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
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."
The guys involved in
racing today are making millions of dollars
thanks, in part, to the efforts of stock car
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
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."
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
"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
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
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."
FLECKEY'S THOUGHTS ABOUT TIM
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
GOD BLESS -- FLECKEY
LINDA VAUGHN AND BOB REUSCHLE
REMEMBER TIM SULLIVAN
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
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:
FROM GARY LONDON
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
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.
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.
THANKS EDDIE AND GARY FOR YOU GREATS THOUGHTS OF TIM
TIM SULLIVAN ON THE RIGHT RECEIVING HIS LIFETIME
FROM DICK FLECK AT THE 2007 AUTO RACING LEGENDS BANQUET
is where it all started,” says
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.
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
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,
now volunteers his time as
the Motor Racing Heritage Association,
a community organization the Ormond Beach resident
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
who passed his love of motorsports on to his son,
Tim Sullivan Jr., a publicist for NASCAR driver
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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,
likes to remind people.
appeared: 4/6/2003 Bob
Alexander is a writer living in Ormond Beach, FL.
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