About The Author: Don Smyle is the owner of Smyle Media & Marketing, a motorsports consulting, licensing and media development company. Don currently manages a photo database featuring more than 200,000 classic racing images from every level of motorsports, including NASCAR, Indy car, Formula One and drag racing. Learn more about Don Smyle and Smyle Media & Marketing by visiting www.smylemedia.com.
With two Formula One World Championships to his name, one would hardly consider Scottish driver Jim Clark a rookie. However, there he was racing around North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham with the traditional yellow rookie stripe on his bumper. Despite his world class credentials this was his first foray into NASCAR stock car racing and rules were rules, even for Jim Clark.
The No. 66 Holman Moody-prepared Ford Fairlane streaked around the track under the watchful eye of team boss Ralph Moody. The premier Ford factory team, Holman Moody was the perfect operation to guide Clark through his initial NASCAR stint. The diminutive driver had flown in fresh from his 24th career Formula One win in the season ending Mexican Grand Prix. Despite racing similar cars in the Sedan series at tracks like Milwaukee and Trenton, this would be the first time he put his skills to use behind the wheel of the heavier, less agile stock cars.
“I don’t think I can make the adjustment to stock cars as quickly as I did to Indy cars,” stated Clark upon his arrival. “I’m going to need all the time I can get.”
Regardless of his impressive driving credentials, he willingly sought information and advice from all those in the garage. This inquisitive and humble approach quickly endeared him to the stock car fraternity. Humility from F-1 world champions is generally in short supply.
“The back end is hanging out a little,” said Clark following his first practice behind the wheel. “I’m not sure if it’s the car or me.”
Fellow Ford driver LeeRoy Yarbrough was enlisted from the Junior Johnson camp to shake down Clark’s car and provide vital feedback to the rookie. As the day progressed so did Clark’s speed. He steadily climbed the speed chart as he adapted to his new machine. Clark hit 113 mph early in the day. That was quickly followed by 114 mph and eventually he eclipsed the 115 mph mark. After his official qualifying run Clark would start the race in 25th position with a four lap average of 112.349 mph. David Pearson would qualify on the pole at 117 mph.