Thursday, May 2, 2013

1973 - Joe's bitter. . . Frasson loves racing, but Winston 500 may be his last

Talladega, Ala. (May 2, 1973)  Because he loves racing, Joe Frasson comes all the way from Golden Valley, Minn., to the speedways of the southeast.

Because he loves his family and has responsibilities away from Southern speedways, Joe Frasson might quit racing after Sunday's Winston 500.

Any stock car fan knows Frasson. He's the one who wears the floppy black hat, weighs 230 pounds, has the crooked nose and grins like a Cheshire at anybody in sight. Get a good look at him this week. It might be your last.

Frasson is bitter. Bitter enough to quit.

"I’m bitter because as long as I've been down here (South) purses haven't increased," says Frasson. "Yet the expense of racing is shooting up all the time. I don't see why a car that wins a race gets twice as much money as the second-place car, and the second place finisher gets twice as much as the third.

"I guarantee you if you don't finish at least fifth, you can't pay your motel and tire bill."

While drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Isaac and Bobby Allison - drivers Frasson calls "hot dogs" - normally finish among the top five in a race, it is fellows like Frasson who bring up the middle of the pack. Some cars have to be in front, some in the middle, and some at the end. But Frasson contends that only the "hot dogs" make the profits.

"I think a lot of drivers feel the same as I do," he says. "I'm not racing to get rich. I love to race, but I'm not gonna stay down here and put my business in danger."

The business is Joe Frasson Cement Company in Golden Valley, formerly Mario Frasson Cement Company. Joe was half-owner until he bought his dad out about a week ago.

"I’ve lost over $39,000 in racing just this year - $39,441 to be exact," said Frasson loudly. "Shoot. Guys like me can't make a dollar in racing. At least not the way (Bill) France has the purse so top-heavy."

Frasson also sounds off about Talladega's 60-car starting field for Sunday's race, the largest field in modern NASCAR history.

"For one thing, there's no money in it," he says. "They've increased the field but haven't hiked up the purse. And those cars starting 40 and on back are not gonna be competitive by any means. They'll be from 40 to 50 miles per hour difference in the first ear and the 40th, at minimum.

"And all 60 cars will do is give up more caution flags. NASCAR was talking earlier about cutting the field to 40 cars so there wouldn't be so many cautions. It looks like they've eliminated that idea."

Frasson admits there is one thing that could definitely prolong his career in racing, and that is to win here Sunday. He is confident.

"We’ve got all our eggs in the basket for this one," he says, grinning again. "I feel like we're capable of winning it. My crew's got lots more experience now. They've been giving me some real good stops. I think they're as fast as anybody out here.

"We're hoping for 194 (mph). Last year 191 was the top speed, and from all indications everybody's quicker than last year.

"I’ve always said some people come to race and some come to be in a race," said Frasson, aiming a stopwatch at Buddy Baker's Dodge circling Alabama International's tri-oval. "I don't come two-thirds of the way across the United States just to be in a race. I come to run all-out, all the way."

And that's just what the jolly Italian is getting ready to do. At least one more time…

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