By Paul Blaufuss
I have really come to appreciate the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It is a wonderful facility; full of so much racing memorabilia, history, and memories. As I have grown older, I realize the importance in preserving the past, and keeping the old days alive for future generations.
Annually, I look forward to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This year was perhaps one of the best. Raymond Parks is a racing legend. Benny Parsons was one of the kindest men I have ever met in all of my years around racing; a true gentleman. And as for Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, and Mark Martin… What can you say? They are giants of our sport and truly deserving of the honor. Great induction and acceptance speeches were made all around throughout the evening.
It has been my true privilege to have witnessed so much racing history, and be as close to as much of NASCAR’s past as I have been.
I am sure the nominations for the 2018 class will be forthcoming soon and the list will once again include famous and deserving legends from NASCAR’s past.
But if I may be so bold, I would like to add one name for nomination to that list.
Who, is Art Clark, most of you may ask?
He was my childhood hero and perhaps the greatest driver I have ever seen behind the wheel of a stock car.
If you grew up around short tracks in upstate New York in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, you know Art Clark. He is a short track racing legend. Race records were not always accurate back then; however Art is credited with 19 track championships and 339 feature wins. He finished in the top 5 in season ending track points 53 times. His records defy rational belief. And bear in mind: his accomplishments took place in upstate New York. It is cold there. The race season lasts only from mid-May until the first week of September. Factoring in ice outs and rain outs, Art’s accomplishments become all the more impressive.
For so many years I spent almost every Saturday night at Holland or Perry Speedway, outside of Buffalo, NY. And more often than not, Art’s Bimini Blue and day- glow orange number 7 Camaro late model came home the winner.
Art could win races any way imaginable. I saw him simply drive the wheels off his car and blow the field away. I saw him lay back and harass; waiting until the leader made a fatal mistake. I saw him wear out competitor’s equipment. He was a master at the Labor Day Bud 100. I saw him rub and bully others out of the way. I would have loved to see Art race Dale; I suspect if Art had that opportunity, he may have ended up being called ‘the Intimidator’.
His race shop was at the end of my street, in West Seneca, NY. My dad used to take our cars to Art for service. On Mondays in the summer when school was out, we would ride our bikes over to Art’s shop to watch him work on his car and hear stories from Saturday night. It was a racing pilgrimage. For a teenage race fan, an audience with the Pope could not have been any more special. The cinder block building on Clinton Street was our greasy holy ground. He was a mechanical wizard.
Mr. Clark was always quiet, humble and gracious. Sometimes he would handout a few pieces of candy and relate his Saturday night adventures. He was what I would have hoped to be, if I ever became fortunate enough to be a racer.
Mr. Clark never had much of a team. He did all the work on the car himself, as far as I recall. He never took sponsors, because he never felt comfortable taking money for his hobby.
The story goes he finally quit racing when he ran out of room for all of his trophies.
The NASCAR hall was designed to honor the greatest stock car drivers from all levels of racing. I hope the Hall considers Art Clark (and other great, but perhaps little known drivers from bull rings across the country), for induction.
King Arthur deserves his rightful place among the Legends.