The first issue. from SCR...
The first issue. from SCR Archives
This is a birthday story, a story about a sport and a magazine that in asense grew up together.
No, just a minute. It's a story, too, about people-people with a dream.And they all have one thing in common. They started small and made itbig. For 40 years and more, stock car racing has been a story of men andwomen with dreams and the will and determination to make those dreamsbecome reality.
It's about race drivers, most of whom come from places such as LevelCross, Kannapolis, Dawsonville, Spartanburg, Newton, Ingle Hollow,Hueytown, Owensboro, Sardis, and Elmhurst. And let us not forget BridalVeil, Oregon.
This is a sport of progression. A driver suits up for a rookie event atCaraway Speedway in central North Carolina. He proves himself, earns hisway, goes to the next level, and earns his way again. Someday, if hedoesn't run out of money, nerves, friends, and confidence, he just mightwin the Daytona 500.
Ask Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, DaleJarrett, Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, CaleYarborough, or anyone else about the dream, and they will tell you aboutstarting without shoestrings and making it to high-top boots. Especiallythe past four decades, NASCAR has been populated by dreamers.
It was 40 years ago that a brave and noble dreamer by the name ofRichard Williford, employed as the manager of racing media relations forthe Chrysler-Plymouth Division, did what they talk about today whenplaying a card game called "Texas Hold 'Em." He pushed all in and prayedfor the survival of Stock Car Racing magazine. He hooked up with JimDavis and John "Monk" Reynolds, two small publishers at the time whowere involved with automotive publications. Williford was to be a silentpartner and planned to continue with his job at Chrysler. But afterthree issues of Stock Car Racing, Davis, who was producing the magazineas well as two other publications, told Williford he would have to helpwith Stock Car Racing magazine or they would have to fold it. They werejust too busy to do it all, Davis said.
Although the skies were anything but clear, Williford quit his job atChrysler and went to work full-time on SCR. Quicker than a clap ofsummer thunder, the skies got darker. Reynolds told Williford to sellthe magazine or he and Davis were going to close it down. With little orno advertising and higher start-up expenses than anticipated, Davis saidrecently that the title was unprofitable and the small publishingcompany could not continue to lose money on SCR.
Ned Jarrett was the subject...
Ned Jarrett was the subject of SCR's first cover story. from SCR Archives
Williford went to Daytona in 1967 for the 500. He was searching for abuyer. His list included Big Bill France, Richard Petty, Holman & Moody,Gene White, Humpy Wheeler, and others, but he couldn't find anyoneinterested.
After Daytona, he sold his interest to Davis and Reynolds and moved toCharlotte, where he covered NASCAR racing for the magazine.
Eventually, Reynolds bought out Davis, and then sold SCR to AdrianLopez, a New York magazine publisher. This occurred in 1974.
The magazine changed hands a couple more times before it landed in thecapable hands of Primedia. It is the largest and most read magazinedevoted to motorsports. Not only has it survived, but also it hasprospered to inform and entertain stock car racers and their fans for 40years.
So the magazine you are reading has had its ups and downs, too. It hassurvived like a lot of people, teams, and businesses in racing.
We have covered the best days of Richard Petty, David Pearson, BobbyAllison, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, and many others.
Curtis Turner's return to...
Curtis Turner's return to the sport was celebrated in the first issue ofSCR. He had been banished for union activity. from SCR Archives
In publishing, as in racing, timing is everything.
That was never more true than in 1966 when Stock Car Racing waslaunched. At the time, Jim Davis was publishing a drag racing magazinecalled Super Stock and, with the production staff, the printer, and thedistribution network already in place, Davis was thinking about adding asecond title to his portfolio.
Along came Dick Williford with the suggestion that Davis start amagazine on stock car racing, as no other magazine devoted full coverageto stock cars.
"Speed Sport News was about it," recalls Davis. "Some of the generalautomotive magazines like Motor Trend would have occasional articlesabout stock car racing, but there was no magazine that was devotedexclusively to it."
So Davis and business associate John "Monk" Reynolds began Stock CarRacing in May 1966. Defending NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett and racinglegend Curtis Turner graced the first cover.
There were hurdles to overcome, though, as the going was tough for thestart-up title in the early days.
"It was extremely difficult," says Davis, "because NASCAR didn't wantanything to do with us. They didn't like the idea of outsiders coming inand, in their opinion, making a profit off of their shows. I guess theyare still pretty provincial, but they were really provincial back then.
"Monk and I called NASCAR and asked for a meeting so we could explain tothem what we were going to do. They eventually had Monk and me downthere [to Daytona], essentially to have a meeting about what we weredoing and to let them know what we were going to do."
Still, NASCAR was not warm to the idea of a publication covering thesport, and Davis says press credentials were sometimes difficult toobtain because of that mindset.
The magazine persevered, though, by staffing the big NASCAR races with aphotographer and publishing stories written by local newspaper writers.
Coverage of a USAC race was...
Coverage of a USAC race was included in the inaugural issue. from SCRArchives
Davis and Reynolds published the magazine in Alexandria, Virginia, andeventually implored Williford to come and help. They would have to foldthe title otherwise. Davis, who had covered drag racing with SuperStock, had become acquainted with Williford from seeing him at dragracing events over the years. Williford was a PR rep for Chrysler andhad turned to drag racing-along with Richard Petty-when Chrysler pulledout of NASCAR in 1965.
Williford, who had first suggested a stock car publication, was vital ingetting the early issues to press, doing much of the writing and legwork necessary to publish the magazine. "There is no way the magazinewould have gotten off the ground without him," recalls Davis. "He set upall the contacts with the stringers we used at all the major NASCARsuperspeedways. Monk and I didn't know any of those people and knewalmost nothing about NASCAR racing."
While Williford was an excellent fit editorially, with his writingability and knowledge of the sport, he was not accustomed to some of thedetails inherent with his new situation.
"Dick was used to big budgets," says Davis. "He worked for Chrysler andhad an expense account and was accustomed to spending big money. And, ofcourse, with a start-up magazine we really had to watch our dollars. Hewasn't really geared for that. I don't remember how long it was beforehe left, but it wasn't very long. It was probably six to nine months."
Davis, too, soon stepped away from publishing. In 1969 he sold hisinterest in Stock Car Racing and Super Sport to Reynolds and started anadvertising agency in Alexandria.
Today he lives in Westchester, California, and serves as chief operatingofficer for Professional Products, a company he co-founded in 1995.
Reynolds eventually sold the titles to Lopez Publications. Severalcompanies have owned Stock Car Racing over the years-including currentowner Primedia-but Jim Davis remains the man who started the magazineyou're now reading.
Forty years later, it's still about timing. -Larry Cothren