Hats off to Herman Beam! Seven years ago, when his job in the rayon plant folded, Herman left Elizabethton, Term. A University of North Carolina graduate in chemistry, Herman could have landed a good job elsewhere, but he wanted to become a stock-car racer. In the years that passed, Herman compiled a unique record. In 180 races, Herman never finished first. The closest he ever came was fourth. Most of the time he was dead last. Last February, when Tiny Lund got the checkered flag in the Daytona 500, Herman was 62 miles behind. "I'm not a very skillful driver," Herman says. "I just don't have fast reflexes."
Herman loves racing, but now he has retired. "If you're last and a close last, that's not bad," Herman says philosophically. "But when you're always a bad last, that's no good. Once I hoped I would win one sometime, but I've given that up now. I'll never win a race, and I know it."
Gloom has enveloped the tracks. Herman is gone. "The friendly jokes about Herman the turtle are over," says one official. "The drivers all liked him. Sure, Herman drove slowly, but he stayed out of the way on the track and didn't get anyone in trouble." What will Herman do now? Only destiny knows. Why did Herman race? "I'm independent that way," Herman says. "I just felt like I was doing something." Herman Beam, Godspeed!