HAMPTON, Ga. (Oct. 23, 2002) -- Somewhere in the city of Atlanta this morning a helping of grits met its destiny, and Team Yellow catch can man Johnny Scott is sufficiently fueled for the rest of the day because of it.Â It's a secret Scott and...
HAMPTON, Ga. (Oct. 23, 2002) -- Somewhere in the city of Atlanta this morning a helping of grits met its destiny, and Team Yellow catch can man Johnny Scott is sufficiently fueled for the rest of the day because of it. It's a secret Scott and his fellow Georgians have known for years. Misled people spend money on protein bars and energy drinks when, really, a bowl of grits will do the trick. Throw in biscuits and gravy, and it's your lucky day -- go buy yourself a Georgia lottery ticket.
Grits, of course, have little bearing on how the #1 Yellow Racing team will perform this weekend in the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race. Although it should be noted that to deprive Scott of grits is like depriving fish of water, so at the risk of having gasoline spilled all over the pit box as the result of a reaction, it's probably best he has some. He is, after all, more than just a catch can man. He's the elder statesman of the team, the official spokesperson of his opinion, and the epitome of a racing throwback.
Yellow fans have come to learn what people in the Atlanta community have known for years -- Johnny Scott is just a good ol' boy who loves his family, friends, racing, and of course, a big helping of destiny any chance he gets. He's driven race cars, he's built them, and he's serviced them in the pits. He helped bolt down the seats at Atlanta Motor Speedway the night before its first race in 1960, and he's missed only a handful of races there ever since.
As you would expect Scott has stories, and he never misses a chance to share one. Like the time he met an up-and-coming stunt devil at a Florida dirt track. As Scott remembers, this guy jumped over cars using anything -- motorcycles, bicycles, you name it. After several crash landings and many broken bones, the stunt devil -- his name was James Finch -- thought better of it and decided to find something else to do. He went into business for himself.
"Boy, James had all kinds of busted bones," Scott says with a laugh. "But we got to know each other, and later on when he bought a race car, I started helping him out at the track. That's kind of how it started. We just like to have fun."
The fun will continue Saturday in the Aaron's 312 (1 p.m. EDT on TNT), as Finch's #1 Yellow Chevrolet will be back on the track with Jimmy Spencer behind the wheel. Team Yellow has finished in the top 10 in six of its last nine races, and it is coming off a very successful test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago. That said, the key to success may lie within a big bowl of grits. Johnny Scott likes to think so anyway.
Team Yellow catch can man Johnny Scott's thoughts --
Here we are going to your hometown track, Atlanta Motor Speedway. I guess you've seen more changes at that place than anybody.
"Yeah, it has changed a lot. I liked it better in its old configuration, because you could see the whole track from pit road. Now you can't. It has changed a lot. I remember working down there putting up the seats the day before the first race in 1960. They were asking for high school volunteers to help bolt seats up, and so a group of us from Jonesboro High went down there to help out."
You've been in racing a long time, yet you've never left Atlanta area. Why?
"I was born and raised here, and all my family is here. I just like it in Georgia and never had any desire to leave. I'm just like James in that I don't do this for a living. I've worked for Georgia Power for 29 years. He doesn't race to make a living -- he pours concrete. Racing is just what he does for fun. I've been helping James out for years, just because it's fun. We've gone to a lot of places, done a lot of things, and won a bunch of races."
How did you and Finch meet?
"I was working with another race team when I met him. I got out of the service in 1969, and my brother had been going to the dirt races. I had an old Cadet car, and we raced it a couple of years. Then I built one a little bit bigger and raced it for a couple of years. In about '73 or '74 I started working with a boy named Ronnie Sanders, and we ran late models all around the south. That's when I met James. I first saw him at a track in Panama City, and he was jumping cars with motorcycles. I started hanging out with him. Then he went into business for himself and started making money, and he bought a car and started racing on dirt. About the second or third year he got Jeff Purvis to drive for him. Purvis had already won a couple of national championships on dirt, so they did pretty good. Eventually he decided to move on to the All Pro Series and race asphalt tracks. I started helping him out, and from there we went on to racing ARCA. Then we got us a Busch car, and after that we got us a Cup car.
"We've been doing this a long time, just for fun. There were times we'd go to Daytona with eight or nine guys, run the ARCA race on Sunday, then the Busch race, then the Cup race. I remember one year we won the ARCA race, won the pole in the Busch Series, and then finished 12th in the Daytona 500 -- all with the same eight or nine people."
As someone who has worked with Finch a long time, what is your opinion of the Yellow Racing team?
"It's a smaller group of people than what most teams have, and everybody really works well together. They put in long hours. When you're a small group like that, you have to wear a lot of different hats. You work at the shop, and then you work at the race track. They go the extra mile because they love what they're doing. We've been working for years to get this combination. We've also got the best sponsorship situation we've ever had. Yellow has been really good to us, and I think we've been really good to Yellow. It's been a win-win situation. I know the guys on this team really like James Welch, and it was neat how he and his wife were there with us when we won at Bristol (Aug. 23). You know I worked for Yellow part time back in 1983. I drove a truck in the city for Yellow, and they were good to me then, too."
Did you eat grits back then, too?
"You better believe I did. I've got to have my grits."
Have you ever come across a bowl of grits you didn't like?
"The thing about grits is they're hard to mess up. At New Hampshire, they actually sell grits at the race track, but they were that instant, lumpy kind. That's the only place up north I've ever got 'em, and they weren't any good. But people in Georgia can cook grits pretty good. People are always asking me 'What is a grit anyway?' and I say, 'Heck I don't know, but it sure is good!"
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