Tuesday, June 11, 2024

1961 – Smith Captures Wreck-Marred 300-Lapper

Harold Smith is congratulated by promoter John Marcum after winning the 300-lap MARC-sanctioned late model stock car race at Nashville.

Nashville, Tenn. (June 11, 1961) – Harold Smith of Dayton, Ohio, breezed to victory in the wreck-filled 300-lap MARC-sanctioned late model stock car race at Fairgrounds Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Dudley Stacy, the second-place finisher, was two laps behind, and Ken Reeder, who came in third, was seven laps behind the leader.

The race was slowed by caution flags, which were waved four times and lasted for a total of 24 laps.

For Smith, it was his fourth straight victory. Driving a 1961 Chevrolet, he turned in the fifth fastest qualifying time, then watched the four drivers who were faster, depart before the completion of the race.

A crowd of 7,479 watched Iggy Katona take the lead on the first lap when Harlan Richardson, the polesitter through an error in judgement, knocked Jack Bowsher into the guardrail on the first turn. Wayne Bennett, who was following, had no choice but to run into the back of Bowsher’s car. Both left the race, but Richardson straightened out his car and continued.

Katona seemed might relaxed as he coasted around the first 35 laps, but disaster struck on lap 36 when the plugs under his hood tore loose from a piston. “Every time I come here, something bad happens,” said the venerable veteran, who tagged the wall in the 1960 race.

With Katona out, Richardson zoomed into the top spot and held on to it until Smith roared by him on lap 143. It was Smith’s first taste of how it feels to run out front, but the flavor disappeared at the 163rd turn of the half-mile track as he went to the pits for gas.

It was Richardson’s turn again and the Houston, Tex., speedster, driving a 1961 Ford, stayed in front this time for only one lap, requiring a pit stop on lap 164.

Paul Parks, apparently responding to the urging of his wife, who corresponded with him on two-way radio throughout the race, took the lead next and clung to it until he needed fuel on lap 175.

Smith was back out front again, and this time for keeps. When Richardson’s right front tire blew on lap 243 and Parks’ tired engine expired on lap 265, Smith was home free.

He made one more pit stop - on lap 272 to pick up a couple gallons of gas – using only 20 seconds and getting back on the track as fast as if someone were on his tail.

The victory was worth $1,450 to the 26-year-old father of three, who has been a regular on the MARC circuit for five years.

Smith said his only worry was how the tires would hold up but crew chief Paul Wilmack informed Smith afterwards that the tires held up remarkably well and could have gone another 300 laps. Smith looked fresh as a daisy, despite a grueling distance. “Probably because I didn’t have to work too hard,” a smiling Smith said.

Only 10 of the 21 starters finished the race.

Results –

1. Harold Smith, Dayton, Ohio
2. Dudley Stacy, Cincinnati
3. Ken Reeder, McConnellsburg, Penn.
4. Cleo Ashby, Detroit
5. Clyde Parker, Detroit
6. Ron Krejci, Cleveland
7. Jesse Baird, Louisville
8. Buddy Ward, Louisville
9. Paul Parks, Columbus, Ohio
10.Harlan Richardson, Houston, Tex.

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