This one of my favorite photos, if not the favorite. All by itself it just shows a little coordinated effort to fix something. But the story behind the photo tells you all you need to know about the soul of automotive racing. There is intense competition on the one hand, but on the other hand it displays a community that knows no bounds. A little back story.
Daytona 1969. Hurst Javelin Baby Grand. Short wheelbase 305 cu in version of a NASCAR. I had left Chrysler Corporation in a huff after tangling with the then CZAR of the NASCAR effort at the corporation. He also had a solid hold on the corporate purse strings. The car had been designed and built on an extremely fast track. A month and a half if I remember correctly. The guy standing next to me is Paul Phelps, builder extraordinaire. He was the main guy behind the building of the original Hemi Under Glass. We were originally scheduled to build two cars for two drivers. Time being what it was we only able to one vehicle prior to the first event at Daytona - the Fourth of July Paul Revere 250. The race was on the road course and driver was Bob Tullius, a good friend and superior road racer. We had very little time for practice or set up. But Bob was more then up to the task. If memory serves me correctly, and it usually does, after about two laps Bob was about to enter turn one when the rest of the field was exiting the last turn which turn four of the oval. Check the map, it’s no easy feat. The record shows that he led for 12 laps. Smiles all around. Big George Hurst hisself was in attendance. But then the piper called in his chip and the car came bubbling and burbling into the pits. Carburettor trouble for sure. Paul and I immediately dove under the hood. The carburettor was in full flood mode, front bowl of our Holley four. The two of us worked together like we knew what we were doing. Faith, Hope and Charity had left us high and soaked. The front float bowl tang had fractured and the float itself was just rattling around in the now empty bowl. Now for those of you who contemplate the adage ‘I told you so’, let me assure you that spare floats are not something that you carry spares of. Perhaps the elite will have a spare carburetor or two, but we had not reached that status level at this point in time. However.
Before I even had time to let the expletives pass my lips a hand came over my shoulder and handed me a complete float bowl assembly. I mean complete. Bowl, float, set appropriately, bowl gasket, four screws and four of requisite bowl screw O-rings. I don’t think I hesitated for a moment. I dropped the broken float and immediately attached the fresh unit onto the carburettor, signaled Bob the start it up and waved him off. It was a setback we could not overcome. I believe we finished 20th out of a little over 30 cars. But know to the mystery angel. Who was that masked man anyway?
I looked up and down the pit lane and it was practically empty. The Baby Grand Series was not a gold mine. Down at the exit opening was someone I recognized but he was already on his way out and I had to finish the race. I recognized him because we had worked together on many occasions when I was at Chrysler. He was the Holley carburettor representative for Chryslers race activities, both drag racing and NASCAR. He was there for the main race the next day and he was apparently just hanging around when he noticed my dilemma. A friend in need. His name was Gary Congdon, a friend indeed. It was many years later that I was able to pass on my thanks and gratitude. He has since passed away, but he was a very integral part of the racing activities that ventured forth out of Highland Park, both street and track.