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BUZ McKIM'S THOUGHTS ON TIM SULLIVAN

Marvin Panch called him "Big Daddy". Roseann Javurik called him "Timothy". No tellin' what Betty called him on occasion.:-)  I liked to call him "Father Sullivan, our spiritual advisor". And what an advisor he was! (Some of his advice may have treaded on the naughty side, but it was always interesting.) Most of us, however, called Tim "friend". And a better friend could not be found. Using his ample Irish charm, Tim could regale us for hours with colorful stories from NASCAR's past. He could command a room with just the lift of an eyebrow or the raising of a well-timed index finger and he could bring order to chaos as a group of racing's past heroes tried to "one-up" each other. Tim Sullivan was in a word, Classy.

I'll certainly miss his phone calls since I relocated in Charlotte as I've missed our beloved Friday Lunch Bunch get togethers. If I could not answer the phone, he'd simply leave the message, "Buz, this is Timothy. Call me." Father Sullivan had spoken! I was sure to return his call.

Looking over his history, it's hard to imagine the things he had seen and the people he met over the decades. Ever a humble fellow, most of us had no idea of his World War 2 record. He didn't brag. He just let that Irish charm kick in when needed. Tim was a true pioneer of racing and PR and ever the promoter. About four years ago Lou Klug, Chuck Warren, Johnny Allen and I started this little Friday thing. We bumped along gathering an additional lunch mate occasionally, but when Tim got involved the numbers grew and grew with as many as 60 one week. He sure knew how to draw a crowd!!

Next time you folks have a Friday lunch, take a good look around. Observe your fellow diners. You're all there because of your love of racing. You're all a part of what racing is today and Tim Sullivan helped bring us all together. We lost Chuck Warren a few years ago and most recently Jim Pletcher left our group for better race tracks. Let's all appreciate each other and enjoy our time together in their honor. That's about all I have to say for now. I'll just close the way Father Tim always left us. "God bless you, my friend."

Buz      
www.buzmckim.com

February 27, 2008

One of NASCAR's unsung heroes

  

The guys involved in racing today are making millions of dollars thanks, in part, to the efforts of stock car racing's pioneers.

When we think of pioneers, names such as Lee Petty, Fireball Roberts, Smokey Yunick and Ray Fox spring to mind. But there is more to racing than drivers and master mechanics.

Tim Sullivan spent a good chunk of his life promoting the sport, which was popular in the South but got little attention outside the region.

He doggedly worked to bring sponsors into NASCAR racing and bring the sport to the masses. And he always did it with a big smile on his face.

"He was one of the best public relations men I've ever seen in the industry," said Ernie Saxton, one of countless friends who converged on Lohman Funeral Home in Ormond Beach on Wednesday afternoon.

There were few tears shed in the lobby area as friends and family remembered the man, who ended every conversation with a hearty "God bless you."

Sullivan, 83, died Sunday after battling a series of medical problems. He had a long list of accomplishments, including selling NASCAR race broadcasts on Teleprompter and jump-starting the Motor Racing Network.

Long before there was multi-billion dollar television contracts, Sullivan would help set up Teleprompter broadcasts in movie theaters across the country.

"That was important for all of racing," said John Cooper, a former president of Daytona International Speedway. "That was finally getting the sport on the air."

ANOTHER ASSIGNMENT

Sullivan got a really big assignment from NASCAR founder William H.G. France in 1970 -- start a radio network to broadcast races across the country.

There wasn't much money to get the operation off the ground, but somehow he pulled MRN together. It was a tough sell in those days.

"He came along when there was nothing at the Speedway, as far as dollars like there is today," said John McMullen, a former MRN president. "He had to work with nothing and he built something and moved it forward to where MRN and ISC is today."

MRN has affiliate stations in almost every state and for big races, such as the Daytona 500, the broadcast can be heard around the world. Not so in the early years.

"It was like pulling teeth to get a radio station to air a broadcast," McMullen said.

Getting things going was in Sullivan's DNA. Keeping them laughing was his trademark. He never made an enemy.

"He never met a stranger, he made everyone feel good," Roseann Javurek said. "I never heard an unkind word out of his mouth."

NO PARKING

The Tim Sullivan viewing was scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. By 2:15 p.m., the Lohman parking lot was full. Folks were parking down the street and walking a block or two to join his celebration of life.

"He would have said, 'You should have been here earlier,' " Tim Sullivan Jr. said. "He was very involved with the people in the sport. He was a real a throwback in the sport."

Hard working. Genial. The ultimate southern gentleman. Eager to share a story.

These were some of the things overheard between bursts of laughter during Wednesday's high-spirited gathering.

"A happy-go lucky sort of fellow," Dan Smith said. "He lived through so much racing, and had so many great experiences."

And Tim Sullivan did that while helping building a national sport. Anybody in the thick of today's racing game should give their million dollar motor home a kiss in his memory this weekend.

"The organization wouldn't be where it is today if had not been for the pioneers like Tim," said Lightning Epton, who has worked in the Daytona ticket office since the track opened. "He was a very likeable fella."

godwin.kelly@news-jrnl.com

FLECKEY'S THOUGHTS ABOUT  TIM

 I CAN'T SAY MUCH MORE THEN WHAT EVERYONE ELSE HAS SAID OF HIM. EXCEPT HE WAS MY CLOSE FRIEND FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS. IN FACT HE WAS THE ONE WHO STARTED CALLING ME "FLECKEY"--WE WENT THRU A LOT TOGETHER WITH UPS AND DOWNS BUT WE ALWAYS STUCK TO IT 'TIL WE HAD A PLAN THAT WORKED. AS MOST OF YOU KNOW I AM DOWN WITH THE FLU. REALLY DOWN AND I DON'T WANT TO SPREAD IT AROUND TO ANYONE.

 I AM VERY WEAK BUT JUST FELT LIKE I SHOULD SAY GOODBYE TO MY DEAR FRIEND OTHER THEN IN MY PRAYERS. SO I DID GET UP ENOUGH STRENGTH TO DRIVE MYSELF TO THE CEMETERY WHERE TIM AND HIS FRIENDS WERE SAYING THEIR LAST GOODBYES. I PARKED A DISTANCE AWAY SO I COULD JUST SEE WHAT WAS GOING ON WITHOUT GETTING OUT OF MY CAR.

I WAS IN DEEP THOUGHT THE WHOLE TIME. GOING OVER ALL THE TIMES TIM AND I HAD TOGETHER AND THINKING WHAT A WASTE. THERE GOES 83 YEARS OF KNOWLEDGE IN AN INSTANT AND DID TIM HAVE A LOT OF IT. SO AT THAT TIME I VOWED THAT I WOULD DO MY BEST TO TRANSMIT MY KNOWLEDGE TO THE NEXT GENERATION OR SO. THE MORE I THOUGHT OF IT, THE MORE I REALIZED THAT TIM WAS DOING THAT ALL HIS LIFE. TRANSMITTING HIS KNOWLEDGE EVERYDAY OF HIS 83 YEARS. TIM, I WILL SEE YOU AGAIN AND WE WILL PICK UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF.
GOD BLESS
-- FLECKEY

LINDA VAUGHN AND BOB REUSCHLE
REMEMBER TIM SULLIVAN


LINDA VAUGHN

I was a part of the greatest team of PR with Tim and Jack Duffy.....the best...I worked with the new TelePrompTer promotion and attended all the long trips to promote it withTim and we worked together for over 30 wonderful years...even with ole A.J. and we won too...He was very special like a part of my racing family, and I lost my Jack Duffy and now "OUR TIM". He and Jack were both NAVY and both Irish, never ever drink with two irishmen...ha  I did not drink.  I DROVE ALL THE PACE CARS, (HA). HE TAUGHT ME WELL. I THANK GOD FOR MY TREASURED FRIEND.   MR. TIM SULLIVAN, SEE YOU AND JACK AT THE SPEEDWAY IN THE HEAVENS....LOVED YOU   MISS LINDA

BOB REUSCHLE

I called him "Godfather Sullivan", with much glee and respect. I met Tim 33 years ago in 1975 when he was running MRN and my client, Simoniz, had been a sponsor in 1974 when my friend Roger Bear was running MRN.
 
That deal had been done by the client and my Account Exec. pal Paul Murdoch. Paul called me to his office as Tim was there for a sales call for 1975. After the meeting, I asked Tim to come down to my office. I had been to the Daytona 500 in 1965, and to Charlotte twice in 1974. I was hooked.
 
So I asked Tim, "If I can get to the races, can you get me credentials, as I want to learn more about this sport?" That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
 
Tim introduced me to EVERYBODY in racing. And I mean EVERYBODY, including John Holman at Talladega a few months before he died. He was an amazing man. I'm not sure how my life will be with him gone. Racing and NASCAR have been the biggest passions in my life after family, friends, and the Ad Business I loved so long, and they are all intertwined. Right in the middle is Timothy J. Sullivan. He's been a kind of glue through it all.

 

HERE ARE MORE THOUGHTS ON TIM SULLIVAN

FROM EDDIE ROCHE:     My thoughts and recollections of Tim parallel Buz’s:

I first met Tim when I worked at Daytona in the PR dept. 1973-74. Tim was head of MRN, which was housed in what became the Security building (recently torn down) next to the original tunnel. It was a tight-knit family, with Jim Foster’s PR group, Tim & MRN, the mailroom, Credentials, and the Photography dept. all in that small building!

I was the fledgling PR member, and would do the town nights with Joe Whitlock. Invariably, the next morning, we would come in with our heads down on our desks, and in would walk Tim passing thru to the MRN rear location, shaking his head side-to-side in disbelief. One morning he said to me in his father-like fashion, “Kid, you should know better,” referring to my outings with Joe. However, he would never say a word outside that room.

My respect for Tim runs deep. After all, he has not only been a friend to racing’s history, he was a part of forming it. And he worked for some of the milestone companies during the sport’s formative years. He was involved in early TV with Teleprompter, he told me he was instrumental in getting Valvoline hooked up with the Wood Bros. and A.J. Foyt in Valvoline’s first NASCAR venture (1972). Tim constantly helped me in my role with the Archives by passing on and introducing me to his many contacts in the sport. One word to Tim meant help was on the way.

My renewed friendship with Tim when I returned to work at Daytona in 2003, was as if it had never had a gap — that was Tim, once a friend, always a friend. He was the best, and I will miss him dearly.
—Eddie Roche

FROM GARY LONDON

 I had the pleasure of working with Tim Sullivan for Larry Mendelsohn and Lou Figari as we all put our heads together when they formed the All-Star Racing League. I learned a lot from him as I was quite young then. He could sell fur coats on the desert I think. His impish Irish smile usually helped him get his own way. He called me just a few months ago. I will truly miss him.
 --Gary London


THANKS EDDIE AND GARY FOR YOU GREATS THOUGHTS OF TIM
DICK FLECK


TIM SULLIVAN ON THE RIGHT RECEIVING HIS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
FROM DICK FLECK AT THE 2007 AUTO RACING LEGENDS BANQUET
 

  Gasoline in His Blood    
 

by Bob Alexander

“This is where it all started,” says
Tim Sullivan
, standing on the windy shore at Ormond Beach, Fla. On this stretch of sand, he explains, gentlemen in racecars first started their engines, adjusted their goggles, and sped off down the beach.

Automobile racing in America got off to a roaring start in Ormond Beach a century ago on the hard-packed sand. The town’s flat, broad beach was an ideal place back in the early 1900s to test the newfangled horseless carriages, Sullivan says, at a time when roads—the few there were—were just rutted buggy trails.

“It must have been something to see,” declares Sullivan, who claims he was born with gasoline in his blood.

After a long career of racing-related jobs, starting with ticket-taker and working up to flagman, NASCAR racing promoter, and radio broadcaster, Sullivan now volunteers his time as president of the Motor Racing Heritage Association, a community organization the Ormond Beach resident helped establish.

“We want everyone to know that auto racing and the quest for world speed records in this country began here, and that led to NASCAR stock car racing on the beach, and later, on the paved speedways,” says Sullivan, who passed his love of motorsports on to his son, Tim Sullivan Jr., a publicist for NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte.

Among the organizers of a 1903 speed contest were two of the country’s leading auto manufacturers, Alexander Winton and Ransom Olds. The two Northerners were winter residents of Florida who, along with Ormond Beach business leaders, saw great economic potential for automobile races on the firm beach—an ideal racing straightaway.

When the green flag fell that blustery day 100 years ago, says Sullivan, it signaled the start of what would become one of the most popular sports in America—and gave the sleepy town of Ormond Beach its nickname, “The Birthplace of Speed.”

The 1903 Speed Carnival pitted Winton and his four-cylinder “Bullet” against H.T. Thomas piloting the single-cylinder “Pirate,” built by Olds. Racing the clock along a measured mile, the gasoline and steam-powered racecars reached speeds up to 68 mph, short of the record held by a French car and driver but, at the time, the fastest speed achieved in America. “In those days,” says Sullivan, “many people thought going that fast would cause brain damage.”

For more than a decade, before the time trials relocated a few miles south to Daytona Beach, the tournaments brought an assortment of hand-built motor cars and speedsters to Florida. Among those arriving by train with their racing machines were Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet, and Horace Dodge—all hoping to better the current land speed record.

Between 1903 and 1935, dozens of world land speed records were set on the Florida beaches, says Sullivan, beginning in 1904 when William K. Vanderbilt pushed his Mercedes to 92 mph. The final speed record set on the sand, 276 mph, was captured by England’s Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1935.

After Campbell drove his 2,500 horsepower, 12-cylinder “Bluebird II” into the record books, the quest for land speed records moved to the salt flats in Utah.

And that’s when the page turned to a new chapter in the history of American auto racing, Sullivan says. A young auto mechanic and weekend dirt-track racer, Bill France, soon began organizing stock car races on the beach. In 1947, he formed a new sanctioning body, the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing, or NASCAR, in Daytona Beach. But it all started in Ormond Beach, Sullivan likes to remind people.

First appeared: 4/6/2003      Bob Alexander is a writer living in Ormond Beach, FL.

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