It Was All Part of the FunS

Chris Economaki slugged it out as an announcer for racetracks across the country before he took the helm of Speed Sport News, or wore the yellow jacket for Wide World of Sports. In the '50s Economaki had followed the promotional efforts of Sam Nunis to Sioux Falls, where he saw a bunch of guys unloading a sophisticated timing device from a truck parked on the infield before the race.

"They struggle to get it up the stairs of the judges stand, and they place it in clear sight of the grandstand. The device has a dial that's about 18 inches in diameter.

Qualifying gets under way and we're really hyping this timing device. 'Breaking the second into one thousand parts, timing these record speeds with absolute precision!'


The dial spun while the clock operated, and stopped when the car flashed across the finish line. The hand on the dial actually spun so fast you couldn't see it with the naked eye. I'm wondering while I'm looking at it, how could the clutch work properly to stop the hands of the dial without slippage? I was curious.

Winkley is sitting in front of the machine, operating the timer, and I'm calling out the times as they're given to me. 'The time, 24 and 232 one-thousandths of a second...' I'm talking away when I look down from the judges stand, and the wires from this timing device are lying in the grass, coiled up and are plugged into nothing.

It was a phony! It was simply something to hype these 'record' speeds, and Winkley was simply winding up the clock mechanism, and making the dial spin while the cars qualified.

Again, it was a little bit of a con. The fans of today simply wouldn't but that sort of thing, no doubt about it. But many people of the era always suspected that the things being hyped weren't necessarily on the level, but there was an underlying chuckle at the same time. It was all part of the fun."

Excerpt from: Let 'Em All Go! The Story of Auto Racing by the Man who was there by Chris Economaki [daveargabright.com]

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