Danny Bennett and Billy Earl intend to be a pair of shiftless racers before this season ends. The limited sportsman class drivers plan to reinstall the automatic transmissions their spite of recent success with four-on-the-floor.
Earl, Seabrook, Md., leads the class standings in Saturday races at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. Bennett is fourth. "I'm way behind where I should be," said Bennett, of Lanham.He was champion at both Manassas and the now dark Beltsville tracks the past two years in the street stock class.
"I just blew my automatic in the first race," admitted Bennett."I ran between the gears. Billy's blown one, too. But, we're both going to put them back in soon."
According to Bennett, the shiftless cars have some genuine advantages. They shift up under full speed easily, useful in the frequent restarts in stock car races. They are lighter than the manuals, and cheaper. Both Bennett and Earl work for Bowie Transmissions, so that helps.
Bennett's racer is a homemade model built by his brother Gary. While it is "limited" sedan, the team boasts a manager, Bob Ligouri; an engine man. John Haas, and a very understanding sponsor, the proprietor of the Livingston Fire Equipment Co., Hyattsville.
"Mr. (Jay) Livingston is great," said Bennett, who never had a sponsor before. "I was really worried after the first race. I told him the car broke down and I didn't win. He told me, Danny, it's a new car and the first race. Just do your best.'"
Darrell Waltrip, with two straight wins, leads the Grand National stock car standings with 2,251 points. Bobby Allison has 2,183 with Cale Yarborough, 2,057, third going into today's Riverside, Calif., road race, which Waltrip won in January.
Seven different drivers have won the 14 races this season, led by Waltrip with four victories in the Gatorade Chevrolet worth $276,400. Bobby Allison has three wins in his Ford.
Lee Elkins' defense, "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper its's written on," didn't convice an Indianapolis jury whihch awarded driver Bill Puterbaugh $60,000 in his suit against the ailing Indy car owner.
Puterbaugh was to drive Elkins' car in the 1977 Indy 500 and the rest of the season. Nothing was in writing. Elkins sold the car just before the race to George Walther so his son, Salt, could wheel it. Public outrage forced them to let Puterbaugh drive (he was 12th) but that was it for the year. He sued for lost income.
His best witness was Bobby Unser. The two-time Indy winner testified only a "few superstars" had written contracts. Most, like Puterbaugh, worked on a handshake, he said.