TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER - August 3, 2017

TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER – August 3, 2017

Senoia Raceway fans, drivers, crew members and family can look forward to this weekly blog from journalist Rick Minter.  Rick has been reporting on motorsports at Senoia Raceway and elsewhere since 1976.

Minter

 

 

Back in the days when I was regularly traveling the NASCAR circuit, people would sometimes inquire how I got into the racing media business.  I’d tell them that it all started when I began going to the local dirt tracks with Don Patrick, who owned a car driven by Tony Allison.  Then one night at West Atlanta/Seven Flags Speedway, Tony flipped the car, and flipped and flipped.  When the crumpled car finally came to a halt at the end of the front straightaway, so did Don’s racing efforts.

 

So I started going to the races with Ricky Williams.  At that time, he was running Limited Sportsman at Senoia, West Atlanta, Rome and several other tracks.  It wasn’t uncommon for him to win two or even three times a weekend.  My role was fairly minor.  I mostly changed tires and quick-change gears, lots of them.

 

As I often say, when it comes to my racing days, it was all downhill from there.  Even though I wound up on the NASCAR beat and got to know and write about some of America ’s greatest racers, it was never as much fun as going to the races with Ricky and Terri Williams and the whole Williams clan.

 

When other reporters would talk about covering the stick-and-ball sports they wrote about before taking a NASCAR beat, I’d tell them stories about my days traveling with the Williams family.

 

Considering the time I’ve spent with him over the years, it goes without saying that I was really happy to see Ricky win for the first time in several years.

 

Just like in the old days, when he was out front I found myself looking at the scoreboard and counting down the laps, hoping nothing would happen to the car that would keep him from victory lane.

 

I counted down a lot of laps back in the day when he raced in the Limited Sportsman division, which was as tough as any class in local dirt racing.  For those of you who weren’t around back then, you missed quite a show.

 

In the summer of 1979, Ricky and his fellow Limited drivers got top billing at Senoia for several weeks thanks to a bounty placed on him by track officials.

 

To make sure I got my dates right, I dug out the old record book, a well-worn notebook given to me by track owner Charlie Edwards.  For years it was kept in the announcers booth with the winners written down each week.  Most of the pages are stained red from race track dust.

 

In the early months of 1979, Ricky either won or finished second most weeks.

 

On July 14, Ricky finished second to Mike Bagwell, with Gar Dickson taking third.  Ricky responded with wins on July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug.11.

 

For the Aug. 18 feature, track officials placed a $100 bounty on Ricky, which he claimed for himself by winning the feature.

 

The next week, for the Labor Day weekend races, the bounty increased to $200.  Buddy Dingler took the checkered flag, but refused to tear down his engine after being protested, so Ricky was declared the winner and collected the bounty again.

 

(In the Late Model feature that night, Dennis Vernon outran Roscoe Smith and Mike Head to take the $2,000 winner’s paycheck.)

 

On Sept. 8, Ricky won but was protested by second-finishing Gilbert Jenkins.  He was found to be legal and pocketed the $300 bounty, plus the regular purse.

 

On Sept. 15, the string finally came to an end as Larry Raines took the checkered flag with Ricky finishing second.  For the third-straight week, the winner was protested.  Raines was found legal and took the $400 bounty and the regular purse, which as I recall was $300 at that time.

 

When it was all said and done, despite the protests, all the competitors involved were still friends.  For a few hundred bucks a week, the track promoters had turned one driver’s domination of a division into a dramatic series of events that saw the excitement and drama build week by week.

 

As I looked back through that old record book from 1979, most the drivers in it are long retired.

 

I only found two, Jr. Hardy and Ricky Williams, who are still competing at Senoia.

 

And they’re both recent winners.  I’m glad I was able to be there to watch them win again. I’d take that over a Daytona 500 any day.

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