With NASCAR’s return to Road America this weekend for the first time since 1956, maybe there will be some media attention focused on the winner of that long-ago race.
This year’s event is for the second-tier Nationwide Series. The only other NASCAR race at Road America was for the division now known as Sprint Cup, and Tim Flock was the runaway winner on a rain-soaked track. His win showed just how versatile a driver the youngest member of the Fabulous Flocks really was.
The Flocks, who grew up first in Ft. Payne, Ala., but moved to Atlanta to join their kinfolks in the illegal liquor business, were some of the best drivers ever in the formative years of NASCAR.
Like Dale Earnhardt in his era, the Flocks were down-home, colorful and talented and responsible for much of the growth of NASCAR during their time in the sport. They even had a sister, Ethel, named for high-test gasoline, who joined her brothers in a race on the old beach-road course in 1949, the only time four members of the same family have run in a race in the division now known as Cup. She finished 11th, ahead of two of her brothers.
Bob, the oldest of the three racing brothers, was by most accounts of the old-timers around Atlanta, the most talented of the lot even though he didn’t run as many NASCAR-sanctioned races as his brothers.
Fonty, the middle brother, was the most colorful, often wearing Bermuda shorts when he was racing. In just 153 starts in the division now known as Cup, he won 19 times, including the 1952 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
It was also at Darlington where he drove his last race, in 1957. He received serious injuries in a multi-car crash that claimed the life of Bobby Myers of Winston-Salem, N.C., the father of Danny “Chocolate” Myers, the long-time gas man for Dale Earnhardt.
The most successful of the three brothers was Tim, the youngest. He won two Cup championships and 39 races in just 189 career starts, a winning percentage of .208, second all-time to Herb Thomas, who finished his career at .210. By comparison, Jimmie Johnson is at .163.
In 1955, Tim Flock won 18 races, a single-season record that stood until Richard Petty’s 27-win season in 1967.
But even in a time like today, when NASCAR is celebrating its heritage as it opens a new Hall of Fame in Charlotte, it’s not likely people will hear much about the Flocks.
For starters, the Flocks were from Atlanta, and although Atlanta for years was considered the birthplace of stock car racing, many modern-day historians have begun to overlook Atlanta’s role in favor of Charlotte’s. I guess it’s more convenient, considering how the sport has migrated to the northern suburbs of Charlotte.
And then there’s Tim’s role in a failed effort to start a NASCAR driver’s union. It was part of a deal to help get union funding to complete Charlotte Motor Speedway when it was in dire financial straits prior to its opening in 1960,
Flock wound up being banned from NASCAR for his role in the union effort. He was finally reinstated just before he died in 1998.
From the looks of the initial class of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame, a person’s contributions to the sport, not just their accomplishments in it, weigh mighty heavily.
Still, Tim Flock ought to be in it at some point, His accomplishments at places like a rainy Road America are too great to overlook.
Rick Minter is a veteran, award-winning sports journalist who joined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1991 covering motorsports as well as serving as a bureau chief. From 2000-2008 Minter focused on racing exclusively, traveling the NASCAR circuit as the paper’s motorsports writer.
Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org