In his prelicense days, young Ralph Moody did his speed work surreptitiously on back roads. Pop Moody approved of any vehicle that served as an honest beast of burden, but he was opposed to speed machines. Ralph Moody particularly remembers the day he was trying out a four-in-line Indian motorcycle. He had just blasted off in the driveway of the Moody home when his father suddenly appeared in the path of the motorcycle. "Get off that thing," Pop Moody commanded, expecting his son to stop. Moody would have stopped except that his only means of braking the machine was by dragging one foot.
"I ran right into Pop," Moody recalls. "Goldang, I really hit him. Knocked him over a hedge." Subsequently, the elder Moody discovered that his son was racing ungodly midget cars on the dirt ovals of New England. For money. The elder Moody kicked up such a fuss in the infield before one race that his son was obliged to summon a cop and have him ejected.
During World War II, Moody served in an M-24 reconnaissance tank, a hard-shelled hunk of vehicle which, despite its wide tracks and twin Caddie engines, could not drag a quarter mile in much less than 32 seconds. After the war Moody went back to the midgets and then into the stock-car whirl, naturally gravitating south of the Mason-Dixon line into the classic land of rumble, tumble and crash. In his early stock days he frequently ran an ordinary gasoline-fed sportsman car in races for hopped-up modified machines. Despite the handicap, he often sat on the pole and he often won, in part because he was a hot driver but more because he was a master of the art of setting a car up for a particular job.
It was largely because of this virtuosity that Moody was taken onto the Ford racing team, for which he drove and mechanicked for about a year before the antiracing resolution went into effect. After forming their partnership, Holman and Moody decided they needed to make a name for themselves outside the NASCAR circuit, where their reputations were already well established. The rival USAC circuit was far smaller, but it drew crowds and got attention in the press because in its driving ranks there were a number of the hotsy-totsy Indianapolis stars of that time, notably Sam Hanks, Jerry Unser, Jimmy Bryan and Troy Ruttman. In the first year of the Holman-Moody partnership, Moody drove in only seven of the 16 races scheduled by USAC, but still ended second in the driver standings, taking four firsts and a third.
In the first of the big races he won against the Indy stars, Moody was disturbed by the way Troy Ruttman kept cutting deep down into the turns—almost across the infield, as it seemed to Moody. Rather than join in any sort of spooky dice game, Moody simply put his car outside of Ruttman's, and insofar as the rest of the traffic allowed, kept pace with the Indy star. By so doing, he was in effect handicapping himself about a half a car length on each lap, and for sure driving a course that required superior handling. As Moody remembers the race, "I sat on the pole, but old Ruttman was the hot dog of the race. When I saw him running across the grass, bouncing all over, I just thought 'to hell with him, I'll just run outside.' He never got away from me, and the crowd was going wild. About 15 laps to go, I just squirted out in front. After the race John Holman asked Ruttman, 'How do you like racing country style?' and Ruttman was so goddam mad he could have killed somebody."
Last year the Ford cars prepared by Holman and Moody won the manufacturer's championship on both the NASCAR and the USAC circuits and are a good bet to repeat. David Pearson, whose car is both prepared and crewed by Holman and Moody personnel, won the NASCAR driver's title and is leading in championship points again this year. "I expect a lot of people would like to know why Holman and Moody are the best in the business," Pearson observes. "About the most I can say is that the men in their shop are the best you can hire. When I get out on a track I really feel like there isn't supposed to be anybody out there who can beat me when I'm in a Holman-Moody car."