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Note: The copy of this article, made from microfilm, had a few illegible words which appear as '????'

THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL

Monday Morning, July 7, 1969
USAC Bosses Blast The 200; Will Demand Change

By LARRY REA

   Color the first Memphis 200 an embarrassing red.

   The United States Automobile Club, which sponsored the race June 29 at Shelby County International Raceway, left Memphis with a sour taste, so bitter one USAC official said it could mean a death blow to the Mid-South hopes of landing a spot on big-time racing’s million-dollar circuit.

   "We can’t afford to come back there unless things are changed," said William F. Taylor, stock car supervisor for USAC.

   Taylor, who joined USAC’s staff in April, 1968 left Memphis red-faced from a combination of the 100-degree heat and a chain of events which handicapped his organization throughout the race.

   He spoke strongly on Memphis’ automobile racing hopes.

   "First, they are definitely going to have to resurface the track, at least a good portion of it," he said. "Also, they’re going to have to provide better communication. Frankly, they’re a little short of knowledgeable people on their staff.

   "They did the best they could to get the track prepared. We couldn’t get a paving contractor Saturday night before the race. We just couldn’t seem to get hold of the right people ."

   (Spokesmen for the Memphis track said they were aware of most of the difficulties in the running of the 200. "Many of the problems were the kind you usually find the first time around of such a race," one said.)

   The heat, which took its toll on the drivers and spectators, wasn’t forgotten by Taylor.

   "It was a combination of heat and some rough spots in the track that had been patched that caused the most trouble," he said. "They definitely need more availability of water supply in the pits. It was almost non-existent during the race."

   Deep holes on curve nine were tough on the drivers, as well as spectators. Marvin Gamble, Jr., a photographer from Nashville, was struck on the right shoulder by a concrete chunk.

   Taylor credited the track’s buckling with the heat, and said, "they laid it in a hurry for the Cotton Carnival Grand Prix and installed it over wet grounds.

   "There just wasn’t time to really impress upon them the importance of a few minor details. They did correct the crash wall."

   Taylor and Norm Nelson, owner of the winning car driven by Roger McCluskey, agreed that the race should be re-scheduled at a different date; or at least have a better starting time.

   "????? weather record, they might find a better starting time than 2 o’clock," said Taylor. "It’s the hottest part of the day. If they insist at this time of the year they should provide some kind of shelter for the drivers and mechanics. The only shelter was for the scorer and they couldn’t work outside."

   Nelson, who started his racing career in 1940, said the race would be better suited for "possibly late April or early May," which would bring the event into direct conflict with the Cotton Carnival Grand Prix held this spring on May 3-4.

   "If not then, why not in October?" Nelson asked. "Or, maybe even at 4 in the afternoon. By that time the track has cooled. As you probably noticed, that’s when the best qualifying times were turned in during Saturday’s races. It means a lot to the drivers if the track’s cool."

   McCluskey declined to criticize on the twisting 1.7 mile, nine-curve course. "I’d just like to thank the people of Memphis for the way they treated us here," he said. "I’ve never been treated better at any track."

   None of the criticism was ???? Timing Association, owners of the year-old renovated track. "They did the best they knew how," said Taylor. "They took our advice as much as possible."

   Taylor anticipates improvement at SCIR. Now that they’ve been through one exercise, I’m sure they’ll work things out better next time. But we’ll have to make certain things are done before we’ll come back again."

   Taylor was pleased with the 13,453 turnout for the race, but offered two reasons why it wasn’t as successful as first hoped:

   "First, there was the heat," he said. "Secondly, it was ???? admission ticket will cost you about $4 or $5, with the top seats about $8" Ticket prices for the 200 were $6, $7 and $10.

   "They were too high," Taylor added. "That was a serious mistake, particularly on a first event. It could only create an impression of not coming back."

   Most racing followers agree the Mid-South is a prime testing ground for the sport. In fact, a Detroit promoter is said to be considering a track halfway between Memphis and Nashville on Interstate 40.

   Also, on a test run are planned tracks at St. Louis and Kansas City. If St. Louis lands a course, than Memphis’ chances for big time recognition would drop.

   "You’ve got a big marketing area here," said Nelson, who is the only driver to win the USAC stock car crown three times and is the all-time point leader for the stockers.

   Automobile racing in the U.S. has been described as a giant supermarket, in which manufacturers and accessory firms show their wares, and as a theater for the entertainment of millions.

   Fairground Speedways at Nashville, the Mid-South’s ???? recently announced construction plans on a new high banked 7/8 mile racing plant for 1970.

   The new track will be built with a $876,000 covered grandstand, which will have a seating capacity of 18,500, 8,000 more than the existing grandstand. The speedways is home of the NASCAR Nashville 400, which will be run July 26 at 8 p.m.

   SCIR officials are moving ahead with plans to gain a spot on one of the national circuits. Mid-South Sports Action, Inc., is hopeful of attracting another major race sometime this fall, possibly in early October.

   The Mid-South has long been a solid rock on the drag racing ???? something new and different. "It’ll take time to develop," said Taylor. "I think you’ve got it started here," Nelson added.

 


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

 
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