Pedal to metal Glanville can drive more than players

February 04, 1992|By Tom Sorensen | Tom Sorensen,Knight-Ridder News Service

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Buck Baker, who is a hard man to please, watches car No. 88 move through North Carolina's Motor Speedway's second turn.

"See how smooth he is?" Baker asks. "Watch him in Turn 2. The corner of the track has a crown in it, which many Winston Cup drivers don't even know. Then the wall narrows in and comes back up. The instinct is to jerk away from the wall, which is the wrong thing."

The driver of car 88, Atlanta Falcons coach Jerry Glanville, does the right thing and does not jerk away from the wall. Seconds later, he roars down the straightaway at close to 140 mph.

"He's a speed demon," says Baker, who stands on the flagstand above the track. "I gotta watch him because he always wants to go full-bore."

Anybody can drive fast. Glanville hopes to drive well to compete this year in five Busch Series Grand National races. Can he do that? Baker points to Glanville's luxury camper.

"If he couldn't, I'd tell him to get on that bus," Baker says.

Baker insists that Glanville, 50, has talent. Of course, it is in Baker's interest for Glanville to have talent. Glanville will get a lot of attention and, because of this, so will the Buck Baker Racing School.

But Baker respects the sport too much to tell anything but the truth. He raced in the old days when drivers stayed out late, woke up early and spent less time on their hair. In 1980, Baker began teaching others to race. He's lean, hard, feisty and 72. He looks 20 years younger.

"Jerry is the best old driver I've ever had," says Baker. "I don't call him old, though, because I don't call myself old."

Glanville doesn't plan to drive old.

"I want to be Rookie of the Year at 51," he says.

He is really taking a chance. He could get hurt or, almost as bad, embarrassed. Drivers who make their living trying to be first are not going to say: "Oh, the guy in my way is Jerry Glanville and because he is famous I will not run him into the STP sign in Turn 2."

Drivers will try to take him to school. But Glanville is not without an education. He was born in Detroit, the Motor City, and he has raced dragsters. Unlike Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who just started a race team, Glanville doesn't want to own a race car. He just wants to drive one.

"I've always been a car guy," he says. "I don't hunt or fish and I'd rather watch paint dry than play golf."

Glanville spent one day with Baker last month and worked with him Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday, Glanville showed off for the press. Will sponsors hear about his exploits? He hopes. His plan is to return to Rockingham Feb. 29 and make his debut in the Goodwrench 200, but he lacks a sponsor.

"He won't have any problem," says Baker. "He's marketable and presents himself well."

Glanville also won't have any problem getting around the NASCAR policy that says only experienced drivers can race on a superspeedway. NASCAR rules are not etched in stone or even written in pen. NASCAR rules are written in pencil, and the guy who wrote them did not press down hard. If a famous but inexperienced football coach wants to race, he will.

Glanville promises he'll stay out of the way of the drivers, for whom he has considerable respect. "And if I catch Buck blinking or closing his eyes," he adds, "I'll go as fast as I can go."

Feisty guy, this Glanville. His football team usually leads the NFL in penalties and he usually leads the NFL in enemies. But his team wins, and what he says, he does.

Practice complete, Glanville stands next to car 88 wearing black sunglasses, a black racing suit, a black shirt beneath the racing suit, and a black helmet with Glanville on the front and the insignia of the Falcons on each side. Gentlemen, start your engines.

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