Old Racers Ride Again in Living Legends Parade by Denise DuPont
Beach History of Speedweeks is Not Forgotten
Florida Speedweeks is not a new concept. Instead of the pavement at New Smyrna or Daytona though, the beach and sand were the race track for the early part of the 1900’s on through the middle of the century. The events there organized racing and laid the groundwork for the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona 500 and all of the activities that are known today as Speedweeks.
Mac learned car control at a place other than a modern racetrack as well.
“I learned how to drive the curves in the orange groves. I was a wild 17-year-old kid and I was always practicing for a race. Bill France came over and drove my yellow convertible one time and he said: “Mac you ought to put this in the race. This car is fast.” And so I did. That was when I started racing.”
Mac had the only convertible in the July 4th, 1939 race.
“No there were not any more convertibles. This was my first race and the second race on the beach. After I raced my convertible, other teams started cutting the tops off of a lot of race cars. They would cut the tops off of them figuring that they would run faster without them. Having a convertible top did not help me one bit.”
When all was said and done, the July 4th event was a good one for Mac in 1939.
“I finished in third place. I broke down but he paid me the same price that he had placed third. The transmission just would not hold up slamming it in second gear at 100 MPH.”
“I have a car, this car here that is race ready. I raced in one car against Fireball in Apotka. We tore that town up. I got blamed for he did and what he got blamed for I did. So my Daddy finally sent me out to a military school to calm me down. I think it did a little bit. The military was hard on you. I bought Bill France’s first airplane when I got out. And I was flying after the war up and down this beach. But I go tired of it. I ran into another fella that had a comic strip in the paper that was of a fat bellied man whose buttons were popping off. He also has a duck, Smiling Jack was the name of the comic strip and the writer was Zach Mosley. We had a job flying the beach to watch for submarines. We use to fly together off into a cloud away from our job of watching for subs and see who could come out level. That was our instrument training during those days.
“I raced on the beach one race with Russ Truelove but I never did see him cause I quit the modified race. It was the last race on the beach in 1958. In 1959 they cancelled all the races.
“I ran out on the track with Bill France but I never did compete with him. You had to be doing over 100 MPH to stay on in the turns Then you had to slow down when you got to the turns and drop down. You could not stay up there long going more than 100 MPH. That was fun those days but I would hate to be there now going their speeds of 200 MPH.”
Another oldie, but goodie, on the Beach.
Mac is retired now, but still is involved in racing.
“Every week, we go as a bunch of old NASCAR people to eat dinner all over town. Last time we had over 100 people there. There have been clubs and new living legends opened up about four or five clubs, but I still want to stay with the original one. I hate to switch clubs. I am not a good speaker up in front of people about racing. I sure have a lot more stories about flying then I do about racing.”
Today, NASCAR is a huge sport, but that wasn’t always the case with some of Bill France’s races.
“I have a picture where there was one race with only 11 cars. People say that he would not have put on a race with so few cars but I have proof I have a picture of it.”
Why was the racing moved from the beach to the track?
“Just like today, by the end of the day we would be running in water. And the next thing we could not control the cars or collect from the people going down to watch the race. They would sneak into the race by going through the Palmettos.”
We also had an opportunity to also meet Russ Truelove to talk with him about his past racing career.
“Did I ever tell ya how I got the number?” Truelove said, starting one of those great memorable stories. “In 1955, I came down with my 1955 Ford. And because I had the number ‘26’ on my half mile race car, I asked for the number ‘26’ and they gave me the number ‘26’ for the 1955 race. There were only two fords in the 1955 race. I had first Ford for the 1955 race, not first place but first ford. That is one of my happy things about the number.”
“In 1956, I moved from a Ford Dealer over to a Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Waterbury, CT. I was going to race a Mercury. So I filed my entry in December 1955 for my number ‘26’ for the 1956 racing. I talked to them down at Daytona Beach. They said your entry is here but you can’t have the ‘26’, that is Curtis Turner’s number. Well Curtis was like God. Hum, so I asked if I could have the ‘226’. They said I could have ‘226’. Now if it ends there, it would be fine. But when do I wreck? February 26th. Now there was something going on upstairs there that created that. But you know what it has been my lucky numbers ever since.”
It was such an interesting and unique story which I enjoyed and told Russ that I did.
“That is a true story”, he said as his face was gleaming with one big smile.
And Truelove’s had plenty of stories about his experiences racing on the beach
“Going through the sand up to what use to be the North Turn and the old A1A extension was an adventure. To get through the north turn you really had to be somebody that had a lot of seat time. And those fellas from up in the Carolinas and what not, they had a lot of seat time sliding the car around the turns just keeping ahead of the person chasing them. I guess that they were probably hauling some of the white stuff.
“Anyway, we did not have very much seat time and you never had the opportunity to go around the complete course before the race. Your time trial was a straight away. It was a one mile running start, then onto a one mile speed trap which gave you your starting
position according to the timing you got going through the speed trap. When you come down the beach of course you could run as fast as you dared to, the sand would blow up on the windshield. It was wet sand that blew on the windshield and that created a problem. The thing that would happen is because this was strictly showroom stock. I did have an opportunity to alter the windshield wipers at all or the windshield washers at all. So they were not enough to handle the sand that was flying up. If fact, when you got going up to 100 MPH due to the way that they were designed , the wind would get underneath and the windshield wiper would flutter. It would not wipe it would flutter. Some of those pros that ran down here prior to were exposed to all those things, They had all kinds of contraptions to keep the windshield clean. They had a five gallon bucket of water in the car with a hose that went up to the windshield. They could jump pump and get a good splash. The interesting thing about that was I rolled my car six times on the beach and then Junior Johnson rolled his Pontiac (there is a replica right behind us here) and he climbed out I climbed out and went to the hospital down to Halifax. Ralph Moody came down got caught and rolled his ford landed on all four and keep going. In the process the wind shield was out of his car. When he came in for a pit stop, his crew did the usual. They had a bucket of water to throw at the windshield. They did the usual and threw it at Ralph. The water fell into his lap. Ralph often told me that story. Those guys were washing the windshield and they put the water right in my lap.”
Truelove had to replace a few windshields in his time.
“Yes a few times. In 1955, I ran the family Ford. I drove the race and then drove it home. And
after that race this was my pleasure car and I didn’t. I was driving a very careful race and
finished 26th. But the windshield got sand blasted during that event. The results being, when
headlights came towards you at night it was tough to see. We do not stop in hotels; we drive
all the way through to Waterbury, CT. The windshield was sandblasted so everything was
starry and hard to see. So now I had a bad windshield. I worked at the Ford dealer and I was
the service manager. I had the car insured. Would you believe that two weeks later some kid
threw a stone at my windshield and I had to have it replaced? It worked with the insurance
company. I got my new windshield.”
“In 1956, my wife rode home with me after I wrecked my car on the beach. What I did to get
the car home: Georgie Clark, a Hartford, CT Ford Dealer, who was down here. We had
repossessed cars at that time. The carry-alls handled only four cars. Buddy Kreps had rolled
his Dodge in the south turn, so we have two wrecked cars to get back to Connecticut. So,
Georgie Clark took two of the repossessed Fords off of the trailer that he had down here. We
took the new car dealer plates and placed them on the repossessed cars and placed the
wrecked cars on the trailer. He drove us our wrecks home. I drove home with my wife sitting
along next to me and all the way home there was frequent discussion and very few stops.
And believe me, no motel stops. There were pit stops and gas stops. But all the way home,
“What are we going to do now?”
“I had that car fully insured but I was not going to put in a claim on that one. I would go to jail. So Bill Strout who was head of the Mercury race team and John Holman who was his parts man, said that they would talk to John Millis out at the Ford Motor Co. He had the purse strings for the race teams to see if he could get me a new body if I was going to race again. I said great we are going to get a new car, so I could race again. We took the body off the frame after we had it on the show room floor for advertising purposes. I called John Holman who was my contact man. We got the body off and the frame was in good condition. One rear kick down was bent so it had to be straightened out. I could stand a new body. Within two days he called me and told me to go down to the Mercury assembly plant. Told me to get a truck and see Mr. So and So, and they will give you a body right from the factory. So with that we went down with a straight job truck. I checked in with the gentleman I was told to. If you back that truck over there we will give you a 64D body. That is what the body on this car here is. They slide the body on the truck threw on the hood and said to sign for it. That was my thank you from Ford Motor Company for wrecking my car.“
Raymond Parks, owner of driver Red Byron’s Oldsmobile ,rode in one of Living Legend Parade with JB Day. Parks is remembered as the man whose car won the first NASCAR Championship title. The inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock season began on June 19 and ended on October 16 in the year 1949. Red Byron, driving the #22 Oldsmobile for Raymond Parks, was named the newly formed series' first champion in 1949. Ray Park’s drivers included Red Byron, NASCAR’s 1949 champion, Bob Flock, Frank Mundy and Curtis Turner. Ray celebrated his 92nd birthday this year.
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”. It is always Tuesday during race week and the time of the race is based on the tide.
These cars might be old, but they haven't seen their final checkered flags yet. (Jim DuPont Photos)
Recently, the Living Legends of Auto Racing took center stage in Daytona once again to the delight of racers in the area for Speedweeks.
On Tuesday, February 13, 2007, the 14th annual Living Legend’s “Parade on the Beach” took place at Daytona Beach. The parade of cars started at South Daytona Beach Dunlawton Bridge and headed north on the beach for about one mile. Classic and vintage race cars first assembled for a fan participation session on the beach. After fan time was completed, all the cars participated in a one-mile parade. The event climaxed with a short sprint on the beach at 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.
This year there were two original Indian Racing Motorcycles that joined the Legends parade on the beach.
One of the participants this year was Marion “Mad” MacDonald. Mac drove a classic
gray Ford Galaxy 500 car in the parade with the number “14”. I asked Mac if he could share some of his race memories and he was glad to do so.
“I drove my convertible racing on two wheels,” MacDonald recalled. “Bill France said I would never win a race driving like that. He said that you’ve got to know when to go and when to slow. After I did that and I started listening to them I started to win races. I was the slender youth who wheeled his yellow touring car around the turns and banked it down the straightaways to take command of the lead.
“One time, I led the race for three laps and then I thought the race had been cancelled. There was no one behind me. I slowed down and pretty soon, here they came. I pushed the Ford too hard and the transmissions would not stand up. The way that I got a jump on the transmissions, I started to do it here at the beach race. But the man in front of me did it first so I was not going to do it. I opened the car wide open with it in gear and let the clutch out and the car behind me was covered with sand. That was they way that I got ahead of a lot of them while racing. And then when I would go to stop, I would slam the transmission in second gear, to slow it down. When I had it in the slow gear it would lock the back wheels and it would turn sideways. So instead of going around the curve fast I would go past the race track curve a little bit and then go a straight shot down the back stretch.”