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Minter: Memory Lane Leads To Talladega

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 23 2011

Talladega in the autumn is one of life's great pleasures. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing that gets the memories flowing more than a Sunday morning drive. The early morning trip to Talladega Superspeedway from my home in Georgia was a breeze, with little to no traffic on I-20 or even on Speedway Boulevard. It might be a bad sign for

the crowd this afternoon, but time—wise it was much better on the traveler than back in the day when my trips to Talladega were in the back seat of a Country Squire station wagon.

In the early 1970s, before I even had a driver’s license, I was fortunate enough to be invited to NASCAR races by a group of men from my hometown. We’d leave out before daylight, our fried chicken lunches packed in brown paper bags and soft drinks in a cooler.

That was before I-20 was complete, so we’d head west, through Douglasville, Carrollton, Bowden or Bremen and on into Alabama on two-lane roads. With a wagon full of enthusiastic race fans, the trip was one of the highlights of the day.

We always sat in the cheap seats on the backstretch. I think the tickets were $12.

Most of my traveling companions from those days are long gone, but still it doesn’t seem like nearly 40 have gone by.

Back then, most of the people in that car, especially the Stubbs brothers, Wesley and Weldon, were die-hard Ford fans. They went to the races mostly to cheer for David Pearson and the Wood Brothers Mercury. They’d tolerate a Dodge or Plymouth but they hated anything from General Motors.

I thought about them this morning when I looked at the infield scoreboard and saw the No. 21 fourth on the grid. They’d be so proud to know that the Wood Brothers were still racing, still fielding Fords and again competitive on the big tracks.

When Wesley was in his final days, one of the bright spots was a phone call from Pearson.

Walking through the garage, I saw Michael Waltrip’s Toyota, painted to resemble the brown Terminal Transport car that his brother Darrell drove in his Cup debut, at Talladega back in 1972.

That original car, a dark brown No. 95, didn’t go unnoticed by the guys from Fayette County, Ga. Its driver already was well-known on the Southeastern short track circuit.

And his car was a Mercury.

The engine blew before Waltrip got a chance to show what he could do, but that was just a minor set-back for the Stubbs brothers. They got to see what they came to see.

With two laps to go, Pearson passed Bobby Isaac for the win, and it was all smiles all the way back to Fayetteville.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 23 2011
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