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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”.


Gary Scott is hauled off the line at Daytona in 1980 – ob­vi­ously rel­ish­ing the con­fronta­tion

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