MARK CONTINUES THE STORY OF GARY SCOTT, DETAILING HIS SLIGHT RUN-IN WITH THE LOCAL CONSTABULARY
Great Gary Scott stories part two
Last month, I wrote about Gary Scott’s bitterly-fought campaign to retain the Grand National Championship number 1 plate in 1976. In the process, he managed to alienate both Harley-davidson and Yamaha. Although he remained a top privateer well into the ’80s, Gary certainly never mellowed into an elder statesman. The ultimate example of Gary being Gary was at Daytona in 1980, when he was hauled off the short-track start line by the police. Cops threatened riders and fans with truncheons and brought a German Shepherd dog on the track to impose order.
The stage for that confrontation was set a few weeks earlier, when Goodyear cooked up about 20 ultra-soft compound tyres for the season-opener short track in the Houston Astrodome. Apportioned to a handful of sponsored riders, mainly Mike Kidd and Terry Poovey, the special compound didn’t hook up on the Texas dirt, so no one used ’em that night.
The next two Nationals were the Friday/ Saturday double-header during Bike Week at Daytona. The Municipal Stadium surface was a unique mix of limestone and crushed seashells and traction was always hard to find – but in 1980 those special Goodyears were a revelation. Kidd and Poovey were a second a lap clear of everyone – an eternity on a 400-yard oval. There was more than GNC points on the line, too; Harley-davidson had sponsored a Florida series that included a couple of races before and after Bike Week, posting a $10,000 prize for the overall winner. Ray Dugan, a young Expert rider, was there. “One of the tuners looked at Kidd’s bike, and there was something visibly different about the tyres,” he recalled. “The tread was the same, but there were no compound numbers or serial numbers.”
Gary realised that without those tyres, winning was impossible – and convinced all the other riders to refuse to start the race. He told AMA referee Freddie Ephrem that either they all got the good Goodyears or nobody should have ’em.
In the packed grandstand, a beery crowd waited while all but two riders refused to start their motorcycles. The promoter had an option of adding any three riders to the field, and threatened to run a race with just Kidd, Poovey and three alternates. Gary stood his ground. Mike Babick, Goodyear’s man at the track, said they didn’t have enough tyres for everyone. Ephrem asked Kidd and Poovey to voluntarily switch tyres; they demurred. Then, Ephrem threatened the riders that Harley would withdraw its $10k ‘Florida bonus’, then threatened they’d all be suspended. He warned that ‘the man’ had declared the tyres legal. The announcers provided no explanation for the delay and the mob began to boo. Then they threw trash onto the track.
Eventually the promoter called in the Volusia County Sherriff’s department. A cop grabbed Gary Scott by the scruff of the neck and marched him off under the grandstand. Another cop grabbed Ray Dugan by the arm, brandished a billy club and warned: “Start your motorcycle or I’m going to arrest you for inciting a riot.” Somehow the cops ‘convinced’ Gary that starting the race would go a lot better for him than starting a riot. The race finally ran and, predictably, Kidd and Poovey finished first and second.
But on Saturday, Mike diprete, the AMA’S commissioner of professional racing, told the riders that because Goodyear had never officially recommended that compound for dirt track racing, it was technically prohibited, effective immediately. (Although the previous night’s results would stand.) Gary Scott’s brother Hank won the Main on Saturday night, by a wheel in front of Mike Kidd. After the win, he thanked Kidd for helping him jet his Lectron carbs; Hank didn’t mention his brother’s role in the victory, though if it weren’t for Gary’s actions on Friday, Kidd and Poovey would have finished 1-2 again.
In the shot above, it’s striking that Gary Scott’s smiling. It’s as if he’s thinking: “This is all going perfectly to plan”.
‘SOMEHOW THE COPS ‘CONVINCED’ GARY STARTING THE RACE WOULD BE BETTER’
Gary Scott is hauled off the line at Daytona in 1980 – obviously relishing the confrontation