slvra Salt Lake Valley Racing Association
Circle Track Racing in the 40's - 70's and More
By Allan Halliday * Tribune Staff Writer * Aug 16, 1970 *Article was written 43 years ago about 63 years ago!
Vet Official Recalls Racing Thrills
The checkered flag went down as race cars careened past in a cloud of smoke.
When the dust had settled, Walt Perry emerged as winner of the first dash. That was Oct 2, 1949 – and the purse was 60 cents. Any way you spell it, it still comes out $.60. But that was Salt Lake City auto
racing 21 years ago [64 years ago in 2013]. Now the purses run $200 to $400 in many events. And don’t forget the $5,000 Copper Cup first prize.
Walt went on that night to mesh gears with the best of them and placed eighth in the main event (for $1.08).
Two decades of racing have seen chills, spills and more chills for Walt who started driving midgets at the Utah State Fairgrounds. For several years he was owner, driver and official with midgets and stock cars and in mid-1951 took over as pit steward for the Salt Lake Valley Racing Assn. At the end of this season Walt will give it up for a more relaxed life.
Talk about dedication. Walt has never missed a race night in 20 years. On July 17, 1954, his wife, Lila, gave birth to son Ronny. Lila came out of the delivery room and asked what time it was. When she found out she told Walt: “You’ve just got time to make the race.” Cigars in one [hand] and a stopwatch in the other, Walt was off to the races.
Like show biz, race biz also has its traditions and superstitions. Walt recalls that Pappy Gates, noted local driver in car No. 2, would pack up and go home if anyone ate peanuts near his car and threw the shells on the ground. That still holds with many of the drivers, but other taboos such as green cars and car No. 13 have faded. Drivers also will loan crash helmets and goggles without fear of themselves later crashing.
One superstition still holds, as race fans know. No race will be started with 13 cars on the track – a 14th is brought out to run one symbolic lap. Last week, however, fans might have thought luck had caught up to green car No. 169, driven by 16-year-old Scotty Hauser. Scotty tangled up on an east-turn pileup and banged against the crash wall. Tires went flying off the car and the track was littered with big coil springs and front-end assembly as the car was wiped out. Scotty emerged unscathed – luckily.
Racing is a family affair with the Perrys. Wife, Lila, started helping Vesta Corwin in 1960 in the timing box and took over as secretary – treasurer in 1961. She has been secretary 11 years and will “retire” with Walt this year. Ronny, who was born on race day, helps in the pits and in the timing stand. David started helping his dad in the timing shack when he was old enough to get into the pits and in 1967 built his first race car, 171 in C stock division. Another son, Richard, also helped Walt and has helped Dave in 1969 and 1970. In 1968, Dave went into the B modified class and races Car 71.
A daughter, Diane, now married, also helped out in the concession stands and Tommy, 12, stays near the timing stands and runs errands for the scorers. Everybody got into the act and all excelled.
Walt runs the pit shack on the east turn and is the reason cars come out right on time for each race. Keith Dickenson, ex-driver, assists Walt in the pit shack. As qualifying times for the cars are posted, he lines cars up for main events. He uses intercom, Walkie talkie and bull-horn to contact drivers and pit crew. The four fasted cars wind up in trophy dashes, next in the heat races and the 16 fastest in main events for all three classes. An inverted start is used, that is the fastest cars go to the back of the pack.
Other SLVRA officials work with Walt in a fast-action team. Announcer Howard Boulter is “wired in” so fans know what is going on in the pits. On the infield with Walkie talkie is veteran president Larry Haywood who works closely with Jim Black, starter flagman. C. L. Jones, vice president, is on the fence with a radio, spotting trouble and crashes. Tom Colwell, treasurer, does a great job at the pit gate and Lucky Bryant has his hands full as backstretch flagman. Also busy are Frank Ammons, A Class representative; Kyle Dean for the B and Arnie Hauser for the C class. Dean and Hauser also drive and all three are on the board of directors.
In the press box Lila is chief scorer during races and is assisted by Twila Sorensen and Linda Bowdidge, wives of drivers. Timing is handled by Paul Buhanan and Walt’s son Ronny. Ferrol Papworth , manager, directs the overall show.
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