Friday, April 15, 2011

Kissing the Trophy Girl

For those who know me, you know I usually deal in stats and facts. I try not to let personal bias or opinion enter in to my work and I intended for this blog to abide by the same rules.

For this one, I’ll make an exception.

First off, thanks for the emails and phone calls with concern that something had happened because the blog came to a screeching halt. I apologize for that, and there are a couple of reasons for that.

First off, my 8th grade son got invited to move up from the middle school soccer team and play on the varsity team. So I’ve spent a lot of time watching soccer games this spring that I had not figured into my schedule. That included a trip to Knoxville for a game a couple of weeks ago.

Second, although I’ve been doing the television thing full time for 17 years as of last Sunday, and under normal circumstances I know what to expect from year to year, this spring I’ve just about gone a lap down.

With this being the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 I’ve been involved in quite a few “extra” projects that have taken a lot of time doing research, compiling lists, and being on conference calls. And although the most exciting project I was involved with got derailed and isn’t going to happen, there is still a lot of really cool things happening in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with the tv partners I’m involved with.

Staying with the personal theme, I’ll tell one of my favorite Fairgrounds stories. This one involves my favorite driver.

My memories of the Fairgrounds go back to 1963. I think I went to some races in ’62, but I really don’t have any memories of them. I can remember details from ’63.

Herb Lewis was my favorite that year. The reasons for that were we lived close, I went to school with his daughter, and he was friends with my Dad. When I had my first go-kart at the age of 5, I wore white gloves just like Herb did in his Modified Special.

This story was the caption of a photo in the 1964 program and I’ve talked to Herb about it and he confirmed that it’s true.

The morning of the 100-lap quarter-mile championship race at the end of the ’63 season Herb was getting ready to go to the track. He seemed to be spending a little extra time shaving. His wife Joanne asked him why the extra time. Herb said he was going to win the race that day and wanted to be clean shaved so he would scratch the trophy queen’s face when he kissed her in victory lane. Joanne said yeah, right, and if he did win there would be no kissing the queen until Joanne got to victory lane.

P.B. Crowell qualified on the pole in his number 48 and led the first 21 laps. Jimmy Griggs qualified 10th in the blue 709 and stormed through the field to take the lead on lap 22. He stayed at the front until lap 57 when his left front tire went flat and he was forced to pit.

Herb started 3rd in the #42 Bill Dyer car, a team car to Griggs. While Griggs led he had worked his way past Crowell and when Griggs went to the pits Lewis took the lead and was never headed for the remainder of the 100 laps. He was followed across the line by Crowell, Bobby Allison, Bobby Celsor, and Coo Coo Marlin.

Just as he had predicted that morning, Herb got to kiss the trophy girl. And true to her promise, Joanne was right there by his side in victory lane.

A footnote to the race: it was the last time the coupes raced on the quarter mile track.


  1. Great story! Does the MS racing on the 1/4 mile mean the race was at night?

  2. Yes, all quarter-mile racing was at night under the lights and all half-mile racing was during the day until they installed lights on the half-mile for the 1965 season. Although I witnessed it, it's still hard for me to realize they ran those huge full bodied cars an entire season on the quarter-mile! Talk about close-quarter (no pun intended) racing.

  3. Russ,I love reading your pieces...Thank-you,a ton!