DAYTONA BEACH REUNION BRINGS BACK OLD RACING MEMORIES by Denise Dupont
History of How Racing in Daytona Got Started is Recalled
It’s been a long time since racecars and the actual beach at Daytona have gone hand-in-hand, but for decades the two were a natural fit. Beach racing was a staple of motorsports from the early part of the 1900’s through the middle of the century and laid the groundwork for the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona 500 and all of the activities that are now known as Speedweeks.
The racecars on parade this week were no starngers to Daytona Beach. (Jim DuPont Photos)
This week, the Living Legends of Auto Racing took center stage in Daytona once again much to the delight of racecars in the area for Speedweeks.
The Living Legends of Auto Racing organization was founded in 1993 when Zetta Baker wanted to answer of her son’s questions about the good old days of racing. Zetta’s three sons, third generation racers, wanted to know more about the life and racing career of their grandfather, the late Bob “Cannonball” Baker.
On November 2, 1941, Cannonball’s auto racing career was cut short due to an unfortunate accident at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, Georgia. Cannonball
was driving Lloyd Seay’s racecar in a special memorial race dedicated to Lloyd, who had been a popular driver that had been killed.
During her research, Zetta contacted several people that had known Cannonball during his racing career. After hearing, “How did you find me? I did not know anyone remembered that I raced on the beach-road course in Daytona”, Zetta decided to pull together drivers, mechanics, car owners and reporters. Zetta organized a reunion banquet in 1993 for the forgotten pioneers of auto racing.
Since 1993, a parade on Daytona Beach and banquet have been yearly events.
On Tuesday, February 14, 2005, the 13th annual Living Legend’s “Parade on the Beach” took place at Daytona Beach. The parade of cars started at South Daytona Beach’s Dunlawton Bridge and headed north on the beach for about one mile. Classic and vintage racecars first assembled for a fan participation session on the beach. After fan time completed, all the cars participated in a one-mile parade. The event climaxed with a short sprint on the beach with a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour. It was really good to see all the cars and fans from all over the United States and Canada united in the parade.
One of the participants was Ray Fox. It is my understanding that Ray is the current president of the Legends of Racing Association.
We asked Ray what was his most memorable racing experience:
“David Pearson and the World 600 race,” was the answer
given by Fox. “I did not have a driver and I called him at his house. He was up on the roof of the house putting on a new roof. He stopped, came down to Florida and won the race.”
What have you been doing since you stopped racing?
”Trying to stay alive,” said Fox. “I will be 90 years old in May this year. I just do things to keep myself going.”
When he was asked when he started racing, Fox said:” I started racing in New Hampshire when I was about 20 years old. I did not race on any specific track. There were all kinds of tracks.
"There were even board tracks. In my hometown of Salem, New Hampshire, there was a two-mile board track. When I was 7 years old, I used to watch them race. They came from Indianapolis for an opportunity just to race on the track.”
Ray stated that he left north and has been in Florida in 1936,”I had problems in New Hampshire so I just came down here.”
Ray was selling his recently published book about his racing career in the Legend’s trailer.
We also had an opportunity to also meet Russ Truelove to talk with him about his past racing career. When Russ was asked about his most memorable racing experience:
‘Right down here in Daytona Beach in 1956,” said Truelove. “I dumped on the beach. It was featured in Life Magazine.’
Russ talked about some of the tracks that he had raced at besides Daytona:
“Langhorne, Syracuse and of course not with this car, but in my ½ mile race car I went to Shangri-La Speedway. That was when the speedway first opened in 1948. I raced my first race with a Krager engine at Shangri-La. I also raced at Thompson Speedway, Plainville Speedway, the ball field in West Haven, Bridgeport and of course Lime Rock. We also ran some of the tracks in New Jersey. But Langhorne was the most famous track that I really liked. I never drove at Flemington or at Wall Stadium.
“I come down every year for race week and then at the end of the month I head home. We participate in the Beach Parade, the LLOA banquet and then on Friday at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse the beach racing event. ”
We have been attending the parade at the beach since the beginning and would recommend if you have the opportunity to come to Florida during race week that you go to the “Race on the Beach”
“I ran at Stafford when it was just beginning. It was a dirt track and they old billboard was there because it was a baseball diamond. I drove there with some of the old drivers in the ARDC (New Jersey midget) circuit. Some of the midget drivers gave us a bad time. Not like they could in the midgets, they believed in slam banging with the coupes. Kind of like what they were doing at the 2006 Daytona Bud Shootout on Sunday. Doing that is bad news, as Tony Stewart, who I think is a good guy, said. He called it as it is.
Louise Flock poses with her late husband Tim Flock's #300 (Top). Russ Truelove goes for a spin. (Bottom)