For 34 years, NASCAR driver and team owner Dave Marcis made the NASCAR Cup Series his home, and longtime NASCAR fans know the Wausau, Wis., native as one of stock car racing’s beloved competitors.
His early venture into the Wisconsin stock car racing scene was mixed with hard work on the family dairy farm. There was always something to be done on the vast family acreage or in his modest race shop.
“I guess farmers always have work to do,” Marcis said. “That includes plowing fields, planting crops and cleaning the barns, milking the cows and making sure there’s firewood and so on. I think all the older folks, not just me, grew up working hard and have better work ethics because our parents didn’t have a bunch of money while we were growing up. If you wanted something, you worked for it. Then when you got it, you appreciated it.”
Marcis’ talent on the track produced success during the early days of his career. In 1965, he ran 92 races and won 52 of them, making quite a name for himself as a consistent short-track winner.
“I had a good bit of success in those days,” Marcis said. “I wanted to race for a living and in Wisconsin I only had three months out of the year to race. I ran some USAC stock car shows, but basically they were more interested in their Indy car program. That was seasonal also. So I knew to race for a living I had to go to NASCAR.”
In 1968, Marcis found a race car for sale in the pages of National Speed Sport News. It was owned by Canadian driver Don Biederman, a periodic crewman for NASCAR driver Henley Gray. The car was at Gray’s Georgia home and was purchased for Marcis by car dealer Larry Wehrs.
A makeshift crew of friends took the car to Daytona Int’l Speedway where Marcis finished 26th in the ARCA 300. Marcis didn’t intend on entering into a promising career in NASCAR, but an unexpected invitation prior to the 1968 Daytona 500 changed his plan.
“Daytona was a pretty big place after running all those little short tracks,” Marcis said. “We were loading our stuff to leave and someone from NASCAR came over and told us we could still enter the race up until 5 p.m. that day, which was a Saturday (Feb. 24, 1968). We had to tear the car apart and get it magnafluxed, but that was no big deal. I called Larry and we decided we would do it. That was the start of it. We finished 20th after starting 35th in the 1968 Daytona 500. That was my first NASCAR race.”
Bobby Allison, the 1983 Cup Series champion, hired Marcis to drive his car several times during the early 1970s.
“Dave was a hard worker and a hard racer,” Allison said. “He was incredibly good on the track but also with taking care of the race car and still running hard because that’s what he had to do to survive. That’s what we all did in those days.”
On May 16, 1971, Nord Krauskopf, owner of the No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge, put Marcis in his car at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and he finished ninth. Out front with five laps remaining, his engine blew on the backstretch with no warning.
Some of the top team owners noticed Marcis’ work ethic and ability to get his cars to the front.
“I ran for Nord and K&K Insurance in 1974 and 1975,” Marcis recalled. “When the 1975 season was done, I didn’t have a ride because J.D. Stacy bought the team from Nord and put Neil Bonnett in the car. That left me without a ride. I drove for Roger Penske in 1976 and used my number, which was the No. 2 because he had CAM2 as a sponsor. Roger didn’t run all the races then, but he allowed me to take his car to a few races and run it ourselves, but I wanted to run all of the races.”
Marcis was victorious in NASCAR’s premier series on five occasions, four times in Kraskopf’s Dodge and once in his own No. 71 Chevrolet at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in 1982.
“Winning in those top cars was fantastic,” Marcis said. “I worked on my own cars and did my own body work, rebuilt transmissions, rear-end gears and everything for years. Half the time I was worn out doing all the work, so it was nice to have a good crew and not to have to do all that. It was a great feeling to be in position to win.”
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