Ray Lee Goodwin
Interviewed by Dave Zortman
You know, I just told this to somebody yesterday. At Olympic Stadium, Kenny Weld had a throttle stick on him and he went out of the place. I walked over to Kenny and said, “Kenny, slow down and you’ll go fast.” I don’t think I ever beat him after that. He was a young man then. <laughs> Then he came east and was very successful.
Who were your toughest competitors?
I remember at Olympic Stadium, Greg brought out a little roadster. His first one. He won 11 features and I run 7 seconds. So, I would say he was a pretty good competitor.
Along those same lines, who was the most talented?
Who do you feel were some of the more talented car builder of your era?
Who do you feel were some of the most underrated drivers of your time?
By that I mean people who had the talent, but maybe not the right
Larson had a way of getting paid. He’d tell the car owner, 50% for 1st and 2nd… 40% for 3rd and 4th… in 5th and back, I don’t need you and you don’t need me. If more young people would get into racing with that attitude, they would find a combination such as I did in Lincoln, Nebraska. Sticking with a car that doesn’t feel good to you, or a car owner that says you’re gonna run it this way, then get out… But, if you get a mechanic that asks “what does it feel like”… I did it with my foot. If my toe didn’t win a race… I wasn’t a brave kid. If they didn’t beat themselves, they didn’t get beat. That’s kind of the way I raced cars.
I think if a person was underrated… Bob Williams… he won many races. He came back to Pennsylvania, he was a very good racer for Taylor "Pappy" Weld, but he didn’t ever get out on the sprint tour. He lost a brother in Topeka, Kansas… Kenny Williams… he drove a car that I drove an he won like I think 16 or 17 races at Knoxville over a 2 year period.
What were some of the tracks that you competed at?
I raced from Phoenix, Arizona, to Reading, Pennsylvania, and from Toronto, Canada, to Shreveport, Louisiana, and every place in the surrounding area… Terra Haute, Rossburg… with USAC, Dayton… one time for an asphalt race. Pretty much locally in a four or five state area… Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.
I ran in Pennsylvania, Williams Grove, Selinsgrove, in the mid to late 1960’s, but was not successful. I brought the car that Greg Weld won the USAC championship with. I brought it back here and was told if I didn’t stick a piece of wood on top of that thing, I wasn’t going to run with them. The owner wouldn’t put a wing on it. I think it was the only place where I got the green flag and the pull over flag on the same lap!
What track conditions did you favor? Rough, heavy, dry?
What was your most memorable or proudest moment of your career?
One thing that happened to me during my career was meeting a guy by the name of John Cobb of Meacom Firestone, later it was Parnelli Jones Firestone. He put me on rain tires. I was successful because I sold the tires and he helped me all through my career, from the day I met him. Firestone was a big part of my career.
Meacom, who owned a football team down south, and Cobb, from Texas, went up here to Akron, Ohio, and there was a warehouse full of sporty car tires, called rain tires. They weren’t going to run them anymore. Believe me… this was a big warehouse! We put every one of them on a race track somewhere. He just happened to be at Topeka, Kansas… this is after Gene White… they bought Gene White Firestone out… so anyway, he had all these rain tires.
He said, “Hell, I gotta do something with them.”
So I said, “Well, we’ll race ’em!” They were low profile and that put your chassis… we were running slick race tracks… that put your chassis down one inch, front and back, closer to the earth… you could still run stagger and rake in the car. You could change your gear ratio just by changing the circumference of your tire. Then we built a tire that was 17 inches wide and they asked me what I was going to call them and I said a “Jaloney”. This was in the winter time. That asked me how to spell it and I said I didn’t know how to spell it, I’m just telling you what it is. What it was made off of was an old tire they ran on a midget which was made for an airplane. It was called a Jaloney. It had the round surface… the it became, after all these rain tires were done, we went to “Humpers”. So anyway, Firestone was a big thing in my life.
What was the worst or hardest moment of your career?
What was the funniest moment of your career?
Editor’s Note: A surprise guest, none other than Bobbie Adamson, walks into the room at this point and joins in the conversation.
Ray Lee: Come on in Bobbie! Here’s the best competitor around, right here. Bobbie Adamson, come in here!
Anyway Wes Ferrand was one of those drivers you’d say was underrated. We would travel together. One night we went to Topeka, Kansas, and I was without a ride. He got me a ride and during the trophy dash I put him through the fence, then headed right back to Kansas City with him. Now, this is in a book, this Midwest racing book. Anything you tell, you can’t tell a lie because you got to back it up with a picture. Anyway, I rode to the races with him, he got me a ride and I put him out of the ballpark. That was one of the funny ones.
Umm… same guy… we were at Topeka… you might want to edit this out… <laughs> But it was the first race of the season… this was an old fairgrounds and they shut off all the sewage and everything to it. There was no place to change uniforms or anything… Wes wan the only one who had a uniform, we all had sweat shirts, or t-shirts, whatever… He asked me to walk over to the grandstand with him and he’ll get his uniform on. So… we walked over there together. Now this is not the same race where I put him through the wall. This was early in the season.
Well, we walked over there and he went in to use the restroom. He had his new Hinchman suit on. You know how you have to reach behind to flush… Well, there was an air lock and this thing erupted! <laughs> Now I’m telling you, if you can imagine toilet paper out of the basin… <laughs hard> Anyway, he walks out of there with this new red uniform on, decorated with toilet paper. All he said was, “Even God hates me!”
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