The following is a list of stories and memories relayed to me by racing fans like you. I heard many of these stories sitting around my Dad's kitchen table as I was growing up. If you have a story or memory that you would like to share please send it to me. I'd love to post them.
Ray Cato and singer Harold Jenkins
Mississippi Racing Legend Ray Cato of Vicksburg told me a story that I just had to post. In 1968, Ray was racing in Greenville at the Valley Hill Speedway located near Greenwood, Mississippi. After the races, he and his wife Eileen would head back to Vicksburg and stop at a place called Al’s Supper Club. It was a nice Restaurant/Bar/Honkytonk located on Hwy 82 between Greenville and LeLand. Ray became friends with a singer that was playing at Al’s. The singer’s named was Harold Jenkins. Harold had some success in the music industry in the early 60’s, but was back in Mississippi after a disagreement with a record company. Everyone enjoyed Harold’s singing and the management at Al’s was happy to have him. Every Saturday after the races, the Cato’s would stop by and have a drink or two with Harold during his breaks.
One night Harold asked how Ray and Eileen had met, so Ray told him this story. Eileen and Ray met in elementary school and he fell in love with her at a very early age. They lived in the same neighborhood and played together almost every day. In high school, Ray wanted to date Eileen, but her parents forbid her to date until she was older. So Ray started dating another girl in school named Linda.
Linda and Ray had been dating for about 2 years when Eileen’s parents decided she was old enough to start dating. Well Ray now found himself between a rock and a hard place. He had truly fallen in love with two wonderful young ladies. For weeks, he struggled with what to do. When he was with Linda, he couldn’t stop thinking about Eileen. When he was with Eileen, he couldn’t get Linda off his mind. Ray finally decided to break up with Linda so he could date Eileen. This broke Linda’s heart and to this day, she has not let him forget it.
Ray shared this story of falling in love with two wonderful women and the dilemma he faced in choosing between the two. Ray noticed that Harold was taking notes as he was talking. As the night went on, Ray asked Harold what he was doing with all those notes. Harold told him that this was a real good story and had the makings of a great country song.
In 1975, Ray Cato received a message from Harold that he had finished the song and had recorded it. Harold said that he had to change the names and a few other details to make the song work. It was quickly climbing the country charts.
Like racing, Life is also full of twists and turns. Ray and Eileen spent 50 amazing years together. After Eileen’s death, Ray reconnected with Linda, whose husband had also passed away. Ray and Linda have now been togather for two wonderful and happy years.
And now you know the rest of the story…
Armond Holley’s Generosity at Louisville, Ky. Speedway
As remembered by Terry Broadus
I am sure anyone who has had the pleasure of racing with, around, or against Armond Holley has an Armond Holley tale to share. I not only have a great story, but have the news article to back it up.
In Febuary ’72, I went to Mt. Vernon, Illinois and purchased the car which became the black #32 sprinter. We began gearing up and talking about going North in May of ’73 to Anderson, Indiana to run the Little 500 with Armond signed to do our driving.
The Little 500 is a 500 lap race on a high banked ¼ mile paved track that has run continuously since 1948. The list of drivers that have participated in this event reads like a history book of open wheel racing on asphalt. Qualifying for the event at that time took place two weeks before the actual race. The race is always held the Saturday night before the Indy 500.
Qualifying is 4 consecutive laps just like at Indy. We had a little glitch in qualifying but still made it into the seventh row inside – the top 33 cars that qualify to start the race, start just like Indy, three to the row, eleven rows. The track is a paved high bank ¼ mile speed bowl with the grandstands all the way around. The noise is absolutely unbelievable.
After all-day qualifying, many cars stay around and run their regular Saturday night race. We did not win a race that night, but placed in the feature and heat races so that put us in line at the pay window. Armond was "antsy" after the rase, so I asked him to go collect our winnings as we loaded the car to move on to Louisville KY for a Sunday race. We could settle up on Sunday in Louisville.
The next day we had the third quickest time for the 40 lap feature. The track was a 3/8 miles paved semi-banked oval. They started the race 3 abreast with Holley on the inside pole. Calvin Gilstrap was on the pole and he brought the field down slow to start the race. When the green flag fell, Holley dropped down low and called on the car’s quick horsepower. He move to the front of the field and went on to win the feature.
During the race, Marty Broadus looked over to me and said, “What the hell is that flying out the top of the roll cage?” I said, “Well, I see something…It must be part of the seat cushion.” Armond took the checkered flag and we all ran to the start/finish to celebrate the win. Shortly after, several of the drivers, started coming to the start/finish line with big grins on their faces and $20 bills in their hands. The $220 that Armond collected at Anderson had worked its way out of his pocket and had been flying out and sticking to the race cars behind him. Amazingly, we received $180 of the $220 back.
Two weeks later, we returning to Anderson Speedway to compete in the Little 500. We started 21st and ran as high as 3rd . About lap 300, we blew the strong destroker 400 engine going into turn 3.
Holley drove for me on other occasions, but none were as memorable as the 1973 Little 500 and the ASA feature race at the Louisville Fairground.
Whynot Bounty on Tommy Nolin
As told by Terry Broadus
After having looked at your very informative website, a picture and small article brought back memories of some 35 year ago. My memory of all the drivers has faded somewhat, so I will only recall the first and second rows of a very serious, funny, enjoyable, and memorable sprint car feature race at Clyde’s Whynot Speedway in the early 70s when a bounty was placed on Tommy Noblin.
Noblin had been unbeatable in the 55 car at Whynot for 2 years in feature wins. Having built and promoted my own track in Long Beach, Twin Oaks Speedway, I became very close friends with Clyde. I also owned and drove the #32 sprint car. My brother Marty owned, along with Dave Harrelson of Gulfport the #42 sprint car. Marty also drove the car. Marty was state champion and track champion at several regional dirt tracks. We ran mostly on the Coast at Lamey’s Speedway, Twin Oaks Speedway, and Loranger Speedway in Louisiana. Our trips to Whynot were mostly for special events when we were offered Clyde’s $50.00 show-up money to stir his crowd up. My brother Marty mostly ran up front in the #42 car; I did not always run fast but hardly ever ran last, but we were competitive with the better drivers of that era.
Clyde had placed a bounty on Noblin. Anyone who could beat Noblin in the feature, would take home $500.00. On that particular Saturday, Clyde had invited a great field of cars to challenge Noblin. After the time trials, Noblin placed first, Sammy Swindell second, me in the #32, Marty in the #42. That is why I recall the first two rows and not the remainder of the field, most of whom were well known drivers in the region. I will not try to name the rest of the field for fear of leaving someone out but it included drivers from W. Memphis, local hot shoes, Texas, Alabama, and several other areas. At Whynot, you had to make the first lap clean; if someone had problems or spun out, you had to have a complete double row restart. I don’t believe there was any limit on the amount of restarts either.
As we lined up for the feature, I lined up behind Noblin and Marty lined up beside me, behind Sammy. I can’t remember if Sammy had started driving the Davis Electric car, M.A. Brown’s #44 or was in his #91. Noblin’s #55 car was hanging about 2 foot of fire out each header probably due to the heavy mixture of Nitro he was known to use. Trying to line up, I had tears running out my eyes so badly I could hardly see past the roll bar from the fumes coming from the #55 car.
We made several attempts to start and the #55 seemed to start slow; Swindell appeared to jump him each time, so the start was called off. on the third or fourth start, it was obvious Noblin was going to start the field faster. Swindell and Marty’s #42 must have sensed the faster start also.
As we took the green flag, we were bunched in a tight group. Right after the green, Swindell shot ahead of Noblin going for the inside of turn 1. All of a sudden, as the story went later, Noblin somehow knocked the #55 out of gear just as he was falling behind Swindell. “You did not pass Swindell, after he takes a lead.” All I could see was the tail of the #55. I somehow slid by him on the right side and into the side of the #42, as we were going into the turn. We were all able to gather back up and head down the back straight with Swindell pulling away and Noblin coasting through turns 1 and 2. We thought Noblin had broke and gone to the infield, so we stayed hooked up. The second time by the flag stand with Swindell out front of the #42 and the #32, the flagman threw the yellow and gave the re-lineup signal. I was thinking, “What the hell? With a new restart, I should be starting from the pole with the straight up realignment since I started behind Noblin, but…”
Just as we all slowed and began to line back up, here comes the #55 blasting around and takes his position back on the pole. (Apparently by this time, Sammy’s dad, Sam, was making his way from the pits off turn 3 and 4 and to the flagstand.)
As all the cars were lined back up, Noblin on the pole and Swindell out, we headed down the back straight for a restart, still unaware of what happened. As usual going down the back stretch, I looked to the flagstand to see which flag the flagman was holding down by his leg. (To my surprise, no one was in the flagstand even though the flagman had previously given us the 1 to go last time by.) As we turned to come out of turn 4, all I could see under the flagstand were arms and legs flying everywhere, and a security guard running down the side of the track towards the mass of arms and legs. As we came back around, Clyde was standing beside the track telling us to keep going, while the security guard and several spectators were untangling Sammy Swindell’s dad from the flagman. Needless to say, as the record bears out, we did receive a green flag with Noblin on the pole. He went on to win the event and Clyde retained his $500.00.
Later in the year, Bubby Jones went on to claim the bounty in a J. and J. chassis owned by M.A. Brown of McKenzie, Tennessee and sponsored by Bruce Cogle Ford out of Thomasville, Alabama. Marty and I were also in attendance that night, but never a contender as Bubby set sail and never looked back.
History of the Scott County Motors car# 392
In the early 1950’s Leon Sessions and Gary Jones started an automobile business in Forest Mississippi called “Scott County Motors”. Gary loved fast cars and racing. Together they built and sponsored a car 392. They teamed up with Jackson driver Bill Corley and started racing her at Speedbowl Park and Laurel Fairgrounds in 1953.
According to Mississippi Racing Historian Jack Brown, the first #392 was painted Gold. The car was fast but was not a winner. During the off season between 1954 and 1955, the 392 when through some major changes. They cut the car down, rebuilt the motor and painted it white. In 1955 and 1956, the car became a winner.
In 1956 co-owner Gary Jones was killed in a one car accident on Hwy 80 between Morton and Forest. Leon Sessions continued to race the car for a couple of years, but he didn’t have the passion in racing that Gary had. Leon sold the car and Bill Corley moved out of state.
The new owner, Rubin Finch, was also a native of Forest Mississippi. Rubin chaned the 392 color to black and started looking for a driver. He found a young new driver from Scott County to pilot this fast hot rod. This young man late became known nationally as the “Mississippi Skeeter”. His name was Tommy Noblin.
The Very First Race I Saw at Speedbowl Park
Last night I was looking at some of the links off Miss Chicken site. Went to the Alabama pioneer link and looked at the Johnny Ardis collection. There was a photo of Doug Wimpee’s #30 car. This car won the VERY FIRST STOCK CAR RACE I EVER SAW AT SPEEDBOWL PARK. I did not make the connection between it and Ardis. In that race, Doug Wimpee in 30 beat Lucky Mayes in Louie Nolan's #90 "Snake Bite Special" and Sam Stevens from Isola in his red & black 33 in the trophy dash that night. What a lap around memory track.
The very first stock car I ever saw on the Speedbowl track that night was #420, a yellow and red 34 Ford 3 window coupe driven by Lamar Griffing sponsored by Murray Auto Parts, a huge junk yard that used to be on 49 North next to Johnny Baker's. I can clearly see the car coming out of #4 turn as I walked through the gate and saw the track for the first time ever. It blew past me and I could feel the dirt and smell the oil. I was hooked on racing forever. It had a bumper on the front that looked like a big old bed post headboard. That car was so beat up you could barely read the numbers or tell what color it was. It also had a huge amount of slack in the steering box. As Lamar would come out of the turn you could see him spin the steering wheel almost a turn before the thing would catch and turn. The old top had been hammered out so many times it was completely out of shape. Both doors were wrinkled like tinfoil. It still had mud on it from five races ago. The "Murray Auto Parts" address and phone number lettered on the door was done by a sign painter, nice and straight, but the number 420 had been slapped on there by some clown with a bogus paint brush. 420 was their address on 49 north, then called Woodrow Wilson Blvd. But Lamar won the slow heat with it that night. Lots of cars then used their street address number as their car number back then. Curley Walters two Andries welding cars, 311 and 317 used those numbers which were the street address numbers of the Andries welding shops on Rankin street. Ival's 631 got his number from Central Welding's address, 631 South State St. This was car owner Mr. McElveen's business location. There were several more. Dixie Nash Motors, 521 State st. used that number on their old car. A & M motor Sales used 117 on their car, from the car lot at 117 Pearl Street. The 948 car pictured on the website driven by John Ericson used Bill Weathersby's house number, 948 Winn Street, on his car. I could go on with some more but u get the picture.
History of the Jackson Speedway and the Jackson Sports Arena.
The Jackson Speedway (1958) and Jackson Sports Arena (1959-1967) were different dirt tracks in the same location (HWY 49 North). Originally there was a quarter mile asphalt drag strip there. Guy Burroughs and Lewis Traweek built the thing on the site of an old horse race track. The covered grandstand was built during the Horse Track days . The drag strip opened to big crowds, they even had some of the dirt track cars like 248 and 631 come out to drag race. Chicken McCombs put transmissions in them and Ival Cooper raced them on the drag strip. I think I remember Ellis Palasini even trying it a time or two. The dirt track racers probably convinced the owners to build the 1/2 mile dirt track adjacent to the drag strip. They called it the Jackson Speedway. It only raced a few times, as it had no lights and ran only on Sunday afternoons. Then C.E. Smith got the lease from Jimmy Fowler and cut the track down to 1/4 mile. He kept the old 1 and 2 turns and built a new turn 3 and 4. He put up lights and raced on Saturday nights. He renamed the track to the Jackson Sports Arena. C.E. lived at the track for a while in a trailer. He used the drag strip as a runway for his airplane. He parked it in a home made hanger under the bleachers. He had ideas of some day turning the property into an amusement park, even bought a few old carnival rides that stayed parked on the back of the race track parking lot for years. He opened the Arena Club under the grandstand and it was a wild place. But he was making money there and junked the amusement park idea. Don't know what became of those old rides.
Go kart popularity came up, so he built a small dirt oval in the middle of the quarter mile track. That’s where I made my first ever race attempt in a home made go kart. Pat Patrick helped me tune it that Sunday afternoon but it just would not run right. Then C.E. created a paved kart track directly in front of the grandstands, using the drag strip as the back stretch and paving a series of right and left turns directly in front of the grandstand. Karts from all over the state raced there on Sundays and sometimes on Friday nights. Dirt Track racers like Bobby Harrell, Curley Walters, L.D. Phillips, W.L Bonner and Chicken McComb all raced karts there. Yazoo Mower Company began to manufacture karts and had an actual factory team with drivers Bob Doolittle and Buzz Haffey who ran all over the south for Yazoo karts. Bob also drove a Studebaker in the jalopy class for W.L. Bonner.
C.E and Doc Bass built a 49 Ford jalopy car, dabbed paint all over it and wrote "the spotted ape" on the doors. Doc hired a friend of mine to drive it and told him he'd give him $50 to flip the car during the jalopy races to add some excitement. But C.E. didn't want the Ford turned up. My friend really need the $50 so he built another car, a 49 Plymouth which he named 'the 7th Son". He flipped it first. The brittle water pipe roll bars all broke out and the top was so flat the old boy could hardly get out of it. It scared him so bad he quite driving. “The 7th Son” was scrapped, and the last time I saw “The Spotted Ape” it was sitting beside C.E.'s airplane under the makeshift hanger.
Asphalt racing gained popularity and C.E and Fowler pursued their interest in Jackson International Speedway, leaving the Sports Arena to be torn down by Fowler. It eventually became Presidential Hills subdivision. The main entrance street to the subdivision is roughly located on the old drag strip site. So there's your history lesson for today.
Major Hudson - My Hero
As told by Lacy Nix-Buckhault
While reading through the Racing Stories and Memories, this particular memory came to mind.
As the granddaughter of Thomas Lindsey, driver of the #57, I spent a good part of my childhood at the racetrack. Major Hudson was my HERO! I was a little girl infatuated with everything Major! I was so crazed by Mr. Hudson that I named my very first pet after him. My Major Cat! He was a yellow tabby cat bearing the name of my racecar driving idol. To this very day, whenever I see Major Hudson in person or picture, I say, “Oh, my Major Cat!”
-Lacy Nix-Buckhaults (granddaughter of Thomas Lindsey; daughter of Rusty Nix)
Story behind the #1 Car Super Modified driven by Wayne Holland as told by Melissa Holland
This car has a lot of fond memories; not only to my family but to others as well. As my dad, Wayne Holland states, "I don't know where this car was originally built; but it was maintained by Bobby Harrell and owned by the Saik Brothers of Jackson. This car was driven at one time by the late Ival Cooper #44 and was run at Jackson International Speedway as well as other tracks throughout the area and as far as I know this car was never outrun." My dad went on to explain how the car had caught afire at Bobby Harrell's shop and burnt and was later transported to Neely Construction and parked behind their shop for junk basically. To make a long story short, my dad and Claude Bayles with Jackson Plating Company ended up with this car. It was moved to Jackson Plating Company and totally restored; upon completion this car was totally chrome plated, gold plated and anodized; the only paint upon this car was the lettering and the # 1. All that was left was an engine, which Larry Goldman built; this car was driven by my dad, Wayne Holland and continued to win numerous races just like it did before the fire.
Doc Bass and Motors Inc.
As told be Ronald Dearman
In 1952 my dad had a 1948 Mercury police car. Dad told my mother he had to work late one Saturday and he would be home late. It seemed Doc wanted the Mercury engine for his dirt car. He bought Dad a rebuilt Ford engine and they changed it out that night. Racing hasn’t change a whole lot over the years has it. Whatever it takes to Getter d-one!!
ANOTHER - Doc Bass was shop foreman at Motors Inc. and my dad worked for him from ‘48-‘52. Doc Bass gave me and my sister a black cocker spaniel dog. We had him for a couple of days and the dog just would not eat. Dad told Doc about the dog and Doc said, oh yea, he eats two scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee for breakfast. If they are not on a clean plate and cup he won't eat. Well, we did give him eggs and coffee on a clean plate and he ate. We never gave him a cigar ! (Just in case you didn't know Doc Bass, he always had a cigar)
ANOTHER - Dad told me one night they were trying to set up one of Doc's cars on alcohol without much success. They kept on adjusting and adjusting until they blew it up. Dad said it seemed like it was raining headbolts all over the shop at Motors Inc.
CADTLLAC LASALLE COUPE - Jackson Sports Arena 1963 or 1964
As told be Ronald Dearman
After the #709 was totaled, David Moore needed a ride. He and some friends hastily put together a Cadillac engine and put it in a ‘39 Chev coupe. I knew a fellow in Harrisville that had a LaSalle Hearst in his pasture. David bought the grill and we put it on the Chev like it was going to fool anyone. They let him run the thing anyway. I think it was the feature race he made 3 or 4 laps, hit a bump going into #1 turn and the motor and transmission fell out the bottom. The car ran over the motor and transmission and flipped and rolling over it. That was the first and last race for the Cadillac LaSalle Coupe. David drove the 6 "Pac" the next year.
Joe Hall and the 6 "Pac" - Jackson Sports Arena 1964
As told be Ronald Dearman
One night Joe Hall agreed to time the "6 Pac " for us. He folded some coveralls for a cushion because the "Pac" had an aluminum aircraft seat. Joe turned a good first lap but stalled in #4 turn on the second lap. When we got up there Joe was out of the car and said the drive-shaft had came out. He got his coveralls out and we found a four inch gash in the seat. We looked at the coveralls again and all but the top fold had been cut. Joe almost had a real pain in the rear because of the "Pac" that night! We could not find any driveshaft bolts. Roundman had some 1/4 stovebolts in his tool box so we doubled nutted them and finished every race that night.
Jackson Sports Arena Ambulance
I was looking around the Jackson Sports Arena link and got around to a photo of that old black ambulance owned by the track. Here's a funny story about it. Word was that Doc Bass and C.E. Smith were unwilling to pay for local ambulance service, so they found this old Cadillac and bought it cheap. It sat in the same place, next to the pits week after week. One night Jack Mace was drivng the 248. (Ival was not in it that night for some reason.) The car was involved in some sort of collision and got bounced around pretty good. Jack was larger than Ival and not used to the seat in the car. He hurt his shoulder blade on the top edge of the seat. He was in a great deal of pain as they got him out of the car. Doc Bass or someone ran over to the trusty?? track ambulance, jumped in and hit the starter. Nothing. Dead battery. The siren and lights wouldn't even work. They wound up hauling poor Mace to the hospital in somebody's truck. So far as I know that thing never was used.
Chicken McComb's #248
Here's something I'll bet some folks did not know. For years the Chicken McComb wrenched car 248 terrorized area tracks with its familiar dark blue bottom, white top paint scheme powered by a Cadillac engine. The car was seldom beaten. But in the late years the car ran, both the paint scheme and the engine were different. Chicken got a CAE chassis from the manufacturer and for a while ran the car with a red bottom and white top, running a Pontiac engine. It was still a winner with this combination.
Doc Bass and CE Smith
Doc Bass was never without that cigar and always wore those little round glasses. One time he and C.E. Smith went to a race somewhere in C.E.'s airplane. Coming back to Jackson they ran into some rough weather and had trouble landing. They said Doc was speechless and white as a sheet by the time C.E. landed his little Cessna. He had chomped the cigar completly into and all they could get out of him was "I'll never get in another airplane as long as I live"
Johnny Baker and his #49
Story as told by Hugh Gerald:
One night after the races in Laurel (the late 50’s) Johnny Baker hooked the #49 car to the tow bar on the back of his wrecker and headed home to Jackson. Some where along Hwy 49 he stopped for gas and the car was GONE. It had come loose from the hitch ball. He turned around and went back and found it off the Hwy buried in some trees. That was one tough little car.
Armond Holley Racing Super Modifieds up North
Story as told by Duane DePuy: Story taken from Website InRacing with SuperDave
I first met Armond Holley back in 1973. At that time I was production manager for Lakewood Industries, manufacturing safety racing equipment such as bell housings and traction bars. The boss brought this skinny hill billy into my office and said "Give him something to do."
So we put him to work as a tool and die maker. He did a good job for us, except that he had to have Fridays off and would come in late on Monday, cause he was racing!
Seems as though Bill Port needed a driver for his 4 wheel drive rear engine supermodified and had called Bill Hite, the builder-engineer. Hite recommended Holley with "This guy will win for you, Bill." And win he did, the first nite in the 55 car, Armand won the feature at Lorain County Speedway. That was just the start of it as he won a whole bunch more at almost any track that he went to for Port.
One night he won the Australian Pursuit Race in three laps. You know what that race is about, they line up the ten fastest qualifiers single file and give them the green. If you get passed ...your out. Well John Lemmo, promoter was so impressed that he asked Port if Armond could do it in two laps.
The next week Armond was fastest qualifier again and with a silly grin on his face he did it in one lap. He passed four cars through turns one and two, two more on the back stretch and coming off turn four, he had all four tires smoking as he beat the rest to the flag. He did it with no more than 358 ci when 400 and 458 was commonplace.
Then there was the time at Sandusky when he got the black flag for running under his time...and he was the fastest qualifier. After an argument, he got paid for first.
But this bit is not only about Armonds escapades in the supers but about the experiences I had with him in other venues.
First of all Armond was a top notch tool and die maker and he did a fine job for us at Lakewood Industries. We also used him as a test driver for our products. One day we were at the Ohio Department of Transportation Test Center running tests on traction bars. We just about burned the tires off a Mach I Mustang and as we were leaving for the day Armand says "That 7 and a half mile high banked track is calling me, we just got to get on there!" So despite my protests he turns onto the track and puts the pedal to the metal.
Well to run the high part of the track you had to be doing around 140 mph and the Twanger wasn't up to it. But he was determined to do it! So here we are racing around that track wide open and with the tail hanging down.
Scared the hell out of me! But all Armond could do was ##### that the car wasn't fast enough.
Another time, a good buddy and I were going to run a car at sprint car race at Buckeye Speedway. We needed a driver and I asked Armond if he ever drove dirt. "Yeah a couple of years ago" he says. So we haul this brand new untried car down to Buckeye where there were over a hundred tried and true sprinters all ready to go. After practice, he qualifies in the top twenty and makes the feature.
Lining up for the feature, the twist-lock safety belt was hanging up and wouldn't release. Armand is getting impatient and itchy because I couldn't get it fixed. "C'mon, c'mon he hollers they're lining up for the featch." I told him gimme some time. He asks "Do you have a pocket knife?" Yeah I told him. "OK if I get in trouble, you come running. Push me off!"
Unfortunately he had to drop out due to overheating. No shaker screen, but he had that car right up in the front of the pack after twenty some laps.
Armond loved to race, but he wasn't foolhardy. He also had some of the most picturesque speech you ever heard. He asked me to go with him to a race at Sharon Speedway when it was still pavement. Some guy had bought Ports 4 wheel driver and wanted wanted him to drive it. Well the car just wasn't right for him. After we had worked on it for a while, Armond says "NO, My Momma didn't raise no dummies, this things fixin to hit the fence and I ain't going to be in it. It's as scary as taking a crap off a slanty tin roof backwards". Sure enough the other driver put it hard into the fence.
Unfortunately, Armond never made it to the big time, but if he had I would have loved to go with him. Because he was that kind of a guy!.
Paul McWilliams and his car L88
Told by Roy Parker, Pelzer, SC
I wanted share a story about Paul McWilliams and his L88 cars. I have attended races at tracks from Wyoming to Texas to Florida and New York, but I have never run across another car using the L88 number. The first time I ever saw Paul, he was driving a blue 1957 Chevy (L88) at Lamey's Speedway (North of Biloxi) in the 1974 - 1975 era. He rounded Turn 3 and was almost out of Turn 4 when he got the car loose and hit head-on into the wall just below the stands. He hit the wall very hard, stopped, shook his head, grabbed reverse, and away he went. I figured the car's front was totaled, but he drove it off to the pits.
A few years later Kenny Wood, Benny Spicer, Lander, and others were running 1962 - 1966 Novas with wings at Lamey’s Speedway. Kenny Wood was pretty good during that time with his white 1966-67 #23. And then here came Paul McWilliams with a low-slung Camero whose roof wasn't much more than four feet off the ground. Lamey”s Speedway had the timing light set so that the wings would trip the timer. Most of the cars of that era were sitting on 1955 or so frames. Anyway, Paul McWilliams shows up one night in one of the first low-slung and sleek 1970 Cameros - without a wing! He goes out to time in and his car is so low that it would not trip the light! They had to clock him by stop watch, and he still set fast time for the night. I heard that he had gotten the Allison’s (Bobby and Donnie) to build the car. The following year everyone was hunting the 1970 Cameros. Around 1977, the 1970 Camero bodies were getting hard to find and some of the Biloxi-area racers started using Vega bodies and stretching the front fenders. The Vegas were plentiful and they made a beautiful car.
CQ Ranch House Speedway - Hattiesburg Track
I never made it to that one, although passed it several times on my way to the coast. It was located on Hwy 49 just down the road from that old Beverly Drive-in theater that still stands there. It was out off the highway behind a night club called the CQ Ranch house. Hence named the CQ Ranch house Speedway. It did have a pond in the infield where there were tales of some cars actually going under the water. Most of the time it raced on Sunday afternoons. Many of the coast cars would stop off there to race on the way home from running Speedbowl Park in Jackson on Saturday night. Remember coming home from coast vacation with my parents once and seeing a bunch of cars gathered at the service station across from the Beverly theater. They were changing oil and working on them. 'Bout killed me not to get to stay and watch them run.
As told by Armond Holly Jr
Armond Holley was raised in Columbus MS where he graduated from New Hope High School, class of '51, I believe. Theres a picture of him up by the office at the school. Ival Cooper and Dad were very good friends and I remember how heartsick Dad was when Ival died. Dad always told me thar Ival was one of the best there ever was. Dad started racing somewhere in Memphis, I believe. It seems like it was at some fairgrounds, But I'm not positive. He was 15 years old and my Grandfather absolutely forbid him to race. He decided he was gonna sneak off and do it anyway, as someone had already hired him to drive their car. He would leave the house Saturday afternoon and tell my Grandparents that he was going to the drive-in in memphis. Well, this went on for sometime and Dad thought he had him fooled. He'd come home and my Grandfather would ask him how was the movie?" He'd just shrug or something. My grandfather would say ," ya sure do get dirty at the movies", Dad would just get to his room asap. Well, as it turns out, Dad won the feature race one night, got out of the car, and there was my grandfather, sitting in the front row of the grandstand. Dad said " I liked to died right then and there". It turns out one of the teachers from New Hope had told on him and my Grandfather had been there every night. He wasn't mad, he just told him it can't interfere with education. It diddn't, Dad Kept racing, graduated from New Hope and hit the road when he was 17.
As Told by Ray Catio
Valley Hill Speedway was off MS Hwy 82 near Greenwood, Mississippi. Steve McQueen was filming a movie in the Mississippi Delta near Greenwood. One night he heard the roar of the engines at the track and just had to go and see what was going on. He snuck away from his security and followed the sounds to the track. Steve McQueen was a very good race car driver in his day. Once at the track, it didn’t take him long to find someone to let him drive a car. He climbed aboard car # G600 and they let him take the track for 10 laps. His security team had a pretty good idea where he had gotten off to. They cough up with his just as he was finishing his 10 laps. I’ve never seen a popular person get chewed out so bad in front of so many people. As his security rushed him away, they apologized for their actions. They explained that the whole movie would be in jeopardy if anything should happened to Mr. McQueen. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as Steve McQueen left the track.
In my opinion Clint McHugh was the best driver I have ever seen. He could get everything a car had to offer out of it. Chicken McCombs had two very fast race cars, the 248 and 631. The great Ival Cooper was Chicken’s driver. Chicken ask Ival if it would be OK for Clint to drive one of the cars. Ival said sure! Clint told Ival to pick his car and he would drive the other one. Ival chose the 248. Clint took car 361 and turned the fastest qualifying lap of the night. In the Trophy Dash, Clint won the race beating Ival. Ival decided that he wanted to drive the 631 in the next race. Clint then to the 248 to the checkered flag in the next heat race beating Ival who was now driving the 631. Clint went on to win the Championship Race and scored the maximum amount points possible for the night. Clint was born to drive !
Mississippi Racing in the Early 1950's
Racing during the early 50's, rules were pretty lax. A big part of racing was to see what you could get away with. Our 32 Ford was running pretty sporty with the help of our special fuel mixture. The problem was flames would pour out the exhaust on both sides. We were always getting protested and were up against a tear down and inspection. That week we installed a dump valve in the bottom of the fuel tank with a long cable ending near the driver. We ran the race fueled heaver than ever, knowing full well that we would be protested. At the end of the race, I instructed the driver to make an extra lap and pull the cable. Well we were protested but the car had no fuel to sample so there was nothing to find.
Jackson Sports Arena
As told by Mike Kimble
My father was one of the 4 owners, including Ben Adams who owned the #99 from Wesson, Miss. It last raced at the old Jackson Int’l Speedway by Ikey Jerome. Many different drivers drove the car and won. Ellis Palasini won a big Labor Day race in the #99 at Jackson Sports Area, beating Hooker Hood in his #99. Ikey won the jalopy feature in #99jr that same night. It was a clean sweep for the "Wesson Racing Club". That was the same the night that Hoyt Speights old # 22, a 41 coupe jalopy spun out and stalled in turn 4, the driver jumped out and left the key on. Later in the race a car hit the stalled car, whick jump started it, and it went down the drag strip into the night with no driver. Johnny Baker used his wrecker headlights to find it. It was down at the end of the dragstrip against a tree. They found it...still running and the wheels spinning.
As told by Noel Wynne
My first car was a full bodied car #12 Gauge. It was heavy and slow. We built the New 12 Gauge from a Ford Coupe but we only had stock motor to put in it. It was also slow. Pat Patrick helped my brother-in-law, James Ball and I build a hot motor for the car. This car now had the power to run up front. In the spring of 1955 John Bethea purchased the number 99 car from Ben Adams of Wesson Ms and he ask me to drive it. We added a 9 to the side of the car and the 999 was born..
Frank Wilson, a Mississippi's dirt track pioneers
For some reason I though of another funny story that Fats Harvison used to tell. At the Laurel fairgrounds race track, they paid a $25 tow fee to all entries who raced but didn't win any money. This group of kids would show up every week pulling their old '37 Ford race car, drop the tow bar, push the thing off repeatedly, but it never would crank and run. They would just park it, watch the races, hook it up, collect their $25 tow fee at the pay gate, and tow back home. This went on for several weeks before a couple of the experienced racers felt sorry for them and attempted to help the boys get the car to run. One of them unexpectedly jerked open the hood and found out the reason the car would not crank. There was NO ENGINE in it. Those kids had been collecting the $25 tow fee every week, watching the races free, and having a great time at the track. Smart bunch of kids I'd say.
Racing Under the Hill in Morton Mississippi
As told by Buddy Taylor
Well let me tell you why we built the dirt track in Morton. Sketter Morehead of Morton had an old Chevy II Jalopy that he raced with us at Jackson Sports Arena (JSA). He had cut down the body and just tack welded the body back together. He put duck tape over the welds and painted the car. It looked sharp !! While running hot laps one Saturday night at JSA, Bill Steadman hooked a tire and the car rolled over. The body just fell all to pieces. CE Smith asks if the car could be fixed before the race. Sketter looked at all his friend around the car and we all said sure. Everyone in the Jalopy Class went to work trying to get it ready. We fixed the tire, replaced the battery by using one from someone's truck and completely pulled the body off the car. When the cars took the track for the jalopy race, Skeeter's car came out with only a frame, motor and a role cage. During the worm up laps the flagman black flagged the car but Bill refused to leave the track. They stopped the cars on the front stretch and ask Bill to take the car back to the pits. Charles Steadman, Bills brother, was driving the car on the pole that night. He called the flagman over and told him about all the work everyone had done and if that car didn't race then he wouldn't either. The cars made one more worm up lap and the black flag came out again. Charles (on the pole) took his car to the pits and everyone on the track followed him. CE Smith was hot. He ran down to the pits and told us all that if we didn't take the track and finish the race, none of us would ever race there again. We all loaded up our cars and left. We built the track in Morton and raced there for one season. JSA begged us to come back the next year and we did.
Chicken McCombs Car #631 driven by Ival Cooper
The body on this car was made from a cut down Crosley sedan placed on a tube frame. The Crosley was America’s first compact cars. It was produced back in late 1940's. The little car did not sell very well because gas was 35 cents a gallon and America wasn't ready for a compact car. Looking back, it was a car ahead of it's time. Chicken McCombs took a GMC 6 cylinder truck motor and put it in this cut down Crosley. He then added 5 carberators to this high torque motor and man that car would fly.
Racing in the Early 1950's
The old Jackson Motor Speedway (1950-1952), where Lake Hico is now, was developed by myself and Mr. Sheffield Clark. We just loved to race. We started the Jackson Racing Association and in April 1950, leased the land from Mr. Elmer Graham. We built the track using a Surplus4-wheel drive Dodge Army truck and a broken down pull along grader. We ran the track for 2 years and was making very little money so we sub-leased the track to Mr. CE Smith. He renamed it Speedbowl Park and the rest is history.
First race track in Central Mississippi
The absolutely first race track in Jackson was at the state fairgrounds. It was about 3/4 or one mile long dirt oval. The backstretch ran along about where High Street is now. The grandstand, a massive wooden structure sat where the coliseum is now. All I personally ever saw of this track myself as a small boy was a few fragments of the guard rail along where the back straight used to be. My Dad told me that he saw the legendary Barney Oldfield actually race here in a Marmon and the place drew huge crowds for races held during the fair. The race track closed about 1940 and a baseball field replaced it. This baseball team was about all there was to do in Jackson right after WWII. 1946 was about the first year I ever went down there. The grandstand continued to host musical/circus type shows during the fair each year plus an occasional outdoor rodeo/auto thrill show. I remember as a kid some daredevil named King Kovaz doing a ramp jump into a pile of cars in a yellow 36 Ford sedan. They knocked a hole in the baseball field's outfield fence so he could get the old Ford way outside the fairgrounds for a running start. He started way back about where Shoney's is now and let the hammer down. He made it about halfway over the pile of cars and crashed on top of them. He immediately crawled out a window and waved to the cheering crowd. Quite a showman. I had to find him after the show and just stood and stared at him. He must have known I was fascinated with his act, as he stopped loading his car and shook my hand. I was hooked. Tore up several Sears bicycles jumping ramps into cardboard boxes, piles of hay or anything else I could pile up. The old grandstand stayed until 48 or 49 when a tornado blew the top off it. Then in the early 50's it was torn down and replaced by the current coliseum.
The Flagman's job can get Dangerous
As told by Marion Truett
I took over the flag job at Jackson International Speedway when Tommy Swilley fell from the flag stand one night. He had a habit of leaning way over the rail to wave the flags. One night he just leaned too far waving the yellow flag, lost his balance and fell 30 feet or so to the asphalt. Cars were going left and right to miss him. The fall hurt him pretty bad. He did recover and took his rightful spot back on the flag stand.
Chicken McCombs Car #631 driven by Clint McHugh
In 1955 one of Chicken McCombs crew, Bo Blackwell, was welding on the back end of the car at their shop. He forgot about the fuel tank being full of gas and the 631's fuel tank blew up. It blew Bo slam out of the shop and into the yard. Burned him a bit too. After they took him to the doctor, Chicken came back, found the sheet metal piece of the car that had been blown off, and just welded them back on. Never repainted it or anything. The car was ready to race that weekend.
Below is an email conversation that I had with Ben Adams daughter (Debbie Adams Keene) in May 2006.
Debbie Keene: Hello Tobby. I'm Ben Adams daughter Debbie Adams Keene. Pat Barrett gave me your email address. I did not name the car, I painted the Dennis the Menace on the sides one time. Daddy told me he saw a black man with a log truck and it had “Steppingem” on the side. He asked the man what it meant. The man said, "Mr. Ben, she's a steppin' gem." Daddy thought that was funny and decided to paint it on the side of the race car. It's pronounced just like it looks. By the way, the car (Miss Chicken) you guys got from Johnny Baker, somewhere in the archives of my pictures I believe I have one of Johnny in that very car when HE owned it. If I come across it, I'll let you know. He was so tall; his head is almost sticking out the top. Daddy worked up there on Hwy 49 when I was in the third grade with Johnny at Dixie Used Parts, drove back and forth and then got the opportunity to open Wesson Auto Parts. Man, talk about ancient history. Enjoy your website!! Keep it up!! Email me if you have any questions, most likely I've heard it before.
Tobby: Why did your Dad paint Dennis the Menace on the car ?? Did it have anything to do with Ikey driving it ??
Debbie Keene: Hmm, Daddy just liked Dennis the Menace and he knew I could draw and paint. He actually wanted a picture of Wylie Coyote catching the Road Runner and paint "Beep, Beep, Hell !" on it.
Tobby: I love to hear stories of those days. What is you favorite story about your Dad.
Debbie Keene: Daddy had a brother named Bunk Adams that loved to fish. His real name was Z.T. Adams (as in Zachary Taylor) but he was always known by Bunk. He didn't care a THING about racing and Daddy didn't care a THING about fishing. Somehow Daddy talked my Uncle Bunk into coming to a race. Dad took two cars that night. His quickest car got in an accident early in the evening and was done for the night. Daddy and Uncle Bunk took the motor out of both cars, switched them and won the feature race. Talk about trusting each other to tighten all the bolts!!! Daddy always said his brother was the better of the two in mechanics! Oh the stories I know!! I asked my father one time how he knew SOOOO much about cars. He said, "Well, I would try something and if that didn't work, I didn't do it like that the next time." He could have been another Will Rogers with his dry humor. Only, I don’t' think he was kidding most of the time. He said his mother told him he was "cut out to be a doctor but they sewed him up wrong". I don't know where the race was that they switched engines, someone else may know, but I grew up with that story so it has to be old. There’s another story about how he went from driving to building race cars. They were racing in Laurel and he had a wreck and they rushed him to the hospital. My mother was inside the pits and couldn't go until the races had ended. Someone (not thinking) hands Mom his bloody helmet. By the time she gets to the hospital, she was scared and very mad. Daddy said, "my old head was thumpin' and she leaned over to me and says, ‘you can either find a new hobby or a new wife'. Well they were married 41 years when he died! I've got plenty of stories; you tell me when to stop. Thank you for your interest!!!!!
Kids in the Pits
As told by Mike Kimble
My father was one of the 4 owners, including Ben Adams who owned the #99 from Wesson, Miss. They formed the Wesson Racing Club and raced the #99 all over Mississippi. When I was growing up my Dad got it OK’d for me to go into the pits at the Jackson tracks at a pretty young age. If we visited a new track, Dad would say I was legal age to get me in the pits. Females weren’t allowed in the pits at all back then. Debbie Adams, Ben Adams’ daughter, had beautiful long blonde hair. She would have to sit in the stands. One weekend the Wesson Racing Club went to a race track where they didn’t normally race. I believe it was at Meridian. Since no one at the track knew the people who traveled with the #99, Debbie put her long hair under a cap, wore baggy clothes, and got in the pits pretending to be a boy. Mr. Ben laughed and told that story about Debbie for many years after that.
Carson SpeedwayCarson race track was on hwy 42 between Carson and Bassfield. Went there one time back in late 60's. They had some good races there that night. I will never forget this track. It had a huge butterbean patch off the back stretch. A '56 Ford, number BR-549, went off the #2 turn into the dark, out thru the butterbean field and came back up on the track dragging a few yards of butterbean vines.