Today, we set our calendars back to May 1, 1971 when we saw the future of the short track world and a variety young guys who became NASCAR heroes. This particular Saturday gives us a glimpse into what chasing NASCAR points for the Late Model Sportsman crown looked like.
Going from coast to coast, there were eight races that we have results from that day, with six of those events being held in the Southeast.
Lennie Pond won the race at South Boston Speedway (VA). Jimmy Hensley and Bill Dennis made up the podium. Pond would go on to win at Talladega in the Cup series in 1978. Hensley was the runner up for the Busch Series (what is now Xfinity) championship three times. Dennis would win the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road in 1974.
Hank Maxwell won just over the border in Tennessee at Kingsport Speedway. Jack Sellers and Connie Saylor chased him for the win. Saylor would win the Daytona 500 consolation race in 1984.
Elsewhere in Tennessee, Darrell Waltrip was victorious in a 100-lap race on the Nashville high banks over Flookie Buford and Charlie Binkley.
In Alabama, Alton Jones beat out Robert Hamke, Dave Mader and Red Farmer at Montgomery Motor Speedway. Alton Jones would actually end up fifth in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman points that year. Red Farmer was the national champion.
The Tar Heel State was in action with Harry Gant winning at Hickory Motor Speedway over Bosco Lowe, Jack Ingram and Bob Pressley. Gant would later become a NASCAR Cup star and Irgram a star in the Busch Series. Both were also in the top 10 in points that year.
Butch Lindley picked up a win at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Lindley would later win the Oxford 250, the All American 400 and the Snowball Derby. Before he did all that, he was the national champion at this level in 1977 and 1978.
Ron Paine and Vallie Engelauf also picked up wins in California.
As far as we know there could have been many other races that day as records were not kept like they are today. With no internet and no cell phones, drivers raced against unknown competition for national points. Sure, they might have their paths cross every so often, but this was a golden era of chasing points and victories.
1971 was Red Farmer’s year, but who he had to beat along the way and the cast of characters he was up against was a preview for the next 10 years of stock car racing.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Stat Boy
-Photo credit: Historical Photo