To look at NASCAR now, it’s hard to believe where it all got started — by some guys who supped up their cars in order to outrun the long arm of the law while they were running moonshine. They even raced with one another, and that’s how it all began.
Now those days were before my time, but during a talk at the Downtown Cinema by some of the old-time drivers, I heard something that I had long ago forgotten. “What won on Sunday, sold on Monday.” And it’s true, there’s a reason they were called “stock cars” because back in the day, they were much like the same car you could go to the dealer and buy, if you liked what you saw on the track.
Nowadays, things in racing have become regulated so that every car is almost exactly like the car racing right beside it. The cars we buy from the dealers are nothing, and I mean nothing, like they are out racing on the track.
I heard one person say that they quit watching the races because all of the fun has been taken out of the sport, and I agree.
What I remember about racing is that my parents loved it. Every year, my dad only got one week off from his job at Liberty Lincoln/Mercury in Winston-Salem where he was the service manager. With that one week every year, we loaded up the car and headed out at 4 a.m. — Daytona-bound.
That’s right, the Firecracker 400! I get chills thinking of it even today. He loved the roar of the engines and even the crashes. Heck, that’s what makes watching 40-something cars go in an oval for three hours interesting. Even today, there’s something about the sound of the engines roaring across the start-finish line — it is enough to get my heart racing.
One of my fondest memories about those trips to Daytona with my family is a night when the drivers all got together at the local high school there in Daytona Beach to put on a charity basketball game. It seems hard to believe now, but I remember it vividly and have pictures to prove it. Guys like Dale Earnhardt, Richard and Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, they were all there and playing basketball of all things. I even got my picture made with Dale Sr., when I was about 9-years old. Drivers used to give out autographs and talk to their fans.
Another fond memory comes from one night when my parents and I were sitting out by the pool at our hotel at the beach with racing legend Junior Johnson. I can still remember how cool my dad thought he was that Junior Johnson had taken time out to come sit and have a drink with him. The funny thing is that while all this was going on, there was this kid who was picking on my younger brother, who was about 3-years old at the time. So my brother, in true form, went over to our room and picked up his sand bucket, strolled over to the pool, filled it with water and when the other kid wasn’t looking, he dumped it on his head. I will never forget them all laughing so hard. Those were the days.
Today, drivers have big booking fees even to show up to an event. Time is money and that is what I dislike about what NASCAR has turned into today.
I’m glad I have those memories and I’m also glad that there is a film coming out to remind us all of how it all got started. The movie “Red Dirt Rising,” which is an independent film, will be coming out in the spring. It’s the story of Jimmie Lewallen and his wife Carrie and all of the struggles they went through in the early days of racing. I have not seen the movie yet, but I know that it will remind us all of how it all began. There won’t be any shiny, expensive sticker covered cars, just good, honest racing. And it will remind us of a time when things were simpler and people really cared about one another. People said what they meant, and meant what they said. A handshake meant a man stood behind his word.
What impressed me the most about this past weekend was the collaborative effort that is being mounted to raise awareness about this movie and the music in it. I think Americans crave those simpler times again — when people helped people out just because it was the right thing to do.
With that in mind, one of the things that really stood out to me this weekend was singer/songwriter Matt Dylan’s story and his soon-to-be smash hit “Carolina Moonshine.” He has worked very hard to get where he is today. It took a lot of praying and a lot of trying, but I think he’s got the man above looking out for him on this endeavor.
Dylan’s video “Carolina Moonshine” was posted on youtube.com on Friday night and at last check it has had more than 5,000 viewings. It is seriously the most amazing music video I have ever seen. What makes it so amazing is that everybody pitched in to make it work and it shows.
The video is a magnificent piece of work and I have no doubt that it will skyrocket to the top of both the music and video charts. Just like the humble roots of racing, I know that all of Matt Dylan’s hard work will pay off and he will be a star. I know from first-hand experience, he’s real, humble and true to his word. So even if his career hits NASCAR proportions, he won’t forget his humble beginnings, and the release of his first CD that debuted right here in Mount Airy.
Knowing what huge fans my parents were of racing, hard work and doing the right thing, I know they would be proud of the entire movement. And I’m glad I got to be at least a small part of it as well.
Mondee Tilley is a staff reporter with The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-7930.