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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Trophy Dash Kiss

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In the early 60s, my parents became regular spectators at the Nevada Speedway. It was a great treat for a kid back then as it is still today. For close to 50 years Saturday nights in Nevada have always included stock car racing.

One of my favorite parts of the venue was the Trophy Dash. It was a big part of the weekly spectacle of racing in Nevada.

We always arrived early for the races long before the sun went down. Everyone liked to get their favorite spot in the grandstands. Most of the fans were like my family, they had a regular crowd that sat together each Saturday night.

This crowd of people usually had a favorite racer that they rooted for. All over the grandstands, there were other pockets of people who favored other drivers. It was not a good practice to sit outside of your special group. It was not unusual then or now to see fans get into arguments or even altercations. When there was a wreck involving your favorite driver, it was always another's fault. You get the idea.

My favorite racer and that of the people in my group was a guy from Bolivar, Missouri. His name was Bill Chandler. Bill drove this black and white Pontiac. I am not sure but it seems like it was '56 model.

Bill did not have a large fan base.

There were other local drivers from the Nevada and Fort Scott areas, that had huge followings.

I am sure that I will forget some of the important names from back then, but a few I do remember were, Frosty Capps, LaVern Scotten, Hearl Scism, and Raymond Gose. There was one car from Joplin, known as V-8 or something like that. He was always wrecking someone.

The crowd loved to "boo" him terribly.

Just like today's Saturday night races, the evening began with the heat races. In each class of car, they had these preliminary races to determine both points for the year long championship, and also the starting positions for the feature races.

It always took a lot of time to run these races.

Wrecks were common. Between the wrecks and the beginning of the next race, Randy Wallace's father was the regular announcer. He had this southern drawl and use of grammar that was very much like Dizzy Dean of the old Cardinal Baseball Network.

At the end of the evening, the racers would line up for the feature races. These were the money races.

It was here that a racer was able to recoup at least a part of his racing investment. Even today, racers will tell you it is always a losing operation. Even winning gives you only a fraction of what you spend to race each week.

Racers and their fans don't care so much about the money. They just love to race or watch the races.

That's why the "Trophy Dash" of the old days was such a popular event.

The winners of the four top heat races would be called to a special race right before intermission. There was no prize money for this race, but most of the drivers and fans valued this race as much or more than any of the other races.

The race itself was only a five or 10 lap affair. At the end, the winning driver was brought to the finish line and asked to get out of his race car. Then everyone looked toward the north end of the track for the pace car.

Down the front stretch would come the pace car. Back then the pace car was always a convertible. It was usually a Ford donated by C.A. White Motors. It always had flags flying from all the fenders. These cars always had a great interior and a large engine, every young boy's dream.

The real treat, was however, the Trophy Queen for each week. That's right, a Trophy Queen.

The pace car driver would stop at the finish line and escort from the vehicle a young lady dressed to the ten's.

The task of being a Trophy Queen was not too significant to me back then as a young boy. Now, years later, when I have had daughters in proms and such, I realize just how big a deal it really was.

These young women had spent a lot of time and money getting the right outfit, shoes, and hairdo. Most of the time they also carried a large armful of roses compliments of the race track.

Once they reached the winning driver, they were given a trophy to present to him. What was always much more important to the ceremony, was the traditional kiss.

Here was this beautiful you woman, who had spent years dreaming of being the Trophy Queen someday. She is dressed up in her very finest, and guess what? She is expected let this greasy, grimy, race driver take her in his arms and give her a "big kiss."

It may sound a little corny for today's times, but it certainly wasn't back then. The crowd would always cheer and clap, especially if the driver and the Trophy Queen gave an exceptional kissing performance.

Sadly, I have not been to the races often enough in the past few years. I think I will make it a special point to go back and see them again in the near future. I would give anything to see once again, an old fashioned Trophy Dash, and Trophy Queen.

Kissing is still is style isn't it? See you at the races, it is still a Nevada original.

Leonard Ernsbarger
Leonard At Large