Back around 1969, when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series was known as the Grand National Division and Ford and Dodge ruled the roost, the country was involved in the Vietnam War. There were 54 races on the schedule. Bobby Isaac was the Most ...
Back around 1969, when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series was known as the Grand National Division and Ford and Dodge ruled the roost, the country was involved in the Vietnam War. There were 54 races on the schedule. Bobby Isaac was the Most Popular driver, and Dick Brooks won Rookie of the Year. David Pearson took home his second-straight series Championship trophy. Meanwhile back in Vietnam, a young fellow by the name of Don Elmore was a long way from his home in Bluefield, W.Va.. He was flying helicopters filled with ammunition into artillery bases. Elmore graduated from high school and went to college for three semesters. He decided he wanted something more, so he joined the army for five years. They trained him from scratch to be a helicopter pilot, then shipped him off to Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Elmore was shot down on one of his Shinook missions. The base he was delivering ammunition to was surrounded and enemy artillery hit the helicopter he was flying. It lost one of its engines and he managed to land inside the compound without harm. Elmore finally returned to the States and departed from the army in 1974. His training had given him a love for aviation, so he continued his career in flying. The coal industry was booming during that period. He became a corporate pilot, flying helicopters and planes for coal companies in West Virginia. Elmore, who attended his first NASCAR race in Bristol, Tenn., at 17, continued to watch a sport that so many Americans became intrigued in. In 1984 and '85, he had the opportunity to fly some charter flights for the US Tobacco Company. He flew Harry Gant, Tim Richmond and Steve Waid to Pocono and Michigan. Then one thing led to another when an acquaintance, Tom Hagy, called Elmore and asked him if he was interested in flying for a Winston Cup team owner. Hagy, who had flown for Larry McClure and Morgan-McClure Motorsports, was ready to pass the cockpit duties on to Elmore, who gladly accepted. He has been Morgan-McClure's pilot now for 2 and a half years. He flies a Citation 5 at 460 miles per hour, just a tad faster than what the No.4 Kodak Max Film Monte Carlo travels around the racetrack.
Don Elmore, pilot for Morgan-McClure Motorsports:
"I have always been interested in NASCAR, especially since my first race. I flew corporate for many years, but I really enjoy flying for the race team. The team feels like family. They are comrades, unlike most other situations. "It is true, when flying corporate, most trips are during the week and there are not as many nights on the road. However, the nice thing about flying for the race team is the schedule. I know where I am going to be and when. "Then there are the favorite trips. It is nice to be able to go south in the winter. Just the excitement everyone has when they get on that plane to fly to Speedweeks in Daytona is contagious. Las Vegas creates a similar buzz. "Larry (McClure, team owner) is a great person. He is enjoyable to work around. He lets me do my job. I really try to make travel for him and the rest of the team as pleasant as possible. "The most satisfying part of my job is getting the road crew home as safe and fast as possible after a race. I want to get them home as quickly as I can to their families after being gone so long. I know they appreciate it, and that makes what I do worthwhile. "I fly approximately 250 hours in a year. I believe that equates to 100,000 miles in one year. My responsibilities also include flight plans and general maintenance on the plane. Just really making sure everything is in order and up to date. I have to complete an annual motion simulator training for the specific model of aircraft that I am flying. We all have to stay tuned in to the changes and regulations, just like the team members do with rule changes from NASCAR. "My wife, Betty, and I have four children. She worries about what I do sometimes. Especially after there are plane crashes. She is pretty much used to it, though. Sort of like the Winston Cup wives, they become adapted. She is marketing manger for a publishing company in Winston Salem, NC, but she watches the races whenever she can. Every once and a while she is able to travel with me from our home in Wytheville, Va.. She has been to Las Vegas, Sears Point, Bristol and Richmond. "I hope to hang around and fly for Morgan-McClure Motorsports until I decide to hang up my goggles. I never imagined that I would go from Vietnam to NASCAR, but it has been one heck of a ride."