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Shirl Greer's Burn-Out Smokes Lakeland's Strip
Final Event At LIR Is A Drag


   "For the life of me, I can't understand what the problem is.  We're going to sit down in a week or two and do some serious thinking about next year," said Bill Taylor, who along with his brother Lee, and Stanley Wolf, owns and operates Lakeland International Raceway.

   Yesterday's 2,000-crowd count for final-day action in the International Hot Rod Association's Sportsman World Finals ended Lakeland's 1977 racing season.  The three days of championship racing, billed beforehand as "the biggest thing" in LIR history, attracted only 3,300, including an estimated 200 Friday afternoon and 1,100 Saturday night.

"We decided to cut back this summer (three events instead of six) and we moved this race back two weeks because the bad weather we had last year," added Taylor, who has been associated with LIR off-and-on for the past 15 years.  "Maybe it's a combination of things, I don't know."

   Taylor and his associates sunk $32,000 into what was called "the biggest thing" in Lakeland's history this weekend.

   "We went into this summer thinking everything was going to be OK.  But it hasn't.  We're breaking even.  And that's not the way to go.  I'm closing in on 47 years old and these gray hairs are getting thick.

  "On top of that I've got two other business that demand a lot of my time.  It's not smart business to work yourself silly in an operation that only breaks even."

   At this point in the conversation, Memphian Raymond Godman, one of the big names on the drag racing circuit, expressed his thoughts on the subject.

   "I think anytime you try to put something on after Sept. 15 you're maybe asking for trouble," said Godman, whose nationally known AA-fuel dragster 'Tennessee Bo-Weevil' has been sidelined for the season with engine trouble.  "In the spring everybody is exited about getting out in the pretty weather and watching racing again.  By September there are too many other things to occupy your time.

   "Like the Memphis State-Mississippi State football (48,832) Saturday night.  And the World Series."

  Taylor said it cost Lakeland $1,750 and $1,550 to get two of yesterday's Funny Car participants.  "And that's just to get them to run here," he said.  One of those in question is Shirl Greer, a long-time favorite of Memphis drag racing fans who has proved his worth no matter what the cost might be.

   The entry list for the three days of racing was 315.  That's up 10 cars over 1976's show. Nevertheless, the crowds were 500 under what they were a year ago when "it was terribly cold."

   Taylor has said many times with an additional $100,000 "we could make this track the showpiece of the Southeast."

   He added, "The people haven't changed.  I see some of the same people here who were here 11 years ago.  And then I see a lot of new faces.  Maybe if we can work everything out we'll have this thing a little earlier."

   Former Memphian Bill 'Maverick' Golden was awarded IHRA's sportsman of the year award during ceremonies yesterday.  He piloted his wheelstander to an 11:04 ET at 115 mph, well below his track mark of :10:24 at 128.

   "This is it for me this season," said Golden, who plans to take a Gulf coast vacation before preparing for the 1978 drag racing season.  "I've done everything I can this year.  It's time to do some fishing and take it easy for a while."


The preceding article is Copyright The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN.  
Thanks to David Rubenstein for supplying this article.



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