NASCAR, INDY: A COLD WAR ENDS

Here is a little NASCAR history that was published by THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT in 1994. Staff writer BOB ZELLER did an excellent job bringing NASCAR history to life. I dug it up in a search the other day for AAA.

NASCAR, INDY: A COLD WAR ENDS

The inaugural Brickyard 400 is scheduled for Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is the second of a three-part historical perspective.

On Thursday, May 13, 1954, an urgent message arrived at the office of chief steward Harry McQuinn at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

McQuinn’s men had spotted “Big” Bill France in the garage and pit area. What should they do?

Kick him out, McQuinn said.

Minutes later, the founder and president of NASCAR was escorted from the garage.

“He was given the old heave-ho,” the 1954 Floyd Clymer Indy yearbook said of the “amusing but not-so-pleasant” incident.

“I was there,” said speedway historian Bob Laycock. “I saw it happen. He just walked into the pit area and someone told McQuinn that Bill France was in the pits.”

Forty years later, Bill France Jr. and the entire NASCAR series return triumphant to the speedway for their own race – this Saturday’s sold-out, inaugural Brickyard 400.

Indy’s 82-year-old tradition of only one annual race has been broken by a same group of racers the Indy crowd once looked upon as hayseeds driving taxicabs in a sport with as much class as a demolition derby.

“Back then, it was like comparing a thoroughbred racehorse to a donkey,” said racing historian Greg Fielden, author of eight NASCAR history books.

In a large measure, the Indy tradition of a single race is the reason NASCAR hasn’t raced there until now. But the hostility between the people who ran Indy-car racing in the 1950s and Bill France Sr. played a big part.

“I just think there was too much friction earlier,” Fielden said. “NASCAR wasn’t particularly welcome up there, and their people weren’t particularly welcome down here in the South. There wasn’t much cooperation.”

The barriers fell only after Tony George, the growth-minded grandson of longtime owner Tony Hulman, ascended to the speedway presidency in 1990. George had seen his first NASCAR race in 1976, and liked it.

Ironically, George’s own dispute with IndyCar, the sanctioning body for the Indy-car series, helped hasten his decision to invite NASCAR to race at Indy. But the way the late Bill France told it, Hulman was never the problem in the first place.

“It was an unfortunate thing,” he told author Bill Neely in the late 1970s. “It certainly wasn’t Tony Hulman. He and I were friends. It was the old AAA (American Automobile Association) contest board, and they were jealous of NASCAR.”

Or contemptuous of NASCAR.

Either way, relations between the AAA contest board and France in the 1950s were as chilly as the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

A few years before he was kicked out of Indy, France had actually tried to work with the AAA, which sanctioned the Indy 500 and other auto racing in the United States until 1955, when it dropped out of racing and was replaced by the United States Auto Club.

“At some time, Bill France went to AAA to see if they would be interested in running a stock-car series,” said USAC historian Donald Davidson. “But the AAA said no. That’s when he went back down South and did what he did.

“No sooner had he got NASCAR going, the AAA began to sanction stock cars again. And that’s when the rivalry picked up.”

Periodically through the 1950s, both organizations suspended drivers for competing in the other’s races.

In 1952, NASCAR’s fifth year, France launched an Indy-car wing of NASCAR called the “Speedway Division.” The AAA called them “junk cars” and countered by scheduling an July 4 Indy-car race in Raleigh.

Neither venture endured.

In 1954, France made a flank attack on the AAA, establishing a NASCAR Auto Association. It didn’t survive.

That same year, when France announced plans for a stock-car speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., the Indianapolis Star called it a “pipe-dream speedway.”

And when McQuinn kicked France out of Indy, the AAA boss didn’t pull any punches explaining his action to National Speed Sport News. “We have a longstanding disagreement with NASCAR on what constitutes good racing,” he said.

France, to be sure, may have been trying to taunt the AAA when he invaded Indy. He had to borrow the silver badge one needed to get into the pits. Moreover, he said he had come to Indianapolis to confer with fairgrounds officials on a possible NASCAR race in the backyard of the Indy 500.

The enmity did not stop when USAC took over from the AAA. It continued into the early 1960s. In 1963, however, the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States, or ACCUS, was formed and the door opened for drivers from any type of racing to compete in any major national event.

It still took another 31 years to bring a stock car race to Indy, even though there were discussions about it in the early 1960s and late 1970s.

But the creation of ACCUS, and the end of the cold war between Indy and NASCAR, spawned a remarkable era in American racing, with Indy drivers competing and winning at Daytona and stock-car drivers coming to Indy. Foreign drivers did so as well.

And no race typified the new spirit better than the 1965 Indianapolis 500, which was won by Scotsman Jimmy Clark in a British-built Lotus-Ford serviced by NASCAR’s famed Wood Brothers. MEMO: Wednesday: Virginians invade the Indy pits.

Advertisements

1 Comment

  1. Good bit of mornin history. Loved it peace,Dawg


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s