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Interview with Harold Smith, Part 2

Smith, Harold
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
Smith, Harold; Smith, Randy; Mason, William; Brown, Perk; Burris, Carl; NASCAR (Association); Motorsports; Drag racing; Racetracks (Automobile racing); Stock car drivers; Stock car racing; Pit crews; Automobiles, Racing--Motors--Modification; Automobiles, Racing--Design and construction; Automobile racing--Accidents; Automobiles, Racing--Maintenance and repair; Automobile racing--Employees; Automobile racing drivers--Family relationships; North Carolina--Davie County; North Carolina--Winston-Salem; Virginia--Lynchburg; Virginia--Bassett; Pennsylvania--Langhorne
In this second interview, modified stock car mechanic, pit crew member, and motorsports enthusiast Harold Smith reflects on his experiences in the racing community from the 1950s through the time of interview. Mr. Smith describes how he began working part-time in the evenings for William Mason in his garage in the 1950s, then full-time in 1962. He also talks about how he co-owned a drag racing strip called the Lakeview Drag Strip until it closed in 1962. Mr. Smith describes differences between modified races and Grand National races noting that involvement in the former didn’t require a full-time commitment. He then compares drag racing and track racing in terms of wear on the cars. Mr. Smith reminisces about the drivers of Mr. Mason’s cars, including Carl Burris and Perk Brown, whose driving style he characterizes as cool and collected. He describes what it was like to work for Mr. Mason, who was known best for engine building, explains why he quit working for him, and shares stories about rowdy fans. Mr. Smith then talks about his own mechanical strengths, and in particular, his innovativeness and skill in working within the margins of the rules to gain advantage. Mr. Smith was able to capitalize on this skill for his son Randy Smith, whose racing career began in 1980, and for whom he worked as crew chief until 1989. Mr. Smith concludes the interview by sharing his thoughts on how racing has changed over the years in four phases, and his belief that he and Mr. Mason had the talent to be successful in more prestigious races such as the Grand National with the right kind of financial backing.
North Carolina--Winston-Salem; Virginia--Bassett; Virginia--Lynchburg; Pennsylvania--Langhorne; Virginia--Bassett; circa 1950 - 2008
Interview Setting: 
Home of Harold Smith, Virginia--Bassett
Motorsports Collection
Interview Audio: 
HS: Harold Smith
CW: Christina Wright

Mindisc 1 begins.

CW: Today is March the 19th 2008. This is Christina Wright interviewing Harold Smith for the UNC Charlotte oral history archive. We’re at 81 Sun Valley Dr., Bassett, Virginia 24055. Mr. Smith’s been involved in racing for most of his life, initially as a drag racer in his youth and as a mechanic crew member engine builder and car owner and he still build-- building vintage cars. This is our second interview and last time you told us all about the drag car racing and the drag car strip that you had with your friends. And I wondered if you could back up and tell, tell us how you first met William Mason, and how your relationship grew what he was like and how you came to work for him as a full time mechanic.

HS: Well that was in ’55 August of ’55 when I got out of the air force. First day of August in ’55. (pause) And I I’d been home maybe two or three days and I went by one day and he he wasn’t at the garage where he lived. He had another garage up the road from me that he was renting and I saw him out there working and I knew him and I stopped and he was fooling a racecar. And so he didn’t have nobody to go with him and asked me to go with him to Lynchburg and it was on a Friday night they was running Lynchburg dirt track up there. So I wound up going with him and I don’t know where we finished or what but anyway I think the car was heat because he had a problem in the heat. Then I didn’t fool with him no more for, I don’t know two or three weeks or something I went by one day and they was going to Starkey. And so he didn’t have room to go so a bunch of us got in my car and went. And so then it went on the next year I went two or three times. Then we built the drag strip in ’58, and I got back involved with him again after we got it built and bought a Cadillac engine off of him that he had built to go to Langhorne, Pennsylvania. And they couldn’t keep-- Holman Moony had hard faced a crank for him and they couldn’t keep it from swelling up and he got, disgusted with it and just pushed it up under the bench a complete engine with two fours on it. And I went up one day and he said “I’ll sell you that engine for 100 dollars.” So I put it in my, had a ’33 Ford coupe. Put it in it up at his shop he helped me put it in cranked it up and the crankshaft swelled up as soon as it got hot, locked up there on the floor. Then I was r-- at that time I was working at WNB Chevrolet and so I had a friend that worked there too Donald Brown. So I was telling him about it what I’d bought and he said well somebody had give him a ’49 Cadillac had been turned and they wanted the transmission out of it. And if I’d help him turn it over and get the engine out, now we rolled it over on the side and the got the engine transmission out and we took the crank and the rods out from that engine and put in this engine I bought from William. Anyway I went on to win over 50 drags, with that with that engine and I if I if I wasn’t working at the drag strip or fooling had time I’d go with William to the races and all--

CW: Um-hum. What--

HS: --But in 1962 Donald quit William and started his own car, build his own race car and then I-- I said “Well I’ll just--” William talked to me and I started helping William full time.

CW: Um-hum. In that earlier period in 1955 and for the next few years, what would you do? You’d just go a lot you’d help him with the car a little bit and you’d go along to the races and be like the pit crew. How how did you help him out?

HS: Well we’d just yeah go and if he’d need any help do anything at the track. And I’d go up at nights a lot of nights I’d go up there if they towed a car up I’d help them fix it back and not even get to go to the track. And we just become good friends you know after I bought this engine off of him. And just I used that for a hang out place when I didn’t have nothing else to do. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum. How far away did he live?

HS: Oh we was about four miles I was about four miles from him.

CW: Um-hum. And and he had he had his own garage right?

HS: Yeah. Um hum.

CW: (clears throat) And s--and--

HS: It was built behind his house and later on he got into the selling speed parts and he sold tires and he was a franchise dealer for Franklin Quick Change rids and, in other words he was in it real heavy and these M & H racing slicks he was a, a franchise dealer for them. He was in, he got in it, in a big way, but he still raced.

CW: And, and was he usually the driver in that early time? Himself or was he--

HS: Well he drove some before. I never did see him drive, he had done quite driving, when I got out of service. And he started with, he had Perk Brown, started driving the car. And Raymond Carter was the first one and they bought a car for Buck Duvall. And Buck was winning the races at Lynchburg with the car, with Buren Skeen driving it. William bought the car, Buck had to build him another car, and Raymond started winning, and Buck Duvall started losing. (laughs)

CW: (speaks simultaneously) (laughs) Oh dear.

HS: And then the next year in ’56 Gordon and Buck come to Martinsville and run the race, the first race in April, and William walked up Buck and told him what he give them for the car in Victor Lane, and bought the car right there in Victor Lane. (laughs) And that put Buck out again. (laughs) But that’s what really put William, got him started, he had, had top cars, and William was excellent on engines. And they had in ’55 they had started running the V8 Chevrolet small block. And William known what to do to them things.

CW: Um-hum. So he, what did you do when you were going to garage, what was your specialty there?

HS: (laughs) I, wasn’t no specialty.

CW: You were the sort of the go, fetch it boy?

HS: If they needed help start the frame, I done it, and welded something I done it ‘cause I could, I could weld. And just anything working on the cars I don’t know it just you know.

CW: Is this where you really had your education do you think? I know you’d already you know done all kinds of things in mechanics. And--

HS: Well in 1951 when I went in the Air Force, when I got of basic training, they sent me to Ohio School of Trades--

CW: Right.

HS: --a civilian school in Columbus, Ohio, it was on the Ohio State campus. And we lived in Knights of Columbus Hotel. And we took up a mechanic course now. They had a racecar there and the instructors, it was three instructors at this school, and one of them drove a car and I don’t know, I don’t know whether they owned or the school owned it or what, but it had the Ohio School of Trades ad on the car. Well I got pictures of this car. And that’s that’s why I really got interested in racing. But I was interested in the 40s and I think it was ’47 or ’48 that I, we walked from Stanleytown to Martinsville Racetrack on the railroad track. And--

CW: That was your first, yeah you--

HS: That was--

CW: --described that in--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --in the previous interview,--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --and that is a great story.

HS: But I don’t, that was before I went in service, but I don’t, I don’t really know what year it was.

CW: Um-hum. Right. Now when your drag strip was getting too expensive and you decided that you really had to close, you decided then to go full time with William Mason. And you were saying also his other helper was was leaving and starting out--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --on his own at that time. So how much time did you spend with with William at this point?

HS: Oh, well I went, I’d say maybe the first year or something it was after that a long, you know it was every night--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --because we was running on Friday night and Saturday night, and sometimes Sunday evening. And we were somewhere about everyday on the weekend. And then in ’65 Bobby Allison, Perk Brown had a operate--kidney operation, and Bobby Allison come along and got him to drive the car. And we’d run four nights a week. And we run ( ), Maryland on Wednesday night, and I’d get back just in time Thursday morning to go to work.

CW: What was your job at this time?

HS: I was looking after, keeping the town of Bassett clean. I was actually working for all of the plants in Bassett which was Bassett Furniture, Bassett Walker, Bassett Mirror, and Bassett Printing, they were all putting money into this Civic and Program Organization. And I was looking after all of the mowing and street sweeping, we had a street sweeper, and a garbage truck, and I drove the garbage truck, and I just, ‘jack of all trades’ with the helpers. That actually give me time to go to work and I had done start helping William full time before I took this job. And I had it with the understanding, when I took a job that if I need to get off early in the evening or something to go to a racetrack before quitting time, that that you know I could do it. And it wouldn’t be no argument.

CW: Um-hum. That’s good.

HS: Well it, it worked out good.

CW: That’s really great. Which tracks did you race at this time?

HS: Oh at that time we was running a lot of dirt, and asphalt, mostly at Bowman Gray Stadium, and Starkey, and Lynchburg, and I don’t know whether we run Pulaski, I believe we did that run. And I would run later on in 60s. Southside in Richmond, and we’d run Strawberry Hill, and Bristol when they first opened up, they’d run modifieds up there, two or three races a year, three or four. And Martinsville, and Trenton, New Jersey; Langhorne, Pennsylvania, oh they just ( ) us tracks.

CW: Um-hum. And there were two, were the two cars gen--generally speaking at a time?

HS: Most of the time took two cars, had two drivers.

CW: Um-hum. So Perk Brown was the regular driver--

HS: Yeah well.

CW: --except for the year that Bobby Allison drove for--

HS: Yeah. Uh-huh.

CW: --and who was the other driver, that usually--

HS: Carl Burris and Raymond Carter was the first driver. And I didn’t help much while Raymond was driving. And he quit I don’t know, in the early 60s something, anyway him and Perk Brown got tangled up at Starkey. And they was both of them was trying to pass each other for the lead, and they the tore flag stand down, run up on the flag stand tore it down, knocked the flags out. (laughs) And they got in a big argument after the race was over, it was the awfulest mess you ever seen, and Raymond finally just quit and started racing his own car. Anyway Carl Burris started driving then. And. CW: What was the relationship usually like between the two drivers, were they very competitive with each other,--

HS: Oh, yeah,--

CW: --generally speaking?

HS: --yeah.

CW: Did they help each other out--

HS: But, but--

CW: --on the track?

HS: Carl always said that that Perk had the best car, you give him the best engine and all that, but he had it dead wrong. William would always give Carl the best engine and work on the car more trying to get it to handle better so he could run second. And Perk would just you know, he would just, Perk was one of the best. Well they say Ray Hendricks was the best, but I’d say Perk Brown was the best, but.

CW: The best, in modified?

HS: In driving.

CW: In driving in general, like Grand National, that type of thing?

HS: Because Perk had always tell me that it wasn’t but one lap of a race that meant anything and that was the last lap, and that’s what paid the money, and said the rest of them were lowly laps. (laughs) And--

CW: (speaks simultaneously) As long as you get, as long as you get through.

HS: they didn’t get, they didn’t get up all about leading the race, all except that last one. And I’ve seen him win a many race on the last lap, on the last two or three laps--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --And the guy leading the whole race thought he had the race won till that. Got down to the end he found that he didn’t.

CW: What kind of driver was Perk Brown, how would you describe him?

HS: He’s just cool. He never, never got shook up, nobody never shook him up no matter how, you know how they was beating and bang or what, and he just he had had that race figured. And he would set his pace and do what he had to do to be there at the checkered flag. And I seen them at Bowman Gray come up on lap cars, and they didn’t want to get out of the way because they didn’t want to go a lap down. And he’d run up for gas down the straightaway and when they let off to go on the corner he’d already be, be against their bumper, and he’d give just a little extra shove, and then push him out and they’d drive under him. And they’d come after the race and apologize to him, thinking that, that, that you know, that they’d like to race him.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And here he is pushing them out of the way. He use to laugh about that. (laughs)

CW: Who were his biggest competitors?

HS: Oh, good day. I don’t, I don’t remember a lot of them guys, but Glen Woods run well on the side of stock race before he went to Grand National. And he was a tough competitor. And I don’t know, Buren Skeen, and, shoot I can’t think all them guys at Winston-Salem. Ray Hendricks he was a tough one, and Sonny Hutchinson.

CW: Were these racers NASCAR sanctioned racers, or were these--

HS: Most of them.

CW: Um-hum. In the modified division?

HS: Yeah.

CW: Did Perk Brown, did he drive in the Grand Nationals?

HS: Oh yeah, he, he before he drove for William he drove in the early 50s, he drove a Hudson Hornet. I believe it was 78 races that year all over the United States. And it was and he won a bunch of them races. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t remem-- I, I was in the Air Force then I don’t even remember what year it was.

CW: Do you think that that there was a group that really preferred the modified races over the Grand National races?

HS: Oh yeah, that group at the, well it was actually, if you got into the Grand National you couldn’t do nothing else. You was running somewhere two or three times a week--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --and all over the United States back then. And they would start 50, 60, and 70 cars you know. And the modifieds and all that you stayed at home, and made your living, and this was just extra, like going golfing, or fishing, or something like that.

CW: Um-hum. Right, right.

HS: But going golfing you don’t really get paid, fishing you didn’t get paid. But if you was lucky you made some money in racing, right?

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And we was lucky enough that we made some money.

CW: Right, right. You were saying that Perk Brown, that Carl Burris always thought Perk Brown got the best car, but actually that wasn’t the case. What do you think most of the time, is, is it the driver and their skills, or is it the car that really makes, win’s the race?

HS: Well actually it’s both. But a good driver, ain’t nothing if he ain’t a good car. And a good car ain’t nothing if you ain’t got a good driver in it.

CW: Um-hum. Is is--

HS: And--

CW: --there is there an edge though, I mean is it like it, I don’t know, it’s one, does one edge over the other, so that you have the best car in the world. Like a really good driver could win a race in a, in a poorish car but--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --but you know--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --the most amazing car in the world if you can’t drive very--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --you couldn’t, you couldn’t race,--

HS: Yeah.

CW: and win it.

HS: You, you got--

CW: Did you see drivers who were really good who didn’t have, the equipment?

HS: Oh yeah, yeah. And I seen driver’s that had real good cars that couldn’t drive a lick. (laughs)

CW: Uh-huh, you did. (laughs) How, how did it, did work with William Mason? How, how did he recompense people for their time, and what was his relationship in that respect with the drivers, did he, divide the purse with that?

HS: Oh yeah, they they got a percentage and, and the whole time I helped him full time, I got a percentage of what we won, plus all expenses paid, bills, lodging, and everything plus for the percentage of what we won.

CW: Right, right.

HS: And but if you were I guess if you could do your job it’s better for him to do that because I was always wanting to finish good. And that’s why I like Perk because he he made his living at it, and had four children--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --and they had a little country store that they run but--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: He’d always say that that that checkered what pays the, buys the food they put on the table.

CW: Right. And he, it was full time for him--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --really. His, his wife was--

HS: Well he dabbled in this that and the other you know but but it was he depended on that racing--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --for his livelihood.

CW: Did you ever feel you want to get in the car and with your drag racing experience I mean, you told me earlier that you didn’t really like the round course racing, back then--

HS: Well, I don’t, I don’t know I just started out working on them, you can’t, you can’t drive a car and work on it. I mean to me,--

CW: Because?

HS: --I drove a few times. But you you always afraid you are going to tear it up ‘cause you know got to fix it, see. And I just, I just never did have no, William tried his best to get me to drive it some, and I just didn’t, I don’t know, I you know, what the few times I tried it I just,--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --I didn’t want to, I wanted to get out of the way ‘cause you know somebody run ride up the side by side, bump you a little bit or something and you going to tear the car up. I just work on it let the rest of them drive.

CW: Um-hum, yeah, I could see that. When you put so much time--

HS: Now dragging is different, you know. You ain’t got nobody worried about tearing the car up or nothing and I was pretty good at that dragging. You got to be good if you win that many--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --runs.

CW: What other drivers, ‘cause there were a number of drivers that drove for William during this period, right--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --besides those two, who else was driving that you remember?

HS: He’d picked up Red Farmer, drove, and Red Farmer come up one time, when running Richmond and as a 400 lap race up at Southside, and Red brought his little Fairlane, and he was trying to pick up points because it was a double point race. And so he come with Bobby Allison and them and they come by the shop, going all the way up there and we had the old coach sitting out with the big Ford 27 in it with fuel injection and running alcohol and all. And I, it was more than anybody could do anything with. And so we had told Red said you should go on up there at that little Fairlane, you ain’t going to do nothing, said go out try and take your canvas off the old couch, and put it on gas, and we’ll stretch, put it on gas, if you tuned it up and I’ll let you drive it. And they told him what was in it, Red said, “well I don’t know,” you know Red said, “Well nobody else can drive it they all say it’s got too much power,” and then he said, “I ain’t never seen a car with too much power.” Anyway we got it and twisted it, he went up there and won that race, with that car that night. And then all the rest of them wanted to drive it after that. (laughs)

CW: So did it get driven a whole lot?

HS: So it got drove a whole lot after that--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --There no such thing as having too much power. But we did, we lasted on gas after that, and eventually, it wasn’t long after that we took the end jacks off and put a four-barrel carburetor on it, and that tamed it down a whole lot. And we even run it at Bowman Gray stadium with ( ). (laughs) One evening of practicing he cut a pine tree, blow, cut the top off a pine tree, about 30 foot off the ground and landed on the roof of the field house. And fell off on the sidewalk. (laughs) And man that was some wreck.

CW: Did he have the most spectacular wrecks do you think, Paul Radford seems like he got in--

HS: He got into a pile of bad wrecks and none of them his fault. He had a bad wreck at Asheville and he actually run over Perk Brown, he was driving, Paul was driving for Basil Witicher, Fox they called him from Blue-- was it Bluefield, West Virginia I believe. Anyways in West Virginia and Perk lost it coming off at four, turn four, and he start towards the inside wall and Paul tried to cut under him and he caught him and the wall at the same time, and put him the air about 20, 30 feet. And he hit the ground three or four times, go back up in the air about that high, tore the body completely off that car. And it blinded him, it busted a blood vessel in behind his eye, and it blinded him for awhile, but he got his site back that day, and his eyes was black for two or three weeks, and whites his eyes, for all that blood that come in there. But he comes right back then goes South Boston and has two bad wrecks. One he went flying out the racetrack going in turn three, and hit a guy while on the light pole and that thing sprung in. And then when it, bought like a banjo, pulling a bow and arrow back, and when it went back it throw and flung back through the whole car and everything, flung back across the race track into the infield.

CW: Gosh, but he missed, nobody hit him?

HS: If that wire had a broke he probably killed 50 people out there, people backed up in their cars and all at that turn you know, standing there watching. Well my brother in- law standing there it was backed up there, and he was right there it had got him, they said if that wire would’ve broke.

CW: Right. Did, now when, how did the wrecks affect you? Did you, how did you generally respond to them?

HS: You don’t--go home and fix it. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And go back to racing. And a lot of times we didn’t bring much back. But that’s racing.

CW: Did it bother Paul, I mean he got back in the car and raced?

HS: He get right back in it.

CW: Why do you think he was so fearless?

HS: You’ll have to ask him.

CW: Um-hum, I guess.

HS: I got my own theory, but I ain’t going to tell you. (laughs) Now Paul was pretty good, he was a good driver. And he knew this, all this wasn’t his fault, 99% of them wrecks and all wasn’t his fault. And it was you know, the car or somebody else a hitting him, of something that’s causing his wrecks. And, that’s part of racing.

CW: Um-hum. Do you think people are not lucky? I mean do you think there are people who are lucky--

HS: Well.

CW: --and people who are unlucky in racing?

HS: I don’t know about that now. But a lot of racing you make your own luck, most of it. But now Paul he after, after he got over all this these cars breaking on him and people hitting him he turned out to win a heck of a bunch of races and was nicely known. But he liked to work me to death on the way. (laughs)

CW: (laughs) Yeah.

HS: I called him out, I built ’66 Chevelle for Satch Wheeler, drive late model Sportsman.

CW: What year was this?

HS: In, in ’74 I believe.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And when I got it ready to go to the tracks, Satch came down that night he said, “well I got bad news,” he said, “I took a ride with Lindy White in Roanoke and I’m going to drive his car ‘cause I believe I’ll be better off driving his car than your car.” And me and Otis Funk was ( ) and Otis had brought Satch all the way through financed him all the way through his racing and they wasn’t no kin, he just took Satch as, on as, you know a young kid to help him. And it just devastated him when Satch left because this was on Wednesday night when he’s going to practice on Thursday night at Calloway before the race on Friday night. And Satch left Otis said, “what in the world are we going to do now?” I said, “we’re going up to Calloway and win the race,” “how we going to do that?” And I went over and called Paul Radford, ‘cause I know he had a ride on Saturday night at Bowman Gray but he didn’t have a ride on Friday night, he was running modified on Saturday night at Bowman Gray. And I called him asked him what he was doing Friday night, he said, “nothing,” and I asked if he’d drive my car. And he said, “what happened to Satch,” I said, “he quit.” (laughs) I said, “we need to go tomorrow evening and try this car ‘cause they never been to the racetrack.” And he said, “hell if you built it bring it on up there Friday night, ain’t no use going up there wearing the tires and gas out.” And he wouldn’t go, so I carried it on up Friday evening, practice I think I turned one wedge belt about half turn or something, even when I’m sitting on a pole won the race, and Satch run second. And Satch ain’t never got over that (laughs) I laugh at him every time I see him. (laughs) But Paul said, “you go and built the car ain’t no use driving it, it’s right.” We had a bad wreck, we running some oil up there that year, at Calloway. I went in the wall and Hank Thomas run right in the door bars where Paul was sitting and pushed him way on around the track, and it completely whipped out both of the cars. And Paul found somebody down at Bowman Gray and that he knew that had a big frame machine when they worked on tractor-trailers, straighten them. And we took the body off that thing and carry it down there, the whole car with the motor transmission everything, in it, and they pulled it up on that frame and hooked up all these, chain, I ain’t never seen as many chains they hooked all over this thing. And they made everybody leave the building. And this guy went in this booth and started hitting buttons, and pushing buttons and going on. And about an hour he come out and said, “let’s unhook it.” They unhooked it, they said, “You got the same car you had last week before the wreck.” They said, “just like it was.” I looked and you couldn’t tell no difference. We went up there and sat it on the pole, won the race the next weekend, and everybody come (laughs) how we done it, they thought I built another car, you know and that was something unbelievable.

CW: Um-hum. Do you ever do that again?

HS: Nay, how would you ever do that again?

CW: (laughs)

HS: (laughs)

CW: I guess not. But, I, you didn’t ever use that equipment again to--

HS: No.

CW: --straighten anything out, yeah.

HS: I don’t remember who the guy was but Paul knew him from Bowman Gray. And but he had a sematics or something with this machine. And he had the measurements and all that of of a ’66 Chevelle frame. And all he had to do was just hook enough extra chains to the roll cage and all that so he could pull it off to pull the frame back to where it was suppose to be. And when he pulled the frame and the roll cage back it was would come back stuck the body back on it, well another body--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --most in it tore all the pieces. Went back and won the race.

CW: How long did Bobby Allison race with William Mason?

HS: He raced almost one full year in ’65. Now it was, I don’t really know, it was somewhere in May I guess, but when Perk got sick, but we went, Paul didn’t have a full ride, and we went two or three races and every time we’d go we’d win. Because this was the first modified that had been built with an underslung frame had a ’55 Chevrolet frame under it. And it was also a lot lighter than all these others. And it just, everybody got in the car wanted to race with it. We had several different drivers Runt Harris won a bunch in it. But anyway William said he just he’s just getting tired, we was going to the racetrack and didn’t even have a driver. We just picked a driver, if it was a good one. And there wasn’t no trouble to pick up a good driver with that car because they know they could win the race. If they you know, if they didn’t get involved in a wreck. And so Bobby Allison come to the south side one night, and had a ’55 Chevrolet he was running. And so after the race I went over talked to him ‘cause I got to know Bobby through Bristol, when he was running Bristol up there. And Bobby and them was running super modifieds while we was running regular modifieds, him and Red Farmer and a bunch of them. And I asked him about would he be interested in driving a car, well I said William looking for somebody to drive the car. And he said well, he said I’m going to trying to run for the National Championship in points. And I said well that be a good deal for you, work out something. I said, “you want me to go ask William?” And he said, “yeah I don’t care.” So I went, William had gone off talking to somebody, and I found him and told him I asked Bobby about it, and Bobby said he’d talk to him, so he went over, so I just left him alone. And so they made the deal right there and shook hands. And that’s when we run four nights a week. And plus when Bobby he would leave us either on a Saturday night or Sunday night, if we’d run a Sunday even race, and go back to Alabama and run Monday and Tuesday. And and some of them tracks, and then he meet us back at ( ) Maryland on Wednesday nights, he’d fly back up there, and he’d come. And we had Thursday off, and then Friday night we’d run south side, Saturday night we’d run South Boston, then we’d run Moyock ( ) down at Virginia Beach, it was a dirt track we’d run that some, it was several places that raced on Sunday. But if we didn’t have a race Sunday he’d jump on a plane and go back to Alabama and run Sunday night.

CW: Whose cars was he driving down there?

HS: I have no idea.

CW: (pause) So, that must’ve been quite a year. (laughs)

HS: That, that was something else.

CW: (clears throat)

HS: We run, I believe if I ain’t mistaken it was 43 races, we run after Bobby start driving the car, that summer and fall. Now that’s a bunch races.

CW: Um-hum, yeah you really needed the city of Bassett to give--

HS: But anyway--

CW: --you time off.

HS: --Bobby won the championship. But now it wasn’t all in William’s car, you know--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --The start of the season and what he would driving other than the nights that we went running. But that year we also run what two races at Martinsville, and I believe two or three more at Bristol, and Langhorne, Pennsylvania; and Trenton, New Jersey. I don’t remember where all it was, it was such a whirl win.

CW: Um-hum. It must’ve been very exciting though to be behind the champion that year.

HS: Yeah.

CW: (pause) What would, what William Mason like as a person, or, ‘cause you say he died in 1980s?

HS: And I believe he was 84, 85--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --when he died of colon cancer. And he was, William was a great fellow. And didn’t nobody fool with the pit crew or the drivers around the racetrack, or he’d get a tie tool or lug wrench or something after you, you didn’t fool with his helpers and his drivers. And he was right high tempered, but he was one of the best guys you ever met in your life. Everybody respected him they bought parts off of him, and he you wouldn’t believe that they people that he helped, that would’ve had to quit racing, you know if hadn’t a helped him. If they tear a car up or something he’d make them deals, everything, to get them back to run. And I’ve never seen him give nobody the wrong information on a, on car, so he could outrun them,--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --you know and.

CW: Some people do that.

HS: I never had either because I known how, how hard it was to fix them cars, and you don’t want somebody to go through all that and then turn around find out that you give them, told them wrong, and laughing at them you know. But I seen people do it. You see all kind of people in racing, rich people, poor people. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And people that won’t work, people that will work, (laughs) if it’s a type of person you go around racetracks and, and it’s there.

CW: Um-hum. What was his specialty as a mechanic, what was he most know for would you say?

HS: Engines. And William I never, he we I got into the Carl Spring deal, I, William didn’t want to do it. He’s still running straight axles, and I went to Glen Wood and talked to him about what I needed and everything to get start. And I built a ’63 Falcon Sprint, and William didn’t want to run it. And I said, “well I’m going to build it, somebody will run it.” But I didn’t have the money to run it. And it’s a spare. And I went over built it ( ) at the end there, William and I kind of talked him into it, kindly suckered him in (laughs) on the deal but I got him in non it. And we went to Martinsville and qualified fourth and finished second, and went in 300 lapers. And then we we’d run it five, six times I guess, and carried it to Bowman Gray, and I told William he was going to have to change springs before we went down there, wasn’t going to handle. He said, “well let’s go try it.” Went down and it wouldn’t do nothing, we didn’t even race, it handled so bad. And he come back in and parked it, wasn’t even running. And that was in ’68. And we started running the old couch again and that’s when Paul hit that tree and run up on, we had to build another car, I built about three, I believe three couches that summer. And we went to Pulaski, and we was running about everyone of them on dirt, that was on Sunday evenings, running up there. And we got up there and the clutch was slipping, no the clutch wasn’t slipping there, we had a ’39 Ford transmission in it, he wasn’t even, William was tight he wouldn’t even buy a 4 speed, still running out there with Ford transmissions. And it was jumping out of gear, out of high gear. And had a hook on it, it would, and Paul said it was jumping out from under the hook, and he couldn’t even hold it. So we got ready for the feature, Paul was on the pole, I told him back up, and I we put it in high gear, and I took my shoe string out and was tying it under that hook. And William stuck his head in that car wonder what I was doing, I told him he said, “I got a brand new clutch pressure plate flywheel in there, you ain’t going to burn that up.” And I said, he said, “untie that thing.” I said, “well Paul says if it jumps out of gear he’s going right over that wall.” He ( ), on each end of the track, and he said, “untie it.” So I untied it and slapped Paul shoulder and I said, “good luck”. (laughs) He led the whole race and got the white flag and he went in won and had to go high, for a slow car and he hit them ripples, and that thing jumped out of gear and he went right over that rock whole and it just, I got a picture of it here that I got here back in January that come from Motor Mouth. That chose it to wrecker a truck to it. And that’s when I quit William Mason.

CW: What was your, I mean I can see why you did, but what was the final straw there for you, that you decided, that you decided to quit?

HS: That, but, it was

CW: (in background) Was it--

HS: it started over this Falcon. He wouldn’t run the Falcon and--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --he just didn’t want to fool with it, but William made the agreement when I was building the car, that I’d look after the handling and he look after the engine. And he just, he just, I don’t know, he just didn’t want to do with a coil spring front-end car.

CW: Um-hum. Do you think it was pride, ‘cause it wasn’t his idea?

HS: I don’t, I don’t know I never did know why. But now we never, we weren’t enemies or mad, I worked and built, I built a Gremlin, the first Gremlin that he had I built. And it had problems with it. Now it had coil springs under it, but that’s when his grandson started working on them. And I think he had other people helping him too but they’d, they’d have a problem with something, and he’d call me at nights, and I’d go up there after he closed up. And talk to him, and tell him what I thought, and help him fix, or if he had the wrong coils or something under it, or you know try to make it work better.

CW: After you had left him.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Yeah, um-hum.

HS: And I helped him on up, the last cars he had, he’d call me and I go up there and they’d be having a problem or something, and help him. And then when Harry Gant started driving for William in them special races, I took my trailer truck and everything, and I looked after Harry Gant’s car, and you know took charge of it, just about everywhere we went, because at that time I wasn’t, didn’t have nothing myself for racing. It was in between cars. And when I had that ’66 Chevelle we carried it to Trenton, and to drive. And we blew two engines up there trying to qualify. And they had, William had the crew for Harry Gant and all, and when when my car fell out of the race, we couldn’t run, he asked me if I’d come over and take charge of Harry Gant’s car while it was running. You know during that race and I did, and that’s more than he had, was going to be, made the crew chief on the car, boy he got mad, and William told him go and sit down and shut up, he didn’t want to have nothing. (laughs)

CW: When did you first start using the term crew chief would you say? When do you remember hearing that for the first time?

HS: Oh lord, I don’t know. It wasn’t, it wasn’t crew chief back then, that was after I--

CW: Um-hum, right, it’s always when--

HS: --then later on the years now, I’m saying crew chief

CW: (in background) Yeah right.

HS: because.

CW: ‘Cause that’s basically what you were.

HS: Yeah. What we racing now you got a crew chief and all of that, my son Randy driving.

CW: Um-hum, yeah. Clear delineation of jobs, but you already had that some I mean you know you’re saying, that you were in charge of the handling--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --and William was in charge of the engines.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Did it bother you that, that William had put somebody’s life in danger? Paul’s life in danger with that wreck?

HS: Well, you never thought about nothing like that back then.

CW: No. (laughs)

HS: We just, what what I thought the dangerous part of that was and we weren’t going to win that race and I wasn’t going to get 10% of it.

CW: Oh.

HS: And I’m going come there we’re going to tear the car to piece I’m going to have to come back and build another car--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And I ain’t going to get no money.

CW: Right, right. Didn’t, did Paul continue to drive for him after this?

HS: Yeah.

CW: He did.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Right, right.

HS: He drove when I built the Gremlin, Satch drove it some and Paul drove it, and there were several different ones who drove it, to start with.

CW: Now when you left him in what ’68?--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --1968, did you have a car, did you start to build your own car that you could get someone to drive?

HS: Well in ’70 a built a Camaro, at modified and run it at Martinsville. And Bob Santos from up north drove it. And we didn’t have no engine to start with, and we called Lil Cleary, called Bob Santos, and he said Lil Cleary had a extra engine. And we, he brought the engine down, we put it in the car, and it messed up, and that throwed us out of that race. And I think we wound up, I don’t know what we finished, I got it roped down, and I, we won 400 some dollars, so it had to run pretty good, but that was a 300 lap race. And then we put an engine in it and I run a couple more times, and then the guy that was in with me tried to take the whole car, and then he filed a lawsuit against me and all of that. And carried it right up to the morning court and went he and paid the court cost off, trying to scare me into letting have the car, but we a had an oral agreement and a written agreement. And we had three witnesses to the written agreement, and he was claiming it wasn’t no good because it wasn’t notarized and all that you know. And my lawyer said hey all I got to do is asked him under oath if he signed that, and if he says he didn’t we got him for perjury (laughs), you know.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: He wasn’t even, he said he wasn’t going to go to court, that he was just trying to ( ), get me to give him the car, but anyway that’s what happened. But I wound up giving him half of the car, well I give him most of it anyway, I still treat him, I didn’t ‘who do’ him, I could’ve took the old car after he paid the court cost off it was my car.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: But I wouldn’t do him that way. But he turned around, he give it, I give it, let him have what I agreed too. And he turned around and give it to the small boys that raced, you know he he he he wasn’t involved, he was running the dealing mobile homes you know. (laughs)

CW: Didn’t really understand.

HS: He was a mobile home man, he wasn’t no racer, he just interested and liked racing. Then he become a preacher after that. He wound up, before he died he was preaching. So maybe he straightened up.

CW: (laughs) It does seem as though in the racing community there is a strong sense of honor there, that the way that you treat people, you know there may have been fights that broke out, and people might have settled things physically. But there was a certain sense of justice and and you know doing the right thing--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --do do you think that--

HS: Well if you got fights and stuff like that, before the next race it was all forgot.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: You know.

CW: What do you think caused the fights? Do you, is it--

HS: (in background) Well.

CW: --because racing so emotional?

HS: Yeah, that’s an emotional thing, even for the people working on them cars. And even the spectators, even spectators are getting just as much more involved and emotional than the people that own and working on the cars.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And actually that’s, you’ll see more fights in the grandstand and and spectators especially if the spectators are in the infield with the cars--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --That’s why NASCAR made a rule there that you didn’t get in that pit unless you worked on the cars, and they wouldn’t let but about five or six people in then. They didn’t want no whole gang because it, trouble.

CW: Right, right. Did you experience some significant fights?

HS: Oh yeah. (laughs) I never, I never was in any myself but we’ve got some right tough tussles. I know one night in South Boston he, Runt Harris was driving for us in that Coupe in ’65, and won a race down there that night. And some boys come out of the grandstand, be pretty well inebriated, and you know what inebriated is don’t you?--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --(laughs)

CW: I do.

HS: And jumped on Runt, and was whooping him because he’d took Perk Brown’s ride away from him. Now I’d say you know somebody drinking and their mind all somebody probably said yeah said he took Perk’s ride, and here’s Perk’s in the hospital. And he got, got Perk down, Runt Harris down in the trailer axles and all, didn’t have a floor in the trailer, and was just beating, I mean beating him terrible. And I was sitting in the station wagon backing up to hook a trailer up, William was squatting down there telling him to come on back, and I said, “look behind you, look behind you.” And he turned around and looked, and seen it, and he turned around and got the guy by the hair of the head trying to pull him out off of Runt, and he couldn’t because he was a great big fellow. And he’s as big as both of us, and the was a lug wrench laying there, William grabbed that lug wrench and hit him down across the back the top of the head with it. I heard it crunch when he hit him. (laughs) And he just kept on, he hit him three times, the third time he got up, and turned him loosed. And William turned him loose, and he got out, got out, in the, in the, in the middle of the trailer and start that way, William drawed the lug wrench back, and he turned around and started off down pit road. And William walked out there, and he turned around and said something to William, and he throwed that thing, the lug wrench, and hit him right in the back when the guy turned around knocked him down. But it fractured his skull he was in the hospital pretty good while, but he was just lucky it didn’t hurt him. But my wife and William’s wife was sitting on the fender of the trailer when this happened, and they just, they just, just hit them, you know, and they had them, knocked them off down in there, and they was all down in there too, both of them. (laughs) It’s all four of them down in there, but that’s why William was concerned because his wife and my wife was down there, you know, they was down in there trying to scramble and get up too. But we turned out to be pretty good friends after that. (laughs)

CW: (clears throat) How did it impact your family would you say the racing?

HS: Impact your what?

CW: Your family and your family life, it--

HS: Oh, it--

CW: --sounds as though your wife was very helpful--

HS: --well, she, she--

CW: --come along.

HS: --no she go when she could you know. And she was all for it. I guess she made like she was anyway. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum. Did she come with you a lot?

HS: No, I don’t know, well at that time she was working at Dupont, working shift work. And when she could she would. And then, like if we went off up north somewheres she’d, she’d take a vacation or something and go.

CW: How many children do you have altogether?

HS: Two.

CW: Two, right. And Randy is he your eldest son?

HS: No, he’s--

CW: (in background) He’s the baby.

HS: I got a girl the oldest. And--

CW: Did the children enjoy coming to see the races?

HS: Oh yeah, ‘cause all, all of us had two children and all of us race. And I think about all of us had one or two children. They’d all go they’d have a time playing with each other and all that while the racing is going on you know.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: So they was raised up right in it and that’s what turned Randy into it. Well he, I bought him a motorcycle, a little motorcycle when he was six years old, Santa Claus gave it to him. I come in from work one evening he had a board up on the wall at the house, and he was going to across the front yard when I turned off all I seen him go out of sight on that thing tore that wall, gosh I got him to watch, but seeing he’s gone. I seen that board laying up on that wall, about shoulder high, and, and it was about six, eight kids in the back yard all gathered up there. And he was run-- jumping off that wall. And them kids all them kids, the neighbor’s kids watching him. And I made him put it up for three or four days, and that’s like taking it away from him for a year, you know. And I, one time he was riding it and he come in the garage, and he was crying and he said look at my head, look at the top of my head, it’s bleeding. I said, “what happened?” He said, “I wreck that bike,” and I done bought him a helmet and told him not to ride that thing without that helmet. And I looked at it, and said, “ah you’ll be alright and slapped him on the head.” He started on out, and I said, “wait a minute, come here.” I said, “where’s that helmet, am I going have to buy you another helmet,” I said, “it must have tore that helmet all to pieces, when, when, being it scratched your head up like that.” He just turned around and walked out and I know never did catch him without that helmet on after that. So that, that more or less taught him a lesson.

CW: Um-hum. Do you think he inherited your skill you know with driving?

HS: I hope not. (laughs) No he I put him on a go cart, when he was I don’t know about 12, 14, and man that was too expensive, to run them 5 horse power Brig Strat ( ) modified and do anything you want too, you go to the race track with two or three engines, and come home with nothing you know. And you didn’t, if you won you didn’t win nothing but a little old 6-8, 10-inch trophy you know. So I said, “I can’t, I can’t keep this up. If we raced anymore it’s going to be in the car.” So I put him in a car in 1980, when Log Cabin raced where they had a dirt track and Satch Merlin, his daddy built up here, at Oak Level. And a pure stock. And then we run there and started running Franklin County too, they run on Friday nights, Franklin County run on Saturday night. And that started him off, and I seen right off that he was, he had so much coordination and quick. He had some of the quickest reflexes that I’ve ever seen in anybody. And he turned out to be one heck of a driver.

CW: What do you think makes a good driver? What do you need?

HS: I, just some people got it, and some people ain’t. But you got to have quick reflexes, and you got to if the car ain’t handling, you got to, you got to know that car. You got to steady that car and figure if it ain’t handling what it’s doing and you got to be able to turn and around and tell the guy working on it what its doing, and he’s got to know what you’re talking about before he can fix it.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: But I had, I had watched so many cars stand in the infield, till I can just watch a car and tell you what’s it doing going around the track, if I can see it all the way around the track. These short tracks, most the time if you stand up on something you can. And that helped me a whole lot. But (pause) it, you just, I don’t know, you got to take an interest in it and it’s got to be something you want to do. And you got to, you got to sacrifice stuff to do it. But if you if you fish, play golf, or whatever, if you do it, if you do it good, you going have to work at it, and the same thing.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: You know. You got to want to do it.

CW: How old was Randy when he first, had, when he had his first car in 1980?

HS: He was born in ’62, so he was what?

CW: 18.

HS: 18.

CW: Um-hum. Where did he race at age 18?

HS: Well he raced, we raced most of Franklin County. And, and ’83 we start running limited sportsman which was a was a late model sportsman with a 6 cylinder engine. And we’d run 18 races, and won 15 of them. And he won the track championship. Then ’84 we didn’t run very few races and they quit. And we run, we run so many races all the rest of them quit. And so they stopped the class and we quit. In ’85 we went to late model stock, and we run 7,8 races South Boston, with the late model stock that I’d built. And we quit so the next year he could run for Rookie of the Year. I think it was 5, 6 races, something. And the next year I got Patrick Gand down in Madison, North Carolina, he built dirt cars and all. He wanted to build an asphalt car late model stock and so we he buil--he fixed the jig for one and built it that winter, and we went to Caraway. But that happened to be the year that they pulled out of NASCAR and was running outlaw. But anyway, we won the track championship. And Dennis Setzer, Bobby Labonte and I don’t know, Mike Skinner it’s a bunch of them guys running down there that year. And they had us outrun, we didn’t win that race but we’d won several races, but always right at the end a tie start going down or something, and he’d a lose his lead just a lap or two to do, but he’d always finish second or third see, and that got us the points. And in the next year they go back to NASCAR. (laughs) So that was our luck. But anyway, I don’t, we went on, we come back to Franklin County and we won several races up there with the same car. In ’88 and ’89, and I quit. And I just I couldn’t go at it no more.

CW: What was it like being father and son team? Was that very different from--

HS: Yeah I could tell him what to do and he had to do it. (laughter)

CW: Did he do a lot of mechanics on the car as well?

HS: Well, I you know, I make him work on, well I wouldn’t make him, but I’d encourage him to work on the car. And I tried to explain to him what it was doing, and this that and the other. I don’t, well we had that, won all them races up there at Franklin County in the 6 cylinder. I couldn’t get him to go on in the corner, he was winning the races, but he, they was all over top of him and everything, several cars you know. And I know if he going down that corner we’d just get on away from him enough that he wouldn’t have to fight them cars. And he just kept on and he said I can’t no faster, if I go any faster I’m going to spin out, I’m going to tear the car up, I’m going to hit the wall, so I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I happened to Gerald Crumpton was driving Down’s car, Jimmy Down’s car a sportsman. And he was out there practicing, and I said, “I know what I’ll do.” So I just walked on up there, and when he came in I talked to him a little bit, I said, “How about coming down here and drive my car a few laps?” I said, “I can’t, I can’t tell what Randy’s doing,” he said, “yeah I’ve been watching Randy he ain’t going down them corners like he ought, he ought to go on in there.” And I says, “yeah that’s the problem I got,” he said, “I’ll fix that.” And he went, he went out there and he never been in this car, and he run about 4 or 5 laps, and he run then, after he got use to it, he run 3 laps and never, never took his foot off of it. When he, when he go down the corner, he just jam the brakes on to set the car, and you could hear the carburetor sucking on it before he ever got in the corner. And Randy sat down looking at this and he come on in, and he said, “Randy you got a good car here,” said, “how about you letting me drive it tonight, you care if I drive it tonight?” And then just turned around and walked on off. And we stood there a few minutes and I said, “go on out there and see what you think Randy.” And he got in that thing and in about 2 or 3 laps he was going in there wide. But he, somebody just had to show him that you could do it. Then he, he, he still got the record up there for a 6 cylinder, I believe 93 point something miles an hour around that track. And we run one night they they didn’t have many cars in the late model sportsman, and they had a big race and Mike Potter and bunch a guys was there. And they told us that the top three in the 6 cylinders, which was pretty good cars, could run with the V-8s. And you qualified with them, you you’ll start where you qualify and wherever you finish, if, if, if we finish third we win see because we’d be the first 6 cylinder. And if you finish third you know, if you finish, if you don’t win you get paid for where where you finished. And we started third and finished third, so that, now that was a feat in itself running them against the V-8’s.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: When I had that car something, that that thing was just everybody up there couldn’t believe how to go through them corners.

CW: Were you the only the person working on it?

HS: Yes.

CW: Yeah. Did you, did you require pit crew,--

HS: After--

CW: --did you have people help you?

HS: After I quit William Mason I never I had people helping me, this, that and the other, but I, my cars I done everything. I done it all. I even built the engines. I had Bill Fera worked Napa Auto Parts, a machine shop, he done all my engine board and fixing the engines but I put them together. And I done the rest, I done all of it.

CW: So you didn’t call on people for special, apart from that particular one, for special parts, and I mean did the there weren’t people who you called in for carburetor or something like that, you did all of it.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: I bought a, right before I quit racing I bought a two-barrel carburetor from Blake down at Mooresville. And everybody told me I needed to get that carburetor and I’d really fly, and I got that carburetor and it would never run a lick. I carried it back down now about three or four more times and it just wouldn’t do nothing. And I’d give two or three hundred dollars to that thing, and that was a lot of money back then. And so he finally told me, he, he didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know what to do, but I bought it, it’s mine. So I fooled with it and messed with it, and I put it on the car and we’d go to Franklin County and try it. And then I was sometimes I helped him a little bit and sometimes make it worse. Well we went up there that night and I’m telling you that thing took off. And it was, we was two or three tenths faster than everybody else, that’s why I left it on there and we won the race. But I never did know what done to it--

CW: (laughs)

HS: --and I got the carburetor over in the other building now, in a cabinet. And I, I ain’t never sold nobody I’m afraid to tear it down, I don’t know what I’ve done to make it run.

CW: Um-hum, interesting.

HS: But if I’d a found out I wouldn’t never told nobody. (laughs)

CW: (laughs)

HS: If you just keep working and I just doing a little something, I’d just take it off put the carburetor back on and run, I mean.

CW: Do you feel as if you invented anything, that--

HS: Nah. (laughs)

CW: --you claim as yours now?

HS: Nah.

CW: ‘Cause you’re very ingenious, you’ve really created a lot of things by hand here. But you did, you there wasn’t something that you did that nobody else really new about?

HS: Well there’s a lot of things that you know I found out. I found out a lot of a, ideas, you take the slowest car at the racetrack and you see something on that car and you incorporate that in your car and it’ll make your car faster. And it might be the slowest car there, but it, but one little special thing about that thing that you’d look and you’d say maybe that’ll work on mine, and you add it to what you got, and that’s that’s how you get better.

CW: Um-hum. How do you go about doing that, I mean does everybody snoop around and look underneath the, you know, the bonnet and?

HS: Oh, it’s, a shoot.

CW: (laughs)

HS: You win the race and you got half the field over there looking at you, wanting to protest you and everything,

CW: (laughs)

HS: see what you got.

HS: But they, I’ll tell this now, and Franklin County now when we won them 15 races and all, I went down Patrick Ganes, and me and him become good friends, I was buying a lot of parts from him. And I told him I need to get faster. And he said, “well Randy’s winning the races what do you need to get faster for?” I said, “So we can continue to win, what can I do,” you know. He sat around a little bit, he said, “well set of aluminum wheels will really help you.” And I said, “heck I am liable to get caught with that.” He said, “Well did you ever put a magnet on them?” I said, “I ain’t never seen nobody put a magnet on them.” He said, “Come on back here.” And he had a set of aluminum wheels, looked identical to the steel wheels, most of the aluminum wheels you could tell them as far as you could see them that they were aluminum, ‘cause they were lot thicker and everything. But these were the same thickness and everything, looked exactly like a steel wheel but they were polished aluminum, real shiny and I said, “I ain’t getting caught with that.” He said, “No take some steel wool and rough it up a little bit and shoot some aluminum paint on it, paint them just like the other wheels.” And I did, and it took 70 pounds off the car, I had to add 70 pounds of weight to the car. Now that was like taking 70 pounds off a flywheel because that’s the turning weight. And we went up there and I told Randy not to, I said, “now if that thing gets running too fast, don’t you run too fast ‘cause they’ll know, ‘cause other people are timing you.”--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --And the first lap he turned was over half a second faster (laughs), then we been turning and a track record, you know, and I just waved him in right then, I said boy you got to slow up, you know, don’t you get too fast here. They was protesting me and doing everything. And never could find nothing wrong when it was the aluminum wheels. (laughs)

CW: What, what happened in the end do you just kept running, did they start allowing them more?

HS: No, they never did know it.

CW: No.

HS: I got the aluminum wheels I still got them.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: But I had to change my own tires and everything.

CW: Do you think this goes on, has it always gone on--

HS: Oh this went on,--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --if you ain’t illegal you ain’t running up front.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: What I done went to Martinsville one time with Randy, in ’85, when I built that late model stock. And my rear end was an inch down in the front end. Now the rulebook said that you had to have a such and such width front tread width.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: It didn’t say nothing about rear end, nothing. Alright, a car ride a front and narrow in the rear end handles a lot better. And so I changed, I didn’t change it when I when I bought this rear end, I didn’t buy the actual houses to make it the right, or put the offset wheels on it to fix it. Then they measured it, and they said you ain’t we can’t let you run, you ain’t got the right tread width on the back. They say it’s narrower in the front an inch down, I said I know that. But it ain’t in the rulebook. I said show me in the rulebook where it says anything about the rear end. Well he had the rulebook in his back pocket and he never would pull it out and look at it, he said, “I just told you ain’t legal.” And I said I ain’t going to accept that till you show it to me, and I just reached and pulled his rule book out and boy he got mad at me. (laughs) He going to kick me out, and I said I don’t care. I says I never come back to another NASCAR track, I said you ain’t doing me right. Anyway the the boss man comes up and he carried me over in the building to calm me down a little bit, and he said, “oh these hotheads a little bit hotheaded,” said, “ it ain’t in the rule book” I thought I explained to him, and he looked and he said no it ain’t in there, ain’t nothing wrong, you run, but you don’t want, when the next rule book come out it said both ‘front and rear.” (laughs) And so I, I had the rule changed. But he let me run the race.

CW: What was your experience with NASCAR, how did you feel--

HS: Oh that’s--

CW: --about the organization?

HS: That was actually the best place to run because they had rule and it was in print, you went by that rule. And these non-NASCAR tracks, they just, whatever the inspector wanted to put on you, and that’s what you had done. And you run and sometimes you’d get paid. And sometimes they’d say they’d pay 1,000 dollars to win, and you get you run the race and win you get 4 or 500. But you run at NASCAR, whatever’s on that paper that’s what you got--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --So you was better off running NASCAR than running the outlaw. But I run a lot of outlaw because it was cheaper, you could run it a lot cheaper.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And, and, and it was closer by. See Franklin County up there I don’t reckon was ever NASCAR, Franklin County Speedway. But it was everything they had running now in late model, a modified, anything was NASCAR car, cars, you know. But they had run overnight when they wasn’t running NASCAR see--

CW: Right.

HS: --And they could get the cars.

CW: Um-hum. Did you, did you come across the problems of not being able to run the non-NASCAR races because of NASCAR you know outlawing them and--

HS: No because that

CW: (speaks simultaneously) that wasn’t problem.

HS: done, they, this ‘right to work law’ in Virginia and all that stuff is kindly I don’t know, ain’t much NASCAR will do with you--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --if you run somewhere else. Now back in the olden days man they jump you out. I know we went to Tar Heel Speedway, which it was a NASCAR track--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --And they called us to bring an extra car for Joe Weatherly to drive, it was a special race, it was on Sunday, and it was on, and that was when they was running Darlington on Monday, on Labor Day. And they wanted Joe Weatherly up there for this race to draw a big crowd. And so we carried the car down and he was involved in a big wreck and cracked a bunch of ribs. And so they wanted to carry him to the hospital, and he wouldn’t go, he, “said no take me up,” he said, “I’m on the pole,” he was on the pole at Darlington.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: He says if I go to that hospital Bill France finds out they’ll kick me out of NASCAR for coming up here. And he goes down there, he got them all taped up. They rescue people even went somewhere and got more tape to tape him up. And he goes to Darlington the next day and won the race. (laughs) With his ribs cracked. But he know what would happen if Bill France found out he was up there, because they, they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t, back then they wouldn’t let them guys go now where else. And now they go anywhere they want to, you know, take Tony Stewart and all them people they run you know the night before, anywhere, outlaw tracks and everything.

CW: Um-hum. Things have changed over the years, haven’t they? Did you get to know the France family much?

HS: Nah.

CW: Did you, not really ‘cause they wouldn’t be around, I think maybe down in Winston-Salem, people are a little bit more--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --seeing them. (clears throat)

HS: Oh I seen him at the tracks and all that, but I never, never had no kind of relationship with them, no way shape or form except running the track.

CW: Um-hum. (pause) Right. The Dixie circuit how did that compare?

HS: The Dixie circuit I was in service

CW: (in background) Oh.

HS: That’s when the Dixie circuit was going.

CW: Oh, right, so you missed all that.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Right, right. There are a lot of colorful interesting drivers that came through, obviously some of them were driving for you, but you were talking about Joe Weatherly, and Runt Harris and everything, are there some others that you remember who were kind of unusual people in--

HS: Curtis Turner. (laughs)

CW: Did you know him very well?

HS: Well he, he drove the race the night before they kicked him out of NASCAR, he drove in a, in a race, drove one of William Mason’s cars at Bowman Gray Stadium.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: At least they said he did, but we never did know for sure.

CW: Oh.

HS: Because we did not, William always wondered if that was just a thing that they come up with or what. But anyway they made a big deal out of it when they let him back in NASCAR, and he come to Bowman Gray one night when we was running, and he jumped the fence and come in there. And he got William Mason, they stood there and talk and made a deal ‘cause he wanted to make his first, he says I run my last race here when they kick me out and I ought to run my first race here. And it was a 200 lapper at Bowman Gray, and that’s a big race. So they made the deal and about that time here come all the police and all I, I believe it was all timed. And and the sportswriters and all coming right with them, and the cameras and all that and they was taking pictures of them getting him by the arm and carry him to the gate and he kicking him out because he hadn’t, you know he didn’t belong to NASCAR yet you know. And a few minutes, he he hadn’t got through telling William what he wanted to tell him he jumped the fence again. And they come over there. And and so they went and got in William’s station wagon and sat there I guess or 45 minutes or something talking. And when he got out of it, here they come again, all the photographers and all and carried him out again. It was all office write-ups and all. And when that race come up we carried that old coach with the big block in it. And when that race come up they, he started about 7th, 8th I believe and Perk was on the pole. And when they give a halfway mark, he done caught Perk, he come to second, and that’s how good that man was. Just determined, I don’t know just something special about it. And he just quit and come on in the pits, I don’t know what was wrong, he said I done run all I want to tonight, but I, I, I know he done give out, you know.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: ( ) same thing happened to Monk Tate, he hadn’t run a long time, and Patrick Gant run, he was running log cabin race right, and he wanted Monk to come up, said, “I want you to come some night and drive my car.” And that’s when Patrick Gant had that, WTQR 104 car out of Winston-Salem, and he was winning all of the races you know. And, anyway Monk told us, said, “you give me you give me, call me two or three weeks before and let me get in shape.” But he didn’t, he called him one evening and there’s a run that night, told him come on, said I want you up there tonight, and went on there up and he said Monk had just had, had to get in it. And he was leading the race, and said he just come down, he coming in the pits, said he just turned both out to running, he said I done gone as far as I can go, he says about to tear my arms off. (laughs) And now he, he just you know, if you ain’t in shape you can’t drive on them things.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And he just give out and that’s what happen to Curtis that night, he done, he done, you know he done, he done took all the sap out of him, he he just had to quit.

CW: It’s a few years since he really been driving competitively. Um-hum. What did you think about the effort to get a driver’s union together? That, that caused--

HS: That, that wouldn’t, that wouldn’t never work in racing, I don’t believe. It well it might work. It might be like NASCAR now, you know. It you might, might well be union, it is union in a way. But if you class one person in a union (laughs) to tell you what to do. I don’t know what’s it going to become, it’s something going to have to give someway or another, in this racing. It’s Nextel, Sprint, or whatever you call it.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Because it’s got so expensive. You take them tires, 300 dollars a piece now for a tire. Well they using between-- 

Recording Cuts Off

Minidisc 1 ends; Minidisc 2 begins.

CW: Today is March the 19th 2008. This is Christina Wright interviewing Harold Smith for the UNC Charlotte oral history archive. We’re at 81 Sun Valley Dr., Bassett, Virginia 24055, and this is our second disc today. You, when did you quit helping your son, or at least being like the crew chief for your son, did you say that was in the 80s.

HS: Well it was ’89.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And Dan, he he started driving a Vinton Motors Ford, a late model stock out of Roanoke. And for Kalen Lynch, was the owner. And him and Billy Vinton that Vinton Motors, and Vinton Ford Dealership was involved together. But the car was being kept at Oak Level with George ( ) and Robert Hanley and some guys looking after the car. So they got Randy to drive it. And so I went over and helped them right much. And we got to going, but they had a lot of engine problems and heat, and blowing head gasket, and they, they would just, I don’t know, just trying to get too big, too big of an engine or something.

CW: Um-hum, why had you decided to quit? Why did you decided was it too much, was it getting too expensive?

HS: Well, just, too much, getting too expensive and and just they got to where they wasn’t paying good. And and other words I’d always race on the money we won and the sponsorship see, and if I couldn’t do that I’d quit.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: I couldn’t, that’s the only way I could afford to race. And so when it got to be that burden, and we went to Franklin County and they was out of race paying 5,000 dollars for rent and 1,000 dollars for the pole.

CW: Um-hum

HS: And so we went and I beat a fan blade flat. They said you had to have a fan, but they didn’t say what kind of shape it had to be in, see that’s another one of them rules.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And I took that fan and put it on an anvil with a hammer, and I beat it to where I could put it on, and you could hold a handkerchief in front of the radiator and then just it wouldn’t even move the handkerchief when you revved it up. And we got the pole. They tore our carburetor down, they didn’t, they didn’t, did nobody look at the fan, you know. But they tore my carburetor all to pieces trying to penalize me or get me back in the back of the pack because they didn’t like it ‘cause I come back up there and start running, you know. And I don’t know, you know how people are jealous and everything. But anyway they, I got that back together and we started to run the race, and it was 100 lap race, and he got the white flag, he led the whole race, but now it was two or three cars, just all over everywhere. I mean it was it was one heck of a race. And when he got to white flag and start down there at one, the pit row come right out as you turn to go in one, and a boy come out of the pits, wide open and run right in Randy’s door. Well it it completely eliminated four racecars right there. I mean it tore, it’s a wonder somebody hadn’t really got hurt bad. Well I go to the pay window and go 25 dollars. They didn’t even pay me the thousand dollars for getting the pole. But this is outlaw track, see, and I said well I ain’t saying nothing to nobody. (laughs) I drove home, and I, it cost me 2500 dollars to fix the car back just for the parts. And I backed it up in the backyard, so every morning I got up I could look out the patio door look out the window and that car’s sitting, I never even covered it up or nothing. And it sit right there two years, I let it sit there.

CW: What did Randy feel--

HS: Winter and summer. (laughs)

CW: What did Randy think about that?

HS: Well he didn’t, he didn’t have no choice. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum. And that’s when he looked for another way

HS: (in background) Yeah.

CW: of racing obviously. Did it, he must’ve understood, I mean he must’ve understood.

HS: Well he understood.

CW: (speaks simultaneously) You know it’s the same frustration for him.

HS: As far, far as I could go.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Anyway, he drove his Ford and he won a little bit, but he he drove for them a couple of years, a couple of seasons. And he come to me one day and said that Kalen got him another driver that, Roy Parker, over here at Ridgeway was going to drive it and he had a sponsor, you know. And he, Kalen called Randy and see if could get the radio equipment out of his helmet, you know. Randy was telling me about I said, best thing to ever happen to you.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Because I said that’s the wrong car for you to be driving anyway. And I, now I like Kalen, I like that whole bunch, but I quit, I quit, I quit fooling with them. We we went went for a practice, on Thursday to run on Friday and we was running way under the track record up there with no rubber on the track or nothing. And we come back to Oak Level and Kalen said just put it up on the blocks, he said I ain’t going to run tomorrow night, I done give out. Now he done all that work there for two or three weeks, and went to practice and everything, and had a car, winning car. And he just comes home and parks it, says he’s give out. And he says I, I’m running this racecar for stress on my job, and to release from the stress of my job. And (laughs)--

CW: Now, what were you--

HS: --that’s when you got more money than you got sense.

CW: (in background) Yeah.

HS: I tell Kalen right now. (laughs)

CW: What would you have done in his position?

HS: Huh?

CW: You said it was running under--

HS: I couldn’t have waited to, I wouldn’t even got no sleep, I couldn’t wait till next night to get to run that car, running that good.

CW: Right.

HS: And done solve the engine the heating problem and everything, got it ready to run and then just put it up on jack stands.

CW: It must’ve been frustrating for Randy.

HS: Well you know it was.

CW: Yeah.

HS: But.

CW: So what, what was his next ride.

HS: 12 years later Monk Tate’s car, the one he’s driving now. And he had never drove nothing awhile, he drove my coupe a time or two and practiced with it, not in no race. And he he know what a high horsepower engine, you know he knows how to drive one. And he started driving it 2004, well actually be get back to when I quit racing.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: I didn’t race no more, till a bunch of them want to start in Virginia Old Timer’s racing club, they start building some of these cars. And I had one, I had restored my coupe that I had back in ’71 and ’72. And they was want me to come on board with them, and run. So we formed a club and so I got Monk Tate, I run up on his son down at Madison they was having a car show down there, that season right before the racing started. And we had a race the next week at 3/11 that half mile dirt. And I rememb-- Monk Tate’s son come around, I ask him where Monk was and told me he’s at home, I said go call him see if he wants to drive my car. And he come over there. And so we laughed and talked a little bit, and he agreed to drive it. So we we run in ’96 and ’97 we run 30 races, in Virginia Oldtimers, and Monk own 27 of them. 27 and then they kicked (laughs) me out of the club.

CW: They didn’t strip down the engine but they just kicked you out.

HS: Yeah, they just well they, you know, they just, we had a meeting (laughs), it was all complaining and all of them, that we won’t let somebody else win, and I said, “don’t talk to me, talk to me Monk, he’s the driver when he gets in that car, car belongs to him, he gets out of it.” Monk said “I ain’t never let nobody win a race if I can win it”. (laughs)

CW: Monk could he had driven in his years--

HS: Oh Monk had done won 1000, 1500 races in his career.

CW: Yeah.

HS: He drove a Thomas Brothers Country Ham car, the first one--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And when he didn’t want to drive, he wanted to get out of it because too much traveling and all that. He talked Thomas Brothers Country Ham into letting Sam Arndt drive the car, he’s the one that got Sam Arndt to ride in the Thomas Brothers Country Ham car--

CW: (in background) Oh, um-hum.

HS: --and when he quit. And him and Sam and Monk were big friends.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And, and he picked a good one, ‘cause he couldn’t of picked a better one ‘cause he was as good or better as Monk was. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum.

HS: You know. He went right on off winning races too. And then, what was it, Sam got hurt or something and then a big race coming up at Martinsville, and they, the Thomas Brothers down in Asheboro called him up and see if he’d drive for them, ‘cause Sam was hurt or something, I done forgot what it was. And Sam and Monk comes Martinsville, he hadn’t drove a long time, like two or three years, and he comes to Martinsville won that 300 lapper in the car. So it’s.

CW: You said, one of your natural drivers.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Um-hum. And you picked the right one to drive your car.

HS: Well I knew that because I knew him from back in the late 50s.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Me and my, William Mason went down, and during the winter when he got the franchise on the Franklin Quick Change Rear-ends, he was trying to find everybody he could find to sell them one you know. And we went to Monk’s and sold him a quick change rear-end that month. And I laughed (laughs) we got it in the interview we done on Monk, I told them about we went to that, and it was cold that day we went down there it was way below freezing, in the daytime.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And the garage they had, the cracks between the boards was about an inch, inch and a half wide, you could just stand inside and look all outside everywhere through the walls. And they had a 55-gallon barrel (laughs) you know for a stove, you had it cut off, and made a stove, had a stovepipe to it and run out. And that thing, he had at if fired so hard till it was white, it wasn’t red, it done turn white. And you could get two or three foot away from it, and you couldn’t even feel it, feel the heat, it would, the wind blowing through that. And Monk was running around there in a short sleeved shirt, didn’t even have a coat on. Now was he tough or what?

CW: So how many years did you run then, with the modified (pause)

HS: (speaks simultaneously) I run two years

CW: your vintage cars.

HS: When I quit, Monk still wanted to run, he done (laughs) he done got the notion to run. So he come up here one day and he was hauling chips to Covington, he owned a bunch of tractors you know that hauls the chips when they grind up in the woods--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --Covington to make paper, you know. And he’s got a contract with some forester that cuts, you know grinds up this stuff. But anyway he stopped by, he said “I want you to build me a car,” said, “I went over to Alan Palmer’s and he’s got an old dirt frame over there, and I’m going to take it, and take the body and that I got on the first car you built me and put on it,” ‘cause they wrecked it at Motor Mile. And tore it all to pieces but it didn’t hurt the body it just hurt the door, you know. And (laughs) I said “that ain’t going to work, a dirt car because the motor sits too far,” you know, “the motor ain’t positioned in the frame right, it all ain’t, ain’t” you know, “equalized out right for asphalt.” And he said “well,” he said, “I ain’t playing anyway.” But he thought he could take, he could just take that car and go up there ‘cause he was outrunning so bad you know. But it didn’t work, and doggone if he didn’t tear it up. (laughs) And so he went and bought a ( ) from Kenny Stuart over here at Ridgeway, that had the 45s, like William Mason had them painted up and everything. He bought that ( ) and I switched bodies on it and that’s where that started. Well when he come to get it, I said “Monk you got the best racecar right here that you’ve every had to be the best driving, best handling car and everything but that ain’t going to do you 10 cents worth a good.” He said, “why?” I said, “you ain’t got no motor.” And he said, “what do you mean I got a good motor.” I said “you get your good motor,” and I said “man you’ll have you something.” And I just laughing, I was just making you know this statement and carrying on with him. Well it went on about two or three weeks and he won two or three races, first races went to Franklin County won a race, and I think he went to South Boston somewhere and won. And he called me one Friday night, he said “I want you to come to South Boston this weekend, tomorrow night.” And he said “we got, we got a special race down there,” and “I want you to be there. I said “what do you want me there for?” He said, “come on.” I said, “alright.” So I went on down there and I went walking up, and I got there late. And I noticed, I said, “daggone the carburetor sitting, that thing’s sitting way up in the air.” You know it was sitting almost higher than the top of the car. And I walked up there and I said “what in the world you got in this thing, what kind of intake’s that?” One of them boys standing there and said it’s an 18-degree engine, one of Rick Hendrick’s engines. (laughs) They see, they had done away with, NASCAR had done away with 18-degree engines, somebody bought all them engines off of Hendricks and Monk went and bought one of them. And so he got, I can’t think of his name now, down at Randlewood, Tubes, TA Tubes and his son at, to go through the engine and build it up. And they, they got, they got a guy the guy that worked for them, nickname Taco, he done all Earnhardt’s head work, all them years when Earnhardt won all them races for Richard Childress you know. And he’s the best there is on heads. And anyway they got this thing and it had 840-horsepower. (laughs) But they had Jason York and just a young kid you know, I mean he was a good driver, he’s going to drive that thing. What Monk wanted me to come down there for was to talk to Jason York because he had never drove nothing but four cylinders and stuff like that you know. Few little bit of late model stock you know. He want me to try and tell him how to, how to give it the gas and how to drive it, big block because there so much torque to it you know. Well I got, we got up in the trailer, we talked awhile, I tried to explain to him you know that right in the corner when you first hit the thing, you can’t mash it on down because it’ll just go to spin it you know. And so he done real good. And he start on the outside pole and I forgot now Rodney Cook or somebody I qualified him, because he he spun it too much when he qualified. And they started that race and he held the outside for 5 or 6 laps, I mean stayed right with him, and I, I was well impressed with the way that boy’s driving that car. But then Rodney got in front of him, and then going down the straight away you could see the left rear tire and about an inch or two up from that tire was blue smoke all way around that tire, all the way down the straightaway. Well at 4 or 5 laps he done lost a half a lap on him. And I said “well you spinning it see, you to them tires hot.” So I, he happened to think about that and so he slowed it up and quit that spinning. And so when the tires cooled down a little he started coming back a little bit on him, and then when he really got on it, to come on him in the three laps he caught him and passed him. I mean just when he caught him he just drove right on by him and won the race. And that was the happiest moment you ever seen in your life. (laughs) But it went on and and Monk would just, at that time his shoulder had messed, he messed his shoulder up with bursitis and all that and he couldn’t drive the car ‘cause it hurt so bad you know. So he asked me one night, I, he got me to come down there to check something out his house, and he said “you letting Randy drive my car.” I said “I don’t know call him and ask him.” And he said “no, I want you to ask him.” And I said “no you ask him, ‘cause if I asked him he’ll think I got to ride.” And I I want to fix so I ain’t got nothing to do with this, and that way he’ll be, he’s always dependent on me and you know to get his rides and everything, and I, if he’s going to do anything let him do it on his own, he’s old enough to do it on his own. But I finally told Monk, I said “when I get to the house I’ll, I’ll ask him, but I’m just going ask him and I’m going to tell him if he’s interested call you.” So when I come home that night I just rode on down to his trailer and I told him, I said “Monk wanted me to ask you if you’d drive his car, if you was interested in driving his call, if you are give him a ring.” And I just turned around and walked right out the door, didn’t give him time to saying nothing. And so he called him, and they talked it over and they was going to run Friendship down in Elkin, North Carolina that that Saturday night or Friday night I believe, yeah it was on Friday night. So the next day he told me said “I told Monk I’d tried I didn’t know whether I could drive it or not, I’d try it,” and he said “we’re going to Elkin Friday night you want to go with me?” And I said no I can’t go with you. I wasn’t about to go with him because that be part of it right? But I couldn’t stand it. (laughs) So I went on that night, he never called me and I wasn’t call him. And then on Saturday I never heard a word out of him or nothing, and I wouldn’t go down there ‘cause I wanted to him to tell me, you know. So finally on Sunday I got on my four-wheeler and rode off down that way and when I drove up he said “hey we won that race Friday night.” (laughs) That’s how I got it pulled away from me, but I still been putting the bodies on the cars for him, helped him out, but now as far as working on that car or doing anything I just sitting around and watch, if I go down to where they’re working I just sit there and watch them. (laughs)

CW: (clears throat) And since then you say you they don’t even know how many races they’ve won?

HS: No, I, they, they every, they got in argument here the other week or two or go and they’s trying to figure it up and it’s over 50. And but now this past year, they I don’t believe they run but about 12 or 13 races something, but the years before they they was they was running Friday night at Ace and Saturday night at South Boston. And then when South Boston want to run or vice versa it be in Orange County or somewhere else you know that North Carolina Club was running, ‘cause they got the Southern Vintage Modifieds in Virginia out of Lynchburg, when the the people the presence and all is up there, that run South Boston, Franklin County and all. Then they got the ground pounders that run at Ace and Orange County, and Hickory, and places like that.

CW: The sport has changed a lot hasn’t it?--

HS: Yeah.

CW: In the period that you’ve seen it, seen it--

HS: But now Randy’s won the championship out of both clubs I reckon, every since 2000 or 2000, 2004 because he didn’t start ‘til I believe June, May and June or something, but he still won I believe 19 races that year. And then he won the championship at Ace and South Boston. And then one of the years out at Southern Vintage Modified, they well they won the championship last year from running everywhere, plus last year it was a NASCAR championship at South Boston, a 2007. ‘Cause they had it, they made it a class last year that joined NASCAR and everything. But I didn’t, I didn’t get to go to one race last year because Francis had a heart attack, my wife, and I and I went to one race a Franklin County last year. (laughs) So they done it without me, right--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: They had to do it without me

CW: (in background) Um-hum.

HS: because of that. (laughs)

CW: Right, unavailable.

HS: But everybody said, “yeah what’s you doing, I know you telling what to do and all.” I said “I ain’t telling them nothing.” I said “they so far advance in front of me with all these shocks and all this crazy set up and everything they got under them cars,” I said that’s beyond me man. (laughs)

CW: What does he have now as support? I mean what’s it like, how many people are working on his car?

HS: Oh it ain’t but it’s Randy and Keith Harris, he’s been with Monk every since he was 14 years old. And he drives a, for a Sparks Oil Company down in Greensville, and delivers all the gas to all these race shops in Mooresville and all that. And he, and was working for Union in ’76 they had a Union in ’76 and when Sunoco took over Sparks took that over, you know, made it Sunoco and he’s still doing it. But now Sparks married Monk’s sister, so actually Monk’s sister is the boss (laughs) ‘cause she runs the business right. (laughs) And I laughed at Monk, asked him back in the early days when he first started racing, how he got into the racing business, and he said well he just a bunch of them got together and put in a dollar or two, here and there and everything. And somebody said well as high as gas was and all, how in the world did you get by-- have enough buy gas to go pulling all around everywhere. And he said “well my brother drove a school bus.” (laughs) So I don’t know whether he told that for a joke or (laughs) or what but. He said they didn’t have money to buy tires and things, and his daddy and and these guys helping daddy’s and all had tobacco farms. And he said they’d go pick on Saturday, them tobacco wagons to pull with the tractors they go take the tires off of them, and the wheels and put them on the racecar and run them. And then Sunday you go run and put them back on so that daddy wouldn’t know it. (laughs)

CW: Must’ve been curious as to why they were running out so fast.

HS: It’s amazing.

CW: We had talked a little bit, it was the end of the last tape, about how NASCAR or the sport in general has changed over the years.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Do you see different periods you know different sort of looking back over the issue of--

HS: I see about four different periods.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Of change.

CW: What would you say they were--

HS: And they all worked. And but I’m saying, I’m saying now that they, it’s something got to happen somewhere, but hey it probably will and it probably be for the better

CW: (in background) Um-hum.

HS: of NASCAR racing. But I just don’t, I don’t see how in the world it can keep going like it going.

CW: What would you say the four different periods are from your perspective then?

HS: Well to start out with you didn’t, you just took a car, and you didn’t do nothing to it other than hop up the motor, and it didn’t even have a roll cage in it. And then when we first started put roll cages in them, it was, and when you turned over we took, take a old dry shaft housings out of the Fords the houses that went from the transmission back to the rear, the front engine. And weld them or bolt them to the frame and put an old ’44 bumper across the top of them so when you turned over it wouldn’t crush your top in. And then, and I got a picture where in, ’63, Paul had that bad wreck in Asheville when he tore the body off the car and everything, they didn’t have but one sidebar in that car going from the back of the seat up to the front, just one little old bar. And but now he was, the only thing that saved his life that day, he was the only car there that had a shoulder harness. And he had put shoulder harnesses in that car. And it, they didn’t make it mandatory after that, but even Perk Brown, when we come home he says go buy us some of the shoulder harness to put in that car I ain’t driving it till you get it in there. It made a believer out of him that day, right there at that track. But he just run, ain’t nobody could never believe what kind of shape that car was in, and how high it was, every time it hit the ground it go higher. At that time New Asheville Speedway was the fastest half a mile track in the world. And I don’t know how fast it was running, I have no idea but it was well over a 100.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: But it just, the way he hit, and he hit the pit wall at the same time he hit this car, Williams, and it just give him a boost, and shot him straight up in the air. And I say the first time he went up he went up 20, 25 feet or more. And then when he come down, he he he hit on a corner then he’d go right back in the air about that high again. And it done that two or three times.

CW: So you so do you think then that the first period is just sort of people driving at any any car really, the real stock cars. And then the safety is the first shift, the first change--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --introducing those safety features.

HS: Well I’ll give you an instance, the, the first car I had in it that went to the racetrack in was a racecar, and George E. Joyce sold cars in Bassett. And he was, you talking about a crazy guy and a maniac, he had a ’37 Ford Coach. And he took everything out of it and put an old school bus seat in it and he got me to ride with him to Danville Fairgrounds. Now he drove this car, he had one headlight in it, and one tail light, no mufflers or nothing, and put a old dealer tag on it, we go right through the city of Martinsville with the police standing there and them waving at him and everything, and him racing the motor. And drive it down there and take that headlight and taillight and run that car in the race, and put it back in there at night and come back. And he, we get on route 58 going to Danville and was just, hump, hump, hump, you know all the way then, ‘cause it the road following the contour of the land. And he go up over them humps, and the whole car would leave the ground, and when it come back down I wasn’t setting on nothing but a pop crate, and you can image what that was a job that was to me, but it just thrilled me to death, you know get to ride something like that. How many people get to ride something like that? That’s 40 miles of it, (laughs) there and 40 back.

CW: It’s like a roller coaster. So what would be the next period do you think of change?

HS: Well that’s, I guess it was about the time that we built that car with that underslung frame that Bobby Allison drove. Because that’s when it, it became, if you tore one all to pieces, there come a lot of problems to fix it back. Now before that we could tear a car up and hit, bend the frame or something under the front of it or something, and we could come back. And William kept two or three old ’36 Chevrolet Coaches and coupes out there all the time, and he’d buy every one, he’d buy everyone anybody could find, and bring it there. And we’d come in like on a Saturday night and work the rest of the night if we had to run on Sunday evening and switch all that stuff into another one, and have it ready to go. You could do that quicker than you could straightened a frame, and ( ) we didn’t have no way to straighten a frame you know, you just had to cut it off and patch it or something. But if you had another car, you put the motor transmission rear end all on it, and your radiator and everything on it, and cut your wheel welds out with a torch, you know just cut them out, more clearance on your fenders and you’re ready to go. And you had all the rear end, the front end and all be lined up, and if you had to cut a frame and put it to it you had to do all this measuring and everything to get it back right, you know.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And the next was when they, I’d say is long about the time that they started late model stock. And I built the first one in ’85 here at the garage. Took a ‘60, a ‘69 or ’70 Camaro built it. That just a stock car. But now in ’86 when Patrick Gand built that car, alright, they allowed a full frame homemade frame and all this stuff under them. And so that’s another, that’s the next change that went to cars. And then most of the people that didn’t want to go through all that problem would just go through Patrick Gand or somebody like that build cars and buy a frame and roll cage you know, already built.

CW: Right.

HS: And then it went from that to after I quit racing to all this stuff like a ( ). And this, these modifieds all set and all this, and but that happened after I quit racing.

CW: Um-hum. How do you think (clears throat) the sport in general has changed? How would you say?

HS: Well it’s, it’s, the biggest change was control, NASCAR made the changes, control what they what they had to do to enforce their rules better and easier. And that’s really what what hurt the individually was the race.

CW: Um-hum, because (clears throat) how does it hurt the individual in particular?

HS: Well, you can’t, you ain’t got the money, you can’t get the sponsor, you got to have these mega bucks--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --and the individual ain’t no way they can get. But now you take somebody like Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, or Richard Childress they got, they already got the business, and, and all they got to do is well if they want to put another car on and just put the word out that they going to put another car on, and they got people jumping in there, sponsors, standing in line waiting to sponsor their cars. But the individual I hear they know, these people that sponsoring knows that they ain’t they ain’t going to be up front, and you got to be up front or you got you got to have your name on the camera showing that your advertisements’ on that car and so on. And the more of that you get, the more money that that company will give you. And if you’ll just notice, I know you don’t, and a lot of people don’t, but I do, because you know I’ve been involved in this. When I’m watching Sprint race or Nextel or Winston Cup, anything like that I’m not, I’m not really watching who’s outrunning who or what and this, I mean I’m watching that. But I’m watching during the whole program to see, who’s name you see on the camera the most, see.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: What advertisements, or which cars do you see the most. And if you’ll look some of them cars is running dead last, and all this is having mega problems, having all kinds of problems. They got the camera on them as much more as they have the leaders. Now I wonder why that is. Don’t ask me ‘cause I don’t know, I got my ideas, you know, but you got your ideas and I got mine. See, it’s it’s a mega buck and any time that you get in something like that it’s it’s who pays the most gets the most, right?

CW: Um-hum. When do you think that started?

HS: Oh, I don’t know, it, I just, I ain’t really kept up with it and thought about it. I guess it’s been gradually coming on and going every since I started fooling with it.

CW: Um-hum. What do you think made some of those groups so successful, the you know the Childress.

HS: Well if you got the money you can hire, you can go around the racetracks and you watch the people working and what they’re doing, alright. If you got the money you can get him to come to your car and work on your car. And if you get all of the good ones you got the best car.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: I mean if, if you running a racecar and you got the best car you’d think but the people working on that, like you the man building your engine, it ain’t quite as strong as you’d like for it to be. And somebody you compete against has got a mechanic is outrunning you, got a whole lot more horsepower than you got, you going to try to hire him ain’t you? If you got enough money he’ll come to work for you.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Right?

CW: What do you think, can the sport continue?

HS: I don’t know.

CW: If it’s not

HS: (speaks simultaneously) Hey I say--

CW: ( )

HS: I said it couldn’t go this far. (laugh) But it has.

CW: There always seems to be a tension between, ‘cause it’s happened over and over, you’ve been, you’ve experienced it yourself, where people who dominate on the winning kind of dole the sport down because people don’t, they like some competition, that’s why they go.

HS: Yeah.

CW: And they don’t want the same people winning all the time.

HS: See I’ve, I’ve had that problem, and I don’t know I just been lucky I guess, but I’ve been a top runner ever since I’ve been in it, and I, I ain’t got many friends now, I mean really friends, they all act like, they’ll tell you and act like they your friends. (laughs) But they just do that to try to find out what you know (laughs) you know. No I just kidding about that, but it’s a I don’t, I’ve always, I’ve learned to you know just shrug it off and go on you know. But you in this competition of racing man it’s it’s people they hate they hate the ground you walk on. Because they they can’t figure out that you’re doing, and you outrun them, see. Well I give you a instance, a boy lived in Roanoke, when he graduated from high school he come to me, in in the mid 70s there and asked me if I’d build him a ’66 Chevelle, late model sportsman, his mom and daddy was going going to pay for it, for his graduating from high school present. And so I did. I built him a nice racecar, and it was ready to go except the engine and transmission and radiator. And so when he got ready to graduate his mom and daddy come down here, looked at the car, had it painted, had the letters on it and everything, had the number 54 on it. And he put that on them, I think, come something about that TV program or something wasn’t it? They had a car, police car or something, a car 54. I don’t know. But anyway I carried it up there they paid me and I carried it up there to Roanoke and put it on their carport. I backed up there with a trailer and just rolled it right off on the carport, but he never did run the car. And I don’t know whatever happen the problem, I never did hear no more out of him. Until we started running 6 cylinder, and here he turns up with a Nova, a ’70 Nova number 54 and I found out that’s who it was, him. He done got older then see, and ‘cause this was in the 80s, ‘80 what ’83. And this was in ’74, so. He done, anyway he had the 6 cylinder. Well he’s running good and he’s running pretty good but he couldn’t do nothing with us, you know. And he was one, all time trying the protestors and this and that and the other. And when I went to write that book I wrote, I called him to see, got in touch with him to see if he would, had the pictures of it, ‘cause I just had one picture, and it was an 8 x 10 and it been on my garage door just tacked up on it. And had spray paint all over it, looked terrible when it got hot, you know how a picture due, if it ain’t on the glass and all keep the sun off of it. And I just got to talk to him on the phone and he said, “by the way what was you doing ( ) where you was out running us so?” And I told him, you know he got mad at and and he won’t even talk to me, wouldn’t give me no pictures of the car or nothing. Now this is from ’80 to here in 2007, see. Now how about that.

CW: That’s a big grudge.

HS: Now he’s going, he’s really going to be mad (laughs) when he, he finds out I put this on tape, I don’t care, you know. But that just shows you how some people are.

CW: Um-hum, right.

HS: I mean he went on to drive, he drove a couple of three Busch races at Dover

CW: (in background) Um-hum.

HS: that’s the only place he’d tried, because I don’t know, back then they they didn’t have a whole field cars. And if he could go up there, he he could make a race but he never you know, he was one of these people that didn’t know how to drive. And he was fooling with something I guess that he didn’t know nothing about when you going to Winston Cup you know. And he probably didn’t have the resources and the equipment, that’s the reason he didn’t do nothing, but I’d say, you know I’m estimating, I don’t know what, what the cause was. That’s another individual trying to go race.

CW: Um-hum, right. Reflecting on the years, that you’ve been involved in this sport, how do you think, how has it affected your life, I mean that seems like a silly question really, ‘cause it sort of is your life in way isn’t it?

HS: (laughs)

CW: It’s been your life. But what how do you think it’s--

HS: I done it, I done it for a sport.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: By which I’ve made some pretty good money at it till I started running that late model stock and that’s when it changed. ‘Cause it really wasn’t paying nothing you had to buy at least two tires every week, and they done got up to 100 dollars a piece. And and when you start doing that and then you have bad luck and go to the pay runner and get 15 or 20 bucks, and here I was driving here all the way to Asheville, North Carolina and back. And gas is up there then, around a dollar, dollar a half a gallon. And I went down there one time, and when I pulled up at the track, the sun was out just as pretty but it rained all the way down there and everybody was gone. He done call the race off. And he was standing there Russell Hackett. And I got out and said, “what in the world you call the race for.” And he said, “well the weatherman said we weren’t going to be able to run.” I said, “man I done drove all the way down here, and here you call the race off.” Talk to him a little bit, and I said, “you wouldn’t help a man a little bit to get him back home for gas, and get back next week will you.” He said, “if you ain’t got enough damn money to buy gas to get you here, stay at home.” Now how about an attitude like that. But see we was leading in the points, alright. We was from out of town. He didn’t care, he wanted somebody down in that a way to win the points I guess I don’t know. But yeah that’s what you get into.

CW: There’s good and bad huh?

HS: Yeah.

CW: Um-hum. Is there anything that you would’ve changed, is there anything?

HS: I don’t know what it been to done no better (laughs) than I done.

CW: Right, um-hum.

HS: I don’t know I just, I don’t know how I fixed all them cars, that was run better than all and everybody else. You ask me, I don’t know. I just done what I thought I needed to do, and done it the best I knowed how and it happen to be a little bit better than everybody else I guess. I mean how, how would you say something like that, did I know what I was doing. (laughs)

CW: Um-hum, um-hum. But you wouldn’t of, for example wanted to get into the Grand Nationals or--

HS: We had a chance.

CW: I know you did, yeah.

HS: And but we hey there you had you had a one year contract.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Alright, I’d lose, quit my job. I go there for a year, and then that don’t work out I ain’t got no job. And then I lose my house and that’s when I was trying to be secure and make a living and William Mason was the same way, he said I can’t, I can’t run this garage and do that.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And I’ll have to close the garage you know. And he said “everything go sour on me what am I going to do? I lose everything I got.” And so we decided not to do it. Well I decided not to do it, and he decided not to do it. But I decided not to do it before he did. It didn’t it didn’t take me but a little bit. Say I’d could give, I’d a give anything in the world been able, been able to do that, you know ‘cause it’s hard to run these days. But I just, when you, when, when you got a family and all you just, I don’t know me I can’t take that chance.

CW: (in background) Um-hum, right.

HS: But a lot of people do. And a lot of people don’t make it

CW: (in background) Right.

HS: and a few do.

CW: Um-hum, yeah you hear about the ones that do.

HS: But I’m pretty sure that knowing William Mason and all, and and and knowing how good that I could work on them things, and and figure out what to do and so on. I feel like we could of went on and--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --then went on to Richard Childress or somebody, but that’s hey.

CW: (in background) Rewriting history.

HS: That’s just a thought to laugh about. I could remember going to Bowman Gray and Richard Childress couldn’t even get out of the way when the cars come to lap him. And we’ve laughed at him a whole lot about that, when he, back when he first started racing. But he was, he was a nice guy back then, you know. Yeah every since I know Richard he’s he’s been a nice guy. He just, he suited his personality and all just suits him for what he’s doing.

CW: Yeah everybody has a different path.

HS: Yeah.

CW: Do you think that there are things that we’ve left out that you’d like to comment on?

HS: I don’t know or nothing.

CW: (laughs) I know you have more stories but we’d be here for a long time.

HS: Oh I can, you can, I could keep you here all night probably, but we better (laughs) better quit this. Stop it or something.

CW: Any, any, no final words of wisdom. (clears throat)

HS: Yeah. I’m glad you come. (laughs) I wish that I could’ve told you more, but I don’t know, if it, if it been three or four sitting around here, around this table that’s where you get your information. And I found that out by doing the interview with Monk Tate.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: Because somebody else can say something and that’ll make you think about something else.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: See.

CW: Right.

HS: And by the time it gets back to you they’re thinking something you said and it makes them think about something else. And it can, you can really get somewhere

CW: (in background) Um-hum.

HS: like that.

CW: Right.

HS: But now here it’s hard for me to even think about you know, what to say and all unless you say something to spark my memory, you know.

CW: Right, right. Well maybe it would be good to do some of those with you know several people, some interviews--

HS: Yeah.

CW: --sometime in the future.

HS: I know we had a, I don’t know, I don’t, seven or eight or nine of us went to Ferrum College--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: In 2004 and went in the auditorium and sit down, and they video it

CW: (in background) Really?

HS: and it was you know, ( ) and then that it it was 3 and half hours of it.

CW: (in background) Um-hum, I’ll bet.

HS: Wound up being all day. One day they had the Ferrum festival--

CW: Um-hum.

HS: --up there that day and I didn’t get to see none of it. I went in there at 10:00 in the morning we come out at 4:00 in the evening. (laughs)

CW: The whole day, yeah.

HS: But they got 3, I think 3 and half hours of tape there.

CW: (in background) Um-hum, that’s good.

HS: They, they gave me a DVD of that.

CW: Um-hum.

HS: And it’s (laughs) it’s really that’s about most of it, about bootlegging and more, about as much as bootlegging making liquor and all as there was about--

CW: Right, about the racing.

HS: --racecars and how it evolved and all that ‘cause Paul Radford was right in the thick of both of them. And that’s, how in a way how, he was so good at hauling moonshine.

CW: Um-hum, that’s how he learned to drive.

HS: And enthused him to get into racing.

CW: Well thank you, I’ll, I’ll cut this off and then…

End of Interview