Old-timers Share Their Thoughts

Each week I get several e-mails or letters from fans expressing their views on the present state of NASCAR racing.

About the only thing I can share with them are my personal feelings, because they know as much about what NASCAR is up to as I do. NASCAR has never asked for my input before announcing a decision.

I asked two old-timers, men who have been in the sport for many years, to share their thoughts.

The first one is Johnny Benson Sr. of Grand Rapids, Mich. He started racing in 1956. His son raced in the Cup Series, won the 1995 Nationwide and 2008 Truck championships. There isn’t a nicer family in racing.

“Racing means many things to many people,” said Benson. “First of all, I was a family man that thought more of my family than all the glory I could win on the track by going full time.

“I used to race quite a bit with Gordon Johncock. At one of our meetings we were talking. I told him we had been through a lot in our time, and he nodded. We talked about  how racing was in the past, and all the great moments we’d had. We both accepted the fact that we’d never see those days again. It was a unique experience, where people raced for the love of the sport, and not what they could get out of it.”

Fats Harvison of Laurel, Miss., is considered the “dean of Southern sportscasters.” His career began in 1948, and at the age of 85, he can still be found in a broadcast booth, even after working 40 hours at a regular job.

“I think the racing fratenity is the best in the world,” said Fats. “Money is killing the sport. In the 1950s and ’60s, the amount of money a driver won wasn’t enough for gas money to and from the track.

“The fans used to love to come and watch the drivers. There wasn’t any souvenir trailers parked outside. The only way a track could get any extra money was at the concession stand.

“Peope came and enjoyed the races, without spending a fortune. There was nothing besides hot dogs, hamburgers, cokes and beer to spend your money on. Now, bless God, it costs more for a family to go to the races than it did an entire team 15-20 years ago.

“I had a nephew that took his wife and two boys to Talladega, and they had to pinch pennies for a long time afterward, because it cost him two weeks pay.

“The average working race fan can’t afford that. My crystal ball doesn’t always work, but I don’t see it improving any time soon. It’s just a sign of the times.”

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