Racing stories from the good old days

On this 4th of July weekend, when we honor our nation’s heritage, I thought it would be great to hear some of the racing stories from some of our Florida racing scene veterans. I would love to read about some of your experiences racing around Florida years ago.

I used to work with Jon Compagnone, Jr. something like 22 or so years ago.

Typically we would run Bithlo & Volusia (which was pavement at the time). Then, as now, New Smyrna was a fast track, a motor track. We did not have much motor.

Nonetheless, one Saturday he decided to go to NSS. He called and said he was having trouble getting the car ready and I better come over. This was about 2pm. When I got there he had no compression on one cylinder and was trying to lap in a valve on the motor, unsuccessfully. He did not want to pull the head. I said “It will blow up on 7 at NSS, we gotta pull the head”. So we did, and took it to some guy in with a “business” in a commercial shed, who pulled out a box of used, stock valves and we picked another one and replaced the bent one in the head.

Jon went back to the shop and I went home for a torque wrench and a timing light, and flew back to his shop and went back to work.

Oh, yeah, we still needed to change the gear (9" Ford–all that was legal then).

So, we worked up until the last minute and fired and timed the car once we got to the track.

I think Symons and Wray Schaffer were the fast cars then, and they got together in the feature, taking one out and slowing the other just enough…

That either put us in the lead, or we got there soon after the green, while the fast cars moved in quickly from the back. Jon skillfully held off the field the rest of the way and we won that race.

I have the trophy from that night, and the memory, and keep both close to my heart.

Happy fourth of July, and rest in Peace, Jon.

OK. I got a good 4th of July throw back story .
Back in the last week of June 1993 I put the old 42 Pontiac pure stock in the wall a ton.After getting in back to Montague’s garage on Sunday it became painfully obvious the extent of the damage. So out with the motor,cut the frame off a fee inches from the firewall and spend the week replacing everything from that point forward. Well FF to sat and it’s 2:00 pm before we finally get the motor fired back up since the week before. Load it up,drag it to the track only to find out we had the wrong power steering lines, so we take the belt off and plug the box. Screw it,we made it to the track so as to not lose an entire night of points.
We start in the 3rd or 4th row with some decent cars ahead of us and my teammate starting in the back. Green comes out massive wreck in turn one takes out all the serious contenders. We restart and in a few laps we’re leading. I figure it’s just for a short while,but the laps go on with no challengers until 10 to go. Just then my team mate Joe ware finally broke out from traffic and was loads for bear,closing fast,figured I was done for sure. Then he gets about 3 car lengths from me with a few laps to go,them suddenly starts fading back. We went on to win in a car fresh off the jacks stands it was rebuilt on. The last lap and the cool down lap all I could think was “OMG,I can’t believe we won with this car tonight” When we stopped in the winners circle we could hear the air escaping Joe’s rf tire. That night it was definitely better to be lucky than good.
BTW: It was a 4th of July special night at desoto,and we( pure stocks) were the first race of the night and the race was officially started by the grand marshal of the night,Michael Waltrip.
Yep,that’s one I’ll never forget.

Great stories, guys! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing people’s racing experiences from the past. I have got a road racing story. It was in 1983, and I was racing a Triumph Spitfire in SCCA, my second year. It was late in the season, and I was leading the points in the Central Florida region by a small margin over a guy by the name of Craig Pearce in an MG Midget from over on the west coast of Florida. We went to Sebring, and in the turn that leads onto the old airport runway that is the back straight, I broke an axle. The car slid off the track, the broken axle dug into the dirt, and over and over I went. The car came to rest on it’s wheels, and I compressed a couple discs in my back that give me trouble to this day. We got the car home and went to work, replacing the broken axle and beating out the dents. The last race was at Roebling Road raceway in Savannah, and we had to go to protect our points lead. It didn’t go well. Craig won the race going away, and I blew a headgasket. I knew I had lost the championship. Well, next thing I know I get a letter in the mail from the Central Florida region congratulating me on winning the championship! It turned out Craig had already claimed as many out of region points as he could use, so we still won. Still have the plaque to this day, my first championship.

You went “over and over” in a speetfire?

The real Blessing is that there is a “to this day” to look at the plaque.

Nonetheless, congrats on the championship.

4th about 87 I think was on a Wed. Dan Jones at inverness had a USA late model race that night. Everyone was sure it wouldn’t work.
We sold out the Grandstands but 630 and the race didn’t start till 730.
1500 people in the pits and a great race.
Anyone know who won…
Sometimes thinking out side the box will work…

Don 62

My best one is probably racing Wally Semrow HARD at NSS back in the early 90’s. We swapped leads several times with me edging him out by about a half a car length at the line! We both slowed and rode next to each other giving thumbs up when suddenly the whole field blew by us. I guess we both thought the white flag was the checkered! I think we ended up finishing about 10th and 11th!!

4th of July–

That’s an easy one. On the 4th of July, any 11:00 am starting time for the original Firecracker 400 at Daytona Int’l Speedway, with the original Paul Revere 250 the night before, for the road course machines.

AB got right thanks to the rain I got to watch soccer, which I hate, without interruption while waiting for the freight train series to begin.

That is awesome! Those are the things that make this deal fun!

I have to agree with you, those were some great times. 1979 was my first time at the Paul Revere and the Firecracker. Camped in the back of a Ford pickup. I was in the stands in '84 when Petty won his last race, and stood in front of press box at the top of the Campbell grandstands looking at President Reagan chat with Richard while I was drinking a cold Busch!

I was at the '84 race also, Joe!

We used to routinely pay for cheap seats for that race, wait until just before it started, and then sneak past the guards up to the better seats.

And then bake in the Florida sun.

OS, here is a link to a promo video for the race at Daytona we would like you to crew for us.

got it.

Another pertinent link:

For a few years in the '80s, my dad and I went to Daytona for the Paul Revere and the Firecracker (infield) then would wait for the traffic to clear before heading to Volusia for their NDRA 4th of July show that attracted anywhere from 50-60 dirt LM cars and about every dirt LM name driver you could think of…

To further illustrate the driving and mechanical talents of Billy Yuma from Eau Gallie not only did he create and race super modifieds at Oswego NY, he was the first TBRA sprint car champ he also raced in the Paul Revere series as well. When I moved to Tallahassee one of the first places I would visit when I came home was his shop which really was one stall beside his automotive paint store. He was a character who was totally in love with racing.

Billy Yuma was a very versatile driver. He drove with my good buddy Bill Boye in 1968 at the Sebring 12 hour and finished 16th in a Camaro.