TALLADEGA, AL - In an era of NASCAR that was defined by names like Petty, Pearson, Allison, Yarborough and Waltrip, there was another driver who pushed the boundaries of man and machine, although at more than half the price – Dave Marcis.
Marcis may not have had all of the glitz, glamor and money of the racing elite, but the Wausau, Wisconsin native never let that get to him. He was a driver’s driver - a man of the people. He built his own engines, tuned his own cars and then raced the cars more times than not to a disadvantage compared to the more financially flexible teams of the day.
“Back then we didn’t make as much money as they do now,” said Marcis, who had one of his five career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins occur at Talladega, which will host the GEICO 500 this weekend, in 1976. “It was my job, just like anybody else’s. Some people got up and went to a factory or a mill in the mornings, but I went to the race track and did my best to make ends meet. So, yeah, I guess you could say I was a worker. I suppose that’s why they called me “Dancing” Dave! … I relaxed when I worked and that’s what made me happiest.”
While the majority of his career he drove his own equipment, it was in 1975-76 that he had the privilege of getting behind the wheel of the famed red No. 71 Dodge owned by Nord Krauskopf. From 1968-73, the team had won 39 races with Bobby Isaac and Buddy Baker, with Isaac capturing the 1970 NASCAR championship.
Marcis didn’t disappoint with the opportunity, having the best two-year stint of his career with four wins, and he was stellar at NASCAR’s biggest and baddest race track – Talladega Superspeedway. He finished second in the championship chase in ’75, and in ‘76, Marcis flourished at Talladega, sweeping pole positions for both NASCAR Sprint Cup races at the 2.66-mile venue, and then beat the “King” of superspeedways – Baker – to capture his first superspeedway triumph during the summer.
“I was always comfortable with the speed here at Talladega and it never seemed to bother me,” said Marcis, who would go on to win three races and claim a sixth-place finish in the title chase in ‘76. “I always wanted to put my best effort forward in everything I did -- so naturally Talladega was a good fit for me. I have always enjoyed being down here at this track, for many reasons. I might have been from the north, but something just gets me when I am around all the great people down here. It makes it feel like I’m back at home.”
Marcis, famous for wearing wing-tipped shoes while he was driving, owns the record for most career starts at Talladega (61). He holds the record for most competitive miles completed here (25,998.8). He has three top-five finishes and 11 top-10 results. In a five-race stretch, he didn’t finish outside the top 10 from 1975-78. He was “everybody’s favorite underdog” for pretty much the length of his career (1968-2002) in which he had 883 starts, fourth on the all-time list.
In February, Marcis returned to his old stomping grounds at Talladega Superspeedway at the 11th annual Alabama Wildlife Federation Wild Game Cook-off. He was all smiles as he glanced around the Sprint Cup Series garage while personally serving people to taste a delicacy that he prepared from a black bear he had recently hunted in Canada.
“This is why I love coming down here to do this event every year,” Marcis said during the AWF event. “The people are good, down-to-earth folks who love good food, good racing and talking about real life. These are my kind of people here at Talladega.” And, forever, the name of Marcis will be a part of Talladega history.
While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 is set for this Sunday, May 1, the anticipated weekend kicks off on Friday, April 29, with practice sessions for the Sparks Energy 300 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and GEICO 500, as well as practice, qualifying and the drop of the green flag for the General Tire 200 ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards at 5 p.m. CDT. Saturday’s schedule includes qualifying for the GEICO 500 as well as time trials and the start of the Sparks Energy 300 at 2 p.m. CDT. Later that evening, Big & Rich featuring Cowboy Troy, will headline the traditional Infield Concert. Eric Lee Beddingfield will kick things off at 7:30 p.m. CDT. Admission is free with a GEICO 500 ticket. The GEICO 500 race Sunday is set for a 12:00 p.m. (CDT) start. Tickets are available at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or 1-877-Go2-DEGA.