From a Charger to an Imperial, Race Car had a 18 year Career in NASCAR and ARCA
Dale Wilkerson September 2010
A few weeks ago on Droppin’ the Hammer, which airs every Saturday morning on the internet at www.espnspartanburg.com or radio at ESPN Radio 97.1-FM and 1400-AM, Brett Bodine talked about the implementation of the new cars for the Nationwide Series.
Known as the Cars of Tomorrow (COT) the Sprint Cup Series has been using this car type of car since 2007. All of these new chassis have to be cleared by NASCAR before going to a racetrack, and NASCAR installs a chip to track each car, to keep up with how many races a car has been in and to make sure the correct repairs have been made after a wreck.
Bodine, who works with the NASCAR Research and Development Department, spoke about some of the cars, that were raced in last month’s Nationwide Series race at Daytona, being traced all the way back to the first COT race at Bristol in 2007. That might sound like a long life for a race car. Four years life for a car that has been bounced of retaining walls, rear-ended, t-boned in the door, or spun in a sand trap might be considered a full life.
At the Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Bobby Issac started alongside pole winner David Pearson. Isaac got the jump on Pearson at the start, and led all 200 laps of the event
What if I told you I know where a racecar is that was first raced in 1971, and it last hit the speedway in 1988. With a little T/L/C it would be ready to roll again. Sounds like a tall tale you think, but this story is true.
Maurice Randall, the Promoter for the Springport Speedway in Michigan, followed his dream to NASCAR in the eighties. Randall wanted to race at the top level, and he wanted to do that racing in a MOPAR product.
“I built my first race car from the ground up. It was a Chrysler Imperial. My second car was a Cordoba that I purchased from Buddy Arrington. It was race ready, but it came with extra parts,” Randall said.
That Cordoba had a long history behind it and the first part of that history might have looked like a scene from the movie Days of Thunder.
Maurice Randall in the #93 at Rockingham in 1985, this car raced from 1971
Robert Duvall’s character, Harry Hogge, was based on the late NASCAR crew chief and car builder Harry Hyde. In the movie, Hogge talked to the car as he was building it, and Hyde probably had a similar conversation with this car, which began its career in racing as a #71 K&K Insurance Dodge Charger.
The car was built to race on the short tracks of NASCAR. Bobby Isaac was the first driver to charge down the front stretch at tracks like Bristol, North Wilkesboro, Richmond, Nashville and Martinsville. When Isaac left the team, Buddy Baker was the next driver for the team. Both drivers scored wins at short track events to add to the pedigree of this car. Baker was followed by Dave Marcis, who continued the winning tradition.
Marcis scored his first career win with this car and he drove this team until the 1977 season, when Neil Bonnett took the wheel. The team switched from the #71 to #5 at mid season. Bonnett was involved in a crash at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, so the team loaded the short track car for the season ending race at Ontario, the replica of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that was built in California.
Bonnett took the short track car and ran away from the field to score the final win for Dodge until the nameplate returned to NASCAR with the Intrepid in 2001. Bonnett raced the car with the body with a Dodge Magnum on it in 1978, before the team followed Richard Petty and the Petty Enterprises Team in switching to Chevrolets around mid-season.
Independent racer Buddy Arrington purchased the car and he kept it on track though the mid eighties when he sold it to Randall. Arrington changed the skin on the car several times, but he kept the body from Bonnett’s Ontario winner in good shape. Arrington decided to switch to a Ford Thunderbird in 1985, because the three year rule in place in NASCAR at that time was about to force the Cordoba and Imperial bodies to age out.
Randall raced the car in NASCAR, before returning to the ARCA series, where he could continue to race the Chrysler an additional three years, because ARCA allowed a specific car model, in this case a 1983 Chrysler Imperial, six years of competition. The final race for the car was in 1988. Randall parked the car in his garage, where it sets today.
“I have thought about restoring the car several times. I could restore everything as I drove it, or put the Charger body back on it, just like it was when Neil won at Ontario,” Randall said.
However Maurice Randall decides to restore this historic car, it could become the center piece of any car museum or hall of fame, or you might see Randall pacing the field with it at the Springport Speedway. If that happens, the drivers in the Venom Stock Series had better pull those straps real tight, because I think Maurice Randall would turn the lights off and drop the hammer to compete one more time.