Published April 13, 2010
The Feds are considering using NASCAR drivers in a “distracted driver” campaign, intended to warn motorists about the dangers of texting or talking on cell phones while behind the wheel.
I suppose it’s fitting, because race drivers have a pretty good record when it comes to driving while distracted.
Nobody was more distracted than Tim Flock the day his monkey got loose.
Flock, the consummate showman, used to race with a pet monkey, Joco Floco, riding shotgun. Joco was a Rhesus monkey who was along for the ride when Flock won a race in 1953.
But the monkeyshines came to an end after Joco got loose in the cockpit in the middle of a race and went ape.
If you think texting is distracting, imagine driving with a crazed monkey in your lap.
I don’t suppose a driver could get away with racing with a monkey nowadays, but back then the rules were a bit looser.
In the old days you’d sometimes see a driver light up a smoke as he sat in his race car on pit road. I don’t know if anyone actually drove while puffing … Dick Trickle could probably tell us.
I can’t swear this happened, but I heard it from a man who worked on a track safety crew: a driver was involved in crash and as he was being pulled from his car he became violently ill. At first the paramedics feared he had suffered internal injuries; as soon as he got his breath he explained that he had simply swallowed his chaw of tobacco.
No wonder nobody wanted to run too close behind him.
Also back in the old days a driver at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway drove in the Saturday night fender-bender division while listening to the Grand Ole Opry. He had a radio hooked into his headset, with the dial set on WSM 650.
I guess the ultimate challenge would be to drive while chewing a chaw and listening to the Grand Ole Opry with a crazed monkey jumping around inside the car.
Texting seems pretty tame by comparison.
Larry Woody is a veteran, award-winning sports journalist. Woody began working at the Nashville Tennessean in the 1960s and took over the auto racing beat full time in the early 1970s. Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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