ROBINSON: Racing Into Darkness


WAVERLY, N.Y. — The Sprint Cup race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway a few weeks ago ended shortly before dark.

The last time I saw it that dark at a track was Lindy Vicari’s $50,000-to-win race on the one-mile dirt at Nazareth, Pa.

Jimmy Spencer had a ride in Tommy Hager’s backup car. If you knew Tommy, he was a BIG man. And Jimmy was not small. They looked everywhere for foam rubber to keep Jimmy in place in Tommy’s seat because he was flopping around in Hager’s car during the race.

The track had no lights and the finish was in almost complete darkness. Kenny Brightbill defeated Billy Pauch in that one — the last race under Vicari’s ownership. The event showed the weakness of a green-white-checkered finish. Without lights, that caused some obvious problems. They made several attempts to finish the race and it got darker and darker.

At the same event they started sprint cars three wide. On the initial start, one car went out over the fence. There were lots of displeased people that day.

Another green-white-checkered oddity was at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse in 2002. Vic Coffey got the win during Super DIRT Week. He was running last, but was on the lead lap. He pitted during a caution and didn’t lose a lap. Since he was running last, it was a no-fault pit stop. With fresh tires he ended up passing everyone and he won the race.

I remember when Vicari ran Reading on Friday and Sunday nights. Friday the money was his, but on Sunday it was for his “friends.”

The first time I was at Reading, I noticed the grandstands were about the same size as the ones at the Waverly (N.Y.) Memorial Stadium. I heard Vicari say there were 13,000 in attendance one night. It was my first exposure to promoters exaggerating attendance numbers.

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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