PENFOLD SEE PROGRESS PUSHING HIM OUT OF RACING by MikeTwist
Old School Busch North Driver Making First Start of Season at Oxford
In the days before professional race teams in Short Track Racing and purpose-built shops, life was a lot different. It was common to see racecars being prepared after work by proprietors of garages, junkyards and used car lots. A physical fitness program might be the ability to dodge a wrench in a post-race pit fight. A driver development deal meant excelling in one class before changing a few things on your car and moving up to the next level. Sponsorship meant someone who would buy you tires or fuel for the tow rig.
“NASCAR is killing guys like me,” said Penfold. “The ones with the big money will be OK, but it’s the little guy now who does this out of his pocket can’t do it anymore. Not in the bigger series. That’s why you see the guys with the bigger sponsors dominating.
“If they could change the rules and even it up for qualifying, that would help a lot. Then the little guy has a shot. But when you know that the best that you can qualify is 20th in a field of 30 and you have to race your way up there that makes it a hard day.”
Penfold's #0 has been sitting idle this season. (51 Photo)
Even harder for Penfold though has been staying away from the track.
“It’s been awful. It’s kind of like a drug addiction. I can’t go to a clinic or anything. When I hear a loud car, I just can’t get it out of my head. Once that you race, you’ll always be a racer. A lot of people don’t understand it. All that I can say is that when you get your ass in that car, feel the vibration and get going then you are hooked.
“It’s s shame not racing. That is all that I’ve ever done for 30 years. Everybody that I knew races. Now, I’m alone. On the weekends, all of my friends are at the track. I even hung out with the ones who didn’t like me.
Penfold (#0) races with the #19 of Paul Wolfe last fall at Dover. (NASCAR Touring Photo)
“I started the business to make money. I just added more to my work load. You’ve got to do that though. I’m not getting any younger and I’ve got to get working at some stuff, get it running for a few years and maybe sell it and move on to something else.”
The business is a natural fit for Penfold.
“I’ve worked around anything mechanical for all of my life, so I figured car crushing was right up my alley.”
Racing this weekend at Oxford is a bit of a homecoming
The racing community is a whole world in itself. You
don’t realize that until you shut the door and say that you’re not going to the track anymore.”
Penfold has been keeping busy with a business that he got into last winter.
“I bought a junkyard in Oxford (Maine), actually it’s right behind the speedway. It’s called Oxford Auto Salvage and we’ve been trying to get it going. We’ve got some old cars in there – ’58 Fords, ’53 Chevies, ’36 Fords and some old Lincolns. I’ve got to pay attention to business.
As you move up the racing ladder, things get even worse according to Penfold.
“That’s why there are so many cars sitting. It costs so much to race that you have to have a sponsor to do it. It costs $2,500 a weekend just to get it on the track with travel and everything [For a Busch North car}. A Pro Stock for Saturday night costs $500-$800 with fuel being so expensive. It’s unreal.”
But Penfold isn’t ready to toss in the towel yet. He’ll be at Oxford and maybe Lime Rock later this season. At those tracks, his #0 car might not be the prettiest machine in the pits and it probably won’t be the fastest, but Penfold will be happy just to be there.
for Penfold. The track was never officially his home in racing, but it’s one of several facilities where he has logged a lot of racing laps.
“I ran all of the Maine tracks coming up – Wiscasset, Oxford, Unity, Bangor and even Spud Speedway. I covered all of them. I don’t really have a hometrack. I never tried to even run for a championship. I’d get the point lead at Wiscasset and then I’d go to Oxford or Beech Ridge. I never stayed in one place because even if you kept winning there, what good was that? I wanted more challenges.”
In his early days, Penfold was able to compete in cars that could be found in a junkyard or a car dealership’s back lot, instead of being born on a chassis jig.
Today’s sport is a lot different, but if you look closely enough you might see a few old-school holdouts hanging on. Bill Penfold is one of those guys. The Mainer with grease under his fingernails and fire in his gut is struggling to stay on the fringes of Busch North racing. So far this year, he hasn’t been able to enter any races. This weekend, he plans to make the trip of under a mile from his business to Oxford Plains Speedway (ME) to compete in Saturday night’s Busch North show.
Unfortunately though, that might be the only race he runs this season.
“I started out in a six-cylinder Charger. It was a 1964 four-door Chevelle. That was my first racecar and I ran that for a year and half before I traded it for a ’72 Nova. I blew six engines in that car before trading it for a ’65 Chevelle SS that I won some races with. That was a fast car and I had that for a long time. I changed it over to a Late Model.”
Penfold feels that even at local tracks, that just isn’t possible to do today.
“You need to have $10,000 into a limited sportsman at Oxford Plains and that car is junk. To win, you need a $25,000 car. There are guys out there doing it, but how? Guys can’t afford it. A lot of guys can’t even afford to get into the pits anymore. I understand that tracks need to make money, but they are going to make the same amount of money whether the cars are running 60 miles an hour as they would if the cars were running 80 miles an hour. It doesn’t matter. You need to cut these guys out who come in with big money and stomp out the little guys.”
Penfold stays on the inside of Brian Hoar last year at Stafford. (NASCAR Touring Photo)
Penfold (R) talks with Dale Shaw (L) at Watkins Glen in 2002. Both are old school racers struggling in this day and age. (Mary Hodge / NASCAR Touring Photo)
Penfold also races his Pro Stock once in awhile. (Norm Marx / PASS Photo)