What comes to mind when the Goody’s Dash Series is mentioned? Crashes, more likely than not. But the series actually had an interesting history lasting over thirty years.
In the 1970s, compact cars were huge, and NASCAR, wanting to pander to another market, formed the Dash Series. The NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series began in 1973 running solely at North Wilkesboro, and in 1975 it branched out elsewhere. At this time, it was known as the Baby Grand Nationals. The first race of the new series was at North Wilkesboro, but the winner is actually unknown. According to logbooks, it was Gwyn Bullis, but NASCAR stated that Bullis never won in the series. It’s possible it was an exhibition, but in any case, the series ran twelve races throughout the South that year, and Dean Combs was the champion. Competitors that year are mostly unknown today, though there were a few exceptions to this such as Larry Pearson, Roger Hamby, Tommy Houston, and Ronnie Thomas.
1979 saw the first running of the Goody’s Dash Daytona race, a 40 lap race won by Mike Watts in a field which included Phil Parsons. It would soon be doubled in length to 80 laps.
In 1980, the Baby Grand National Series became the International Sedan Series. Despite being an International Sedan Series, however, Opels and Datsuns served as the only distinctly international cars that they used. Even still, with the cars it ran, it was able to hold its own identity.
In the series’ early years, Dean Combs absolutely dominated seasons on several occasions. In 1977, he ran 19 of the 23 races, winning ten of them. Combs was still the champion at year’s end with 434 points, 72 ahead of second place Larry Hoopaugh, who had run at least 21 races (due to missing records, it’s unknown as to whether or not he ran more than that) and won twice. He ran all 20 races in 1981 and won 14 of them. Interestingly, Combs eventually switched to a Datsun 200SX and netted them a few victories.
In 1982, Combs moved elsewhere and only ran part time in the series, allowing Hoopaugh to decimate the field. He won seven of the 11 races that year, including the final six rounds. The schedule had almost been cut in half between seasons, with one of the races dropped being a 300 miler at Talladega, which had been held for the first time in 1981. 1981 would prove to be the only year the Dash Series ever ran Talladega.
So far, Combs and Hoopaugh had been the only two champions. 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1981 had seen Combs on top at season’s end, and 1978, 1979, and 1982 had gone to Hoopaugh. 1983’s champion was a little surprising.
Michael Waltrip, at the time just starting to become well known, was champion in 1983, the same year the series adopted the extremely bizarre ‘Darlington Dash Series’ name, despite the series’ Darlington race not even being very long (69 laps for 150km, when Daytona was by this point a 200 miler). Waltrip was the first champion in the series not named Combs or Hoopaugh. Fields around this time included a few names, such as Billy Standridge, Ed Berrier, and a couple sons of well known names such as Joe Littlejohn, Jr., and James Hylton, Jr.
1983 also saw another notable event: the introduction of Toyota to NASCAR. Only one driver showed up with a Toyota to the 1983 opener at Daytona, but that driver was a young man by the name of Davey Allison, running a Corolla for Bill Collins. Allison did not stay very long in the Dash Series, and soon moved to ARCA.
The Dash Series also had its fair share of longrunners. Mickey York, Mike Watts, Larry Caudill, Ned Combs, and Mike Swaim, Sr. competed for many, many years in the series, and all of them found some success. Swaim was champion in 1984. In 1985, the series changed its name yet again, to the NASCAR Daytona Dash Series. Swaim again picked up the title.
In December of 1985, tragedy struck. 1985 runner up Dr. Charles Ogle, the doctor presiding over the comatose Butch Lindley, was running a Pontiac tire test at Daytona when something went on the car down the back chute and he flipped over. No one saw the crash of Dr. Charles Ogle, who died several days later of massive head injuries, but it appears that he dug in or struck an access road on the backstretch and slid on his roof for several hundred yards. As to what caused the head injuries, it appears he may have struck his head on the roof of the car, but that could never be confirmed.
In 1986, the series changed its name again, to the Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series. Hut Stricklin was the 1986 champion after dominating the second half of the year and pulling away from second place Rob Moroso. Larry Caudill was the 1987 champion in convincing fashion, though the season itself was marred by a fatality at Daytona when 38-year-old Joe Young spun his car during a small pileup and was struck at high speed by part time racer Duell Sturgill. Young died instantly.
1988 was an inspirational year, with two female drivers running towards the front on a number of occasions. Larry Caudill battled hard at Daytona that year with Karen Schutz, but Caudill eventually prevailed. Schutz came second, and third place, a whole lap back, was Shawna Robinson. Shawna then stunned the racing world by winning a race that year at Asheville after both Robert Pressley and Caudill ran into issues while leading. Caudill was the champion again in 1988.
In 1989, Schutz, who had been a frontrunner the past few years, headed elsewhere, but Shawna stayed in the series. She would win twice in 1989 at Lanier and Myrtle Beach. The championship battle was very close that year, coming down to the wire between multiple-winner Larry Caudill and the consistent Gary Wade Finley. Finley would be crowned champion in the end. NASCAR renamed the series the Dash Series after 1989.
Over the years, the diversity in car types had lowered, and for most drivers, the Pontiac was a go-to, with a couple Fords, Oldsmobiles, Chevys and Nissans also in the mix. Robert Huffman was the 1990 champion, Johnny Chapman was champion in 1991, a year which saw a rare ‘flip and drive away’ when John Nance rolled during Daytona practice, and Mickey York netted his only title in 1992. Goody’s was signed as the sponsor during the offseason. It would hold the name NASCAR Goody’s Dash for over a decade.
The series’ third fatality was at Daytona in 1993, when 51-year-old journeyman Joe Booher was struck by Rodney White off of the trioval, dying a few hours later. 1993 also saw the first live broadcasted race in the series’ history when a 150-lap Martinsville race was shown on television. The series had seen a few broadcasts throughout the years, but this was the first time a race was shown live. Rodney Orr was the champion at year’s end, overcoming a surprisingly decent field including David Hutto, Donnie Neuenberger, Dan Pardus, Will Hobgood, Kerry Earnhardt, and the regulars in Caudill and York. Orr would unfortunately die during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500.
After 1993, the series, for the most part, did not produce many more notable names, despite finally receiving live TV broadcasts. Will Hobgood was champion in 1994, David Hutto in 1995, Lyndon Amick in 1996, Mike Swaim, Jr. in 1997, Robert Huffman in 1998, 1999, and 2000, Cam Strader in 2001, Jake Hobgood in 2002, and Huffman again in 2003, after which NASCAR picked up that no one was advancing and dropped the series.
A few interesting things did happen, however, during this period of time. They were mostly humorous.
1994: Dave Stacey hits the earth bank on the inside of the backstretch of Daytona and goes flying. His car flips into Lake Lloyd, making him the third person to enter the lake in Daytona’s history.
1996: Mike Swaim, Jr. spins down the backstretch during Daytona practice and tips onto two wheels. He saves the car and drives away.
1997: George Crenshaw flips at Daytona.
1998: AJ Frank and Will Hobgood flip in the same crash at Daytona, and George Crenshaw flips again at Caraway.
1999: Jimmy Foster and Brent Moore flip in the same crash at Daytona. During the same race, Danny Bagwell hits an access point in the turn four wall and rolls about ten times. The car shreds itself to bits, but Bagwell is unhurt.
2000: Eric Van Cleef enters the series in a Toyota Celica Coupe. The road racing veteran’s first year in the series is a struggle, however. Van Cleef flips at Hickory after jumping another car’s hood, and Scott Weaver rolls out of the lead at Orange County after riding the wall. Weaver started in the Dash Series in 1984, and had to that point only won twice. Ned Combs was the winner of that Orange County race, his first victory since 1979.
2001: The Dash Series runs a July race at Daytona for what would be the only time. Jeff Underwood and Jimmy Britts flip at Daytona Spring, Derrick Kelley goes over at Charlotte, and Scott Redmon flips during the July Daytona race.
2002: Van Cleef returns to road racing. Cam Strader flips at Orange County after a weight shift.
2003: The series runs a dirt track for the only time at the Oglethorpe Speedway. Danny Bagwell would emerge victorious.
With NASCAR seeing no point to the series, and with the compact car craze that had piqued NASCAR’s interest and caused them to form the series now thirty years in the past, it looked like the Goody’s Dash Series was through. In October 2003, Buck Parker decided he couldn’t let the series die, and purchased it. The Goody’s Dash Series had been revived again, this time as the iPOWERacing Dash Series.
This would prove to be a big mistake, and would destroy the Dash Series once and for all.
Growing up, Ray Paprota always wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. Not long after he joined, however, in 1984, Ray was involved in a traffic accident, and was paralyzed below the neck. He was eventually able to regain control in his arms, but never his legs. He eventually set his sights on making the United States wheelchair basketball team for the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, but was injured and had to withdraw before tryouts.
For a living, Ray worked as a mechanic. He garnered an interest in racing himself, and eventually decided to take to the legends car scene. One day while doing some racing in Alabama, he and George White, the former ‘Bama Gang member, met one another. White, who had worked with the Allison family for many years, had since started working for a company that manufactured parts and equipment for the disabled.
Soon, Ray met Bobby Allison himself. Allison’s career had ended all the way back in 1988, yet he still was going to therapy frequently. Bobby agreed to mentor Ray, and Ray set his sights on the ARCA Series, a goal that was quickly dropped due to financial difficulties. Still not giving up, Ray Paprota chose to race in the Dash Series.
Ray Paprota chose a Pontiac Sunfire as his car, and it was outfitted for him. Since Ray, of course, couldn’t use the pedals, levers were instead installed on the car at the steering wheel. He passed his tests and got a license to run in the series. Unfortunately, it was 2003 by this point, and he only had time to run three races before the series folded. Even still, these three starts made Ray the first known paraplegic to run a national stock car series.
When the iPOWERacing Dash Series was announced, Ray hopped aboard immediately. Buck Parker had managed to secure a contract to race at Daytona, and Paprota was permitted to run. He towed the #0 Sunfire to the track and got ready to take to Daytona for the first time. Paprota timed his way in in a mid-field position.
The field really didn’t have any major names by this point. Danny Bagwell had begun to dominate races, but the only highly notable names in the iPOWERacing Dash Series were Chris Fontaine, Caleb Holman, Johnny Chapman, and Mike Skinner’s son Dustin, along with ARCA longrunner Darrell Basham. Mercury Cougars and Pontiac Sunfires filled most of the field, though the Ford Escort and the Toyota Celica Coupe also saw some usage.
When it came time for the 150 mile race on February 8th, however, car #0 would not start. The crew found an issue and got to work as the rest of the field took to the circuit. The first caution quickly flew on lap nine for Billy Clevenger and Tony Billings colliding in turn three, warranting an extended hospital visit for Billings and a very long yellow flag. During the caution, Paprota’s car finally started. He was told that he’d be waved around once, and then would join up at the tail end of the field. Paprota enjoyed his medium speed lap of Daytona, but unfortunately he wouldn’t make another one.
During the caution period, Roy Weaver III, a seven year veteran of the track crew, alerted his truck’s driver to a piece of debris in turn two, and the driver acknowledged. The driver of the truck parked in the inside grass and Weaver climbed the banking in the corner, stumbling at least once. Ray Paprota, trying to catch up to the field, rounded the corner and came across Weaver. Ray Paprota flipped the lever to activate his brakes and spun the car hard to the left, but the impact was inevitable. Paprota struck Weaver at about one hundred miles per hour, killing the 44-year-old father of three instantly.
Paprota pulled into the pits, and the rest of the field was directed pitside a few minutes later as well. The broadcast team was quickly informed during a commercial break and they signed off upon returning to the program. The flags were lowered to half mast, where they would remain for the rest of Speedweeks.
The race was resumed 90 minutes later, and was won by Danny Bagwell. In an odd twist, Scott Weaver, not related to Roy, led most of the event, which was shortened to 40 laps from 60, only to fall back late.
Who the debris came from was never discerned, to knowledge. However, blame for the incident was cast on the track workers, with police noting that the truck on which Roy was riding parked in the infield, instead on the outside banking (to serve as a heads-up), and that Roy never informed officials that his truck was pulling over to pick up some debris. Ray, unaware of Roy’s presence during the extended caution flag, had nowhere to maneuver.
The Dash Series was ruined by the death of Roy Weaver. Of course, the media ran headlines noting how the driver involved was a paraplegic in a clear case of sensationalism, which ended up adding on to the already-increased attention brought upon by this being a race on the Speed Channel at Daytona, and the series simply crumbled. Most tracks backed out and many races were cancelled that year. The eventual schedule possessed seven races, Daytona included. Johnny Chapman nipped Danny Bagwell for the title.
Buck Parker wanted out of the series, but agreed that he’d at least give it an attempt in 2005. Pretty quickly, however, it became clear that the Dash Series was done for. The Daytona opener was cancelled, and soon after, so was the rest of the schedule. Parker tried to sell the Dash Series, even posting it on eBay, but there were no takers.
In late spring, the ASA offered to take up the Dash Series as a southeastern short track series. Buck Parker accepted, and the ISCARS Dash Series came around. It only ran four races in 2005. Wade Day won the 2005 championship, 2006 went to Eric Wilson, 2007 and 2008 to Danny Bagwell, 2009 to Jason Schultz, and 2010 and 2011 Bagwell once more. All of these seasons were extremely unremarkable. One TrackForum user even recalled that there was so little action during an ISCARS Dash Series race he was spectating that he requested, and received, a partial refund.
By 2011, the series that once showed the world that international makes could run in NASCAR was now awaiting the firing squad, with Bagwell winning 11 of the 12 races that year in fields as small as five, with the largest field being fourteen. It was finally laid to rest at year’s end. An attempt was made in 2013 to revive the series, but it never went anywhere.
Even still, the Dash Series has a legacy. It served as a stepping stone for Michael Waltrip, Hut Stricklin, Ed Berrier, Larry Pearson, Davey Allison, and Billy Standridge, and, most importantly, had been the series that piqued Toyota’s interest in running stock cars. In fact, Toyota won their first manufacturer’s title in the Dash Series when Robert Huffman won the 2003 title behind the wheel of a Celica. So while today it’s usually remembered as a joke series, the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series still provided the future racing world with important mainstays that otherwise it might not have had.
“Track worker killed at Daytona”, February 9, 2004 article to the Poughkeepsie Journal
“Weaver struck by car during caution period”, February 10, 2004 article on ESPN
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