Motorsports

Howard DeHart oral history interview, 2008 March 20
Howard DeHart reflects on his life, the early days of NASCAR, and his career with the Holman Moody racing shop in Charlotte. Growing up on his family's farm in rural Virginia during the Great Depression, Mr. DeHart explains how his interest in mechanics and automobile engineering began at an early age, leading him to help out at famed engine builder L.O. Stanley's garage while he was still in high school. He explains that he originally intended to make a short visit to Charlotte to see Stanley at the Holman Moody shop, and ended up working there for the next forty-five years. Mr. DeHart talks about working in Holman Moody's engine shop and describes the sort of technical work they did, from creating new safety innovations to designing engines that would give their cars the best advantage over the competition. He explains that competition was intense, to the point that they even had a 'mole' in the shop who would leak Holman Moody engineering secrets to rival teams. Mr. DeHart also worked as the pit crew chief for some of Holman Moody's most famous drivers, and he recounts stories related to these drivers and their relationships with the mechanics and pit crews. The driver he worked most closely with was Nelson Stacy. Mr. DeHart explains how he organized Stacy's team and discusses the importance of training and rehearsing the pit stops prior to the races to ensure that every member of the team could trust each other to fulfill their role. Mr. DeHart discusses the future of NASCAR, including the computerization of racecars and the changing economics of the sport due to the increased role of sponsorship. Noting the difficulties female and minority drivers have historically faced, Mr. DeHart is optimistic that NASCAR will have a more diverse roster of drivers in the future. Explaining that the decision regarding who drives is now made by the sponsors, Mr. DeHart suggests that female and minority drivers will be sought out as drivers in the future when sponsors seek to change spectator demographics, and that this will also lift financial barriers that have prevented these drivers from competing in the past.
Frances Flock oral history interview, 2008 January 30
Frances Flock, the wife of stock car driver Tim Flock, reminisces about her early life, Mr. Flock's career, and her involvement in the motorsports community. She talks about growing up in rural Atlanta, Georgia in the 1930s and 1940s, her courtship with Tim Flock, and how they married young at a justice of the peace in the middle of the night. Mrs. Flock discusses her husband's racing career, which peaked in the 1950s, including his improved fortunes while racing for Carl Kiekhaefer, how NASCAR's frequently-changing rules caused him to lose some races on technicalities, and how he was blacklisted after trying to start a union with fellow driver Curtis Turner. She also recounts her experiences as a NASCAR wife, including her friendships with other racing families, and how the racing community was very much a boys' club at the time. She describes how she and the other wives were not allowed to attend many of the racing functions and celebrations along with their husbands, but beauty queens and models were invited to the parties. The Flock family moved to the Charlotte region in 1959, and Mrs. Flock recalls how her husband worked for Bruton Smith to help raise capital for, build, and manage Charlotte Motor Speedway after his retirement from racing in 1962. Mrs. Flock concludes the interview by describing how Mr. Flock received recognition from NASCAR for his achievements by the 1990s, and how she continued to attend and speak at racing-related events after he died in 1998., Frances Flock was a 79-year-old woman at the time of interview, which took place in Fort Mill, South Carolina. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1928. She graduated from high school and was employed as a manager in the jewelry department at Kmart., Digitization made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
Bryant McMurray oral history interview 4, 2017 April 26
Bryant McMurray was a 69-year-old man at the time of the interview, which took place in his office in Fretwell Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1947. He was educated at the University of South Carolina and Appalachian State University, and was employed as a photojournalist, sports photographer, entrepreneur, and college teacher., In this fourth installment of a series of interviews, Bryant McMurray describes his work in public relations and marketing campaigns for companies heavily involved with the motorsports industry such as STP Corporation, Hardee’s, and R.J. Reynolds. He tells of the highs and lows of the marketing campaign cycle and the strategies he used to maintain his financial and psychological equilibrium as profits peaked and then waned. McMurray also provides more details about his experience serving as North American general manager for the Thunderdome Speedway in Melbourne, Australia, and about his forays into television production and direction work. The interview concludes with a discussion of the courses on NASCAR and the history of the Catawba River he has developed at UNC Charlotte and his recent donation of his vast archive of motorsports photographs to Special Collections and University Archives at UNC Charlotte's J. Murrey Atkins Library.
Bryant McMurray oral history interview 3, 2017 January 18
Bryant McMurray was a 69-year-old man at the time of the interview, which took place in his office in Fretwell Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1947. He was educated at the University of South Carolina and Appalachian State University, and was employed as a photojournalist, sports photographer, entrepreneur, and college teacher., In this third installment of a series of interviews, Bryant McMurray discusses the evolution of stock car racing from a hardscrabble, do-it-yourself sport to a multimillion dollar industry with highly paid celebrity drivers and lucrative corporate sponsorships. He describes his professional and personal relationships with drivers like Richard Petty and Bobby Allison, the tragic fates of Tim Richmond and other hard-living motorsports luminaries who met untimely ends both on and off the track, and the lively culture of parties and carousing that surrounded the sport. McMurray also touches on the role of women in stock car racing as drivers and as beauty queens, the experience of African-American drivers in NASCAR, and his own long and fruitful relationships with fellow sports photojournalists like Pal Parker.
Bryant McMurray oral history interview 1, 2016 August 10
Bryant McMurray was a 69-year-old man at the time of the interview, which took place in his office in Fretwell Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1947. He was educated at the University of South Carolina and Appalachian State University, and was employed as a photojournalist, sports photographer, entrepreneur, and college teacher., Bryant McMurray describes his career as a photojournalist and sports photographer and his lifelong involvement with the motorsports industry. He recalls his upbringing in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and early interest in photography and stock car racing; his first assignments photographing news stories for South Carolina newspapers; and his fledgling efforts to establish a name for himself as a photographer of NASCAR and other racing events. Delineating the pioneering techniques he developed to market his photographs to news outlets, he tells of his rise from a struggling freelancer to a successful professional who served as the track photographer for the Charlotte Motor Speedway and photographed events as diverse as the 1974 Eastern Airlines crash in Charlotte and the visits to Charlotte of Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. McMurray also describes his overseas stint as general manager of the Thunderdome Speedway in Melbourne, Australia, and the new directions his career has recently taken into television production and teaching courses on NASCAR history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Bryant McMurray oral history interview 2, 2016 December 14
In this second part of a series of interviews, Bryant McMurray discusses the photographic equipment, camera models, and film types he employed throughout his career as a successful sports photojournalist as well as the techniques he used to capture both portrait and action shots. He describes the mental acuity and discipline needed to operate as a photographer in situations of considerable risk, the methods he used to establish rapport with photographic subjects, and the heightened state of awareness and focus—“the zone”—that professional photographers strive to achieve when on assignment. He also expands on the entrepreneurial methods he has developed to market and sell his work and describes the strategies he has used to organize his large photographic archive.
Harold Smith oral history interview 2, 2008 March 19
Harold Smith was a 76-year-old man at the time of interview, which took place in his home in Bassett, Virginia. He was born in Davie County, North Carolina, on August 12, 1932. He completed seventh grade, and was employed as a maintenance manager and stock car mechanic., In this second interview, modified stock car mechanic, pit crew member, and motorsports enthusiast Harold Smith reflects on his experiences in the racing community from the 1950s through the time of interview. Mr. Smith describes how he began working part-time in the evenings for William Mason in his garage in the 1950s, then full-time in 1962. He also talks about how he co-owned a drag racing strip called the Lakeview Drag Strip until it closed in 1962. Mr. Smith describes differences between modified races and Grand National races noting that involvement in the former didn't require a full-time commitment. He then compares drag racing and track racing in terms of wear on the cars. Mr. Smith reminisces about the drivers of Mr. Mason's cars, including Carl Burris and Perk Brown, whose driving style he characterizes as cool and collected. He describes what it was like to work for Mr. Mason, who was known best for engine building, explains why he quit working for him, and shares stories about rowdy fans. Mr. Smith then talks about his own mechanical strengths, and in particular, his innovativeness and skill in working within the margins of the rules to gain advantage. Mr. Smith was able to capitalize on this skill for his son Randy Smith, whose racing career began in 1980, and for whom he worked as crew chief until 1989. Mr. Smith concludes the interview by sharing his thoughts on how racing has changed over the years in four phases, and his belief that he and Mr. Mason had the talent to be successful in more prestigious races such as the Grand National with the right kind of financial backing., Digitization made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
T. Taylor Warren oral history interview 2, 2006 January 12
Motorsports photographer T. Taylor Warren reflects in this second interview on the culture of NASCAR during the 1950s-1980s and on how the stock car industry has changed through the time of the interview in 2006. He begins by discussing the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) and preseason motorsports promotional activities, which generate interest among fans and include photo opportunities for professional photographers. Mr. Warren describes different drivers and their approaches to driving, noting that some drivers, including "Herman the Turtle" (Herman Beam), aimed not to finish first but to avoid damage while placing well enough to win money and earn a living. He shares his thoughts on the role of women and African Americans in stock car racing and why the sport is largely dominated by white men from the South. Mr. Warren then discusses the founder of NASCAR Bill France Sr., whom he worked for as a photographer, and how he feels that Mr. France was an effective businessman and strong leader who could lack compassion at times. He shares his recollections of Charlotte Motor Speedway, its notable personalities including Howard "Humpy" Wheeler Jr. and Bruton Smith, and of the track's place in NASCAR. He concludes the interview by describing recent changes in motorsports that he views as negative, including extreme stock car engineering for speed, which can increase the risk of injury for drivers; decreased camaraderie between drivers; and the emergence of the International Race of Champions (IROC), where all drivers race the same car.
T. Taylor Warren oral history interview 1, 2005 December 7
T. Taylor Warren reflects on his life, his photography career, and the early days of photographing NASCAR racing. He recalls his budding interest in photography as a boy and describes his education at Rochester Institute of Technology and the teachers he met there. Mr. Warren explains how he began photographing stock car races and describes how his career developed over the years alongside the sport of stock car racing. He discusses in detail the craft of stock car photography from the techniques and procedures he developed to the different kinds of cameras he used in his work, most notably a Hasselblad medium format camera. He also speaks at length about the differences between sports photography and photography for advertising and publicity. From 1957 to 1971, Mr. Warren was the official photographer for Bill France Racing and he recounts his experiences working for the founder of NASCAR. Throughout the interview Mr. Warren also talks of the various companies he has worked for, including DuPont, Kodak, Alderman Studios, NASCAR; and his own photography business, Pictures Incorporated. Mr. Warren concludes by discussing how photography and the business of stock car racing photography in particular, has changed due to the Internet, digital cameras, and improvements in technology. He shares his opinions on how today's photographers can capture higher-resolution images but may not create particularly compelling photographs due in part to the negligible cost of creating many images at a time with digital photography.
Rex White oral history interview, 2008 May 15
In this interview, Rex White recounts his early life and his career as a stock car driver from the 1950s to 1965. He begins by describing his life growing up in rural Taylorsville, North Carolina, including experience working on his father's Ford Model T as a boy. Mr. White recalls how he left home at an early age, married, and began working at a service station where he developed an interest in stock car racing. He began spending time in Frankie Schneider's pit, which gave him the opportunity to work on race cars in Brownie Brown's welding shop before officially starting his racing career in 1954. He recalls how he learned racing strategy and gained an understanding of the importance of the chassis from Mr. Schneider. White attributes some of his success as a driver to his understanding of a car's mechanics, which gave him an advantage over other drivers. Reflecting on his racing circuits, Mr. White talks about various tracks including Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, and about the excitement and difficulty of racing at Daytona where visibility was poor due to sand. He recounts how he retired from racing in 1965 and then went to work as a service manager for a Chrysler dealership, where he earned more money than he ever did as a driver. Mr. White then shares additional stories and thoughts about his stock car racing days, including times when he and other drivers bent the rules during inspections, a minor collision with Tiny Lund, and how stock car racing was physically demanding. He reflects that his driving style was consistent throughout his career and that even in 1960 when he won the Grand National championship he drove conservatively and avoided wearing out his tires or engine too early in a race. Mr. White concludes by discussing how he lost interest in NASCAR by the end of his racing career and withdrew from the racing community entirely until the 2000s.
Dink Widenhouse oral history interview, 2007 January 25
Stock car driver and Concord, North Carolina native David "Dink" Widenhouse discusses his racing career from the late 1940s-1960s and his experiences with members of the racing community. Mr. Widenhouse describes how he began racing at the age of fifteen and won his first NASCAR race at the age of eighteen, even though the rules required that drivers be at least twenty-one. He describes how he primarily drove in modified stock car races on dirt tracks in the Charlotte region, including the now-defunct track at the Southern States Fairgrounds and Charlotte Speedway off Wilkinson Boulevard. Other topics include details about racing and the mechanics of race cars, race car accidents, and the connection between the bootleg liquor industry and stock car racing.