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.

The Roots

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.

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.

The Begining

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.

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

Growing Up Together

One person who comes to mind whose career has grown faster than mostanyone in racing during this span of time is Richard Childress.Considering his start, I know of no one who has come farther. Childresswas born in Winston-Salem in September 1945. He bought his first racecar at age 17, a '47 Plymouth. He paid $20 for it, earning the money bycrawling under the fence at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday nights andselling popcorn at the races.

Childress drove in races at Bowman Gray for a couple of years, thenjoined NASCAR's big-league circuit in 1969. His team included himselfand crewchief Tim Brewer, who could call himself crewchief because therewas no one else to prepare the car. Childress' best season as a driverwas 1978. He earned his highest career finish, Third at Nashville, andfinished 11 times in the Top 10.

In 1981, Childress made a career change from driver to full-time teamowner, stepping aside to let Dale Earnhardt replace him in the driver'sseat.

Earnhardt launched his career in big-league racing in 1975 with a carowned by driver Ed Negre. He didn't have a full-time ride untilCalifornia businessman Rod Osterlund came on the scene in 1978. In 1979,Earnhardt and Osterlund joined forces and won the NASCAR Rookie of theYear award, and they also won their first career victory at Bristol andtheir first pole position at Riverside.

Earnhardt won the Winston Cup championship the following year. He alsowon his first superspeedway race at Atlanta.

In 1981, he earned his first $1 million, and after 16 races that season,Osterlund sold his racing operation to Jim Stacy. It not only surprisedEarnhardt, but also everybody else in racing. Earnhardt had only runfour races for Stacy when the bottom fell out. He quit Stacy, and only ahandful of people knew where he might be headed.

Childress knew, because he had been talking with Junior Johnson andwaiting on Earnhardt.

Childress has been a master of picking opportunities during his racingcareer. Back in 1969, wife Judy wanted a new car. "A new car would benice," Childress told her, "but I need a new race car. Let's keepdriving the old Ford a little longer."

It was Christmas of 1974 when Judy said something about a new house."That would be fine," Childress said, "but I just bought some land outin the country and I want to build a shop there."

Finally, in July 1983, Richard and Judy moved out of the four-room housewith 900 square feet that they had lived in for 18 years. They movedinto a new home Judy designed with 4,400 square feet, complete with aswimming pool. It would be their home for a few years, and then theywould move on to larger things.

I remember Childress explaining details about the first shop he built.It was nice, but small compared to the massive layout of buildings hehas now in Welcome, North Carolina.

This is what he said one day while standing in front of his first shop:"By looking at all the other shops, I got a lot of ideas about what Iwanted. I have the engine room as far away as possible from the body andpaint shop simply because of the dust factor. Behind the offices is therace car assembly area. Behind this is the machine area, and in back ofthe building is the parts room. To the side, in a separate area, is thefabrication room. The next area we build will be for research anddevelopment."

He was always planning and carrying out plans. At that time, Childressowned one of the very few operations on the circuit that did not dependon outside help when a car was built. He started his race cars fromtubing right out of the steel rack. His crew built their own chassis andengines.

"I knew from the start," Childress said, "that I wanted to beindependent, right or wrong, and that's the way I plan to keep it. We doit all, even our own cylinder heads."

Childress prepared and drove his own cars from 1969 to midway though theseason in 1981.

Now Earnhardt wanted to drive his car and was tugging on his shoulder.Childress, then 39, was doing a lot of talking with Junior Johnson, whowas telling him drivers were a dime a dozen, there was a bigger need forgood team owners and team managers, and that this would be the way tomake money in the future. "Junior had always helped me," Childress said,"even back in 1971 with old parts, old tires, and he even loaned andrented me engines, but his advice had been worth the most. I had tolisten to him.

"Well, Earnhardt had won one championship with Osterlund in 1980. ThenOsterlund up and sold the team to Jim Stacy. It wasn't long untilEarnhardt wanted out of the Stacy deal. In fact, it was at Talladegawhen Dale told me he wanted to drive my car. I told him to get back intouch. I met with Junior for about two hours and finally made thedecision to quit driving.

"I told Dale we would do it. Then we started meeting and broughtWrangler in with a 10-race sponsorship program to finish the season."

This was all well and good, but Childress knew he was only foolinghimself. "I knew I didn't have the setup for a sponsor such as Wrangleror a driver such as Dale," he said. "I knew I couldn't do justice toeither. I told Wrangler and I told Dale that I needed time. I told themboth to go away and give me some time. They did. Dale drove for BudMoore. Meanwhile, in 1982 and 1983, I built my shop and added some goodpeople and then both came back.

"While I was doing this, Ricky Rudd came along and wanted to race. Italked to Junior again, and he knew that Piedmont Airlines wasinterested in getting into racing, so we got Piedmont as a sponsor whilewe were rebuilding. At the end of 1982 we signed another contract withPiedmont, but by the end of 1983 we were in good shape and ready to talkwith Wrangler and Dale again. It all worked out well."

And it did. The rest of the story is history. Childress and Earnhardtwon six Winston Cup championships together and a sack full of races.

RCR has come a long way. Once it was Tim Brewer setting up the car andChildress driving it. RCR now employs 325 people.

After high school, Childress worked at a battery company. From age 16 to21, he went from the $99 claiming division through the Modified and LateModel Sportsman divisions. When he was 21, NASCAR came up with the GrandAmerican division and scheduled a race for Daytona.

Childress sold all his modified and dirt stuff, borrowed some money, andbuilt a Grand American car. "I remember I qualified Eighth on the roadcourse and started alongside Parnelli Jones. At the time, I didn't thinkyou could get any bigger than that," he said.

Childress' first major-league race was in 1969 when the Talladegaboycott occurred. He had a new Camaro and was towing it with a '55 Ford.

He ran the Grand American circuit until 1972. Finally, the batterycompany told him he couldn't be off work to go racing anymore.

The four-room house he was living in had a two-car garage. He opened upthe garage and did public work. At night, he worked on his race car. Hisfirst sponsor was L.C. Newton Trucking, and CRC Chemicals was next.Warner Hodgdon helped Childress from time to time.

Brewer was hired full time in 1972 and stayed with Childress until 1976when he joined Junior Johnson. Johnson called Childress before he hiredBrewer.

In 1979, Childress hired Kirk Shelmerdine as crewchief, and later thatyear hired Lou Larosa as engine builder.

As you can see, there were plenty of times Childress could have turnedhis back and walked away from the sport.

Childress enjoys hunting as a hobby and has hunted all over the world.He has a beautiful home in Montana, where he and his family spend timebetween racing seasons.

More recently, he has gotten into producing wine with his own fields ofgrapes and his own vineyard.

Still, he takes everything one step at a time. The sport is lucky thatRichard Childress came along when he did.

The Petty Legacy

Now we move on to others: What would NASCAR be like had the Pettysdecided to go back to farming after Lee had the terrible wreck atDaytona in 1961?

It was two years after Bill France opened Daytona International Speedwayin 1959. The qualifying races, always a preliminary to the Daytona 500,had Richard Petty starting in the first 100-mile event and Lee in thelineup for the second.

The first race was flagged to a halt after 39 of the scheduled 40 lapshad been completed. Five drivers went to the hospital as 13 cars werewiped out in a series of mishaps. Junior Johnson and Fireball Robertswere side-by-side for the lead. Johnson ran over some debris and hisPontiac nicked Richard Petty's Plymouth. Petty's car became airborne andsailed over the wall in Turn 1. Johnson turned into the wall head on,smashing the engine up into the driver's compartment.

Petty suffered abrasions of both eyes and a cut hand, and Johnson had alacerated chin and possible jaw injuries.

Petty showed up back in the garage area before the second race began.Lee tried to get his son to drive his car in the second 100-miler."Daddy wanted me to drive the car because he felt like I needed to getright back in a race car to get over the scare of what had happened.

"I convinced him I was not hurt, and that I would be OK," Richard said.

Lee started Fifteenth. He and Johnny Beauchamp, principals in theinaugural Daytona 500 finish, tangled in Turns 3 and 4. Both cars sailedover the guardrail. Petty suffered a punctured lung, multiple fracturesof the left chest, a fractured left thigh, a broken collar bone, andmultiple internal injuries. Beauchamp suffered head injuries.

Lee was hospitalized in Daytona Beach for months. Elizabeth, Lee's wife,stayed at his bedside.

"Maurice and I came home and we didn't know which way to turn," Richardsaid. "We didn't know what to do. We gave a lot of thought to quittingthe sport and doing something else.

"I guess it is the closest Petty Enterprises has come to going under,but we held our heads up and kept going," he said.

Petty went on to win seven championships, seven Daytona 500s, and 200races. He became King of the sport. His 1967 season-27 wins in 48 racesentered, including 10 straight victories at one point-remains one of themost impressive feats in the history of the sport.

The day Petty won for the 200th time-at Daytona in July 1984 withPresident Ronald Reagan on hand-he told a little story.

"I remember a story the preacher told one Sunday a long time ago aboutsome other preacher and a farmer talking.

"The preacher told the farmer, 'You have much to be grateful for.Providence cares for all of us. Even the birds of the air are fed eachday.'

"The farmer replied, 'Yeah, off my corn.'

"Well, I've won 200 races now, and I want to tell you that I have muchto be grateful for. I want to take this opportunity to thank a lot ofpeople who have provided the corn to feed me over the years."

Natural Born Mechanic

Robert Yates, who once did not know what he was going to do with hislife, is now thankful he stuck with racing. In 1983, he was the headengine builder for the Winston Cup championship team of DiGard anddriver Bobby Allison.

Yates, a Southern Baptist preacher's son, was born in Charlotte. He camefrom a large family, eight brothers and sisters. He grew up mowing lawnsto help support the family. One day he ripped the engine off his lawnmower and built his first racing machine, a 3hp go-kart.

By the time he was about 15 or 16, word spread through the neighborhoodthat he was a pretty good mechanic. Cars began lining up in thepreacher's driveway, waiting for Robert to work on them.

Cars were not what the Baptist family had in mind for young Robert, astraight-A student. Young Robert attended Wake Forest University, wherehe excelled in his studies while working as a heavy-equipment mechanic.

Yates' career was headed toward racing. He was a math whiz kid and likedthe challenge of putting together powerful engines. Holman & Moodyoffered him $9 per hour. Yates had not been married long, so he acceptedthe salary. Later, he worked for Junior Johnson and then for DiGard.

Before long, DiGard was out of racing and Yates was out of a job. In1986, he became associated with Harry Ranier. He made their cars gofast, but it wasn't long before Ranier pulled out of the sport. Yateswas tired of moving from one team to another, so he sold his house,borrowed $300,000, and bought Ranier's interest in the race team.

It was now Robert Yates Racing, and Yates hired Davey Allison to twistthe steering wheel. Texaco signed on as sponsor. Money was coming backin while the team won 19 races. Then Allison was killed in a helicoptercrash at Talladega Superspeedway.

Ernie Irvan became the team's driver. He won five races before a badwreck at Michigan sidelined him. He finally returned to Yates Racing andwon three more races.

Dale Jarrett was hired to drive while Irvan was getting well. Jarrettand the team clicked and, in 1999, Jarrett and Yates earned the Cupchampionship.

Yates is another person who came out of the blue to make his mark onracing. Robert Yates Racing is considered one of the very top teams inthe sport.

There are so many in so many different walks of life, all associatedwith racing, who have done so well. Some blindly walked into racing andmade a career of it while others planned and prepared.

A Good Match

Then there is Junior Johnson. He was plowing with a mule when hisbrother came after him and talked him into driving a race car. The sportdid a lot for him. To this day, he still plows his garden with a mule,but it is because he wants to. He loves mules and land dogs, so he makessure some of both are close to home.

Johnson raced as hard as fire would burn gasoline. In 1960, he drove anunderpowered '59 Chevy to victory in the Daytona 500, drafting his wayto the surprise win. If it didn't blow, he was there at the end.

But Johnson gave up driving to become a team owner early in his career.He had enough lieutenants at his Ingle Hollow shop at one time to fighta war. Those were the days Darrell Waltrip and Neil Bonnett drove forJohnson.

Tim Brewer, Jeff Hammond, Doug Richert, Mike Hill, Bill Auman, EricDickerson, Abbie Garwood, Wes Wilkenson, Jeff Wilson, J.V. Reins, andSteve Triplett are among those who made Waltrip and Bonnett fly.

"I got a lot of good people," Johnson said, "and most of the time theyall do a good job.

"I got some good coon dogs down here in the kennel, too. Most of thetime, they all do a good job."

Junior's philosophy was that when somebody new comes to work, the otherguys will weed him out if he isn't getting the job done.

"It works just about every time," Johnson said.

The sport is better off because of Junior Johnson, and most certainlyJohnson is better off as a result of being involved with racing.

Then there are the Wood brothers. Had it not been for racing, they mayhave followed a career in saw milling. Glen was an excellent driver onthe short tracks, and when the superspeedways came along he turned hisoperation toward team management and was very successful.

And finally, there is Bud Moore, who grew up on a farm and then went offto war to serve as a mechanic. Home from the war, he found a future inracing.

Costly Sport

There is, of course, another side. There is a high cost of being a BobbyAllison, an Alan Kulwicki, a part of the Alabama gang, and others whohave seen the dark side of speed.

"I've had to lean on my faith pretty hard over the years," Allison said.

He lost two sons, his father, and friend Neil Bonnett.

"As long as I've known Bobby, he has been a faith-filled person. Youcan't survive the things he has survived without being able to find areason for them, an explanation, and he has always been able to findthat in his faith," said Father Dale Grubba, priest at St. John theBaptist Catholic Church in Princeton, Wisconsin.

If given a second chance, despite all that has happened, Bobby Allisonmight just choose racing again as his career.

So, we're celebrating our 40th birthday. We've all had a good run,haven't we? I realize we're probably forgetting somebody. The Francefamily and all its staff, most certainly, and we shouldn't overlook R.J.Reynolds, which carried the sport on its shoulders with its Winstonbrand smokes for so many years.

Also, we need to just stand up and shout for the sport itself.Attendance has tripled in 10 years, speedways are sprouting everywhere,and sponsors are spending millions to get their names on anything to dowith racing. The people in this story, and so many more involved withthe sport, are driving the growth. There seems to be no end.

That Championship Feeling

It may have been fleeting, and it might not have mattered in the finalrundown for the Daytona 500. But during qualifying runs for the sport'sbiggest race, Richard Petty's No. 43 Dodge was again atop the leaderboard at Daytona International Speedway.

It wasn't a victory for a team with a stock car heritage like no other,but it was a giant step in the right direction. The No. 43 and driverBobby Labonte ended up eighth fastest for the 500 and finishedThirty-Fifth, while teammate Kyle Petty started Twelfth and finishedThirty-Ninth. Both were caught up in accidents started by others.

The qualifying runs, nonetheless, were an indication of the depth oftalent the Pettys have assembled over the past year.

Robbie Loomis returned to Petty Enterprises last fall after leavingHendrick Motorsports, where he earned the Cup title in 2001 as JeffGordon's crewchief. He's now the executive vice president of raceoperations for the Pettys.

Todd Parrott, who made his name as a member of Robert Yates Racing, iscrewchief for Labonte. Parrott was Dale Jarrett's crewchief when theteam earned the Cup title in 1999, one year before Labonte became Cupchampion as driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, where he has spent the previous11 seasons. Meanwhile, Paul Andrews, a member of Alan Kulwicki's 1992Cup championship team, is crewchief for Kyle Petty.

That's four team leaders who each have won the Cup title at some pointover the past 14 years, not counting the seven won by Richard between1964 and 1979.

"That means a lot," says Labonte of the level of experience at PettyEnterprises. "We've got a lot of confidence in ourselves and in eachother. When you talk to somebody who's been there and done that, you'vegot the goods. You've got the 'feel-good' about it and you've got theexperience. Even though we've all got experience, we're not all tired.We're all hungry-still hungry to do well."

The Pettys have been in rebuild mode for several seasons and haven'tvisited Victory Lane in a Cup race since John Andretti prevailed atMartinsville in 1999. While the team has yet to return to glory, Labontesays the depth of the team-boosted significantly by the core groupthat's been with the team for several years-will serve Petty Enterpriseswell as it moves forward.

"We know," says Labonte, "we're going to come out of a track on a Sundayand say, 'Man, that wasn't what we expected. We didn't go as fast as weshould have.' But I think we'll be able to bounce back on days likethat." -Larry Cothren

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