My First Match Race... Against Dickie
By Tommy McNeely
Tommy always said, "If you can't beat 'em, outSHOW 'em!" SS&DI photo
I had borrowed Dick Harrell's ramp truck to go to Atlanta & pick up my Falcon. That's a different story I will relate some time. The bridge at Vicksburg, Ms. was still a two-lane job with railroad tracks attached to it. I got back to Carlsbad on Saturday and had a match race with Dick on Sunday. Hubert Platt had left a couple of bugs in my car. The rear slicks were too close to the spring hangers and we blew out the rear slicks pulling the car to the race track on a chain. I borrowed a set from a friend at the track. They were M&H's and about a 1/2 inch narrower. I also was to find out that when you slowed down, it still nearly shook the front end off as it had done with Hubert the week before. This was not the beginning of a good day, especially with an opponent named Dick Harrell. I was frustrated as I was too young to be nervous or whatever. After we finally got the car to the track with street tires on it and put on the borrowed slicks, we were as ready as we were going to get. The car still had carburetors on it, not injectors on fuel.
Now for the first (and only) round, thanks to the front end shake. If you hit a bump, it did the same thing. Hubert Platt had experienced the same problem the week before, but had not gotten it corrected. He had attempted to run Arnie Beswick at Dallas, Georgia, and had these problems. But I thought he had figured them out. I didn't know that the problem still existed until it occurred again after the first round with Dick. Returning to the pits after the first round, I slowed down to 20 mph or less. I hit a bump and the front wheels shook very bad and wouldn't quit until the car was stopped. It didn't do that on a smooth surface. And for whatever reason, it didn't do it when the car was under power moving forward. Nonetheless, we decided it was best not to run the car in that condition for safety reasons. It wasn't a little shake, but rather a bad enough shake to knock the fillings out of your teeth.
First round action. Charlie Therwhanger was between rides, so he was there. He put the rosin down for Dick and then came over and put it down for me. We did our burnouts and Therwhanger backed us both up. The announcer had a field day with the fact we were both using the same pit crew (Therwhanger). I was known to be quick off the line, especially with a flagman, but every time I ever ran Dick I would forget how quick he was off the line in the first round and I would pay the price. I never beat him in the first round, ever. After that, I could leave with him. So in the first round he put a couple of car lengths on me as usual. I didn't like the view of that red Chevy II from the rear, but that was all I could see. My shake problems stopped me from trying to even up the match and maybe even take the win.
That week after getting home, we figured out what the problem was. We had a welder cut a 1/2 inch plate and weld it into the curvature of the steering arm. It solved the problem, but I really wish we could have run Dick that day. I will always wonder how it would have turned out.