ROBINSON: Darlington Memories

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WAVERLY, N.Y. — My favorite recollection of Darlington (S.C.) Raceway is that of coming face to face with a political legend — the late Senator Strom Thurmond.

At that time I was the PR Director for Dover Int’l Speedway. It wasn’t until later that I found out that he was a great Uncle of my travel agent in Dover, Del. Elizabeth had, of course, habitually referred to him as Uncle Strom.

A NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington had the whole place sweating bricks. The late Bobby Hamilton showed up with a Busch car to run that day. The body was the right shape, but the front end was way too low. Apparently, the field was a little short because they let this car run with a restrictor plate. He was leading late in the race because he didn’t have to make a pit stop. The movers and shakers in the tower were hoping against hope that Hamilton would have to make another stop to even things out. I believe he ended up in the top five, driving a car that wasn’t remotely legal. This was the pre-Richard Petty era for Hamilton.

Of course, you couldn’t be around Darlington during that era without running in to the late Jim Hunter during the weekend. One Hunter memory for me was not terribly pleasant at the time.

Hunter had left Darlington and was working for NASCAR. I was in Dover and wrote a press release about the new turn one grandstand at “the Monster Mile” (Dover) and how it would be an excellent place to watch cars race off pit road.

Hunter wrote me a very short reply, saying: “We don’t race off pit road.”

What I had written was apparently politically incorrect, at that time. Today, the announcers all say it at every track, just proving that even the great Jim Hunter was capable of saying something that he’d regret later on.

Editor’s Note: Longtime motorsports enthusiast and NSSN contributor Al Robinson suffered a stroke in May of 2011. Al is continuing his recovery at Elderwood Care Facility in Waverly, N.Y., where he is dictating his racing memories to New York-area track announcer Carol Houssock.

 

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