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Big, Tough Cars Eye
          A Tough, Little Track


   "Gentlemen, start your engines."

   And with the wave of a green flag, Memphis and the Mid-South will shift gears today as members of the United States Automobile Club's growing family.

   It's the Memphis 200, a 133-lap test of endurance over Shelby County International Raceway's 1.7-mile road course, already a well known and respected nine-curve layout before its first tire burn.

More than 35 of the nation's finest late model drivers will rub fenders and bump bumpers in today's qualifying for tomorrow's 2:30 showdown.


 The fastest 30 will qualify for a slice of tomorrow's $20,000 purse, plus 40 percent of the gate, which SCIR officials are hopeful will reach 20,000 for the two days of high speed chase.

   All the big names on the USAC circuit are here, including A.J. Foyt, Roger McCluskey, Don White, Butch Hertman, Parnelli Jones, Vernon Eaker and Jack Bowsher along with most of the top rookies.

   McCluskey, who arrived Thursday to get a sneak preview of SCIR's curvy course, is USAC's No. 1 point collector with 890, while Foyt is second with 712.  White has 618, Jones 500, Hartman 424, Eaker 420 and Bowsher 410.

   USAC rules prohibit practice runs prior to a race.  They'll get in their cars at noon today for qualifying and that will be it.  Practice and qualifying are one in the same.\

   Any driver in the top four in point standings could claim the first place spot with a victory.  A first place finish is worth 400 points.

   A breakdown of the point prizes for the race shows 320 for second, 280 for third, 240 for fourth, 200 for fifth, 160 for sixth and 120 for seventh.

   William F. Taylor, supervisor of USAC's stock car division, said, "this is the tightest road course ever run by USAC drivers.

   "It should produce much closer competition.  It is also the shortest road course ever run by USAC, which should increase the competitive angle."

   According to USAC rules, a late model stock must weigh more than 3,900 pounds.  "That makes it very difficult to take that many turns regularly to cover 200 miles," Taylor added.

   SCIR is ready.  "We've been going full steam to make some minor corrections," said Bill Taylor, president of the West Tennessee Timing Association, which owns SCIR.

   Double guard rails, twice as many protective posts, lengthening the course's straightaway wall and the smoothing of some of SCIR's curves will bring the treacherous layout up to USAC standards in time for today's qualifying.

   Point-leader McCluskey is the favorite, especially since he mastered USAC's only similar course at Wentzville, Mo., last August.

Lakeland camping ad from the Commercial Appeal.


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

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