By admin | April 24, 2008
Racing legend gives thoughts on today’s NASCAR
By Richard Allen
One of the things I like to do when talking with people who have been involved in racing for a long time is to get their perspective on the sport as it is today.
L.D. Ottinger’s racing career spanned over five decades. He has seen the sport go through major changes since the time he drove his first race in 1958.
“I watch it if I’ve not got something else going on,” Ottinger responded when asked if he keeps up with NASCAR now that he no longer drives.
L.D. does watch enough to see the biggest differences between the racing of today and the time when he was dominating the Late Model Sportsman division in the 1970s. “Money and people are the biggest difference,” he said with a chuckle. “There’s a lot more people and a lot more money.
“Back when we were winning all those races we just had me and a couple more working on the car,” he continued. “Now, they’ve got all these engineers and other people who work full time.”
And what about the difference with money? “There’s just so much more money nowadays,” Ottinger declared. “I still had a job at Stokley’s when I was racing.”
It’s a good bet there are not many drivers in today’s NASCAR who have to hold down a regular job other than driving. But, could today’s drivers have succeeded years ago?
“Some of ‘em could and some of ‘em couldn’t,” Ottinger said. “Back then we didn’t have power steering and had to run on bias ply tires. You had to be pretty strong to drive one of those things.
“And it was hot,” he added. “There weren’t any cool suits.”
Besides power steering and cool suits, numerous safety innovations have been added by NASCAR. “I don’t like the full face helmets,” L.D. admitted. “I like to be able to see what’s beside me, but I like all the other stuff they’ve done. It’s a lot better from the safety standpoint.”
With racing being more technical, the money being much better and the improvements in safety, would Ottinger rather drive today or in the earlier era? “Today,” he laughed, “because there’s more money in it.”
Aside from the money L.D. enjoyed racing when he did but he adds that he would have liked to try today’s racing as well. He points to the difference in today’s cars as opposed to the cars he drove. Also, he finds the level of competition to be compelling.
Ottinger competed throughout most of his career in NASCAR’s Late Model Sportsman division, the predecessor of today’s Nationwide Series. So, what does a former driver in that series think about so many Sprint Cup drivers in the second series? “It’s all right, I guess,” he says. “It brings in more money. Besides, you know that when you beat them you’ve beat the best.”
Ultimately, Ottinger was a racer and he enjoyed racing. And more, he enjoyed the competition of racing. However, he has one particular beef with the way NASCAR conducts the sport today.
“I don’t think it’s good for ‘em to watch over everything so close,” he says. “They control so much that you can’t hunt an edge. It’s like a big IROC.”
L.D. Ottinger does not drive race cars anymore but his opinion on the sport is still a valuable one. After all, the best way for the sport to find its future is to look to its past.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
*This article is part II of a two part series. To read the first article go to the website’s front page.
Topics: Articles |