NASCAR Media Conference: Busch Series 25th Anniversary
Topics: Busch Series
February 17, 2006
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
JIM HUNTER: We'll go ahead and get started. The start of this season is also the beginning of a milestone year for NASCAR's Busch Grand National series, which also happens to be today the No. 2 motorsports series in the country. After 733 races, the Busch Series is celebrating its 25th anniversary season this year with series sponsor Anheuser-Busch, and also celebrating the tremendous growth of the series during that time.
Dale Earnhardt won the first NASCAR Busch Series race here at Daytona in 1982. Since then, the series has grown in the ranks today, second only to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
Also the Busch Series has produced some of NASCAR's greatest drivers. Today we're honored to have -- hopefully we're going to have four, because the other one is on the premises, but we're honored to have four of the first six champions of the Busch Series to help us kickoff the 25th anniversary celebration.
Please welcome there in the middle, with hair that looks like mine, Larry Pearson, who won back-to-back series titles in 1986 and '87. Larry captured 15 series wins, so please welcome Larry Pearson.
Here on my direct right is the 1988 champion. He won 22 races and is tied with Mark Martin for the all-time lead in Busch poles with 28. Please welcome Tommy Ellis.
And we'll probably have a little banter going back and forth here before the day's over. Tommy and I got to know each other pretty well. There was a day when I was in charge of fines and things like that (laughter). We were laughing about it back there at the back. I hadn't seen Tommy in some years. It's great to have them all here.
And on the end over there is one of our sport's greatest statesmen. Chuck Bown, who won the title in 1990, six of his 11 career wins came in his championship season. So please welcome Chuck Bown.
What we want to do today is let these guys talk to you, the media, about what it was like when they were racing, the greatest memories they might have had, great races, great rivalries, and to let them give their thoughts on what's happened to the Busch Series since they were competing in it. I know it's grown.
When the other former champion gets here, we'll have to take a few minutes. I'll let you guys decide what the fine will be. We'll have fun with that.
If anybody has any questions, I'm going to open it up for questions.
Q. This being the 25th anniversary, I'd like to get your thoughts on the infusion of the Cup guys into the series now, especially tomorrow. Is it good for the series or is it bad for the series?
TOMMY ELLIS: Personally, you know, when we used to race, a lot of people didn't like the Cup guys coming over and taking all the money. When the Busch Series first started, which I was there when it first started, they had so much more technology and experience than we had on the big tracks, it was like stealing for them. They would come and they would get all the money, all the prestige. We could win on the short tracks and stuff that we was used to. Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip, we could basically take care of them pretty easy. But on the big tracks, it was a gimme, those guys were going to beat us every week.
Toward the end of my year, '88, '89 '90, we started catching up and Busch guys started winning some of these races. The reason we did was because we were racing with them all the time. In my opinion, I think to have a few of them in there, that's a great thing. I think it's good for all the guys to get to compete with them and learn from them. But you can have too many of them.
Today, I think in this period of time, I think you got too many of them.
LARRY PEARSON: I don't know what else to add to that. He said exactly what I think. It was good. Although, like Tommy said, on the superspeedways, we didn't beat them very often because of the technology, the wind tunnel time, things like that.
Today basically in the Busch Series, the independent, the one-car team, it basically doesn't have a chance. You've got Roush, you've got Hendrick, Childress. You can't beat 'em. You just cannot beat those guys. I'd hate to be running against them. I mean, you know, little old me or Chuck or Tommy or Jack, I mean, we couldn't do it.
I mean, talent-wise, yeah, I think back when we were younger, we could race with them (smiling). Tommy says he could still do it, and I'd like to watch him.
We're talking about racing now, we ain't talking about whooping their tail, we're talking about racing, okay (laughter)? It's getting a little out of hand, but you can't stop it. I don't have an answer for it. I don't know.
CHUCK BOWN: I pretty much agree with what was said. I mean, I echo it. A long time ago it was fun to race against them when they showed up because it was a chance to show your talent and maybe beat the best. On the short tracks, technology didn't matter. You had to drive it and get it handling. But today, technology's everything.
I don't care if they put a new rookie in those particular cars, they're going to go to the front and they're going to stay there till the checkered flag falls if the rookie doesn't mess up; you put a veteran Cup driver in it, it's all the easier. But you need them there to make Busch what it is, too.
I don't know. I wouldn't want to be an independent Busch team today, though, trying to win races. That's why I raced, like these guys, trying to win races. That's what it's all about.
Q. I can remember each one of you in your heyday. I was wondering, because there were so many different tracks back then, which of those tracks did you like the most? Which one did you most look forward to going to?
CHUCK BOWN: I always kind of -- I loved Daytona, but I wouldn't want to run here every week. Nothing excited me like coming here in February to get the season started.
I love Bristol because it's so fast and exciting. I really liked Orange County because it was a small, bullring oval that you could run two- and three-wide on.
I like Charlotte. It was halfway between all of those, but it was a driver's track. Turn one and two were different than three and four. It was fast, high-banked.
I had a variety of tracks that I looked forward to. Those are four tracks. And Darlington. I can't count out Darlington. It was a challenging, driver's racetrack. Heck, I looked them all.
LARRY PEARSON: I liked Darlington and Bristol. That was two of my favorite tracks. I was fortunate enough to win two or three races at Bristol, but I only won one Darlington. Still, that remains as my favorite, along with Bristol.
JIM HUNTER: Didn't you have a child born the day you won Darlington?
LARRY PEARSON: Yeah, 19 -- when was that?
JIM HUNTER: I don't know.
LARRY PEARSON: 1987.
CHUCK BOWN: It's your kid.
LARRY PEARSON: I didn't know which one. I got kids everywhere (laughter).
JIM HUNTER: Wait a minute, guys. Let's stop right now. Let's have some fun. It's about time. Jack, let me introduce you.
JACK INGRAM: Please do.
JIM HUNTER: This is the Busch Series first champion, 1982. Also a two-time champion. He's second with all-time series wins with 31. Please welcome Jack Ingram, Ironman Jack.
We decided we were going to fine you for being late. Wait a minute. And I said that these guys could determine. They said you were holding out for more deal.
JACK INGRAM: I didn't get any (laughter).
TOMMY ELLIS: I know that ain't so.
JIM HUNTER: We were in the middle of Larry trying to remember when he won Darlington and had a son born the same day. 1987?
LARRY PEARSON: 1987, yes. 1987, that was it. I was teasing about having kids everywhere - I think (laughter).
No, but like Chuck, I enjoyed South Boston, Orange County, the short tracks. The superspeedways, I just -- to be honest with you, I couldn't figure out the draft. I couldn't do it. Every now and then I'd get lucky and get in the right line, but as far as knowing what to do, things like that...
Of course, back then, this aero package program thing, whatever y'all running these days, didn't even come into effect. But still, I mean, you could draft and go past people. I just never got the knack for it. Basically, I like the medium tracks, Charlottes, smaller tracks. Daytonas, Talladegas was okay, but wasn't no big deal to me.
TOMMY ELLIS: First and foremost, I guess Daytona. Looking forward, working all winter, getting your car fixed up to bring down here, so Robert Black and others could look at it and, pull in pieces, make you redo it. It was just a pleasure to get down here and see everybody because you'd been off all winter.
JIM HUNTER: Robert Black was technical director at the time.
TOMMY ELLIS: But, I mean, it didn't matter how good your car was, they could come to your shop, look at it, it would be fine. When you got here, you'd have to pull it all apart and redo it on the backstretch where you got in here. That happened numerous times. That was the biggest thrill for me, coming here.
Then probably my favorite short track was Martinsville Speedway, without a doubt. I liked the Dover mile. I always looked forward to going up there. Ran great there. Had a bunch of seconds there. But I just liked the racetrack. It was made for me. I liked the way you raced on it. It was just a big old short track. Those pretty much were my favorite tracks.
Like the rest of these guys, I like racing everywhere. Racing, we just couldn't wait to get to the racetrack, to be honest with you.
JIM HUNTER: Jack, the question was, name some of your favorite racetracks, where you really liked to race.
JACK INGRAM: Well, as far as speedway, I'd have to say it was Daytona, although I won here a couple times before they started the Busch Series, then they called it late model sportsman.
But anyway, the best feeling I've ever had racing is coming down that pit road after you take the checkered flag at Daytona. There's nothing in the world like that. I won races on racetracks all over the East Coast. I was fortunate enough to be able to do that two times. The second time wasn't quite that feeling, but it certainly felt good.
The first time, a euphoria comes over you that's almost unbelievable. As far as short tracks, I would have to say Hickory, South Boston, two of the toughest ones. All these of these guys sitting here beside me would be ones you'd have to beat when you got out there. There was a lot of people come in there that ran on the other side also, but they didn't seem to ever do any good on those kind of racetracks because we were running kind of a little bit different car, and they had no technology in it. They obviously could drive good enough. But I think we always had them beat pretty much in cars on the half mile and shorter tracks.
We did good here, but not the way we did on short tracks.
Q. Larry, considering your family's history at Darlington, they don't call it the Southern 500 even any more, what tracks have we lost that we've lost some of its charm by not coming here? You guys raced at some historic places.
JIM HUNTER: Don't hold back (laughter).
LARRY PEARSON: Well, yeah, I mean, like I said, Darlington's one of my favorite if not the favorite track that I really liked. They say you got to change with the times, you know. Darlington supposedly wasn't filling up the stands, so they had to take one away and move it to California and things like that.
But I'm an old-fashioned person. I mean, I think, you know, some things should remain the same. Now I'm talking taking the race away from Darlington now. I think there's other tracks that could have -- they could have taken, you know, a race away from.
Strictly from the traditional, you know, the Darlington races, I mean, the track, it's been there since '49, I think.
JIM HUNTER: 1950.
LARRY PEARSON: '50. It's been a part of NASCAR for that long. I just can't -- it really hurts your feelings when you know, especially mine, since that being one of my good tracks, that they take a track away for progress, as they call it, with the tradition that it had there. Now there's no more Southern 500. I don't know why. I mean, I'm not in the loop, the "now loop," to where I can find out things.
The Hickorys, the South Bostons, Martinsville, I think they're going back to Martinsville this year, which is a great thing. Just some of the short tracks that they ran. Oxford, Maine, which I don't know if anybody hated going up there any more than me. But once I got there...
JIM HUNTER: Maybe me (laughter).
Q. How many laps was that race?
JIM HUNTER: 250 green.
LARRY PEARSON: 250 green laps.
JACK INGRAM: 400 laps (laughter).
JIM HUNTER: Tommy ran off way over in the boondocks one time up there and came back and won the race.
LARRY PEARSON: I never won a race there. That was a tough place. I'm not kidding you. I don't think we didn't get started till about 2 in the morning or something like that.
As you look back on it, it was a lot of fun. At the time it wasn't. I don't know, I think they should bring back some more of the traditional things. But, on the other hand, I do understand progress. They've got to go to where they can fill the stands and things now.
CHUCK BOWN: I'd kind of like to add something to that. I don't know if everybody knows it, I grew up in Portland, Oregon, started my racing in the Winston West on the West Coast. I raced at Ontario Motor Speedway in the Winston Cup event from '72 through '77. And we couldn't get people to come to that racetrack. It was a beautiful facility, 10 miles away from the current California Speedway. I mean, literally 10 miles right down I-10. We couldn't beg people to come and watch that race. Finally, it went away.
In the meantime, in those days, Darlington was turning them away. It was just slam packed.
It's just the way things cycle around. Now they're dying for racing out there in California. It's just kind of funny how it all works out.
JIM HUNTER: Chuck, you ran the Busch North also, didn't you?
CHUCK BOWN: Yeah. Well, when I first went up there, they called it NASCAR North. Then it became Busch North in 1987. I ran up there in Busch North in '87 and '88. I didn't win the championship up there. I finished second once by five points. I think it's still the closest one they had in history, but I was the loser (laughter).
Q. I was curious, maybe for Jack and the other guys, back when the series first started, '82, that time, how many guys were behind the car as far as actually getting together for a race? Now it's maybe like 50. How many guys were actually behind the car, getting it ready for the race? How much could you run a full season on then, where now it's $8 million, whatever?
JACK INGRAM: I think all of us drivers worked on the cars. You'd have some help with a car owner. In my case, I was a car owner, hired the people. There would be about four people, three or four in the shop during the whole year. We had a lot of part-time help that would come to the racetrack to do the pit work.
A lot of times, we went way up north or something, even Dover, Delaware, whatever. We wouldn't take our pit crew, meaning the ones that does the tire changing. We'd try to get some people from the other side over there to fill in for the races like that because it cost us too much to do that. But on the other hand, we went to places like Milwaukee, we had to take our crew. Flying airplanes, everything, just like it is now, except it didn't take as many people.
I don't know that it takes as many people as they got now, but they got 'em. I was in a race shop the other day, had 200. They was all walking around. Wasn't none of them doing anything (laughter). As a matter of fact, I was delivering some parts there that I made for them.
You know, I don't know how these people think they have to have 200 people working in a race shop with three or four race cars. I just can't get that.
JIM HUNTER: Any other comments about then and now?
TOMMY ELLIS: Basically back when we raced in those days, Jack had probably one of the best, if not the biggest, sponsor in the Busch Series, between him and Sam Ard. He had Skoal, and Sam had a rich car owner at that time.
A lot of us, like Larry and myself, I'm sure Chuck was the same way when he came in, we didn't have big sponsors. If we could get enough money to get to the racetrack and back, we were lucky. All of us had a tire deal going on and things like that that really kept us in the sport, kept us going.
We didn't make a lot of money like they make today. Not even -- nothing in comparison. That's the only thing that I think that we really missed in the sport. We helped build it. We raced for a little bit of money. I made a good living doing what I'd have done for nothing. That's a good thing. I'm doing all right. I'm sure these guys are, too.
But the money it takes today, like Jack said, the people they got doing it, I think back in them days, I had one full-time person plus myself. We lived on what the car made basically. The guys would come work for free. We'd go to big tracks and get some Winston Cup guys. Basically what he said.
The only thing is, today there's so many people, so much technology. They got so many press people on each team, it's unbelievable. I'm like Jack. It's unbeknowing to me why you need all that.
Q. What did it cost to run a season back then in '82, Jack?
JACK INGRAM: Everybody had different budgets, I think. The first deal that I signed with US Tobacco in '83 or '84, it was $50,000. By the time I retired, '91, them sponsorships was escalating. I think the last year I did $250,000. I was having to race against Larry and them that had $500,000 (smiling). I was the only one that had a sponsor. I don't think that's exactly right.
When we started out on the series, I didn't have a sponsor. Neither did Tommy.
LARRY PEARSON: (Inaudible).
TOMMY ELLIS: That's because I didn't have one.
JACK INGRAM: I think Tommy just likes to get an argument started.
LARRY PEARSON: What did you say?
JACK INGRAM: I don't know (laughter).
Hey, let me tell you something. I wouldn't take the experiences I had getting to race in NASCAR for nothing in the world. I did what I wanted to do. Obviously, I made a little bit of money. As a matter of fact, I made good money. I made probably better money before the Busch Series started, racing what they call late model sportsman, including right here.
We'd go out and run 50, 60, 70, 80 races a year, win 25 or 30 of them. Sometimes three of them in one weekend. When you come home from the racetrack with a glove box full of fives, tens and 20s, may not have been a lot of money, but it sure was a big pile (laughter).
Q. Tommy, about two or three months ago, you delivered a wonderful eulogy at Sonny Hutchens funeral. Would you talk about the respect that Busch Series drivers seem to have for each other, what camaraderie y'all had then and how much you enjoyed Butch and Sonny and Ray?
TOMMY ELLIS: Absolutely. Sonny Hutchens and I, we feuded for years. People didn't think we liked one another. There was a lot of times when we didn't. He first started -- I was sort of his protege when we started racing. When you start beating a guy, all of a sudden the competition takes over and it's hard to be friendly with him. But you still have a ton of respect for him. It was the same way with Ray. It's the same way with Jack and all these guys right here.
You race against 'em. I remember one time, Jack and I got wrecked up at Martinsville. You're really mad at him that day and at that moment. But the next day you're back over there and you laughing about it. You're going on with business. That's the way I think it is pretty much today.
It's hard to be on an even keel all the time when you are in that race car. Things happen that really in high-pressure situations that you just absolutely lose it for a time. But you don't hold a grudge. In my case with Sonny, we just became really good friends later after we quit racing against one another. I had an enormous amount of respect for him. He's a great race car driver, won a lot of races. He had a good car and a good team when he was with Emmanuel. But there's a lot of years when Sonny didn't have a good car and a good team and he was just another race car driver.
That's the same way with all of us. We had to to have good equipment to be up front and run good.
As far as respect goes, I think you have respect for just about everybody you race with pretty much.
Q. The assumption is going to be that when the first woman is successful in NASCAR, she's probably going to come out of the Busch Series. Can I get a comment from you on, is the time right now for a woman to be successful in the Busch Series?
JACK INGRAM: We had a woman, Diane Teal, that raced against us. I thought maybe someday if enough of us wrecked, she'd win. I named her Wahoo McDaniels. She was a pretty good-sized gal (laughter).
I'm just joking. Someday it will probably happen, these cars get easier to drive. It used to take too much strength and endurance for possibly a lady to be able to do that. But I don't think these cars are nearly as hard to drive as they were at one time.
You had to be pretty tough. You had to be pretty strong in order to go 400, 500 laps on some of these racetracks with these cars. Didn't have power steering. Didn't have good seats to hold you in it. You kind of had to make your neck strong somehow or another.
I would like to see some of these people out here go to South Boston the way that track used to be and run 300 laps. I know they wouldn't finish. They'd be over in the pits laying down taking oxygen. I been there too many times and saw it happen to them.
But it ain't like that, so it doesn't matter. Time is for everyone. Whenever it comes our time to do our thing, we did. It comes these people's times they're doing their thing. They'll have a lot of good memories whenever they finally sit up here reminiscing what happened.
But I'll say again, I cherish things like that (showing his ring) more than anything in the world. Them people right over there win that championship this coming year, this past year, got the same thing, the championship that I won. It means just as much in NASCAR to give away that kind of a ring to me as it does to Tony Stewart this past Cup season.
Q. How hard was it to walk away from it when your careers were over in the Busch Series?
LARRY PEARSON: Wasn't hard for me.
CHUCK BOWN: I'm still looking for a ride (laughter).
TOMMY ELLIS: Hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was walk away from it. I mean, for the first two or three years, I didn't know if I was going to make it. My wife will tell you, she's sitting right there. There was a lot of hard times.
I can't even start to tell you what goes through your mind because you don't know what's in store for you, where you're going next. I just knew that it wasn't funny more, and it was all about money. They pretty much pushed guys like us out. You had to be a rich kid or you had to have somebody with a big pocketbook, deep pockets, to sponsor your car or you were done. Basically that was it.
The last year I tried to do it on my own, we were hunting for sponsors. Didn't get one. I think we spent just pretty much everything we had, over $100,000. I finally said, "This is it, I can't go no more." I didn't even look for it. I had some rides offered to me, but they weren't good rides. I always said, "If I can't win, I'm not going to play."
It's tough. I mean, it's really tough. Thankfully I made enough money and did well enough racing that we still doing fine today.
Q. What are each of you doing nowadays professionally and any racing involvement?
TOMMY ELLIS: Professionally, I own a couple of car washes. I have some commercial rental property, a couple nice places. Two or three rental houses. I spend my time on the river. I have a 50-foot ocean Sportfish. My wife and I go down there every weekend practically. I spend a lot of time during the week cleaning it up.
LARRY PEARSON: I actually have my own company. I teach driver's education to teenage drivers, high school kids. Got tired of sitting at home doing nothing. I had a bad wreck in '99 out in Texas and messed myself up pretty good. That's why it wasn't too hard for me to walk away from racing.
I do miss it. I miss it a lot. I miss seeing different people, different friends. I miss the competition part of it. But it's just -- I don't miss it like you would think I would miss it. I do miss driving in the competition, the friends. The hassle of different things I don't miss.
Anyway, the driver's education is what I have, private business. I have some rental property. I don't have a boat. That's about it.
CHUCK BOWN: I'm still sort of involved in racing, although I don't leave the shop and I don't go to any tracks, or rarely. My brother and I have a business called crewschool.com. We do four 10-week courses per year where students come from around the country and we teach them how to build these NASCAR race cars - how to fabricate, how to mount bodies, how to bolt them together, set them up. Eventually our 10-week course, students will actually build a car, actually take it to a racetrack and test it. We even occasionally go run it.
When we do go race, we've been going to the Hooter's Pro Cup series, economics, we don't have a sponsorship. We fund the events we go to from the profits from the school. As a matter of fact, while we're in Asheboro, North Carolina, out of my brother's old Busch shop, where he actually ran his Busch team out of, he had the equipment, couldn't get a sponsor, I was too old to get any offers or rides, we just started this school back in 2000. It keeps me busy, Monday through Friday, 8 to 4. I get on the golf course about as much as I can.
Some of you might be surprised, I actually did race last August at South Boston Speedway in the Hooter's Pro Cup event. It wasn't actually my own car or business car, it was Billie Hess, one of the well-known chassis builders, kind of built an experimental front clip, little strut rod, he called it. He called me out of the blue and asked me if I'd drive it up there for him, see how it went. "Yeah, man, let's go." Brought my students up to do the pit stop and help out. We finished 12th. It was a heck of a lot of fun.
JACK INGRAM: I still have a race shop. Obviously, ain't involved in Busch racing. I've got what NASCAR called NASCAR late model stock cars. I've had four or five different drivers, daddy had a little money, built cars. As a matter of fact, I've won about four or five different ones. I don't think they could reach the level, move on up into something like this. They was good enough to learn to maybe win on a little short racetrack, Greenville, Kingsport, Tennessee, someplace like that.
All that is, is just passing the time. I don't absolutely make any money doing it. But I do have a lot of fun having that race shop. People come by there. It's a good place for a lot of people to hang out and drink coffee. Some of them even get to cussing once in a while. But we have our fun. I'm there. I'm happy doing it. I'm going to keep it.
Q. You guys are the foundation of NASCAR. Do you feel a sport like NASCAR owes you something, insurance, pension, things like that?
CHUCK BOWN: No, I think we all figured out many years ago that's not part of the deal. You just go out and do the best you can. I think all four of us would do it all over again.
Sure, it would be great if there was a great pension and insurance for life and stuff. You know, we knew that way back then. That's the way it is. You just save some of those winnings, don't spend them all.
JACK INGRAM: We were all independent contractors. I don't know if there will ever be room for a situation like that. With especially these big teams, I think it would rely on the big teams, and some of them do have retirement plans for especially the members that work there. I'm not sure they have a retirement plan for the drivers.
When we become independent contractors, I don't know how you could figure out somebody could get a retirement plan. It possibly could be figured out for maybe -- I don't know. I just don't know how it could be, not have it be fair.
The way it is right now, if they don't do well enough racing, they need to get out of it and go do something else. Like these gentlemen here said, save enough money to make it after you can't drive no more. If you can't drive good enough, obviously you ain't going to make it. I don't know how you'd need a retirement.
Q. All the guys except for Larry, you see the humor, or you've done enough driving against Larry, about him being a driver's education teacher?
LARRY PEARSON: I knew that was coming (smiling).
CHUCK BOWN: I'm not going to send my kids there (laughter).
LARRY PEARSON: C'mon, man.
JIM HUNTER: I've got a thought there. I would send my grandsons to Larry to have him teach them to drive.
LARRY PEARSON: I've hit enough walls and stuff in my career, I'm not going to teach them how to do that. I enjoy the heck out of it. I love kids. Me and the little teenagers I teach, we have a blast. It's a lot of fun. That's helped me get over not driving race cars.
JIM HUNTER: I got to get a little shot in, too. I said I would send my grandsons to Larry. I did not say I would send them to David, your dad. Just want to make sure he knows that.
CHUCK BOWN: I admire you, Larry, because I don't think I could do that. I think I'd be too stressed out.
JIM HUNTER: Do you actually have to ride with them?
LARRY PEARSON: Yes, absolutely. It's really not bad.
Q. It's not?
LARRY PEARSON: Not bad at all.
CHUCK BOWN: Dad still lives near me by the shop. He'll swing by every lunch hour about 10 minutes before lunch, and we have about a five-mile ride to town. I always drive. It's his car, but he always gets in the passenger seat. He likes to drop too many wheels off the road as he's bobbing down the highway.
Q. Who is the best driver y'all ever raced against in the Busch Series primarily?
JACK INGRAM: About all them guys over there retired or even some of them over there now raced a lot in the Busch Series.
You know, I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, possibly first one that I raced against that I thought was the best possibly that I ever saw, probably still think, is David Pearson.
As far as the Busch drivers is concerned, these four here, plus one other, Sam Ard. He's not in very good shape. We would pretty much dominate on the tracks half-mile and smaller, even though we'd have numerous Cup drivers, including the late Dale Earnhardt, Darrel Waltrip, on a regular basis. Some of them, they'd run 15, 20 times a year. They'd show up at Hickory, South Boston, a lot of those places. They didn't ever seem to be much of a factor.
As far as the Busch drivers, I'd say these four, including myself, and Sam Ard.
LARRY PEARSON: That sounds fair. It depended on where we went. First, I don't have a person that I can say who was the hardest to beat or whatever. There's three guys up here that I want to say something to, I've never done this before.
First of all, Tommy, I want to say thank you to you for being the hard-headedest son-of-a-gun I've ever raced against. You actually made me a better driver racing against you.
TOMMY ELLIS: Thank you.
LARRY PEARSON: When your car was right, you would run the heck out of people. I do appreciate you doing that.
TOMMY ELLIS: Thank you.
LARRY PEARSON: Jack, I want to appreciate -- tell you, those of you who don't know, my brother Ricky was my crew chief in my time. Jack, he also went to some races with Jack and helped Jack a lot. I want to thank Jack for teaching Ricky the things that he knew mainly about a race car.
Chuck, I know I raced against you, but I don't know how many times. But to you, I don't want to thank you, I want to tell you I'm sorry 'cause I know I got into you up there at Bristol, and you thought I was trying to kill you. I was mad, but I'm not no more (laughter). I want to tell you that I'm sorry for trying to kill you.
CHUCK BOWN: Your apology's accepted (laughter).
Q. Where would Butch Lindley fit into that?
TOMMY ELLIS: I was just going to mention that. Jack is right. I mean, Sam Ard was tough. Always called Fat Jack. Everywhere we went, I said he was tough at nails. Even before the Busch Series, when you went somewhere and Jack was there, you knew you were going to have to run hard.
Larry was a really good driver, tough competitor, just like his brother Ricky, I thought the world of him and his dad, too. Chuck and I, we've had some great races together in the Busch Series.
Butch Lindley was probably one of my favorite drivers that I ever had to be friends with and be fortunate enough to know him before he got killed. He raced some Busch races, not too many of them, before he got killed. He would have been one of the great ones.
I think Jack especially would attest to that. He's been greatly missed. Basically that was pretty much what I was going to say.
Q. What was it to you guys that made racing in the Busch Series special, set it apart from racing in other series?
CHUCK BOWN: Like Jim told us at the opening, it's the next best thing, best of the rest, excluding Nextel Cup. My desire was always to be Cup champion. I didn't even get close to that.
I loved the Busch Series. It was a heck of a lot of fun. Those years in it were the best years of my career really. You knew it was serious hard racing because so many of those Cup guys raced with us on a regular basis. When you won races or won a championship there, you did something. You made your mark in motorsports. It was fun and difficult.
TOMMY ELLIS: For me it was the competition. You go to some of these short tracks, like where Jack and I used to race, in the old days, when it was late model sportsman, you only had one or two guys to beat. When we started Busch Series, that was four or five of us every week that you had to beat. It depended on where you were, who was going to be the best.
But the competition was great, the people were great. That's what made the Busch Series good for me.
Q. I was wondering what set out to you guys, the fondest memory of your particular championship seasons?
LARRY PEARSON: Oh, yeah, Jack, I want to thank you for getting in trouble in 1986 and help me get that championship, brother (smiling).
JACK INGRAM: Larry, you didn't have to say nothing about that. That's still a little bit of a thorn in my side.
They's too many good things happen to me to worry about something bad that happened to me.
Things happen. You know, it's just the way the world turns. No need to try to explain something away that you can't explain. That's as far as I'm going to go (smiling).
JIM HUNTER: I wasn't going to bring that up either.
LARRY PEARSON: You know me.
JIM HUNTER: That was good, though, Larry.
LARRY PEARSON: I'm telling everybody thank you, apologizing to everyone. Might as well tell Jack thank you.
CHUCK BOWN: I remember about 10 races to go, we had built up almost an unsurmountable lead, I think 370-point lead almost, we were just trying to take it home, take it easy, wrap it up. Things started going kind of poorly. We just started breaking down or wrecking or this or that.
A couple races to go, it was getting a little more intense because we were giving up a big, huge cushion at one point. At one point after a race loading up, some of my own crew members got to fighting each other in the trailer (laughter). You know, just started kind of getting intense. But it all worked out very well. It was a heck of a lot of fun.
Q. I wondered if each one of you could tell us how you want to be remembered?
JACK INGRAM: I think possibly all of us would think the same way. Remembered as a fair, tough competitor. It's gratifying to outrun any of these guys any time. I mean, it gave me a lot of pleasure to outrun them. I didn't like it when they outrun me. But you had to live with it till the next week, see if you could do something better.
That's about the way you could sum it up, as far as I'm concerned.
Q. Chuck, did you not get the memo to shave the head?
JACK INGRAM: I didn't either (removing his hat). Took a little off around the sides.
JIM HUNTER: Jack, me and you together couldn't make a good head of hair, could we?
Q. Jack, I can remember as a young reporter, somebody tricking me into coming over and asking you the only one question that would just fire you up, you'd want to kill somebody. How many times did you want to attack somebody for asking you the one question that you absolutely never, ever have answered?
JACK INGRAM: A few gentlemen sitting back there, I apologize, you know, I think everybody says things to -- motorsports and writers don't always go right, even when they do go right, if they ask the wrong question, we didn't seem to like it - or I didn't.
I didn't have to answer nobody. Tell 'em what I think. If they don't like it, well...
But I look back on it, so many things I said, I wish I hadn't.
Q. Do you think you'll ever answer that question?
JACK INGRAM: No (laughter).
CHUCK BOWN: Got me curious.
Q. I'm not going to ask it again.
JIM HUNTER: Now would be a good time to say that each one of these champions are going to be available immediately following this for one-on-ones. Photo opportunity is going to be available tomorrow behind the prerace stage here with these champions. In all, there will be 14 former champions of the Busch Series there, which is going to be a great photo-op for everybody.
There's also a 25th anniversary media kit CD available. It will also be posted on NASCAR media.com. I want to thank all these guys. They'll be available for one-on-ones. I thank everybody for being here today.
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