10 Who Made A Difference – Racing Luminaries Who Passed In 2007

Charlotte, NC – Leafing through USA Today at lunch the other day, I came across a two-page spread of individuals who passed on in 2007. Luminaries of the arts, politics, science, medicine and sports were cited for their contributions to both their craft and mankind. That got me to thinking about old friends like Benny Parsons (also included in the USA Today article) and those close to the hearts of the racing community who passed on in 2007.

In looking back, I realized it was a long list of friends and colleagues who left us last year. So, before we get on with the business of racing in 2008, it seems only fitting to give a tip of the helmet to those who helped bring us to this point.

While it is impossible to recognize them all, I?d like to honor 10 individuals who made a difference, those who shaped motorsports in this country both on and off the track. May they all rest in peace knowing they left all of us a little bit richer.

Shav Glick ? Glick earned his first byline at a daily newspaper in 1935 at the Pasadena (CA) Post when he was 14 years old. By the 1950s, Glick was a beat writer for the Los Angeles Mirror (now the Times) and he covered his first auto race for the paper in 1969. Over the next 27 years, Glick was a fixture in raceway media centers and was considered among the best at his craft. A member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Glick was also a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and was also awarded the Motor Press Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Glick, who retired in 2006, was 86 years old at the time of his death in October.

Morris Metcalfe – Long before transponders and loop scoring, Morris Metcalfe was making sure the finishes of NASCAR races were accurate. A World War II veteran and the owner of a Master?s Degree in Biomedical engineering, Metcalf began scoring NASCAR racing in the 1950s. When he retired from NASCAR in 2002, Metcalfe had risen to the position of Chief of Timing and Scoring. Metcalf, 81, passed in August.

Joie Ray – In an era when African Americans were not allowed to compete in motorsports, Joie Ray became an exception to the rule. Ray was the first licensed African American to compete in the American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioning body in 1947 ? the same year Jackie Robinson broke the ?color barrier? in Major League Baseball. Ray, who also held licenses in the Central States Racing Association (CSRA) and International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), actively competed in racing until his retirement in 1963. An inspiration to all, Ray was 83 at the time of his death last April.

Wally Parks ? Little did Wally Parks know that when he formed the National Hot Rod Association in 1951 that the organization would grow into the pre-eminent drag racing sanctioning body in the world. While creating a set of rules and regulations for drag racers to follow was important, Parks? greatest contribution to the sport came in the area of safety where he took racing off the street and put it in a controlled, managed environment. Parks was 94 at the time of his death.

G.C. Spencer ? A legendary Tennessee short-track racer in the 1940s and 1950s, G.C. Spencer never achieved a NASCAR victory in his career that spanned 1958-1977. In those 415 starts, however, Spencer did finish second on seven different occasions. Spencer epitomized the term ?independent driver? making do with what he had continually showing up for races despite not having factory backing. Spencer?s greatest achievement may have been his inspiration for a host of young drivers like Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Hamilton, NASCAR champions who followed Spencer out the Nashville motorsports scene. Spencer’s race team lives on today as Morgan-McClure Racing. Spencer was 82 when he died in September.

Bill Flemming ? It?s hard to imagine racing without television, but back in the 1960s, few motorsports events ? especially NASCAR races ? were televised. Flemming, along with ABC Sports and fellow reporter Jim McKay, changed that giving fans grainy black and white images of races on the network?s ?Wide World of Sports? program. One of the first racing broadcasters of national note, Flemming was 80 when he passed in July.

Robert Petersen ? Robert Petersen changed the way America looked at the automobile when he created Hot Rod Magazine in 1948. The iconic newsstand title was the cornerstone of what grew into a publishing empire that at one time included major motorsports titles such as Stock Car Racing Magazine and Circle Track Magazine. Petersen was 80 at the time of his passing last March.

Bill France Jr. ? NASCAR Chairman for 31 years until his retirement in 2003, Bill France, Jr. took his father?s dream of turning stock car racing into major league sport and made it a reality. ?Bill Jr.? presided over the sport?s explosive growth brokering NASCAR?s first major sponsorship and television deals. While known for his dictatorial management style, France was also known as fair and warmhearted in private. France was 74 when he passed in June.

Pete Babb ? Few people will every dedicate more of their lives to auto racing than Pete Babb. A NASCAR official for more than 50 years, Babb worked literally every job in the garage area over that time and was a friend to all. He died at age 79 in March.

Benny Parsons ? It was said that Benny Parsons never met someone he didn?t like. In return, millions of people who never met the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup champion and famed television broadcaster loved him back. Parsons won a pair of ARCA championships (1968-1969) before graduating to the NASCAR ranks. From 1972 through 1980, he never finished out the Top-5 in season points. Parsons? greatest racing achievements may have come off the track as a broadcaster, winning over millions of fans with his honest and homey descriptions of the sport. A member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame, Parsons also earned Emmy and Ace Awards for his broadcasting efforts. Parsons was 65 at the time of his passing last January.

The above stated 10 individuals are just a handful of those who passed from the motorsports community in 2007. Also included in that group were NASCAR championship team owner Billy Hagan; NASCAR officials Joe Collins and Dennis James; racing auctioneer Charlie Sentman; motorsports publicists Ray Cooper, Dick Miller and Bobby Batson; longtime NASCAR crew members Buck Sewell and Jimmy Sprinkle; drag racer Eric Medlen; NASCAR racer Bobby Hamilton, Sr.; and Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive Buddy McAtee.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, these are just a few of the individuals who lived up to one of my father?s many life decrees ? ?to make a difference.? To be certain, all of those listed here did just that and we in the motorsports community are better for it.

Here’s hoping everyone had a happy and safe holiday season.

Let’s go racing.

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