Thursday, August 10, 2023

1977 – Shreveport Man Seeks Control of Drivers


Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, and Rick Ferkel are joined by Ted Johnson. 

By Jack Lindberg

Kansas City, Mo. (August 10, 1977) – To Greg Weld, Ted Johnson of Shreveport, La., is an agent.

To Rick Ferkel of Findlay, Ohio, Ted Johnson is simply a man who is assisting him in his racing career.

Ted Johnson says he merely helps drivers with their problems and does a lot of running around for them. He says he would also like to organize the independent sprint car drivers of the nation.

Weld promotes one race a year, the Jerry Weld Memorial race, named for his brother who was killed in a traffic accident seven years ago. The fourth in the series was held last week at Lakeside Speedway.

“All I can say,” Weld said, “is that I consider Johnson an agent. He called me and said he was speaking for Ferkel and Sammy Swindell. I was never in contact with either of them, I only dealt with Johnson.”

Weld said a “deal” was struck with Johnson to get both drivers to appear. Neither Ferkel or Swindell would say what the deal consisted of, but both said lodging and some expense money were involved.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Weld said, “I’m management and they’re labor.” He did not care for the new system at all.

It is different with Ferkel.

He is 37 years old, has been a driver for 12 years and has considered himself a professional for the last five.

“Sure, he’s an agent in a way,” Ferkel said. “But racing needs a center, a central point. We ought to know where everyone is going (to race). I could do it all, but he makes it convenient. He calls the promoters.”

“We make as much money, in fact more money, than the USAC drivers,” Ferkel said of his many other drivers wandering around the country.

The United States Auto Club circuit, however, provides only 30 to 40 races and the champion seldom wins more than $30,000 in purses.

Ferkel did not say exactly what arrangement he has with Johnson except, “what I pay him wouldn’t even pay his phone bill.”

Ferkel said he spoke with Weld about his deal.

“We need an organization that can help a promoter,” Ferkel said. “It could have some sort of point system. It would help promoters know well in advance who would be at their race.”

Johnson, who was on hand for the Weld Memorial, is also a race promoter, mostly in the south.

“We want some sort of national organization,” he said. “But not in opposition to USAC. We want to help the promoter, help the driver and help the fans.”

He sees some sort of point system with weekly sprint races counting some ways and major races like the Weld Memorial counting more.

“Promoters can call us, and we could say, ’I can promise you 12 of the top 15 drivers in the nation will appear at your track,’” Johnson explained. “It would be strictly for the independent guys. These guys need all the help they can get.”

“Right now, I make of calls for drivers, lots of calls to lots of places. I tell them (promoters) about our show.”

And that’s where it stands. Weld seeing as an intrusion, and Ferkel and Johnson seeing as a new way of life for racing.

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