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Woody: Some Thrilling Memories

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 1 2011

Joie Chitwood III in the front row at Daytona International Speedway. (Photos courtesy of Daytona International Speedway)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Joie Chitwood III has his first Speed Weeks under his belt as president of Daytona International Speedway, and all the events were crowd-wowing successes – as has come to be expected whenever a Chitwood and a racetrack come into contact.

Joie’s grandfather founded the famous Joie Chiltwood Thrill Show, in addition to competing in seven Indy 500s and racing Sprint Cars. His son, Joie Jr., eventually took over the stunt-driving duties in the Thrill Show.

Joie III also joined the show for awhile, then branched out into administration.

Back in The Day, the arrival of the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show was a big deal, the sort of entertainment side-order extravaganza that’s missing from most of today’s local-track menus. (Which helps explain some of their rusting turnstiles.)

The Chitwood show was good, clean fun. Sure, it was kinda hokey, but so what? The stunt-driving was exciting but not death-defying. You never worried that you’d end up a Chitwood shy a load after it was over.

One of my favorite Chitwood moments:

The Thrill Show was booked to perform at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway one Saturday night

Joie Chitwood III has spent a lot of time around steering wheels.

following the regular schedule of fender-banging. Throughout the evening’s schedule, at every break in the action announcer Ed Hamilton would remind the crowd to “be sure and hang around for the world-famous Joie Chitwood Thrill Show.”

After the final race, while the track was being prepared for the show, my sports writing cohort Joe Caldwell wandered into the broadcast booth and – as usual – began to mischievously agitate.

Caldwell asked Hamilton what time the “Joie Thrillwood Chit Show” started.

“Darn it, Caldwell, cut it out – you’ll get me confused,” hissed Ed, already discombobulated by trying to keep up with race results, program breaks, commercials, PA announcements and the thousand other things involved in the whirlwind of a live radio show. (The track announcing was carried simultaneously on a local radio station.)

Caldwell laughed and strolled out of the broadcast booth, but not before asking Ed one more time about the “Joie Thrillwood Chit Show.”

A few minutes later all was ready down on the track and over the PA system/radio airwaves Hamilton boomed: “And now ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: please direct your attention trackside for the start of the world-famous JOIE THRILLWOOD CHIT SHOW!”

The crowd roared with laugher, and through the glass patrician that separated the broadcast booth from the press box a steaming, red-faced Hamilton shook his fist at a hee-hawing Caldwell.

The glass panel blocked out Ed’s words but we could read his lips.

Those were the good days, the fun days, of racing, and the Chitwoods and similar entertainers played a major role in helping draw the crowds that supported the sport on the grass-roots level.

Today the thrills may be over but the fond memories live on.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 1 2011
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