Thursday, April 5, 2018

1967 Flameless 300

With the success of the Flameless 300 as the 1966 season opener at Nashville's Fairground Speedways, the track chose to again have the big race start the 1967 season. The second annual Flameless was slated for Saturday, April 22, 1967.

Racer Walter Wallace paired with owners Charlie McGee and Kenneth Wiser to race a #43 Chevelle in 1967. The relationship worked well as Wallace notched the first of his two Nashville late model track championships (the other title coming in 1975).

Source: The Tennessean
The 43 received support from Merrill's Restaurant on Nolensville Road in Nashville. The restaurant is long-gone, and a Burger King sadly now sits on the site.

Courtesy of Russ Thompson
Bunkie Blackburn, a part-time, ten-year veteran of NASCAR's Grand National division, relocated to middle Tennessee. He shelved his GN career and focused instead on racing at the local level.

Source: The Tennessean
Blackburn's limited GN career included a half-dozen races for Petty Enterprises in 1962. He and Jim Paschal were hired as platoon drivers as the Petty team continued its recovery from the loss of Lee Petty and development of the future King, Richard Petty.

Freddy Fryar won Nashville's 1964 modified-sportsman division championship as well as the 1966 Flameless 300. Originally from the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, Fryar relocated to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and returned to Nashville to defend his 1966 win. Fryar's home base didn't seem to affect his racing career as he raced short tracks seemingly any time and anywhere.

Source: The Tennessean
After blowing a tire and falling out of the 1966 Flameless 300 before the one-third mark, Coo Coo Marlin went on a tear. He won more than a dozen races, his second consecutive track championship, and his third title in four years. Though the rush of weekly racing had started to fade a bit, Marlin was back again in 1967 looking to win the season-opener and pick up where he'd left off the previous September.

Source: The Tennessean
As racers arrived for preparation and practice, one 'driver' spotted on the track was Roy Drusky, country singer and songwriter. Drusky fielded a car for Blackburn in the Flameless 300 as noted in the above article, and he put others behind the wheel (including himself) over the next couple of seasons. Trivia unrelated to the race: Drusky was the first to record a song written by the legendary Kris Kristofferson, Jody and the Kid.

Source: The Tennessean
Chattanooga's Bob Burcham won the pole just as he'd done for the previous year's Flameless 300. Burcham led the first few laps before Marlin took over the top spot - a familiar sight for the field during the previous season. Coo Coo held the lead through nearly half the race before pitting for fuel.

Fryar raced in the top five for much of the race and stayed near Burcham, Marlin, and Wallace. With about 70 laps to go, however, he broke a wheel cylinder and was unable to keep up a contending pace. Even with fading brakes, the Beaumont Flyer still managed a sixth place finish.

Wallace took over the top spot when Marlin pitted a second time on lap 238. Walter put his #43 Chevelle in the wind and looked to be the car to beat over the remaining 62 laps. Until...

An inexpensive pulley belt broke on Wallace's car a dozen laps or so after taking the lead. The chance at the win was gone just like that. As was the case with Coo Coo a year earlier, a bad night in the season opener didn't derail Wallace's year. He soldiered on, had a solid year, and won the track title.

Burcham re-assumed the lead after Wallace's exit, but Coo Coo continued his pursuit. With five laps to go, however, Marlin had to pit an excruciating third time for a final splash of fuel.

A final caution flew with seven laps to go, and Burcham saw the green again with two to go. But with a two-lap lead on Coo Coo and his brother Jack Marlin, Burcham cruised the remaining laps to the win.

Marlin and his crew were perplexed as to how Burcham ran the race with only one stop vs. Coo Coo's two scheduled (plus one final top-off) stops. Rather than protest Burcham, Marlin returned to his Columbia, TN farm and waited for another race to win.

Burcham was worn out after the win but still enjoyed getting the spoils of victory lane. Winky Louise - Miss Firebird - was her elegant self in congratulating the winner. But somehow, I think Miss Fairground Speedways was none too happy about having the out-of-town pretty occupy her victory lane. MEOW

Source: The Tennessean
Finishing order:
  1. Bob Burcham
  2. Coo Coo Marlin
  3. Jack Marlin
  4. Jimmy Griggs
  5. Sherrill Harris
  6. Freddy Fryar
  7. Ed Kennedy
  8. Flemming Marlin
  9. Walter Wallace
  10. Jimmy Thurman
  11. Ronnie Muller
  12. Will Armstrong
  13. Clyde Adcock
  14. Darrell Waltrip
  15. Butch Eades
  16. Bobby Hargrove
  17. Bill Morton
  18. Jerry Long
  19. Crash Bond
  20. Charles Stofel
  21. Chester Albright
  22. George Bonee
  23. David Hill
  24. David Sullivan
  25. Charles Loyd
  26. Jimmy Brown
  27. James Veach
  28. Jerry Penick

1 comment:

  1. Those sound like great events. You know when Miss Firebird shows up for both Edition I & II that you've been to a big race. Saw Walter Wallace working NASCAR Cup inspection for many years and he told me he worked at a Nashville hospital, but I had no idea he'd raced until you & Russ Thompson apprised me of that a few years ago.