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NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Herb Thomas

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR, Herb Thomas

NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Herb Thomas

Joel Thomas
Victor Thomas
February 8, 2013


CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

KERRY THARP: Representing great driver Herb Thomas are his two sons, Joel and Victor Thomas. Congratulations, fellas.
I guess I'll ask Joel first, you were up there tonight accepting on behalf of your dad, and just maybe recount just how important this is for your father to be recognized as one of the best in the history of the sport.
JOEL THOMAS: Well, it's very special in that he was recognized by his peers that will go down‑‑ stand amongst the greatest of all time, and just so proud of him. I grew up on the farm with him, and to‑‑ didn't see his racing days, but from what I hear, he was just a great driver, and we're just proud of him. Very special.
KERRY THARP: And Victor, your thoughts about your dad going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
VICTOR THOMAS: Well, it's great that he's going in. You know, he got out of the sport early because his career kind of ended in '56, and he still listened on the radio and then watched it on TV. But what's‑‑ and it seemed like for the longest time, people had forgotten about the old timers, and this Hall of Fame for all these people here, they don't know these guys that just‑‑ I knew some of them personally. Even though I was 10 years old when he got out, I remember meeting Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly and those early guys, and they're in my brain, and I'll never forget them.
Tonight it just‑‑ Daddy was‑‑ I can see it really brings it vivid that Daddy was part of that, and it's thrilling for me.

Q. What did it mean to you to hear so many of the stars that were his contemporaries talk about how talented he was and that he may have been the best driver of his era?
VICTOR THOMAS: To hear Smokey Yunick say at the time Daddy was the best there was, that means he probably was the best there was, because we know that Smokey Yunick at the time was the best mechanic out there. When you put Daddy with the Hudson and Smokey Yunick came along, that was a combination that really was a powerful thing from '51 through '54 until Hudson got out of the racing. On the records, Daddy won I think 38 races with Hudson, and that's a big number for one car, you know, one little small car. Hudson was back then a very small company, and for them to compete against that and the Oldsmobiles and General Motors‑‑ yeah, General Motors was in it and Ford.
What really is great about it is that Daddy was the first sponsored car, I think. The Hudsons really wanted to put him in a car. Thanks to Marshall Teague, he was the first factory car out on the track, on the track. You see that fabulous Hudson Hornet coming, it had to be some type of intimidating for the other guys.

Q. Victor, when he left driving, could he leave racing behind? Do you think he was saddened by the fact that he couldn't really drive and compete anymore? And what about all the trophies and things? Do you guys still have those somewhere?
VICTOR THOMAS: Yes, we still have the trophies. We've got‑‑ I remember in '54 when we moved to Sanford, Mama built a trophy case in the living room, one side took half of them, another side took half of them, and after they passed away Jerry brought the trophies down. He lives on the farm. And we still have all the trophies in that trophy case, which I'm‑‑ I've seen later on some people didn't, but we've got most of them.
What was the other part of your question? About the racing?
Great thing about it, he put it behind him. He didn't look back, he didn't regret about him getting hurt and knocking him out of a championship. He could have been the first three‑time champion there in '56. He put it behind him. Never saw any regrets from him at all. He took on‑‑ got into his truck and went into that, and went on forward. He was happy.
JOEL THOMAS: He might have put the driving part behind him, but I think he still followed it. He kept in touch with it, and in later years he went to old timers' races and rekindled friendships with those past comrades, and he never forgot them. They really enjoyed that.

Q. Your dad still has the best winning percentage of any driver in Cup Series history. How proud does that make you to know he won a better percentage of races than anyone who's ever done this?
JOEL THOMAS: It's just amazing that that percentage still stands. The cars are a lot closer now than they were in those days, maybe not as many top competitive cars, but that stands better than‑‑ about 21 percent, one out of five in a seven‑year career, that's just really something to behold.
I think that‑‑ what's the chance that somebody might beat that? That might be standing for a long time.
VICTOR THOMAS: I think that will stand because of the careers now are so‑‑ they last so much longer. Each year it's hard to win‑‑ I guess daddy had six, seven, eight races a year. It's a great season if you win three or four, but if you win eight, you've done something. The cars are so much safer now and the careers go on and on, and it just is almost probably impossible to come to that record, unless it's a short career.

Q. There's not a lot known about a number of drivers from the era in which your dad raced. When you were growing up, was it a big deal that your father was a race car driver? Was that like a popular thing to be? How was it perceived back then?
VICTOR THOMAS: Well, Joel didn't experience that, I did. At the time it was a big deal, because you have to look back in the early '50s, that's what people did on Sunday afternoons in the Carolinas. They'd go to church and then they'd go to races. It wasn't baseball like in the North. It was racing in the South.
Here all of a sudden they had the modified cars, which here comes these cars that they drove, like yeah, I'm driving a '51 Hudson, there's a '51 Hudson out there, and that really brought the people out. Those were the first heroes ruling North Carolina. Yeah, it probably was a big thing.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to the Thomas family for your dad being selected in the class of 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame.



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