In the early 1970s, compact cars were huge for whatever reason, 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 Wilkes, but the winner is actually unknown. According to the ASA logbooks (yes, the ASA, I`ll explain why later), it was Gwyn Bullis, but NASCAR stated that Bullis never won in the series. Either this was a non-points event, or NASCAR screwed up, I dunno which, 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 names 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. Here`s a list of cars run in the Winston Cup in 1980, keep in mind that the Riverside opener in 1981 was the last race in which the full body beasts were run:
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
And here are the cars used in the Dash Series that year:
Datsun 200SX (?)
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, when 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, Joe Littlejohn, Jr., and James Hylton, Jr. (the latter two are really only known for their fathers).
1983 also saw another notable event when Toyota decided to throw their hat in the ring for the first time, and what better way to do it than with a future superstar? 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. 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, Larry Caudill, and Mike Swaim, Sr. competed for many, many years in the series, and all of them won many times. 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 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. With Ogle`s death came another death: Butch Lindley had been comatose for a couple of months since his violent All-Pro crash at DeSoto, and Ogle had been planning on having him transported to Indianapolis, where the best doctors for injured race car drivers in the country are. This never happened, and Butch died five years later without regaining consciousness, though it`s often believed that even if he had received treatment in Indianapolis, he would have, at best, been a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
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.
1987 saw the series` second fatality, again at Daytona, when 38 year old Joe Young spun in the middle of a corner and was struck by Duell Sturgill. Joe died shortly afterwards.
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 dropped the `Charlotte/Daytona` after 1989 and switched car types from compact to subcompact.
The switch of car types saw a large rise in the amount of drivers running Pontiacs. A few ran Fords and Oldsmobiles, with one or two Chevys and Nissans. Robert Huffman was the 1990 champion, Johnny Chapman was champion in 1991, 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. 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, of course, never got the chance to show his talent, as he was killed during Daytona 500 practice in 1994.
From 1994 on, the series lost all relevance. It was still shown on television, usually via tape delay, but no one really cared about it. 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 (first was Tommy Urban in 1960, second was Bay Darnell in 1964).
1996: Mike Swaim, Jr. spins down the backstretch during Daytona practice and tips onto two wheels. He somehow 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.
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. Eric Van Cleef, a road course specialist, enters the Dash Series. He runs a Toyota Celica Coupe, marking Toyota`s return to the Dash Series.
2000: Eric 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. Apparently, Weaver flipped eleven times in his crash, the most confirmed rolls by a Dash Series car…which is only relevant because this crash happened at a 3/8ths mile short track and not a superspeedway.
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. Yes, a weight shift. At a 3/8ths mile track.
So, 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 passed his rookie testing, and drivers were informed of his disability. In a somewhat questionable move, organizers asked drivers if they were comfortable racing with someone who couldn`t walk, which they all said they were. Ray wasn`t fazed by this, and qualified the car in the midfield, twenty-fifth of thirty-eight to be exact.
The field really didn`t have any major names by this point. Danny Bagwell had begun to dominate races, but the only really notable drivers running in the iPOWERacing Dash Series were Chris Fontaine, Caleb Holman, Johnny Chapman, and Mike Skinner`s son Dustin, along with ARCA longrunner Darrell Basham. Mercurys and Pontiacs filled most of the field, with a few Toyotas and a Ford as well.
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.
Roy Weaver, full name Roy Holland Weaver The Third, was born on February 19th, 1959, three days before the first 500, in Alabama. He joined Daytona`s track worker squadron in 1996 or 1997, and was an eager individual who had more energy than most people his age. He was married to Linda Weaver, with three children, Rebecca, Rachel, and Roy IV, whom they usually just called Rolly. The two were together for 21 years. Besides that, not much else is known about him. All in all, Roy`s life seemed happy, if not a bit average.
Weaver 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 he wasn`t even too late, there wasn`t a thing he could have done. Paprota struck Weaver at about one hundred miles per hour, killing the 44-year-old instantly. The Pontiac backed up the circuit and into the wall, and Paprota, shaken but hoping that he`d dodged Weaver, drove away to the pit lane.
Paprota pulled into the pits, and the rest of the field was directed pitside a few minutes later as well. Weaver was completely and utterly beyond help, and the broadcast team was quickly informed during a commercial break. They signed off after the break ended, sounding shocked and saddened, but never specifying why, as Weaver`s family had yet to be informed. The flags were lowered to half mast, where they would remain for the rest of Speedweeks.
Ninety minutes later, the red flag was lifted and the race was resumed, while at the same time officials informed both Paprota and the Weavers of Roy`s loss. Scott Weaver, no relation to Roy, led for most of the race, which had been shortened to forty laps. However, Weaver fell back late, and Danny Bagwell ended up winning. In another sad irony, the driver who had been running just behind Paprota – and had gotten a clear view of the incident – was Jeff Tillman. This was the second time in two years that Tillman had to witness a horrible fatal accident at a race track. In 2002, Tillman had been in the Rolex Sports Car Series, and was teammates with Jeff Clinton. During practice for the Homestead race, Clinton was racing down the front chute when his roll bar snapped during a series of flips. Clinton died from internal decapitation (i.e. this happens when the spine is severed from the skull, but the skin, veins, muscles, and nerves stay connected; it`s possible to survive this under the right conditions, but unfortunately Clinton did not). Weaver`s death was the 36th in Daytona history, and first since December of 2001.
Police were called in, and Ray was almost immediately cleared of any negligence. Within a few days, he was found to be blameless altogether. The police focused their attention on the actions of Roy Weaver, and found several shocking events that had led to the tragedy. In the end, blame was placed on the track crew. The track workers had:
– Neglected to inform race officials that they were stopping to gather some debris, in which case officials would have relayed the information to the drivers
– Parked in the infield grass instead of on the outside; the truck acts both as a shield and a cue that there are marshals at work, but was impossible to see in the grass from Ray`s position
– Roy had almost crawled up the 31 degree banking, and apparently tripped at least once, slowing him down considerably
– Roy was likely unaware of Paprota and that he was trying to catch up to the field
The promoters also made some odd decisions:
– Remaining under caution for so long (the first caution flew on lap nine, and the incident happened on lap nineteen, why was there no red flag?)
– Continuing the race despite a police investigation that had already gotten under way
Who the debris came from was never discerned, to my knowledge.
The Daytona Int`l Speedway was praised for how they handled the investigation. With the crash of Dale Earnhardt, the Speedway had allowed RCR full access to the race car before either the media or the police arrived, but this time, the police were able to investigate first before Ray`s team was allowed the car back.
The Weavers quickly filed a wrongful death suit, which was settled four years later. In the meantime, they applied and were chosen to compete on the eighth season of The Amazing Race reality series. Usually The Amazing Race has teams competing in pairs, but for season eight only, families of four competed instead. Two challenges had to do with racing, a few laps of a Phoenix karting facility, and a lap of Talladega on a bicycle. In the end, the Weavers made it to the last leg and came home third, a good effort…though host Phil Keoghan later said that the Weavers were incredibly rude and unprofessional, noting that he had to reprimand them at least once.
Ray Paprota returned to legends cars after 2004, and has since retired. He`s still quite vocal online.
As for the Dash Series…
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 really 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 for one hundred thousand dollars, 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 Jason Schultz, and 2010 and 2011 Bagwell once more. All of these seasons were extremely unremarkable.
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. To show just how little future the series had, TrackForum user Red Byrd shared a story in which he asked for, and got, a partial refund on account of the racing being poor.
The ASA, already looking to either end or sell off its remaining series and return to its roots as a sanctioner of short tracks, chose the former fate for the Dash guys. Even in 2004, when the ASA National Championship was falling apart, it still had good field sizes. In this case, there was no interest, no money, no competitors, and no hope. The Dash Series was over, Danny Bagwell being the final series winner in a 100 lap race at Hickory. The Dash Series would try again under independent sanctioning in 2013, but no season ever materialized.
Even still, the Dash Series has a legacy. Despite being a bit of a joke series towards the end of the nineties, it gave us Michael Waltrip, Hut Stricklin, Ed Berrier, Billy Standridge, and, most importantly, had been the series that piqued Toyota`s interest in running stock cars. Without the Dash Series, it`s unlikely that the Camry would be running in NASCAR at all. So, yes, the Dash Series did produce some good things and some talented drivers to boot. And isn`t that what a feeder series should be doing in the first place?