There are two
versions of what happened, and why. Robbins says, "I did it myself just to
see how fast I could run. I stayed up until four a.m. thinking about what I
could do, and I was real proud of the job I did. I didn't accept the rookie
prize and I didn't intend to accept any money, except my $745 for last place
because I did qualify legally. Heck, I've been to races where I'd start 10th,
and 15 cars would pass me by the first turn."
because of you or the other cars?" he was asked.
were all cheating."
different version comes from Eddie Allison, a member of the Robbins crew:
"Marty wanted to win. He wanted to beat Bobby and Richard and Cale and
those boys and he knew he couldn't do it legal. I don't know why he turned
himself in. You got me there. But for sure the Talladega thing cost Marty his
association with the Allisons, because you could have hooked up loudspeakers
and told the whole world that Eddie and Bobby Allison didn't have nothing to do
with it and nobody would have believed you."
insisted he was in on the job alone, and that the Talladega race was the only
time he ever doctored his car. When it was suggested otherwise, Don Winters,
who doubles as Marty's bodyguard when he's not yodeling, said grimly, "Now
who'd say a thing like that?"
during the Daytona 500 Robbins went through another bit of racing tradition—and
maturity: his first major accident. On the 63rd lap he was the low man as three
cars came side by side through the treacherous No. 4 turn that leads into the
first half of the dogleg Daytona straight. To get through that turn, racers
must negotiate a rather nasty bump. Somebody did not handle it right, and
Marty's right front fender was tapped just enough to send his car and three
others into a long, long slide. Robbins stayed cool, holding his car up
perfectly against the outside wall while the rest of the pack skittered by him
as best they could. Winters, watching from the pits, was not quite so
collected. "I was scared," he said. "Marty was sliding backward,
and that wall was hitting right next to where the gas tank was. I was afraid
the whole car would go up."
after Daytona—"for about five minutes"—then, without even his wife
knowing, contracted for Donnie Davis, a young mechanic who had signed on with
him in mid-1972, to build him a new 1973 Dodge. It is by far the best piece of
equipment Robbins has ever driven. And his new chief mechanic is a respected
veteran, Cotton Owens.
great boss," Davis says. "He's famous and all that, but when he comes
to the racetrack, he's all stock-car driver. He separates his life totally. And
that's good, because around here there isn't room for both."
Sometimes it is
tough. Although he may not be as easily recognized as Steve McQueen or Dickie
Smothers, two other entertainers who have raced cars in top competition,
Robbins does have a large following. In restaurants, while commuting to the
track, and even in the sanctity of the garage area, he is subject to the
distractions of fame. At trackside, the full range of his country fans—nymphet
girls to weathered men—seek him out for a picture or an autograph, and like
NASCAR's most enduring hero, Richard Petty, Robbins rarely says no.
While he is
subject to the perils of any driver who has only 5,000 miles of Grand National
racing under his belt, there is a general respect for his ability. "If
Marty had started young," Davis says, "he would have been tough, and
I'm saying that not just because he drives my car. He's got the quickest
reflexes of any driver. Just ask Buddy or Richard. Except for the top bunch, he
can run with any of'em."