2010-12-23 / Sports

Driving Career Of The Lynchburg Flash

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Today’s story is about the beginning and end of Harlow Reynold’s driving career.

Harlow has been a wellrespected racing reporter since the early 1980s. His regular column is carried by his hometown newspaper in Lynchburg, Va, as well as many other local and national papers. Harlow became interested in racing as a child, but it wasn’t until the mid- 70s, that he was able to put his dream into action.

David Pearson was his idol. Harlow owns one of Pearson’s old No. 21 race cars. It has been completely restored, and he drives it all over Virginia, Tenn., Kentucky, and North and South Carolina, minus a muffler.

The following story, about the brief and almost tragic racing career of Harlow was related to me by one of his friends, named Joe.

“Back in the mid-70s, four of us decided to fix up a ‘67 Ford Fairlane, painted and numbered 21, like the Wood Brothers car to race at Natural Bridge Speedway, a halfmile dirt track,” said Joe. “Our division couldn’t run anything but a six cylinder motor, so we found a 240 motor(same motor UPS ran in their trucks). It was pretty worn out, but it stayed together.”

“Our first race was going well until some drunk from Rockbridge that had a Dale Earnhardt attitude put our car up on the fence. That ended the day for us.”

“This aggravated me so much I decided to have a talk with Mr. Mast (Rick Mast’s dad), who was running the track at the time. I was hoping we could get this drunk off the track. When I went into the little office he had in the infield, I found one of the other locals by the name of Harold already there. It seems the drunk had wrecked his car also. Harold had his rug on which looked like somebody had shot a squirrel and placed it on top of his head.”

“I was pretty mad when I went in there, but seeing Harold with this funky rug on was something. It was all I could do to keep a straight face and not laugh.”

“Harold got madder and madder. He started shaking his head and the rug started slipping and turning until it was completely sideways. It reminded me of a bat’s wings. Even though I agreed with everything Harold said, I was thinking ‘Darn I wish I had a video camera.”

“Mr. Mast said he would tell “the drunk” he wasn’t getting on the track if he showed up gassed again. The next week the drunk was back, all juiced up. Mr. Mast came by and said, ‘Tell your driver to put his butt in the fence hard enough to kill the car and we will be rid of him.’”

“Five laps into the race, the guy was put into the wall. He was so gassed that as soon as he climbed out of the car he fell on his face.”

“After staggering around the track, he went up to the flagstand and informed Mr. Mast he was gonna get his gun and shoot all of us.”

“He went to his pickup and came back with a gun, but the local sheriff’s deputy handcuffed him and took him to the Cross Bar motel to sober up.”

“The following week was the race Harlow made his driving debut. It started great until Harlow decided he could pass other cars on the bottom of the track. He soon found out this was a bad move, because no one was running down there and it was rough and rutted and he spun out. He threw it back in gear and spun out in the other direction. By then his car looked like a dust devil because so much dust was flying off the wheels. He finally got it righted and took off again. He made one lap, spun out again, and had the car spinning in a circle trying to get it right side-up.”

“After this comedy show and finishing five laps down in a six-lap race, Harlow told me I could drive the next week

“ I told him, ‘nope.’ I knew I couldn’t drive and there was no use for me to make a fool out of myself.”

“That was the start and end of the Lynchburg Flash’s driving career. I found out later on during one of our many beer-joint trips that Harlow’s drinking buddies thought I was Ralph.”

“Harlow had turned his car over on its top and told the police, his pal Ralph had been driving and had taken off running to the woods. Every time his buddies would see me they said, “How you doing Ralph.’”

“Never a dull moment with the Lynchburg Flash.”

The December tire testing is over at Daytona International Speedway, and drivers talked about how smooth is was, and how they would probably be able to race at increased speeds. While this might sound all good, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported that with the cars being able to run closer together, there would also be more wrecks. More big wrecks.

“My opinion is it will probably increase the chances of more big ones,” Jamie Mc- Murray said. “What fans don’t see in the plate races is we wreck about every lap. Something happens every lap that makes you flinch, makes you think ‘I need to take a breath.’ When you run really close together, it increases those chances.”

During the December 15- 16 tire tests, speeds reached 197 miles per hour. NASCAR could mandate the use of a smaller restrictor-plate for the engines, but this is unlikely.

Kurt Busch suggested that the odds of mayhem, “definitely is increased.”

“Mentally you’re going to have to be that much sharper, that much more precise,” said Busch. “If you think you have a hole, you definitely need to be in it – somebody (else) is going to take it. Reaction time is going to be that much quicker. There’s going to be bigger consequences when things are chosen in the wrong fashion.”

All teams in the Sprint Cup Series were invited, but only a few gave up vacation time to get a jump on February’s Daytona 500.

Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth are the only Chase drivers that attended. Others included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, Paul Menard, Casey Mears, Todd Bodine, Brian Keselowski, Bobby Labonte, Reed Sorenson, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith.

Bayne is working with Wood Brothers Racing. Bill Elliott has moved from the Wood Brothers to the No. 09 Chevrolet at Phoenix Racing.

Ragan already has been on the new track after running a few laps in a passenger car a week ago.

“Daytona is going to be very smooth – three – or fourwide racing now,” he said. “It’s going to be a different mentality than we have thought about there in the past. Daytona has always been about handling and managing your tires, but it’s all going to be about speed.”

Every team is expected to return to Daytona for another test session Jan. 20-22.

Racing trivia question. How many Cup championships does Bobby Labonte have?

Last week’s question: Which is the oldest track on the NASCAR Cup circuit? Answer. Martinsville, Va. The first race was held september 25, 1949.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodges@race500.com.

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