text by Sue George

       photos by Sue and Ed George, Janet and Curt Lawson, Steve Liabenow, Doug Croxford, 

Wayne Perkins, Roger Newman, John Schofield

What a historic event it was! The Winged Warriors/NBOA club held its National Meet on June 18-23, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina with Kenny and Chris Brackett hosting. Where else would winged cars, their owners and a bunch of good 'ol boy retired drivers assemble for some good food and bench racing than in the heart of Stock Car Racing Country?!

The members started arriving at our headquarters hotel Wingate Inn in Concord on Monday and Tuesday to enjoy some free time to visit the various race shops around Mooresville and do some other sightseeing. The first car to arrive at the hotel was the very rare original owner orange Hemi Superbird belonging to Smith Stokes. Everyone enjoyed seeing and admiring this time capsule. In the evening, we gathered in the hotel hospitality area to spend some time together and get registered for the planned activities. During this time the members made donations to the Victory Junction Gang, founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty. The Victory Junction Gang is a camp for children who are battling chronic diseases and illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, spina bifida, blindness, burn survivors, and those with Down Syndrome, etc. A very big Thank You to all of our members who generously contributed to this very important cause so our host Kenny could present Richard Petty with a check for $810.

Photos in the row below left to right: The wings arrive at the headquarters Wingate Inn in Concord, NC. Here is the banner that welcomed us at the hotel. This record album hung on the wall in the Wingate Inn lobby area. Everywhere you looked, there was racing heritage in this area. The Dodge Sherriff sign was the last thing we saw as we pulled out of the Wingate Inn each day. Another view of the members cars at the hotel.

Photos in the row below left to right: More scenes of the members' cars at the Wingate. There's always some type of midnight auto repair going on at the headquarters at all of our meets! It happens when you drive and enjoy your car. The last photo shows Robert and Linda Barnick with their 440 Daytona.

Photos in the two rows below: The members' cars at the Wingate Inn. Last photo in bottom row: This sign was spotted at a local restaurant a few blocks from the Wingate Inn. We weren't sure if they were referring to our cars or the food with the "Best Wings USA" sign?

Wednesday dawned a rainy morning for our 80 mile drive to the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman. Most of our group took the scenic route on two-lane country roads. As we pulled into Petty's parking lot the rain stopped and the sun came out. The first thing to greet us inside the museum door was a Petty Superbird clone sitting on a display platform. Richard was waiting for us and the members brought everything imaginable inside with them for him to autograph...air cleaner lids, books, die cast cars, shirts, photos, a valve cover and one member even brought a whole Superbird wing in with him! Richard was very generous with his time, completely accommodating and treated the members like royalty, patiently signing everything that was presented to him and posing for endless photos, and even sharing a bunch of laughs with us.

Photos shown below: First row: Our 80-mile trip to Petty's as viewed through the window of another winged car. Second row: The members' cars filled the parking lot at Richard Petty's museum. Remainder of photos show Richard happily signing everything from a helmet and clothing to a Superbird wing and posing for pictures with the members.

After getting their stuff signed, the members looked around the museum. Glass display cases held all kinds of memorabilia given to Richard from fans, collections of pocket knives, belt buckles, coats, all of Richard's awards and all the walls are covered with photos. One corner of the museum is devoted to Richard's huge impressive gun collection, almost all with a serial number of 43. Another corner is occupied with wife Linda's beautiful doll collection. Along one wall is a long line of race cars and racing equipment, some old and some modern. Petty wearing apparel was for sale at the front of the museum. At noon a big catering trailer opened up and the crew from Snyder Farms Classic Catering set up an incredibly delicious lunch of BBQ meats, salads, beans, deserts and drinks. Everyone pigged out and enjoyed the catered lunch sitting at long tables in front of the Richard Petty Museum.

There is a story behind the last photo in the row below. This photo shows a silhouette of Richard Petty with the words "The King R. Petty" carved into a section of a Birch tree log. Amazingly, it was found far from civilization out in the backwoods of North Carolina by a couple of hunters many years ago. Someone had apparently been out there in the woods, had a lot of time on their hands and been a Richard Petty fan. The hunters brought it back to Richard and it is now on display, anonymously, in the museum!

The 14k gold tool sets shown below were awards given to Richard. I guess the last photo in this row is supposed to depict Richard as being "as American as hot dogs, baseball and apple pie"?

Below: This is part of the crew from Snyder Farms Classic Catering setting up the food for our lunch at Petty's. The members go through the buffet line, eat and enjoy themselves on the front porch of Petty's museum.

After lunch, Richard came out into the parking lot with Sharpie in hand and went from one car to the next and signed wings, dashes, latch trays, trunk lids, and anything else the members requested. We had been told he had to leave immediately following lunch for an important meeting. Obviously, he wasn't in a hurry to get to that meeting when there were winged cars to sign with his fancy cursive signature. Finally after stopping at every car in the group and even posing for some more photos, he was already late for his appointment, so he jumped into an SUV and took off spinning tires much to the delight of the members who clapped and cheered. After Richard left, the members took off for the long trip back to the hotel, but some of them took a detour for some additional excitement.

After leaving Petty's in the mid-afternoon, a group of members went to Lowe's Motor Speedway to look around. Typically visitors to the race track are restricted to the gift shop and they can go on  track tours in the track's vans. But when the drivers who were working in the NASCAR garages that day saw the winged cars coming in, they invited the members to bring their cars right into the garages, right alongside the race cars they were working on, for some photos! There is an advantage to driving your winged car and belonging to a group like ours! The lovely lady posing in front of the Lowe's Motor Speedway sign and with the orange Superbird wing below is Melanie Atkins.

In the evening, the members invaded the Sonic drive-in next to the Wingate Inn. The scene there looked just like one of those Mopar art prints, with all of the members' brightly colored cars parked under the canopy. Once the Mopars landed at Sonic, there was no room for any civilian cars that night! It was truly a sight to behold!

Wednesday morning, we took off for Memory Lane Museum where we filled up three levels of parking in front of the building with our Mopars. Besides housing an impressive collection of antique automobiles and auto memorabilia, Memory Lane is a walk back in time to the heritage of stock car racing. The first thing you see inside the door is Marty Robbins' pink and yellow Dodge Magnum stock car. Next up is an old moonshine still and the Ford coupe that was used for running the moonshine. On display in the museum are cars used in movies, many old race cars, old fuel and oil cans, race uniforms, in one corner there is a display of antique toys, in another a collection of modern die cast cars, there are race car parts hanging from the ceiling, and even one of Richard Petty's horrendous wrecks is on display. Unfortunately, the collection of cars in the museum is not Mopar-heavy. There are several people wandering around the museum to answer your questions and we took advantage of them and asked many.

In the row above, photos 3 & 4: This is how some of these photos happened! A huge ladder was brought out from the museum and a few brave members climbed it to get some great overhead shots of the cars. Photos 2 & 3 in the row below: We asked the museum personnel what this item was. We were told it was an old oil drain box that was used at the race track by Lee Petty's crew.

In the row above, fourth from left: Jonathan Keehler poses with a Richard cardboard stand-up. In the row below, second photo from the left: For those of us not old enough to know what this is, I was told this was a headlight aiming/adjuster tool.

In the row below, second photo from left: This is how pop used to be displayed for sale at the gas station--bottles on their sides in a steel rack. And yes, the bottles were glass! Remainder of photos in this row: These were movie posters from some of the old movies that had "car stars".

In the early afternoon, most of the members had dispersed to the other various race museums and race shops in the area to do some touring on their own. Around 5:00 pm that evening we all met at Fat Boys Restaurant where our host Kenny had reserved a huge room for the club to spend a historical evening with some of the legends of racing. Our special guests, the "Real Winged Warriors" who sat at the head table, were: Bobby Allison, Harry Lee Hyde, Jim Vandiver, Ken Shaw, Cotton Owens, Neil Castles, Eddie Yarborough, Joe Frasson, Gary Romberg and Kurt Romberg. Harry Lee Hyde is the son of Harry Hyde. Jim Vandiver was driver of the blue and yellow #31 Daytona. Ken Shaw worked at Nichels Engineering with Ray Nichels building the winged racers. Cotton Owens owned the #6 red and yellow Daytona driven by Buddy Baker. Neil Soapy Castles was owner and driver of the #06 white and red Daytona. Joe Frasson owned and drove the #18 red and yellow  Daytona. Gary Romberg works as an aerodynamicist at Chrysler and son Kurt Romberg worked as an aerodynamicist for Petty Racing.

After everyone visited the buffet a couple times and had all they could eat, the tables were cleared and members formed a long line at the head table to get everything they'd brought autographed and spend a few minutes talking with the legends. The club made colorful autograph sheets for our special guests with photos of each and their cars, and the legends signed these for the members also. After a couple hours of signing, posing for photos and talking to the members, each one of our guests stood and told a story or two before leaving for the evening. We presented each of our special guests with wooden plaques commemorating the event to thank them for taking time out of their busy lives to spend this memorable evening with us. It was truly a historic evening and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we all very much enjoyed and will have memories to cherish forever. Everyone returned to the Wingate where we gathered in the hospitality area to talk into the wee hours.

In the row above, first photo: Host Kenny Brackett (in black shirt) introduces our special guests. Photos above and below: our guests enjoy a great meal with us and then get down to the business of autographing all of the stuff the members brought with them. There was a long continuous line at the legend's table for a couple of hours as the members chatted with the legends, posed for photos and had everything from a hubcap and t-shirts to books and die casts signed.

In the row of photos below, from left to right: Gary Romberg signs a club T-shirt; Neil Castles and Cotton Owens tell a story and share a laugh; Eddie Yarborough takes a break from autographing; Mr and Mrs Bobby Allison enjoy the evening; Jim Vandiver and Ken Shaw wait for the next items to sign; Doug Croxford hands his stuff to Bobby Allison to autograph.

In the first row of photos below, from left to right: Harry Lee Hyde signs a hubcap, then hands it to Bobby Allison to sign. Joe and Carol Frasson look up as Joe signs an autograph sheet; Jim Vandiver and Ken Shaw are busy signing autograph sheets. Second row below from left to right:  Harry Lee Hyde signs a T-shirt; Doug Croxford poses with Ken Shaw for a photo; Janet Lawson poses with Bobby Allison.

Below from left to right: The Legends sign Doug Croxford's Superbird. First, Cotton Owens signs, then Neil Soapy Castles, next Joe Frasson, then Bobby Allison and finally Jim Vandiver who poses with the car after signing the wing.

Below: Bobby Allison clearly approves of the #22 gold/red Mario Rossi look-alike Daytona clone that belongs to Tim and Freda Scott. Bobby happily poses with Tim and the car after putting his signature on it.

The Legends each spent a few minutes talking to us, sharing a couple of memories from their heyday, before exiting the party. From left to right: Jim Vandiver and Eddie Yarborough answer some questions the members asked. Gary Romberg tells us about working as an aerodynamicist at Chrysler. Neil Castles spent the longest time talking to us, answered many questions and told quite a few humorous stories. Bobby Allison gives us the okay sign while saying goodbye before walking out the door. Ed George presents Neil Castles with a wooden plaque commemorating the "Evening With The Real Winged Warriors" as a thank-you for their participation.

Thursday morning, the members headed off to Tim Marburger Dodge dealership where we held our Mopar car show. Tim Marburger went all out for us, moving all the new cars off the lot so we could fill it with our old cars and providing a refreshment wagon that served the members snow cones and hot dogs all day long for free! The cold drinks and food were very much appreciated on this very hot day. A very big Thank You to Tim Marburger Dodge for the wonderful hospitality! A few locals brought their Mopars to join us in the show. One local fellow brought a beautifully tricked out Hemi Cuda that drew a large crowd of lookers. The car show got a lot of attention from passers-by on the highway. In the mid-afternoon, we left to go back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation.

That evening, we held our traditional raffle in the hotel hospitality area. We raffled off some very unique items this year, an old driver's uniform, lots of racing memorabilia and tons of stuff donated by the club and Stan McGuire, Mike McGuire, Terry Roelofs, Milt Wood, Doug and Carol Croxford and Smith Stokes who not only donated $250 worth of prizes but also donated $250 to help pay for our special guests expenses. A sincere Thank You to all of these folks for their very generous contributions that helped make this such a memorable event!

Friday morning, we headed off to Frank Liske Park, where host Kenny had reserved a beautiful shelter house overlooking a small lake. We immediately unpacked a couple tablefuls of food and our grille chefs lit the fires and cooked dogs, burgers and beans while the members shared stories and pictures, did some bench racing, and enjoyed each other. After a delicious meal, Chris and Kenny served up two lovely cakes (one chocolate, one white) with Mopars decorating the frosting and many of the members cooked marshmallows on the still hot grilles. Early afternoon came before we knew it and it was time to clean up the area, and for everyone to say their goodbyes and hit the road for home.

A very big Thanks to Chris and Kenny Brackett who were extremely gracious hosts and did a wonderful job of organizing this event. And a special Thanks to Kenny for using whatever bribery he did to get the Legends to join us for a history-making evening! And most importantly, Thanks to all the members who came to this meet and helped us make it an event we'll never forget!



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