Dave Marcis, 58, host of Scrapbook this month, probably has accomplished more with less than any other NASCAR Winston Cup driver. For the past 20 years, Marcis' small, low-budget operation has managed to survive in an environment with much larger and richer teams. A native of Wausau, Wisconsin, Marcis joined Winston Cup in 1968 and has started a record 32 consecutive Daytona 500s. He has five Winston Cup victories--four driving for others and the other driving for himself in 1982. Marcis and his wife, Helen, who have been married for 32 years, reside at Avery's Creek near Asheville, North Carolina. They have two children, both college graduates. Shawn Marie, 28, teaches second grade at Oakley Elementary in Asheville. Richard, 27, is an engineer at Roger Penske-owned Detroit Diesel. When asked if Richard is interested in racing, Marcis says, "No, he's too smart for that."
15 Cents Worth
In 1982, I won the rain-shortened first race at Richmond, earning $19,000. But it was an argument over 15 cents that probably saved me a bundle. After going through Victory Lane ceremonies and post-race inspection, I loaded the car on my double-axle trailer and headed my Chevy van down the interstate. I stopped at a tollbooth, and the keeper said the fee was 75 cents for five axles on the ground. I told him I only had four axles, two on the van and two on the trailer, and that was 60 cents. No, I had five, he insisted. We quibbled for several seconds. I got out of the van and looked. Indeed, the rear wheels of the race car were on the ground. In all the commotion and excitement at the track, I had scotched the rear wheels but forgotten the safety chain. Somehow, probably a bump in the road, the car had rolled backward. The exhaust pipes were caught on the scotch that had been behind the rear wheels, preventing the car from breaking free and rolling completely off the trailer. Gladly, I paid the extra 15 cents.
The #71 car of Dave Marcis...
The #71 car of Dave Marcis has been a fixture on the Winston Cup trial for more than 32 years. As the dean of racing, Marcis can still slug it out on the track with the best of them.
I don't remember the year, but Bobby Allison and I were in Atlanta to promote an upcoming race. Bobby's friends invited us fishing at their private pond. We caught so many bass that if they didn't weigh more than 3 pounds, we threw them back. We kept 10 to 12 from 4 pounds up. We went to a K-mart and bought two electric knives to clean and filet the fish, then we checked into a swank hotel near the Atlanta airport. We put the fish on a counter in the room and quickly made a big mess. The smell was awful. We iced the fish and took them to our car. Returning to the room, the odor was overwhelming. Bobby had an idea. He wrapped the leftovers in a newspaper and put them in a waste can in the hallway. Then he went to the front desk and told the clerk our room had a terrible odor in it and asked if we could have another. We got it.
A Hot Tip
Years ago, drivers burned their heels on the hot floorboards of their race cars. The burns came gradually as a race progressed, and they were deep, requiring a long time to heal. You'd see guys limping for days, even months after a race, especially on a short track. One race morning at North Wilkesboro, I think in 1971, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Bobby Isaac, and I were standing around discussing the burns. Richard was experimenting with Styrofoam cups taped to his boots, and that was working well. David said the solution was simple--wear shoes with leather soles (he wore loafers). I told him all I had were my dress wing tips. "So what," he asked. I wore them, and they were great. I've been wearing wing tips every race since, and they have become a tradition and a part of NASCAR lore. I might say I got a hot tip from David.
Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough,...
Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and Richard Petty are among the greats Marcis has competed against. They have retired from driving, but Marcis does not seem to have any plans to quit driving.
Gas, Tires, Shoe
That story reminds me of an incident also at North Wilkesboro. I was driving for owners Butch Mock and Bob Rahilly. Robin Pemberton, crew chief for Rusty Wallace, was a member of the crew.
I accelerate and brake with my right foot. On a short track, I'm moving that foot back and forth just about all the time. I didn't realize the sole of my right wing tip was thin, and a hole came in it during the race. The hole would get hung on the accelerator and make it hard to switch to the brake. I called Butch on the radio and told him I needed someone to go to the hauler and get me a right wing-tip shoe. "Get what?" he asked, dumfounded. I explained my predicament. We decided to pit on the next caution and change the shoe. During the stop, Pemberton climbed through the right-side window, jerked the shoe off as I held up my foot and stuck the other one on. I would think I'm the only driver who has gotten gas, tires, and a shoe on a pit stop.
The point of this story is that when the late Bill France Sr., father of NASCAR and big-league stock-car racing, decided to get something done, he did it. Also, as in my case, he was understanding and forgiving. At the opening of what's now Talladega Superspeedway, most of the top drivers and teams boycotted the inaugural race in 1969. They charged that tires would not withstand speeds of nearly 200 mph. However, Mr. France, who had built the 2.66-mile speedway and was proud of it, considered the boycott a slam on him. Reluctantly, I sided with the drivers. It was a tough decision. Maybe I regret it, and maybe I don't. I just felt that if all the name guys were going to sit out and I, a newcomer, was going to make a living in NASCAR, I wouldn't accomplish anything by having the top guys upset with me. The race was run, as Mr. France had promised, with a makeshift field of cars.
I explained my position to him later, and he accepted it. We were good friends for a long time. He pioneered the sport, and I firmly believe he envisioned it getting as big as it is. There has not been another boycott instigated by drivers and teams.
In 1976, Marcis scored big...
In 1976, Marcis scored big in Atlanta with a win at the Dixie 500. It was one of his five Winston Cup career victories.
Race to Atlanta
I won the August '76 race at Talladega in the K&K Insurance Dodge. I had told my friend and guest, Bob Prott, from Wausau, Wisconsin, that I would drive him to the Atlanta airport (about 100 miles) after the race to catch his flight. He was on a tight schedule, but I didn't count on winning the race and going to the post-race activities. To go to Atlanta, you had to go through a bunch of time-consuming small towns.
We hopped into my '69 Camaro, and I was wondering how I was going to get him to the airport on time. Then I realized that a 75- to 80-mile stretch of Interstate 20 to Atlanta was almost completed but not open to the public. I jumped on that highway; there wasn't another vehicle in sight, and I probably got up to 120 mph. All of a sudden, I met a highway-patrol car headed in the opposite direction. I slowed a bit, but I knew he would turn around and come after me.
We were about five miles from where the interstate ended, and we had to get off. I went up an exit ramp and there were five or six cars at a traffic signal. It was pretty obvious that the cars had been on the interstate illegally. I was trapped. The patrolman stopped behind me and turned on his blue lights. I got out of the car and handed the officer my driver's license. He looked back and forth at my license and at me. He said I had just won the race. I said, "Yes, sir, that's me." He asked where I was going in such a hurry. I explained and added that I knew I wasn't supposed to be on the interstate. He asked how fast I was going when we met. Probably 90, I said. He said he didn't clock me, but at least I was honest. He said I was capable of handling the speed but warned me to use my head too. He told me he would call ahead to the next town and let the patrolman there know I was coming through. Then he asked for two postcards, which I gladly autographed.
Even though it was illegal,...
Even though it was illegal, nitrous oxide was the temporary power source of choice for some. Although Marcis did not use it, he understood it well enough to make it work for him instead of against him.
We made the flight. Personally, I think a warning is a lot more effective in many cases than a ticket. To this day, when I drive in the Talladega area of Alabama, I watch my speed. Per chance I get stopped by the same officer, I can't expect another break.
The Bottom Line
Before Darrell Waltrip moved up to Winston Cup [in 1972], he was almost unbeatable at Nashville Speedway. The promoter wanted somebody who could beat him. So I took the old Dodge powered by a 426ci Hemi engine that I was driving for Beetle McMahon of Sevierville, Tennessee. Sometimes Darrell and I would run most of a 35-lap race side by side, and then I'd get underneath him and win. This went on for about four weeks.
Before the next race, Darrell's car owner told him that if he wouldn't allow me to get underneath him, I couldn't beat him, so he should get on the bottom and stay there. Speculation around the pits was that if Darrell didn't win the next race, he might lose his ride. He won the pole that night. Lo and behold, I discovered to my surprise that the old Dodge actually ran better in the outside groove than on the bottom. It wasn't bound up as bad and carried more momentum. I'd pull past Darrell, and he wouldn't budge from the bottom lane. I ended up winning the race.
Darrell's owner had seen enough and protested my car. At that time, each protest was separate, for instance, the engine size and carburetor each carried a fee. My engine size was OK, and I knew everything was legal. The car owner also owned a beer distributorship, and we stood around and drank his beer while inspections were made. He protested the carburetor and paid the fee--then the fuel cell. I made him a $100 side bet on both, and he lost. Even the inspector asked why he protested the fuel cell after a 35-lap race. Well, the owner said he wanted that car dismantled with the hope that we'd never get it back together like it was. In race purse, deal money, and side bets, I grossed between $4,000 and $5,000 that night and got all the free beer I wanted.
Remembering Marty Robbins
I met the late Marty Robbins at Nashville Speedway through former drivers Elmo Langley and Neil Castles. Marty wanted to take us to the Grand Old Opry that night. I was really tired, but I'd never been to the country-music show. As a youth growing up in Wisconsin, I had listened to the program regularly on the radio. So I went.
Marty introduced us to some other big stars before he went on stage and sang. He rejoined us while the people were screaming and hollering for more. He went back and performed another 30 minutes. Then he took us to dinner. What a great guy he was. I've never known a celebrity who was more unaffected and down to earth.
I Was the Turkey
Bill Jordan, the owner of my sponsor, Realtree, invited Dwayne Leik, my public relations man, and me on a wild-turkey hunt near Columbus, Georgia. I set out with Bill, and Dwayne joined David Blanton, a Realtree employee. We were accompanied by a camera crew to capture the action.
To shorten a lengthy story, the battery in the golf cart that Bill and I were riding went dead. He told the cameramen to stay with the cart--a blessing in disguise--and we would get a truck and trailer to pick it up.
On the way, we decided to check out a field we had hunted earlier in the morning. Bill gave a call, and two toms appeared walking toward two hens, which are protected by law. After walking around the 20-acre field and into a stand of pine trees to get behind the turkeys, I got within the legal 40-feet shooting range.
I shot, and one of the toms flopped around, got up, and began to walk away with the other tom. I shot again, and the same tom flopped around and then started running. I started chasing that tom across the field. I fired again and kicked up dust behind him. Finally, I almost caught the turkey, raised my gun, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. The gun was empty. Bill had been running after me trying to tell me that the legal limit of shells in the gun was three, but I didn't understand. I was the turkey. Thank God the cameraman was still in the woods with the cart and couldn't film that part. Dwayne and David bagged a turkey and did a lot of gobbling about it.
In 1975, I was driving Winston Cup for K&K Insurance and the late crew chief Harry Hyde. At Daytona, I entered a car I owned in the ARCA race with my friend Jim Sauter as driver. In those days, illegal use of nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas, was popular, especially in ARCA. A few spurts of that stuff into an engine, usually from a bottle hidden in the car, increases horsepower dramatically for a short period. We suspected one car in particular, but I won't call names.
Sauter was leading at the white flag. I had warned him earlier that if a car ran him down, it was pretty obvious that it had laughing gas and would try to pass him entering the third turn. I told him when the other car got underneath him to swing around behind it then dive below it, taking the air off the front car's rear spoiler. I also figured that the car with nitrous oxide would be carrying so much speed he couldn't slow for the corner. Well, Sauter made the move to perfection. The other car spun out, and Sauter motored home. We had the last laugh.