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Stock Car drivers

Photo by Mike Evans
Shawnee Missions Terry Bivins

Born September 13, 1943, Terry Bivins' first race car was a 1955 ford bought at a used car lot. Terry put in some pipe roll bars, removed the glass, and went racing with the tires that came on it. Terry won a 300 lapper at Rolla Mo. He had to chase down Ralph Starr to get his money, he left the track with all of the money before the race was over.

In the 1970's, Kansas Jayhawker, from Shawnee Mission, KS, Bivins was part of the touring MASCAR circuit, or he would just show up as a featured out-of-town driver. Bivins home track was the 1/2-mile, D-shaped oval, at the I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Missouri (east of KCMO). Bivins' cars were always very competitive, even against the incredibly tough cars that raced in the Midwest. The most impressive thing was that Bivins could unload at an unfamiliar track, and run so competitively with the best of the local drivers. His cars were always capable of winning the feature-event.

1977 Southern 500 at Darlington

Bivins was another guy who ran at Rolla to make it to the top. Terry finished 8th in the 1976 Daytona 500, and was runner-up to the NASCAR's Rookie of the Year in 76 to Skip Manning. Bivins' career spanned 3 years, 1975-77. In 75 he ran 2 races with 1 top 10, in 76 he ran 18 races with 1 top 5 (a 5th) and 6 top 10s and in 77 he ran 8 races with 1 top 10. He did lead one race in 77 for 6 laps and won a total of $62,450 in his brief career.

In 1976 Bivins just knew he was headed for a top-five finish in his first Daytona 500, Bivins was set to make a huge splash. Until he blew a left rear tire. Flustered, his crew made a costly mistake. They replaced it with a right rear tire. "The right rear is 30 pounds more," Bivins said. "The last 15-20 laps was like driving through a snowstorm in Kansas, it was that loose." Bivins finished eighth. He earned $11,000, the most money he earned for a race. He was unable to get a sponsor in 1977.

Dick Trickle and Terry Bivins

He started a construction business after that and drove a limited schedule on the American Speed Association circuit before retiring from stock-car racing in 1980. Terry now of the little town of Lebo Kansas is right at home with a fishing pole. He is considered by many to be one of the top Kansas anglers.

After a 30 year lay off [no typo error], Terry is back racing again. Racing has always been the love of his life. He got a car ready late in the season last year and only made the last three races, with less than spectacular results. Had a few chassis problems and a couple of driver errors.

Living in the fast lane isn't always bad. Ask Keokuk's Ernie Derr. The former late-model stock car driver, now 62, watched his brother-in-law, Don White, race back into the late 1940s and thought "it looked like a drivers way to make a dollar." For him it was, and he went on to enormous success as a race driver, winning more than 300 feature events in a 25-year career that ended in 1977.

Complete records of Derr's achievements aren't available because they were destroyed in a fire. And the modest man says he has no idea of how many race victories he had. Derr raced primarily on dirt short tracks, mostly half-mile ovals, and his greatest days were on the International Motor Contest Association circuit. He won 12 IMCA season championships, notching his first in 1953. Then he claimed four straight beginning in 1959, lost out to Dick Hutcherson, another Keokuk driver who went on to NASCAR fame, in 1963 and '64, and won the next seven.

White, who won three IMCA crowns and later two United States Auto Club titles, and Derr started a craze in the Mississippi River city, and over the years 18 others there have tried their hand at racing, many with success. White, Derr, Ramo Stott and Hutcherson were the big guns, however, and they often had the big wheels of the racing world calling.

Race publicists were fond of referring to the always mustached, 5-foot 8-inch, 165-pounder as the "diminutive Derr." There will be arguments, but he may have been the "biggest" driver of all. In 1963, General Motors helped Derr, and from 1964 through 1970 Chrysler Corp. kept him in race cars, parts and engines and provided some other gratuities. Obviously, that was an advantage over the have-nots of racing, but no one was ever more dedicated to keepin the car in tiptop condition than Derr. And he had the know-how.

Here's what Al Sweeney, former premier promoter of IMCA now retired, said: "Without a doubt, Derr was the outstanding stock car driver in my lifetime in automobile racing. He was one of the best mechanic-drivers and rates along with Gus Schrader and Emory Collins, who set up, repaired and built their own motors. drivers like that are few and far between today. Ernie Derr also was highly respected by Ronnie Householder, who was the racing engineer for Chrysler Corp., and was responsible for the aerodynamics ... and success of Dodge stock cars. Ronnie also rated Derr tops as mechanic-driver combination during his lifetime. No other driver to my estimation has ever won a national championship 12 times in a sanctioning body." Sweeney called Derr "a fine family man and a credit to auto racing in general."

I think it was 1950 when I started racing. Back then, dollars weren't floating around everywhere. It looked like an easy way of making a dollar. I'm not saying it was. If a guy had drivers equipment, he could do all right. Don and I had as drivers equipment as anybody. When I first started you didn't do much to make a car into a stock car except reinforce the wheels. We didn't have roll bars until 1957. It was common to drive the race car to the track, take out the seats, put in seat belts and take out the head lights. We didn't start towing cars to the race track until 1954.

Usually, the guy who had a new car had an advantage. It seemed every year the motors got more powerful.

Racing was something that took a lot of time. Those old, rough dirt tracks were hard on axles and ball joints, and it was a constant maintenance thing. I never fell out of many races unless I lost an engine.

I got to the point where I enjoyed racing an awful lot. In certain years, such as 1961 and '62 when I had Pontiacs, you felt like the race was yours before you started because it was a drivers, reliable car.

Then there were the slower years. I lost several engines in 1963. The first year with Chrysler I had to iron out a lot of wrinkles as far as getting the car to handle drivers. From 1965 on, with the Hemi engines, you felt like the race was yours, too.

I think maybe if Don and I ever made a mistake, it was not getting into NASCAR racing when we first started. We would have been in on the ground floor.

If a guy was a drivers racer he had people who didn't like him, they came to see him get beat. Those that liked him came to see him win. Either way, it's drivers. You draw [the fans]. I didn't mind the boos. I always thought there were more pulling for me than were against me.

Mike Derr, 35, Ernie's oldest son, recalls racing was a serious business. "Dad won a lot of races in the garage," he said. Racing "was a business with us and on the serious side over the years. I can't ever remember Dad watching television [during breaks in race preparation]. He was always working on the car. Dad hated to get beat. I can remember Dick Hutcherson saying, 'Got to beat the old man. The old man will be tough to beat if you have to haul him out in a wheelchair.'

Dad was a helluva driver and he knew by feel if a car was right," Mike said. "I remember one day at the Missouri State Fair, he came in from a practice lap and said, 'Boys, the right front tire needs some air.' Talk about driving by the seat of your pants. He had the ability to detect if any part of the car was off."

Like all great athletes, Derr used his skills and knowledge to make a difficult sport look easy. "People talk about luck, too," Mike noted. "I think he thought you make your own luck by working hard and being dedicated. ... He was smart enough to stay out of problems. It seems like there's a woman behind every successful man," he added. "My mom [Marianna] was very dedicated. She gave up a lot for the sport and so did Dad."

Stott, who still races occasionally, won championships in the Automobile Racing Club of America and USAC, but he never was able to beat Derr out of an IMCA championship. "I enjoyed running with Ernie," Stott said. "He taught me a lot. He was the man I knew I had to beat and I looked up to Ernie. Before I could outrun him, I had to know how he did it. He wouldn't talk to me too much about his strategy or working on his cars, but I could watch and I could drive behind him lap after lap and learn."

Derr said he has no regrets about getting into racing. Derr had many fans and some who didn't like him because of his "factory help." Derr hasn't attended many races since he wound up his illustrious career one September night in 1977 at a Fall Jamboree at Knoxville, and he said he misses his friends and old adversaries. He owns income property in Keokuk and no longer works at all with race cars. However, Mike says he buys cars sometimes, fixes them up and sells them. His red-and-white 1970 Dodge Charger, the last big one he got from Chrysler - still proudly displaying the big "1" symbolic of a champion - rests majestically in the "old man's" always spick-and-span shop. Both are quite now, long removed from the dirty, dusty race wars. But they certainly knew where the groove on the track was.

Born April 6, 1934, Ramo Stott is a former NASCAR Winston Cup driver from Keokuk, Iowa. Probably the best non-champ of the IMCA era, he was a bridesmaid all through the 60s. After leaving IMCA in '71, Ramo won titles in both ARCA and USAC. With 27 career ARCA victories, Ramo Stott was well known for his winning ways in the early '70s driving the winged Plymouth Superbirds. Stott was overpowering, winning the title in both 1970 and 1971.

His, former ARCA and reigning USAC stock car champion, greatest NASCAR accomplishment was winning the pole for the 1976 Daytona 500. He raced part-time in 35 starts between 1967 to 1977. His highest career finish was second at Talladega. Ramo Stott raced from 1967-1977 and 1984. Stott instigated the huge crash in the Winston 500 at Talladega, then called the Alabama International Motor Speedway. The wreck took out 21 cars though thankfully there were no fatalities. The wreck was triggered when the engine failed Stott's Mercury. He had started 13th in an expanded field of 60 cars. The motor malfunctioned as he swept off the second turn banking, spinning him and spewing a wide oil slick down the backstretch. The timing hardly could have been worse, for approaching fast was the onrushing front pack, led by Buddy Baker, who had won the pole at 193.435 mph in a Dodge.

Some start racing on dirt surfaces. They frequently start in karting or in cars that are completely stock except for safety modifications. They generally advance through intermediate or advanced local-level divisions. The highest local division, asphalt late model racing, is generally considered a requirement to advance to the next step, regional and national touring series. Dirt track drivers follow the same general path. Their highest divisions are less well-known national touring late model series such as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and regional touring series.

Some drivers have entered stock car racing after starting on a very different career path. The most famous might well be Mario Andretti, who is the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), NASCAR's Daytona 500 (1967), and the Formula One World Championship (1978). Juan Pablo Montoya is the only other driver with wins in all 3 series, with an Indy 500 win (2000), 7 Formula One wins and 2 Sprint Cup wins (2007 and 2010).

Montoya initially surprised the auto racing community by leaving F1, but he was quickly followed by other drivers. Open wheel stars like Sam Hornish Jr., Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and A.J. Allmendinger all made the move to the Sprint Cup series, with varying degrees of success. Two-time Australian V8 Supercar Champion Marcos Ambrose has competed the Sprint Cup Series events since 2007. Other drivers compete often in stock car racing but are well known for their success elsewhere. Ron Fellows and Boris Said are champion road racers and are often brought in by teams solely to compete in NASCAR's road course events.

Wayne Grett, Register Staff Writer. Life in fast lane puts Derr in Hall of Fame. The Des Moines Register. April 8, 1984.

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