical costs have just absolutely floored me. But it’s the medical costs in conjunction with the downturn of the NASCAR economy over the past eight years in particular.

“I’m in the middle of it, but then Roush used to have five teams and now he has two. Richard Petty had more cars than he has now.

“There are a lot of cars out there that have to have more than one sponsor to survive. It’s not just affecting the teams. It’s affecting everybody in the sport – PR agencies, artists and everything else. It has been like a domino effect.”

While Bass has worked diligently in his bankruptcy issue he chose to be quiet about it.

“We’ve been going through bankruptcy for over a year,” he said. “It’s been very quiet and low key. It’s not something I’m not proud of but we have been trying to address everything and take care of everything that is supposed to be taken care of. We do our best.”

Doing his best means selling off his inventory of handsome and diverse pieces. His work has been, and continues to be, a unique, colorful presentation of NASCAR and its people.

Bass’ other issue, his health, might well be something we know nothing about today. By his own admission he would have liked it that way. But it didn’t happen.

“The whole thing about needing the kidney transplant and the pancreas transplant, well, I had shared that information with a friend.” Bass said. “I wasn’t going to say anything about it.

“But it got posted to social media. All of a sudden my Facebook and my Twitter start blowing up. People were asking me questions about it.

“The last couple of weeks ago, I came out with everything and let people know what is going on.”

RELATED: SEE HOW YOU CAN HELP SAM BASS

What’s going on isn’t pleasant. Bass is hobbled by illness, the type of which might well force others to give up and turn away.

Not Bass.

“What I’m going through is very, very hard,” he said. “My kidneys are operating at only 12 or 13 percent. Because they are not filtering right I wake up every morning sick to my stomach. I get fatigued very easily.

“But I’ve got deadlines to meet. I have bills to pay. I have to take care of my employees and everything. I take this very, very seriously. But it is a struggle.

“I come in the office every morning at 6 or 7 and do not leave until 9, 11, 12 … I was here night before last until 3:30 in the morning.

“Although the economy hasn’t been good and there have been a myriad of problems due to health costs, I have never stopped working. I have never stopped trying to do my best to offset all the things that have been coming down the pike.

“But it has just been overwhelming. So here we are.”

Bass added that all his medical problems couldn’t be blamed on diabetes. He tells the tale of how he lost his lower left leg.

“The whole thing started with a blister on my foot in 2005 that I got while I was in Daytona,” he said. “Hindsight being 20/20, if I had laid in bed for a couple of weeks and let that thing heal the way I should have, instead of keeping schedules and doing appearances and making deadlines, that blister would not have become an infection that ended up, over the next three years, costing me four bones in my foot.

“Ultimately it got so bad that it cost me my lower left leg in 2008.

“People say to me all the time that diabetes took my lower left leg. No, stupidity took my leg.”

While it is true that social media made the world aware of Bass’ situation, it has also proven overwhelmingly beneficial, even in ways he could never imagine.

“I have been so blessed and overwhelmed at the efforts of the NASCAR community,” Bass said. “Once they found out what I am going through, they have really stepped up with their support.”

Bass recalled his reaction when Hendrick Motorsports teammates announced a fund that totals thousands of dollars.

“I don’t mind telling you that when I read what Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were doing for me with their donations, I literally cried,” he said. “I have worked so hard with those guys over the years.

“I created their first Cup cars. I’ve done design work for them. I respect them so much. But never in a million years did I expect them to do what they did.”

It was also on social media that Bass discovered something else – something truly remarkable.

“I just briefly scanned my Twitter last week and I had over 40 people offer me a kidney,” he said. “People I don’t even know said to me, ‘Here’s my name. Here’s my address. Here’s my blood type. If I match you, you have my kidney.”

Bass fell silent, as if in contemplation, for a moment.

Although donations and other support will certainly help him, Bass gives the impression that he is going to rectify his problems mostly on his own.

The cards he’s been dealt are not good. But by no means is the game over. He continues to stay in it and force a different outcome.

“I hope that I can get through all of this and in some way, shape or form be helpful to other diabetics,” he said. “I want to create awareness of what I am going through, what I am facing and come out the other side with a positive manner after the kidney transplant and the pancreas transplant.

“Hopefully, I will be a positive influence and inspiration to people on how to deal with this stuff, how to face it and come out in a very positive way.

“That’s what I am hoping for and that’s what I am working for.”

If determination, a strong sense of purpose and the support of so many mean anything, rest assured Sam Bass will indeed come out the other side.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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WAID’S WORLD: Wallace Looks For Change In Performance, Not Who He Is

This is just one man’s opinion, but I think Bubba Wallace gets it.

The 25-year-old driver for Richard Petty Motorsports understands that he’s only in his second full season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup competition. He has much to learn and must avoid the past mistakes he made.

He understands the need of a good relationship with fellow competitors and the media. And he does not need to change his personality to attain it.

Speaking of personality, Wallace is personable, outgoing and likable. If, as an African-American driver, he’s carrying a banner for diversity, he certainly does not talk like it.

He doesn’t have to.

Unlike the time when pioneer and Hall of Fame driver Wendell Scott raced under a cloud of prejudice and inequality, no one gives a darn that Wallace is black.

At the very least, I have not heard a disparaging word said or written. Of course it is only logical to mention that if Wallace wins a Cup race – which is well within the realm of possibility – he will be the first to do since Scott in 1963.

It would seem that to earn a victory will take some time and improvement. Wallace has made only 40 career Cup starts, 36 of which came last year.

His record shows three top-10 finishes, one of which was a surprising runnerup showing in last year’s Daytona 500.

“Coming into the season last year we were like there is no way in hell that we would finish second in my first Daytona 500 attempt,” Wallace said. “I thought I would go out there and cause ‘the big one’.

“Let’s get through the rest of the week and let’s make it to lap 199 and see if we have a shot. If I make it to 199, hell yeah, I’m going to go for it.”

After the 2018 race Wallace became emotional. He had a reason, of course, but he joked that it might not have been what we thought.

“I shed a little tear for TV ratings trying to get those up, that was all part of the plan,” he said. “It worked out.

“Hell I got a lot of people on my side over that. Got to pump up the waterworks again this year. 

“Other than that, it was just taking in the first race as a rookie and to be able to accomplish it the way we did was pretty cool.”

Wallace is optimistic that the changes at RPM made after the 2018 season will bring more opportunities for him to go for it.

“We will find out how it works out,” Wallace said. “We haven’t even got a race under our belt yet. We have had some personnel changes, people moved around and moved up and so excited about that.

“We have a new crew chief, new car chief and trying to get some new partners on board throughout the season as well. We will continue to keep pressing forward. 

“I looked back. I’ve got a whole list of races where I could do a lot better and see what we can do.”

Not only does Wallace think the personnel changes will have a positive effect, he also reasons that he himself will be improved as a driver because of what he learned.

“I was surprised how much I struggled and let myself struggle,” he said. “It was my rookie year, you know, and I went through it all. 

“I’m not using that as an excuse because I have enough experience to know that some of the mistakes I made could have been fixable, could have been preventable I should say.”

Even if performance does not improve for Wallace, do not expect him to change who he is. Fact is, it does not seem possible.

“A lot of people will portray my personality as me being cocky and arrogant,” he said. “I’m just living life. I’m having fun. 

“At the end of the day I get paid to drive race cars. I just get to drive, nothing else. Everything else comes with it.

“I am not going to change the way I drive, I’m not going to change the way I interact with the media. 

“For me, I’m just going to be me and have fun.”

There’s not a thing wrong with that.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement    

      

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WAID’S WORLD: Times Have Changed But The Legends Always Spark Fond Memories

One of the most remarkable things about NASCAR fans – real NASCAR fans – is that they never forget.

They may be veteran fans, the type that actually saw Fred Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett and a young Richard Petty compete and remember the thrills they provided.

Or they may be younger ones whose interest was sparked by a father or an uncle and whose zeal for the sport prompted a keen interest in its past.

Old or young, they share a love of the sport. And they never forget.

At no other time is that more fully revealed than at the annual Stocks For Tots event held at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C.

Fans make a charitable contribution and receive a wristband which, among other things, allows them entry and the opportunity to get autographs from NASCAR competitors past and present.

The event is always well attended. This year, however, many long-time observers declared the crowd as perhaps the largest ever.

Judging from the line of fans waiting to get in – a line that didn’t diminish for hours – it would be hard to disagree.

I have had the good fortune to be part of Stocks For Tots for years. My best friend and colleague, the late Tom Higgins, nearly always accompanied me.

When my wife and I entered the building I was asked, “Excuse me, but are you a driver or a legend?”

“Ma’am I am no legend, just an old guy.”

“Well, you don’t look like one.”

Flattery. Hey, I like it.

But I am no legend. When I joined the others who sat at a long stretch of tables I quickly realized they were the legends.

I didn’t recognize some but the fans certainly did.

Oh, I recognized plenty of them. But the passage of time made them different.

Ricky Rudd had silver hair where once he was a dark-haired, baby-faced kid who looked like he just got out of high school.

Bobby Allison also had a head of gray and his walk was slow and deliberate. He is a man who has suffered so much – a near-death crash, the loss of two sons and the passing of his wife Judy.

But instead of hiding away behind a wall of self-pity, he’s constantly been out front, meeting fans and friends with a wide smile.

He’s aged, but Dave Marcis’ personality hasn’t changed one bit. He’s always smiling and laughing. And, yes, he still wears his Goodyear cap and winged-tip shoes.

Marcis was always known for his legendary prodigious appetite.

“You know,” he said to me at the pre-event buffet dinner, “they need to get bigger plates here.”

Harry Gant hasn’t aged one bit over the last 25 years.

The many conversations I had with the legends always seemed to center around how things have changed.

Some said it has changed so much they don’t even bother watching TV. Others said they watch TV but would never return to a race track.

Many said that today’s drivers don’t know how good they have it in terms of technology, competition and financial reward.

The theme of it all, “It’s not like the good old days.”

Well, that is true. The times have certainly changed in many ways – some of them good, some of them not so good.

The past is what it is. And it’s gone. All that is left of it are remembrances to which so many of us cling.

We have two choices: either to abandon NASCAR altogether or look ahead with the hope that whatever we think is wrong with the sport will become right.

I am going to adopt the latter. Yes, NASCAR has a lot of work to do but it has faced that situation before and overcome it.

And I have to believe that new leadership might be the catalyst for positive change.

It provides some anticipation for the year ahead.

And until that year arrives, I offer you my sincere wishes for a wonderful, happy Holiday Season.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement  

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WAID’S WORLD: Remembering The Driver Named David, Not Mr. Pearson

In 1973 I was in my second full year covering the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. So it stands to reason I was still learning about the sport of stock car racing.

I had seen and learned a lot in a short period of time. In 1972, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison waged a war that included some of the hardest confrontational racing NASCAR had ever seen – especially on the short tracks.

Allison saw Petty as his most formidable blockade to the championship. Petty, already the winner of multiple titles, wasn’t going to tolerate Allison’s challenge.

Their rivalry galvanized the media. We witnessed every action and hung on every word to fully report on the fracas, which came to an end after Petty won the championship – his fourth – and Allison won the most races, 10.

I thought I had seen it all.

I hadn’t seen anything yet. Nor had anyone else, for that matter.

I started at the Martinsville Bulletin so it stands to reason I knew the Wood Brothers, whose racing shops were located in Stuart, about 50 miles away.

Well, I knew of the Wood Brothers. As far as the media went I’m not sure anyone knew Glen and Leonard Wood. They were quiet types who kept to themselves and seemed to be very wary of the press.

Many of us suspected the Woods were reticent because they didn’t want to spill any secrets.

They were one of the most successful teams in NASCAR, especially at the superspeedways on which they competed almost exclusively – which made sense since the big tracks paid the most money.

David Pearson was in his second year as the Woods driver in ’73. His season started off in mediocrity, with finishes of 22nd and 33rd at Riverside and Daytona, respectively.

Then something happened. Pearson won the next five races in which he competed, four of them on superspeedways – Rockingham, Atlanta, Darlington and Talladega.

He also won at Martinsville, the only short track on which the Woods competed. The speedway’s cagey owner, the late Clay Earles, made sure of that.

By the time Pearson came to Martinsville it became imperative that I attempt to do some kind of in-depth piece on him.

I had never spoken to him. Sure, I heard him at his post-race press conferences many times. But I had never experienced a one-on-one discussion with him – or the Woods, for that matter.

It seemed to be a daunting task. After all, Pearson was an established star. By 1973 he had already won 66 races and three championships with the likes of Cotton Owens and Holman-Moody.

And, unlike Petty, Pearson was not known to be gregarious or overly outgoing. The word was that it was because he had a lot of Native American in him, for whatever that was worth.

It didn’t matter to me if he was Sitting Bull. I had to talk to him.

At Martinsville I approached him when I saw that, at last, he was alone. He always seemed to be engaged in a conversation with others, all of them laughing.

“Excuse me, Mr. Pearson,” I said.

“What did you call me?” he answered.

I was taken aback.

“I can’t remember if I have ever been called Mr. Pearson, unless it was by a cop standing at my car door,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know your name, but judging from that pad and pen in your hands you’re going to ask me questions.”

“My name is Steve Waid from the Roanoke Times,” I said.

“OK,” he said. “I won’t call you Mr. Waid, I’ll call you Steve. Fire away.”

He spoke at length about his association with the Woods and how meticulous they were about car preparation. He said Leonard was a master engine builder who was very particular about the finished product.

“A lot of folks think I just play games out on the track, just take it easy until it’s time to move,” Pearson said. “That may be what it looks like but it’s not that simple.

“Heck, maybe it is. That’s how good the cars are.”

Pearson would take little, if any, credit for what he did on the track only to say he drove each of them in ways that were comfortable.

“Maybe by doing that I am a little faster,” he added.

Our talk drifted away from racing. Pearson didn’t say much about himself – I don’t know if he ever did – but he touched on just about everything else.

When I walked away I realized I had engaged in a conversation with a pleasant, smiling man from Spartanburg and not so much a racing superstar.

Pearson and the Woods went on to win 11 of the 18 races they entered in 1973, a remarkable record that has since been unapproachable.

It would not end there. In 1976, for example, Pearson and the Woods won 10 of 22 races.

 Their successful union has been seared into NASCAR lore.

Pearson was never again as successful as he was with the Woods. His most shining moment came in 1979 when he won the Southern 500 as a relief driver for an injured Dale Earnhardt on Rod Osterlund’s team. He won at Darlington again in 1980.

He never changed. Except, perhaps, to become even more affable as the years passed.

I was never as close to Pearson as, say, the likes of Barney Hall and Bud Moore. But we always talked, laughed, told jokes and gossiped.

I always called him David.

And he always called me Steve.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement    

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WAID’S WORLD: Elliott’s Progress Indicates Potential Rise To Stardom – Maybe More

It’s too early to tell if Chase Elliott will become a NASCAR superstar, but it’s not too early to predict he will.

Fact is such predictions have already been made.

But even though it has yet to happen, and for good reason, Elliott has already given some evidence that it will be so. He’s making steady progress since his Rookie of the Year performance in 2016.

By 2017 he had yet to win but enjoyed his most productive season with one pole position, 12 finishes among the top five and 21 among the top 10. He wound up fifth in the final point standings.

This season he has two victories, the second of which came at Dover this week. He’s got another pole, 10 finishes among the top five and 17 among the top 10. He’s already fifth in points where he was 10th at this same point last year.

With six races to go his numbers could improve.

No, they aren’t giant steps by any means. Nevertheless he continues to show progress. And that is exactly what he needs to do to elevate his status in the sport.

The Dover victory assured Elliott he’s among the top eight who will contend for the championship. The next two races will determine who joins him.

Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsports team are particularly relieved that they do not have sweat out the upcoming race at Talladega, the largest and fastest track in NASCAR that is known for unpredictability.

Racing at the 2.66-mile superspeedway is like handling a rattlesnake. You don’t know when it will bite. You just know it will.

“Yeah, I think just being able to move on and not have to worry about Talladega, so excited to be able to win the first one of three and get to enjoy it a little bit more,” Elliott said. “Ultimately, we can get some more playoff points next week and also at Kansas.

“We are going to keep the hammer down and see what we can do.”

“I have taken four cars to Talladega and cut them up to get them in the trailer, all of them,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “Yeah, this will be one we can kind of take a little bit of a break.”

The Dover win wasn’t a complete surprise. The track has become one of Elliott’s favorites or, at the least, one on which he’s been competitive.

Last season he finished second and led more laps than any other driver but Kyle Busch passed him in dramatic fashion with just two laps remaining.

This week Elliott raced with old tires near the end of the race but his Chevrolet’s speed was more than enough. He led the final 11 laps, including three in overtime.

“Well, I really thought staying out of the pits was the right move to be honest with you,” Elliott said. “I was shocked those other guys pitted with that few laps left.

“I just knew if we had a bunch of cautions it was going to be hard to hold those guys off if they kept leap frogging forward.

“It was just a great effort, a lot of perseverance today.”

Elliott admitted that he has gained a large measure of confidence during his short career – even more than last season.

“I just feel like I’ve messed it up so many times,” he said. “I was like hey, here’s your opportunity to make it right and to do it right.

“Today just felt different. Like in those positions, I just felt more confident and just excited about the opportunity instead of unsure of what was going to happen.”

Hendrick has certainly seen his driver’s progress, which is very likely what he expected when he signed him as a 19-year old kid.

“You know he is smart,” Hendrick said, “He is just like his dad (Bill, the 1988 champion and member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame).

“He is really smart, he knows when to race and he has got unbelievable car control. I’m just very fortunate to have him in our camp.”

Time will tell the tale but the maturation of Chase Elliott and the numbers he’s put up indicate indeed what that tale will be.

Incidentally, Bill won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award a record 16 times.

The odds are his son will win his first in 2018.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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WAID’S WORLD: Farewell To a Journalist, Confidant, Mentor And Friend

NASCAR is a microcosm of our society. It is composed of people with all types of character, ethics and personality.

Most of them are liked, or at least accepted, by many of their peers.

But I can honestly say one of them was universally liked and respected. If there was one man in NASCAR who had no enemies, it was he.

His name was Robert Moore, known simply as Bob.

He’s no longer with us. He lost his battle with cancer a few days ago. But he left behind a legacy laced with achievement and filled with admiration and respect from his peers.

It started decades ago when Moore was the motorsports writer for the Charlotte Observer. He reported on several other sports but was he also one of a cadre of writers who regularly covered NASCAR, then a regional entity.

Moore’s reporting on NASCAR was precise and informative. It needed to be since Charlotte was considered the heart of stock car racing.

In time Moore became widely read among NASCAR fans. His pieces were entertaining and, more important, accurate.

Moore became so knowledgeable that he evolved into a source of information for his fellow writers.

I know he was for me.

When I was trying to find my around NASCAR in the early ‘70s, I got to know Moore. I admit I would consult him frequently. I had drivers who were reliable sources but I knew that Moore could be an invaluable one.

So I asked him plenty of questions. He always answered them willingly.

Over the years I have learned that writers who came after me also relied on Moore as a source of information. And they also said that he willingly complied. They respected him for it.

Moore moved on to become the public relations director for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s Winston Cup Series.

RJR’s role in NASCAR was tremendous. It was the lifeblood of the sport and thus Moore’s role was one of great importance and responsibility.

In my opinion he handled it well. I can recall consulting him about a one-on-one interview with CEO Jerry Long. You wouldn’t think a company boss would agree to a meeting with a mere motorsports writer but Long did. And he was candid and forthcoming.

I suspect Moore told him what Long could expect from me and not be evasive. Moore did his job.

Moore moved on to other journalistic endeavors. He wrote for publications and web sites. He was a prolific freelancer and blogger.

He seemingly remained omnipresent at media centers and press boxes.

Moore wasn’t all about work. He had an infectious laugh that everyone recognized. He laughed a lot because he loved to hear and tell stories.

He was the man who ran all the press box pools. There might have been a rule about cheering in the press box but nothing said you could not gamble.

Moore’s operation was precise and thorough. He organized pools of two dollars, five dollars, 10 dollars and 25 dollars. There was money to be made – if, of course, you had it to spend and were lucky.

Somehow, Moore and his wife Linda often took off season cruises. Where, we wondered, did he get the money for them? Profit from pools, perhaps?

Of course, we weren’t serious. Just having fun with Moore, who always responded with that laugh of his.

He also timed pit stops on his own. After each contender completed his stop Moore’s voice would resoundingly proclaim to the press box the result – “14.5! 14.5!”

Moore unintentionally created what became a regular procedure for the twin 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500.

Once when looking at the two pages of 125-miler lineups handed out in the media center, Moore noted that one field had far more, uh, “headstrong” drivers than the other. He predicted chaos.

“One lineup seems tame but look at who is in this other one,” Moore said. “I tell you this race is going to be a zoo and a half!”

For years afterward writers would pay close attention to the twin lineups, searching for the “zoo and a half,” a phrase that became a regular part of Daytona 500 coverage.

Moore kept working until his cancer prognosis. I was fortunate to talk to him once. He was upbeat, determined to recover.

“You came through with flying colors and I intend to do the same,” he said.

I wish he had. But at least we know he’s in a batter place.

During his life and career Moore established himself as a trusted journalist. More important he became a mentor and friend who earned respect from the entire NASCAR community.

Bob Moore did not have a single enemy. Not one.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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WAID’S WORLD: Furniture Row’s Demise Is Result Of The Economics Of NASCAR

The announcement by team owner Barney Visser that he would fold Furniture Row Racing at the end of the season, due to a failure to find appropriate sponsorship, comes as a sad occurrence for NASCAR.

It is a most unfortunate happenstance for the sanctioning body, and its competitors and fans, to lose the team with which Martin Truex Jr. won the Monster Series NASCAR Cup championship just last season.

It means that in the space of 10 months the sport has lost the organization ranked as its best, by which it rightly earned through its accomplishments.

It is hard to imagine.

But economics have prevailed. Visser explained that his aggressive search for new sponsorship to replace the departing 5-hour Energy was not successful. He could not find a means to offset rising costs.

He said he was not going to spend his own money. Nor should he. And he added that he made his announcement in time, hopefully, for his employees to find work elsewhere. This is very laudable.

One might wonder why a successful, championship team could not acquire proper funding. But then, one might well wonder why a Hendrick Motorsports team with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has not, as of this writing, found a sponsor.

The answer, at least in my opinion, is not all that complicated.

The economic times dictate that companies and corporations must be cautious as to how they spend their money.

Sure, we have all heard about the rising stock market and the dwindling jobless rate but those numbers do not translate into corporate spending that does not make economic sense.

And as of now investing in NASCAR might not make economic sense to much of corporate America.

Let’s review the sponsorship environment that exists today.

Where once NASCAR teams could enjoy sponsorship from a single entity at a high price – and we all remember that era – now even the most successful and popular organizations are required to land several financial backers to carry them through a season.

That means it is more difficult to find the needed money. Ask Visser. Ask Hendrick Motorsports.

Many observers have lashed out at NASCAR claiming it, through its greed, has not worked for the benefit of its teams when it comes to sponsorship.

If it had done so, it’s said, Furniture Row Racing would have never come to this end.

Perhaps. I know that in the past NASCAR has indeed helped some of its more prominent teams acquire sponsorship.

But, at the same time, it has gone about securing financial support for its own programs and even its major series.

Over the years a few sponsors have told me that almost as soon as they signed a deal with a team they got a call from NASCAR.

That being so I find it very hard to accept the fact that the sanctioning body would idly stand by and not attempt, in some way, to assist a championship team.

Why would it not do so? In the end it suffers if for no other reason than it stands to take tremendous public relations and image hit. And it has.

I think we all would like to think that it tried to do something even though, to be honest, it was not compelled to do so. Maybe it did, maybe not.

In the end that is not really the point.

The point is that teams have always done the search for sponsorship on their own. Those they find and the amounts they pay have always been parts of mutual agreement – with little, if any, outside influence.

And if in today’s environment such agreements are difficult to arrange or must be shared by mutual parties, then so be it. That can change.

But until then it seems there was nothing Furniture Row Racing was able to do about it.

Champion Truex Jr. will move on to Joe Gibbs Racing.

That – and the fact that Visser made the announcement of his team’s demise timely and with the welfare of his employees in mind – are at least two positive things we can take from this disheartening episode.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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WAID’S WORLD: A Knock At The Door In 1976 Created A Lasting Friendship

I first met him in 1976 in Florence, S.C., not far away from Darlington Raceway.

It was after a day’s hard work, created by the news that NASCAR’s “independent” drivers, those without factory backing and sponsorship, were going to revolt because they were unable to make a living. They were tired of losing money while others got rich.

I was in a cheap motel, which, in that era of limited expense accounts, was all I could afford.

I had finished a dinner of burgers and fries when there was a knock at my door. I opened it and there he stood.

He was a tall, heavyset, imposing figure. I knew him upon sight. I had heard of him. So had virtually everyone else.

He was Tom Higgins of the Charlotte Observer. If any man had a reputation as a journalist covering NASCAR that preceded him, it was Higgins.

I stood in the open door. I was wide-eyed with surprise. I said nothing.

His eyes were almost clinched shut. His facial expression was menacing.

He pointed a finger at me and said:

“You …. are riding with me.”

To which I replied, “Yes sir.”

He led me to his car. I got in the back seat behind him and his wife. We drove away from the motel.

We traveled through Florence, Darlington, Hartsville and all the farmland in the counties therein.

All the while he spoke of himself, where he was raised, his family, how he came to be a journalist, his early times at the Observer, his personal life, his success and failures – and his appreciation for what I had done.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, really.

I was working for Roanoke, doing my thing at Darlington when the news of the “independent” revolt broke out.

It was a major event. To put it in perspective it was just as strong as the debate in the NFL about kneeing during the National Anthem.

But its consequences were much more daunting. If the drivers who staged the revolution did so successfully NASCAR would lose the majority of its competitors.

Higgins was not at Darlington. He had chosen to forego the trip in order to be there when his wife was released from medical treatment. He wanted to bring her with him.

So when the news broke he was not there to cover it.

There was a cadre of journalists who, of course, were in competition with Higgins and the Observer. They were not about to let him have any part of the story.

To that end they confronted a Charlotte Motor Speedway official and told him that if, in any way, he informed Higgins of the details they would have his job.

It all happened in front of me. I was a relative rookie not fully entrenched with, or accepted by, my elder peers. I was ignored as someone of no consequence.

But they did not know that I had my own sources. I had gathered all the information. I was very fortunate in that the late James Hylton, the head of the revolution, was a friend who did not hesitate to tell me everything – in detail.

All of which I gladly reported and sent back to Roanoke. I daresay the Times/World-News had the most compete accounting of what had occurred.

I saw Higgins the next morning. He was fully aware of what happened. His own contacts and his reporting savvy had allowed him to print a truncated version of the events, but not in the detail provided by his scheming rivals.

I knew him only by reputation. I had never spoken to him. But I was driven by a strong sense of fair play.

I handed him several sheets of paper and said, “Here are all the details. I have information here that others do not. I was able to tap into sources at the core of everything. I have what others don’t.

“And I know what happened. Please, feel free to use this in any way you wish. To me, it’s only fair.”

I didn’t think much of it after that.

At least not until there came that knock at my door.

That night I learned that Higgins was a man who was not about to forget favors. He was not a man who would fail to express appreciation. He was not a man who was unable or unwilling to make new friends.

Of course I had no way of knowing where that knock on the door in 1976 would lead.

But it led to a strong friendship, a camaraderie that would span decades of travel, work, good times and bad.

It lasted until his unfortunate passing on July 31.

By that time what we were together had become a part of NASCAR lore.

We became known as Pappy and the boy.

It would have never been so if, in 1976, there had not come a knock on my motel door followed by those words:

“You … are riding with me.”

And oh, did we ride.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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WAID’S WORLD: Harvick Leads The Way For ‘The Big Three’

The “Big Three” have dominated the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series news lately, so much so that I suspect that, right now, you really don’t want to hear much more about them.

Fair enough. However, I don’t think it’s likely that the media is going to back off reporting about them because, simply put, they are making all the news.

Consider the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire. Kevin Harvick won the race for his sixth victory of the season.

Kyle Busch finished second and he has five wins this season. Martin Truex Jr. wound up fourth and he has four victories.

“The Big Three” have won 15 of 20 races this year, took three of the top four positions at New Hampshire and hold down the top three spots in the point standings, with Busch at No. 1.

And they show no signs of slowing down.

As if all the above isn’t enough the finish at New Hampshire came down to a closing battle between Harvick and Busch.

Harvick won by making the classic “bump and run” maneuver to shove Busch out of the way with seven laps to go.

As unsportsmanlike as the move appears – deliberately making contact to seize the advantage – in NASCAR it is accepted as a clean, strategic play. Of course that only applies when it is done correctly. If it results in a wreck it’s considered dirty pool.

Nearly all drivers have made the move but perhaps the competitor most noted for it was Dale Earnhardt. It contributed to his “Intimidator” persona.

He called it “ratting the cage.” But even he wasn’t perfect and thus created mayhem from time to time. Terry Labonte can tell you that.

“I needed to make the move when I did,” Harvick said. “The more opportunities to get in his wheelhouse, his thought process, the better. The less chance you have … he’s that good.”

For his part, Busch, no stranger to controversial incidents, admitted Harvick’s strategy was proper.

 “I was in the way so no harm, no foul,” he said.

I am a believer that competitors take their experiences at races and file them in their heads. They remember.

So it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a voice in Busch’s head singing, “Til we meet again.”

But back to Harvick. Yes, I have written about him before. But in recent years he has enjoyed the most productive time of his career.

His six wins are the most he’s had in a single season and there are still 16 events remaining.

He showed his potential early and dramatically.

He was the Richard Childress Racing replacement after Earnhardt tragically lost his life at Daytona in 2001.

Two races later, at Atlanta, Harvick scored a dramatic, narrow victory over Jeff Gordon that ranks as one of the most emotional in NASCAR history.

Harvick proved to be no flash-in-the-pan. He won 23 times with Childress from 2001-2013.

Things got better after he hooked up with Stewart Haas Racing in 2014. Harvick has won 20 more times. His career total of 43 victories is just one behind Bill Elliott and three behind Buck Baker.

He won the championship in 2014 and, save for 2016, he has not finished lower than third. He’s in second place now and joins Busch and Truex Jr. as the leading contenders of another title.

These drivers likely feel confident their teams can win anywhere. Given the circumstances, why wouldn’t they?

“Points are everything and getting a ‘W’ is what it’s all about,” Harvick said.

Can’t argue with that.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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WAID’S WORLD: A Dominant Trio Is Something NASCAR Has Seen Before

The character the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season has assumed isn’t the kind most fans would like to see.

And a sport that often promotes its high level of competition probably doesn’t like it, either.

Three drivers have dominated the season. They have won 14 of 18 races. They have 19 stage wins among them. They occupy the top three positions in the point standings. It’s reasonable to assume they will be strong favorites to battle for the championship – and one of them will win it.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have become known as “The Big Three” of the season so far. Busch and Harvick have five victories each, Truex four. If you want a foursome include Clint Bowyer with two wins.

Unless you are a fan of one or more of them, this isn’t the kind of thing you perceive NASCAR to be all about. To have multiple winners is your thing. The sanctioning body also likes it.

But as it is in every sport sometimes a select few teams or athletes rise above the others. Happens all the time.

I assume you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you it’s happened in NASCAR before – more than once, in fact.

It was particularly flagrant in 1974 when three drivers combined to win 27 of that season’s 30races.

It happened during a time when NASCAR tried hard to equalize the competition and made many expensive rule changes to make that happen.

But it was to no avail.

It was the season of Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and David Pearson. They were already seasoned stars and multiple championship winners, so no one was overly surprised that they were successful.

But no one figured they would be so dominant. Petty and Yarborough won 10 races each and Pearson, who did not compete on short tracks, won six.

NASCAR desperately attempted to regulate competition and derail their efforts. During the year it made a whopping five major rule changes.

In March of 1974 the sanctioning body made what it said was going to be its only rule change of the year. It mandated that teams use a new carburetor on engines no larger than 366 cu. in.

But by April NASCAR allowed teams running larger engines to utilize yet another carburetor, one that allowed the intake of more air.

However, after Chevrolets running the smaller engine filled the top six positions at Martinsville, with Yarborough the winner, competition was in trouble. NASCAR reacted with yet another change that called for more carburetor alterations.

And there were more to come.

As you might imagine teams became frustrated for several reasons – most of them financial.

“I got home from Martinsville and got another rule change in the mail,” said independent driver/owner Richard Childress. “A few hours earlier I spent $70 on a carburetor that was obsolete before I ever used it.”

 “NASCAR has things so screwed up I don’t know what’s fair and what isn’t,” Petty said. “This small engine thing has cost us $50,000.”

“We get a lot of criticism,” said Bill France Jr., president of NASCAR. “But if you have a bad rule and you know it why stick with it?”

No matter what NASCAR did – this engine, that engine, this carburetor, that carburetor – it did nothing to stifle three of its best teams and drivers.

There was a reason for that. The teams, Petty Enterprises, Wood Brothers Racing and Junior Johnson and Associates, had the money and technical talent to capitalize on every new mandate.

Glen Wood, for example, had his engine builder develop and new 366 cu. in. Ford engine. As a result, Pearson never lost one fathom of his superspeedway prowess.

Among other things, the Pettys beefed up a 340 cu. in. Chrysler engine.

No one knew what Johnson was up to but that is the way he wanted it as Yarborough won repeatedly.

Petty’s words about the season and its revolving rule changes proved prophetic.

“No matter what the rules are the same teams are going to win,” he said. “The only difference is it costs everybody more money to make the changes.”

This year, to date, NASCAR hasn’t made any significant rule changes. Why bother? There is plenty of time for the competition to equalize before the season is over.

 Then again, that might not happen.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.