Larry McReynolds told a large gathering at the Friends of Auto Racing Awards Banquet on Saturday that "if you want something bad enough, then get after it and keep striving to reach your goal and then eventually perseverance will pay off."
McReynolds, who spoke at Classics V in Amherst during the 53rd annual banquet, truly has lived his own advice. His racing career has gone from the auto salvage yards of his native Alabama to that of being a winning crew chief on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Now he launches his new assignment this month as a Winston Cup television analyst for Fox.
"I didn't go to college but went to high school and did graduate and worked in a salvage yard . . . just to earn a little bit of money," McReynolds said. "I wanted to work on race cars.
"I would leave that salvage yard at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, run through a drive-thru to get a hamburger and go work on race cars all night long. Many a night I quit just early enough to go home and clean up and get to work at the salvage yard.
"I'm not very proud of it but I can share the story now. I would be so tired during the day that I would go down under the cars that would be sitting up on the jack and would tie my hands with a shop towel to the drive shaft. It looked like I was working but I was actually taking a catnap to kind of revive myself."
McReynolds also said that timing can be everything when it comes to landing a job as a NASCAR crew chief. In his case, it also took some blood and stitches.
"One day I walked out the main office door at the salvage shop and somebody left the forks (of a forklift) about head high. I ran into it with my forehead and went home with a bunch of stitches in my head," he said. "I watched about as many soap operas and talk shows as you could watch. I was thumbing through the NASCAR newsletter and happened to answer a classified ad where a new Winston Cup team was starting in Greenville, S.C., and I made the phone call figuring I'd never hear back but they did call.
"I went up there and gave it a try and a few weeks later I packed up a green Pinto and a U-Haul and went off to the Carolinas in September of 1980. I never went back."
McReynolds earned 23 victories in his crew chief career working for drivers such as Joe Ruttman, Ricky Rudd, the late Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt and most recently Mike Skinner. He left Richard Childress Racing this past fall to accept his assignment with Fox.
"When you've won 23 races, as hard as it is to win every one of those races, they're all very special," McReynolds said. "But certainly my first win at Watkins Glen in 1988 with Ricky Rudd, because it was my first win, was special. Also my two Daytona 500 wins, in 1992 with Davey Allison and 1998 with Dale Earnhardt, are special as well."
Also at the banquet, the Foar Score Club named its local "Starting Field of the Century," designed to honor the best local drivers of the past 100 years. The list, compiled through club members' votes, is made up of retired drivers, current drivers and those who are deceased.
The winners were Danny Johnson, Mike McLaughlin, Merv Treichler, Ed Anchor, Chuck Boos, Richie Evans, Junior Hanley, Jim Hurtubise, Rick Wylie, John Julicher, Bill Rafter, Roger Treichler, Pete Bicknell, Art Clark, Sege Fidanza, Dutch Hoag, Tony Jankowiak, Stroker McGurk, Charlie Rudolph, Maynard Troyer, Don Biederman, Tom Druar, Dick Flaig, Doc Hoctor and Ron Williams.
Drivers Junior Hanley and Bill Torrisi were inducted into the Foar Score Hall of Fame along with deceased car owner Gene DeWitt. John Julicher was named Driver of the Year on Asphalt and Danny Johnson was selected as Driver of the Year on Dirt.
Other award winners: Stewart Friesen, Rookie on Dirt; Troy Williams, Rookie on Asphalt; Roger Chrysler, Most Improved on Dirt; Tom McGrath, Most Improved on Asphalt; Pete Bicknell, Achievement on Dirt; Andy Mackereth, Achievement on Asphalt; Todd Burley, Perseverance; Brandon Metz, Sportsmanship; Brad Lichty and Garry Evans, Special Promotions; Tom Porebski, Mechanical Achievement; Tana Robinson, Woman In Racing; Bill and Judy Schryver, Dick Hammond Dedication To Auto Racing; Tim Packman, Media Award.
Special recognition awards were given to Kate Beck, Jipp Ortiz, Bob Boyle and Kathy Rogers. Those earning contribution awards were WXRL-AM; Bar-Chel Lawn & Recreation Equipment; Jeff Bishop and Rick Mooney.