Wednesday, April 22, 2015

#SpotLight- Into Stood Taller Than Most

"Anytime the #4 Showed Up, They were Ready to WIN!" 

Usually when I fire up the ole Underwood and roll a crisp sheet of paper into her, I've got an abundance of ideas I'd like to get across and know exactly How/What I'd like to say. My fingers will dance across the keyboard anxiously pulling words into motion in a symphony of light and delight all set to Excite the Mind's Eye.
This is not one of those nights.
My fingers are heavy and heart solemn as I remember one of the Best DLM Drivers to have ever Graced Georgia Clay. 

On April 20th the Good Lord called Mr David Into Home to Chase Checkered Dreams on Heaven's Clay Banks.

David Into's #4 Rests Easily on Oglethorpe Speedway Park's Hall of Fame 

If you walk around Oglethorpe Speedway Park grounds on a day when it's quiet and nothing is astir you can still hear the name David Into whispered among the pines and echoes of cheers from numerous fans egging him to Victory Lane's Grace. David came bursting onto the Racing Scene armed with a friendly/soft spoken smile, his Crew Chief DD Into and crewman Benny Turner. He arrived to the sport rather late in life but ready to WIN and WIN often! Reigning dominance over OSP's Historic 1/2mi from 76-94 grabbing countless Feature Wins, 11 track titles, a Regional and a National Championship. Accomplishing all of this running against Legends like: Jack Pennington, Hal McGraw, Ricky Brant, Robert Elliot, Curt Redding, Donnie Bazemore and more. The Hardeeville, SC native inspired 100% Commitment, if you slacked even a little you may as well start planning for next week's opportunity to try again because that #4 was Gone!!

David kept a vigilant eye toward the sport he loved. Keeping it healthy, alive and prosperous of ambitious hopes. He made time for fellow racers lending encouraging words where needed, offering helpful advice or a quick hand to fix a particular issue and always plenty time for fans across the boards. Allowing the young ones to have a sit inside that night's feature winning LM, letting them dream of their chance to catch a fresh set of checkers and buoying prospects to those looking to follow him into the sport.

The Old Savannah Speedway 

I spoke with Ricky Brant, a fellow racer of David Into on his memories about the man: "The 1st time I ever met David was at the old Savannah Speedway in the mid 70s. At the time I was just starting out in racing and ran an old Plymouth Valiant in street stock. My 2nd race there I had come from the back of the pack to start charging for the lead when my right front wheel fell off and dropped me to the pits for a trailer finish. After the races David and his brother DD came up to me and told me I was looking pretty fast until I ran the wheel slap off the car. He told me to bring the race car by their body shop Monday and they would fix it so nothing like that would happen again. When I brought the car over they went right to work on it after hours Cutting/Grinding and Breathing a whole new life into that Plymouth. When we went back out the next Saturday as a Team we won that Feature and every Feature for the remainder of the year at the track. We became THE Dominant Force!

During the off season David and his brother bought a Chevy II and built it into a race ready street stock. They brought it with them to Savannah Speedway's open practice and it was a real beauty!! Good Looking, Clean Lines and had a #4 on the forward part of the doors. They asked if I wouldn't mind shaking it down for them and I instantly replied I'd be more than delighted to but this first round I'd like to go ahead and run my #41 Plymouth. When I lined up to go out DD came to my door to let me know David was right behind me to take a few laps in the new car and warm it up. After we came back in David was All Smiles and Instantly Knew He was a Racer. I cherished seeing them pull up to the track and couldn't wait to compete against my mentor and friend. We fed off of each other and became better racers for it.

"In 1983 at Oglethorpe Speedway Park it came down to one final race for LM Track Champion. It'd be decided between either David or myself, whoever finished in front of the other would be Crowned Champ. All season long we had packed the stands with giddy anticipation on who was going to win that night and this was no different. I ran into my friend/mentor/hero at the concessions and asked simply 'Are you ready for this?' He replied just as simply 'I am.' We each understood the simple fact that with the helmet off and outside the track was one thing but it was something entirely different strapped in and green flag in the air. We were competitors, we raced hard, we raced clean and most importantly we respected each other. I took the night, the Championship and the 1st man to come and shake my hand was David Into.

"Every night I walk out on my porch to stretch my legs for a bit and take in a cricket's melody. Last night (4/20/15) the skies were really clear and I saw an incredibly bright shining star carefully hung in the sky. I like to think it was David smiling his farewell and signaling that he'd be waiting, ready to race us again."

Donnie Bazemore reflects on his time competing against David Into 

I spoke with Donnie Bazemore, a fellow racer of David Into about his memories of the man: "I studied David for years before I ever got into LM racing. I remember he'd finish every race with barely a blemish on his ride and running on a rail. After the races were over I'd go and speak with him. He'd tell me what he thought of that night's track, the adjustments they made, how he drove it and why. He would always encourage me to take the next step up in class and join him running LMs. When I finally got my 1st Late Model in 1990 we pitted right beside him and carefully watched his team, mimicking what we could so we'd become a winning phenom as well. That 1st year was a true learning experience. If it looked like we were getting a bit discouraged David would be there pumping us back up and getting us rolling again. A real Class Act.

"Pretty soon we started getting better and better and running stronger. One night we fired the feature side by side, I ended up pushing him up the groove and finished ahead of him. His brother DD came over and asked if I bought my driver's license at WalMart. I knew right then WE had finally achieved their level of competition and that was our acknowledgement. I was very excited!! In the Most True form of Competition, David and I relished the opportunities OSP provided to run against each other. Every race was a back and forth pitched battle on who would get to glean the Trophy Girls Kiss! Matter of Fact his final 2 Championships I ran 2nd in points to him.

"I'll never forget Into's final race. It was an end of the season 100 Lap race in '94 worth $5K. Every driver in the pits knew this would be their final chance to trump the King of OSP and wanted to bring their level Best to see him off the right way. David fired the 1st 50 Laps leading the way, I was hot on his tracks and could tell by the sparks shooting from his RR caliper he was having issues but still couldn't find a way to get around the man. Competition Caution came at the midway point, he pitted and let DD and Benny work their magic on that Hot Rod #4. When green came out for the final 50 Laps, it was over for the rest of us. David left us on an absolute rail to win by a straightaway.

"That's how you do it. You go Out on Top of Your Game.
Total Class."

A Champion's Champion is what Into leaves for others to measure up to. Pic courtesy of Richard Barnes  

If a man is to measured by not what he gathers over a lifetime but more by what he leaves seeded behind, David Into certainly stands Taller than Most.