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Who's Who of NASCAR's Earlier Days Feature in Unique Image
It has been said, and may be argued, whether a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
One this is not debatable about this one, however. It is worth 205 wins.
That is the grand total compiled by the eight identifiable drivers in this picture. Taken at Bristol prior to a gathering of competitors 50 years ago this spring. The year is 1964 and the images is a window of time in the evolution of a drivers' meeting. It also is a look back at an informal, candid glimpse into the faces of some of NASCAR's greats.
We'll take it left to right.
That's LeeRoy Yarbrough in the white jacket on the far left. No need to run spell check; it is correct. LeeRoy, with no space between the "e" and the "R." The last name is right as well. It is Yarbrough, not Yarborough, as in Cale. The spelling is not a typo and they are not related.
Yarbrough's career was short compared to many. After running a single race in 1960, his track time stretch across a period of about 11 seasons from 1962-72. Despite never running a "full" schedule, Yarbrough earned 10 poles and 14 wins with most coming for the legendary Junior Johnson.
Seven of those wins came in 1969 when, driving in just 30 of 54 races, he recorded 21 top-10 finishes and was named American Driver of the Year by one organization.
Yarbrough finished 11th that weekend.
Moving right, that is 23-year-old Buddy Baker with the hood on his head. A 19-time winner on what is now NASCAR's Sprint Cup tour, Baker had seven top-10 finishes at Bristol. Known as a foot-to-the-floor racer, Baker also posted three poles at BMS. He finished 29th that weekend.
In front of Baker at the right front corner or the car is Johnny Allen.
From Greenville, S.C., Allen is an interesting story. Running just a handful of races by 1964, Allen earned one official career win in NASCAR's top division. The word official is thrown in there for clarity. Allen actually was behind the wheel of the winning car in the first ever Cup race at Bristol, July 30, 1961, driving in relief of friend Jack Smith. But Smith had started and completed half the race before turning it over to Allen and NASCAR rules credit the results to the driver who starts the race.
Allen started fifth but finished 32nd that weekend.
Midwest native Darel Dieringer is in front of Allen with his back to the car wearing sunglasses.
In a brief career, Dieringer ran 12 times at Bristol with five top-10 finishes and a pole. He earned seven career wins but one did not come that weekend, when he started seventh and finished 22nd.
In front of Dieringer, head down with his pass clipped to his jacket, is legendary Glenn "Fireball" Roberts.
A 2014 NASCAR Hall-of-Fame inductee, Roberts won 33 times in his incredible career, including March of 1963 at Bristol Motor Speedway. In seven races at Bristol, Roberts also earned a pole and three second-place finishes to go with his win - including that weekend 50 years ago in a Holman-Moody Ford.
Partially blocked by Roberts with back to the trailer is five-time Bristol winner, the Silver Fox - David Pearson. A 2011 NASCAR Hall-of-Fame member and second on the all-time list with 105 wins, Pearson.
He earned 10 top-10s and three poles at Bristol and won four of six races from 1967-69. But on that weekend in 1964, he started 15th and finished 28th for Hall-of-Fame car owner Cotton Owens.
Beside Pearson, behind the gentleman in the hat, is Wood Brothers wheel man Marvin Panch.
An anomaly to some since his early stock car career was not shaped in the South but on the West Coast around Oakland, Panch was a tough competitor. A 17-time winner on the Cup tour, his greatest success came while driving the Wood Brothers machine.
Emphasis of his tenacity, however, came in 1957 when he finished second in the point standings behind Buck Baker, despite piecing together a schedule with four different car owners, including his owner equipment.
Panch started on the pole that weekend in 1964 and finished fifth.
To the left of Panch, on the right of the picture is Paul Goldsmith. Coming to NASCAR from motorcycle racing via open-wheel competition, the 1961 USAC Champion was a nine-time winner in NASCAR, including summer of 1966 at Bristol.
That weekend, he finished third, behind Fred Lorenzen and Roberts and ahead of Buck Baker and Panch.
Finally, in white cap with back to the camera is not a driver but former NASCAR flagman and chief steward Johnny Brewer, Sr.. The man who for years sent the early legends of the sport off to race and flagged so many famed winners, Bruner saw a lot on his watch.
So there it is. Fifty years ago this month. A picture might very well be worth a thousand words because we took nearly 850 to explain this one.
See you at the races.