If you're not careful, you may learn something
Perusing the records of racing history may be a boring endeavor to some, and even mind-numbing to others. Some, however, choose to look at names, dates and times as a snapshot of where our sport has been. Not an entire meal or even a big bite of knowledge. Sometimes the information is minimal – like the finger-food of statistics.
Author W.P. Kinsella ran across such an item around 30 years ago when he saw an entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia regarding this guy and made him a character in a popular book, and even more popular movie (not this one), but this one starring this guy.
Take a week, any week. This week for example.
Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR Cup champ and two-time Bristol winner, was born this week (December 14) in 1954. Hershel McGriff, (who?, one might ask), voted in 1998 one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers of all time, was a December 14 baby as well.
Current Nationwide series driver and Bristol local, Eric McClure, was born December 11. So was Herman Beam of Johnson City, Tenn., which usually is just a hop, skip and maybe a jump from Bristol Motor Speedway, but probably not for someone with the nickname with which Beam was labeled. Beam never won any Cup races, but did hold a NASCAR record for more than 50 years.
Earl Balmer of Floyds Knobs, Ind., ran just 32 races over a six-year period, 10 in one year. But he drove for some of the biggest names in racing: Including NASCAR Hall of Famers Bud Moore, Cotton Owens and the Wood Brothers. Balmer even won a race in 1966 for legendary Ray Fox when the qualifying races at the beginning of the season still counted as wins.
But what about others? Not the ones of whom most, or at least many, have heard. But the others. The Moonlight Grahams of the racing world.
Mark Hurley, ironically, also from Johnson City, Tenn., was born Dec. 12, 1936. He ran 16 Cup races in his career, exclusively at short tracks across the Southeast. That includes a stop in Bristol in 1963 where he started 27th and finished 26th – ahead of Fireball Roberts and Buck Baker among others.
Then there was Harry Gailey, who passed away three years ago this week at the age of 75. He ran one race, just one race. For George Elliott out of Georgia. Yeah, those guys.
See … pick a date, a week, a time in history. And as Bill Cosby used to say, if you’re not careful, you may learn something.