“If You Kin’t Write About This…”
A pal asked me a while back to recall the best quotes I heard in my more-than-50 years of covering NASCAR.
I hesitated a bit, not because I couldn’t remember any, but because there have been so many. My mind fumbled in trying to rate them.
I couldn’t do it, so I gave him a sampling of the better ones.
My friend’s query encouraged me into thinking further and I decided to draw up a list of memorable utterances that are printable, selected from a multitude, and placed in chronological order. Here’s are those I selected for now, with more likely to come at a later date:
1. "If you kin’t write about this, you kin’t write about nothin'." –A drawling Lee Petty, after his photo finish with Johnny Beauchamp in the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959. NASCAR President Bill France Sr., originally ruled Beauchamp the winner, but 61 hours later - after reviewing dozens of photographs and movies - France declared Petty had won.
2. "It was like a Sunday afternoon sandlot baseball game back home in Timmonsville. We started at dinner time (lunch) and quit at dark." - An exhausted, red-faced Cale Yarborough, runner-up in the inaugural 500-mile race on Oct. 31, 1965, at N.C. Motor Speedway, an event that took almost five hours to complete.
3. "Bill, when the weather is as bad as this track, I don't even take off." - The late LeeRoy Yarbrough, responding to NASCAR founder and Talladega Superspeedway builder Bill France Sr., who had implored Yarbrough and other top drivers to treat the new track's tire-eating tendency in mid-September of 1969 as a storm they'd encounter in aviation. They refused the track's inaugural and struck for the only time in NASCAR history.
4. "Jaws! Jaws! That talky Jaws! That's what happened." - Yarborough, describing a ruinous accident with relative newcomer Darrell Waltrip, the most loquacious driver in a long time, as they battled for the lead late in the Southern 500 of 1977. The "Jaws" nickname has stuck ever since.
5. "Wonder where this race will rate on The Cale Scale?' " - Waltrip, striking back early in the week of Charlotte's fall 500 miler in ’77 and referring to Yarborough's temporary penchant for grading races on the basis of miles run and purse offered.
6. "Naw, but sometimes they come to me." - Former driver-turned team owner and self-professed country boy Junior Johnson, who won three straight Winston Cup titles, 1976-78, with Yarborough driving, after being asked if he went to General Motors engineers for help.
7. "Stick with me kid, and we'll both be wearing diamonds as big as horse droppings." - Crew chief Jake Elder to 1979 rookie Dale Earnhardt, who won seven Cup Series championships and amassed purses of almost $42 million before his death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
8. "It sounded like Saturday night in Junior Wong's kitchen." - Buddy Baker, winner of the 1980 Daytona 500 after 18 years of trying, on the conversation between himself and crew chief Waddell Wilson as Baker led as the laps wound down. Wilson ordered Baker to slow to conserve fuel. Baker refused and the two argued over the radio. At the time Baker's friend Wong operated a popular Chinese restaurant where wildness prevailed in the kitchen on busy weekend evenings.
9. "Sincerely, Bill France." - In the mid-1980s the NASCAR founder decided to deliver the invocation before the Daytona 500. He eloquently implored The Lord for wide-ranging blessings. But, through a long silence, he forgot one word - "Amen" - and substituted the above.
10. "Tom, I'm facing minor brain surgery." - Buddy Baker, in a phone call to me after examination showed that an injury three months earlier had created a blood clot the size of a peach on the right side of his brain in 1988. Astonished, I blurted, "Buddy, there's no such thing as minor brain surgery." To which he replied, "I was afraid you were going to say that." The operation, happily, turned out fine.
11. "Someone bit my little brother John's ear almost off. I think it was very unprofessional." - Barry Dodson, then crew chief for Rusty Wallace, commenting about a fight with Darrell Waltrip's crewmen after the controversial Winston all-star race of 1989, won by Wallace after contact between the cars caused Waltrip to spin.
12. "It was bigger than Mule Day." - Sterling Marlin, describing the celebration in his hometown of Columbia, Tenn., when he won the Daytona 500 of 1994 for his first Winston Cup victory in 279 starts. When someone asked what Mule Day is, Sterling's wife, Paula, had perhaps the funniest quote of all when she said, "It's a bunch of asses walking around."