Volume II, Issue 11, Page 4

With John Carollo

I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Chevys and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC

Bye Bye Monte (says) Carollo!

Well, kids, it looks like the long and hugely dominatin’ run of the NASCAR Chevy Monte Carlo SS is comin’ to an end. Chevy says it’s putting the ‘ol Monte into “retirement” - whatever that is. Say, did ya know the Monte has won more races than any other model in all of NASCAR history? Not too shabby for just getting going in 1970 when NASCAR had already run more than twenty years.

There’s a funny story about how the Montes got to racin’ for all you newbies to Chevys ‘n NASCAR. Back in the ‘60s, NASCAR was mainly a Dodge and Ford deal. Chevy had been missing as any sort of show of force since 1963 when GM pulled the plug on all racing activities. The fans loved it so much they dressed up as empty seats if you know what I mean. Despite that big corporate yank, Junior Johnson tweaked a few Mopar and Ford noses by running Ray Fox’s #3 ‘Mystery Motor’’63 Impala all over ‘em. As that story goes, Ford spent over a million 1963 dollars to beat the #3. Then came the infamous Smokey Yunick, #13 black and gold ’67 Chevelle (another great story) that scared everybody senseless. So, except for a few hard core racers, Chevy done left the building in the ‘60s.

In 1970, the promoter of Charlotte (now Lowes) Motor Speedway was not the Humpy Wheeler we know and love today. It was a cat named Richard Howard and facing sour ticket sales, he got the idea that if he had some of them Chivvies racing on his track, maybe he’d sell more tickets. So he calls Junior Johnson, by now a Chevy god, to build a few Montes. Junior needed some motors so he calls an up and coming engine builder named Robert Yates. Now, the problem was Yates had to get permission from his day job to go up to Junior’s hollow at night and build them big-blocks. Normally that wouldn’t be so hard, but his day job was at Holman & Moody. Right, Ford’s official racing deal. Well, I’m guessing they forgot about that million bucks cuz they told Yates to go on and help out ‘ol Junior and his Mountain Chevys. And yeah, Robert still laughs about it to this day. In fact, he says he worries about hard core Ford fans getting in his face for helping those Chevys to get racing and winning again.

Well, after a few races, it became clearer than quality moonshine that this new Chevy was a good little race car. So they built some more and after a while, they weren’t out there to sell tickets as much as they were to kick some Ford and Mopar tail. By ‘72, Junior had Bobby Allison in a cool looking, red and gold Coca-Cola Monte that was a threat pretty much every time they let her down off the jacks.

For ‘73, the Montes got traded for those slick Chevelle S3 Lagunas and wouldn’t come back until the mid ‘80s. When they did, they started wining a ton. Save one little bitty timeout for the Lumina (‘member that comedy flick, Days of Thunder?), the Monte has been gunning down those Ford heathens ever since.

And just in that short little time, the Monte won more races than anybody else in all of NASCAR history. As of this writing – before Homestead race, the last for the Monte – our Montes have drawn down an amazing 396 (cool number) checkered flags. And in the big picture, the Monte has carried Chevy drivers and teams to 31 Manufacturers' Cup titles and 23 NASCAR Cup driver's championships since 1971. Remember, those last two numbers might just increase this year if Johnson and Gordon have their say.
 
One cat who is totally into history is a guy that has lived some of it. Dale Earnhardt, Jr, relates many of his fondest memories to his time behind the wheel of a Monte. "It's almost impossible to pick just one memory because Chevy has been a part of my life since I was born," says Jr. "Before that, my grandpa Ralph raced 'em. My other grandpa, Robert Gee, built and worked on them. And I watched my dad win so many races in Monte Carlos and Luminas. It's just a part of the Earnhardt legacy and it always will be. I have so many changes ahead of me for next year with a new team, new sponsors, new everything: except Chevy. That's been the one constant for decades with my family and I don't see that changing.” Atta boy, Jr!
 
So just what is Jr’s favorite Monte moment? "I have so many memories - like getting my first Corvette as a gift after I won my first Busch championship. What a special moment that was. But, if you're looking at purely Monte Carlo moments, my first Busch Series win at Texas will never leave me because it was the first time I'd won a big-time stock car race. That day, I started to feel like I belonged in NASCAR. And then, two years later, we came back to Texas in the Monte Carlo Cup car - and I won my first Cup race. What a day that was, too. It made my dad so happy and I knew it was a moment that again confirmed I belonged as driver at the top level of the sport. I've had so many other unbelievable moments in a Chevy - like winning the Daytona 500 or winning the All-Star race as a rookie, but those two races at Texas still resonate with me as much as any."

Well, I’m glad Jr. has good memories. You know, Chevy never did pay me for the naming rights to the Monte Carollo - even if they did spell my name wrong. But if Chevy is really interested in relieving all their guilt with a little back pay, like a few crate motors and some parts, well, my address is around here somewhere… 

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