'Lordy, Let Those Big Wheels Sing to Me'

Tyrone Malone listened to the melody, and after a shaky start—during which Little Irvy, the whale, helped meet the bills—he has truck racing revving up for the big time
September 30, 1979

When last we met Tyrone Malone, back in 1969, his name was Jerry Malone, and he was charging 35¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a head to see his dead 38-foot whale, Little Irvy, which was lying frozen in a semi-trailer. But Jerry kept noticing that a great many people, whether or not they sprang for the 35¬¨¬®¬¨¢, were every bit as enamored of Old Blue, the truck in which Little Irvy lay in state, as they were of the star whale itself. And so Jerry put on his thinking cap and became Tyrone Malone, Daredevil Diesel Driver, and he got very heavy into trucks. He has set the world land speed record for trucks at Bonneville Salt Flats (114.896); he has brought us truck drag racing, organizing events all over America and in Europe and Australia; and he has assembled the classiest collection of trucks ever seen on wheels.

Since 1970 Malone has been adding trucks to what now constitutes a fleet. First he got the Boss Truck of America and the Mama Truck, which carries the Boss Truck along the highways and byways of the U.S. of A. Then along came the Super Boss and the Papa Truck, and then the Bandag Bandit and the Hideout Truck, and when you also take into consideration Old Blue itself, plus the Smokey Bear Corvette and miscellaneous support vehicles, you are talking about a million dollars' worth of rolling stock, easy. A million dollars in trucks—and trucks can't play out options. Plus there are the toy trucks, the build-'em-your-self model trucks and all those truckin' trinkets. "Without the Tyrone Malone T shirts, the hats, the puzzles, and all that, I'd be a whole truck behind right now," Malone says. And just you wait till he puts the Truck Hall of Fame together.

"I beat Waltzing Matilda, the great jet truck, Down Under," Malone says. "I got 11,000 column inches in European newspapers. I made the 6 o'clock and the 10 o'clock news 110 times last year. That might be a national record. I believe so. I've had to send my posters to Russia. Just think, a guy with a dead whale sending posters to Russia. You might say I'm the Bob Hope of trucking." Costs six bits to see Little Irvy now, too.

I got a cute little gal in every
Eastern town from Boston to St. Loo,
There's some that I don't even know,
But I'm lookin' forward to,
'Cause I like my women, everywhere I go,
So roll on big wheels, don't you roll so slow...
I'm a kiss-stealin', wheelin'-dealin'
truck-drivin' son-of-a-gun.

© 1965 Shelby Singleton Music Inc., BMI

Of course, not everybody is all that crazy about truckers these days, including some truckers themselves, who have taken to shooting and maiming one another over how best to control the price of fuel rather than the love of some sweet nurse in Savannah. Jerry is unchanged in his opinions about gear-jammers, however. He says, "They're good, clean people. They're the biggest credit to American history."

And in a very real way, Malone had better be right, because in the past few years truckers have somehow come to symbolize the backbone of America, of democracy, of motherhood—and if truckers are not good, clean people, then possibly none of us are either.

Truckers attained such exalted status because, in a regulated, federalized computer world that almost none of us can grasp, the man alone in the big rig is perceived as the last cowboy, a romantic, rugged hero out there on his own somewhere in the night: Keep on Truckin! Long before the CB craze brought truckers to the glib attention of Hollywood and the fancy media, country and western singers like Dave Dudley and Red So-vine had immortalized these intrepid independents. To these singers and their audience, the trucker was never just a devilish love-'em-and-leave-'em guy, with a honey in every truckstop. There was that, sure—but more. And, above all, the trucker was a fellow with his wits about him, always hustling to stay ahead of the foolish bureaucrats, always figuring how to juggle his log book, beat the scales and cut corners to get the payload home. Not a lawbreaker, you understand, but a red-tape outwitter. It wasn't his roaming that made the trucker heroic; it was his maneuvering. To the worker trapped by a schedule, trapped under a boss, trapped behind a desk or a counter or on an assembly line ("By day I make the cars, by night I make the bars"), the big wheeler was a man to admire and envy. That the fuel crisis has driven even these clever stalwarts to frustration, petulance and, finally, violence shows more than anything how much the unfettered way of life is endangered.

Keep in mind, too, that there was always one more theme that threaded through truck folklore: family. The cheat-in' trucker could be tolerated because invariably he was heading right home to the little woman—no harm, no foul. Perhaps more important, he would be going back to the son who would himself someday be handling a semi. The father-and-son motif pervades truck belles lettres, for despite all his alleged rakishness, the trucker is primarily a symbol of continuity. The car is something frivolous a boy drives to sow wild oats, but a man drives a truck to earn a living. A car is a mistress, a truck a wife—and unless you understand that, you'll never comprehend why the fuel threat to the truckeis strikes a little at all of America.

At the crossroads tonight,
Where you flagged him down,
There was a busload of kids,
acomin' from town.
And they were right in the middle
When Joe topped the hill,
And it could have been slaughter,
but he turned his wheels.
Well, Joe lost control,
And went into a skid,
And give his life to save that bunch of kids.
And there at that crossroads was
the end of the line
For Big Joe and Phantom 309.

© 1967 Fort Knox Music Co., BMI

Why, the first thing everybody involved in truck racing mentions is that it's family entertainment. Jack Musilli, who runs the Atco Raceway, a drag strip in southern New Jersey, says, "It's an entirely different crowd for trucks—older, better behaved. It's mostly families." The folks bring their cameras and snap relatives posing in front of Malone's trucks, just as if they were standing before the Lincoln Memorial or Old Faithful. They stare reverently at the engines, in Dionysiac delight at the cushy cab interiors, and generally there is a hush all about the big rigs no matter how large the crowd. The songs have that dead right. AMT, the company that manufactures a plastic model of Super Boss (it outsells all the other truck kits 2-to-1), feels that most of the models are put together by trucker fathers and sons who spend 60 hours or more on the project.

Says Richard Smith, 46, a truck drag racer who comes from Bucks County, Pa.: "I think people can relate to trucks more than to cars. Or, anyway, you can if you've ever been around trucks, and I have all my life. And now my son, too. I know whenever I check into a motel, I want a room where I can look out and see my truck parked. And you watch any trucker when he gets out of his cab. He'll walk a few steps, 15 to 20 feet, and then he'll turn and look back at his truck. I do it myself every time. You just want to look at your truck."

One reason why truck racing has not spread faster is that few drag strips have blacktopped pit and staging areas, and whereas car drivers don't mind parking on dirt, truckers do. Truckers talk about their pinstriping nearly as affectionately as they do about their carburetors. A truck race must include a truck beauty show, too. One of the beauty-show judges at Atco once had to figure out how many points to award a garbage truck that was carpeted—in the back, where the cantaloupe rinds and TV dinner trays usually get to ride.

Malone, who is the epitome of the carny entrepreneur, sensed this truck crush in America long before it surfaced. You don't buy a truck like you buy a car. You build a truck: this frame, matched with that engine, to haul that trailer, and so forth. Malone bought the pieces of his Boss in 1970, but only now, after paying $200,000 in interest on bank loans, is he starting to score. His financial recovery was slowed up a bunch when he was practically wiped out in 1976, the year he invented truck racing in honor of the bicentennial. After his greatest disaster, in Tulsa, where the races drew 263 spectators (it was scheduled directly against an Elvis Presley concert and a popular local free festival), Malone had just enough fuel to get to the next race he was promoting, up in K.C.

On the year, Malone lost $40,000, but when he got back to Visalia, Calif., which he calls home, he told his partner and confidant, George Zaronian, an Armenian, "George, I've pioneered a lot of things, and if I have any knowledge, this truck racing is the best thing I've ever done." Malone explains how he could lose 40 big ones and still come to this conclusion: "You see, this is an automotive-minded country, and I could see we were on the verge of waking a sleeping giant. Trucks had never been exploited before. My audience might be only 10% to 15% truckers. The rest are people who think of trucks as a great mystery—they see these giant diesels that pass them on the road. And I thought, if I can just be the Bob Hope of trucking...."

Malone was helped in his quest to make it big in trucks by the fact that, man and boy, Tyrone and Jerry, he is no stranger to adversity (or, you might say, anything else). He is an Okie with a ninth-grade education who grew up picking prunes during the Depression for 2¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a 50-pound box, and it still pains him that no kids ever come up and ask to polish the trucks for a price.

Malone has done almost anything to turn a dollar. You might say that selling used cars was his forte. Once he sold a man a purple Edsel. But lurking in his blood, like a low-grade infection, was show business, and soon Malone was on the road, in the carnival game. "Sure, I'm a daredevil in a sort of a way," he says. "I'm the Daredevil Diesel Driver, but mostly I'm an entertainer." Through all the years that Malone was waiting for the inspiration of truck racing to hit him, he had his hand in various other vagabond amusements.

For example, when he was at Atco Raceway last June, the very guy Malone had sold his traveling prison to came by the trailer to say hello. Malone's prison was on wheels and played fairs and shopping centers, ideally for profit as well as education. For a long time, Malone had a gentleman managing it who had been nabbed for kiting some paper. This was certainly the height of rehabilitation, an ex-con running a prison. The slogan: SPEND 50¬¨¬®¬¨¢ AND HELP FIGHT CRIME!

"It wasn't a bad show," Malone says, "and who knows, maybe just one guy came in bent on a life of crime and went away straight because of my prison. Then it's all worth it, right? It sure wasn't no dink show, one of those things where they let you in free and then hit you up right before you leave, like you've just been to the Last Supper. We had a guillotine, a noose, a simulated firing squad, you know. And all the ways you can get yourself electrocuted."

After Malone got Little Irvy (which is, by the by, a girl whale) out of the blue Pacific—legally—in 1967, he thought animals were the way to go. For a while, he also had a Monkey Circus. Later he bought two seals, Silly Sally and Tricky Ricky, but they sneezed all over the truck (and the driver) that carried them about, and they didn't draw so hot, either. So Malone got a hold of two monitor lizards at $300 a head. He billed them as "killer lizards," but even with that, people preferred the dead whale. Malone put up more signs on Old Blue: JERRY MALONE: ORIGINATOR OF LITTLE IRVY. Originator. And: THIS EXHIBITION IS DEDICATED TO THE PRESERVATION OF WHALES. Now that must be the height of salesman's cheek: you get a hit boat to knock off a whale, make a living carting her around frozen and then dedicate her to preserving the species.

"Those killer lizards, I gotta say, they were good showmen," Malone says. "They lasted exactly the whole season and then they died. So next I got Patty the Performing Porpoise. I figured this had to go big, a natural live act next to Irvy just lying there. But everybody had seen a hundred porpoises on TV. The dead whale was outselling Patty four tickets to one."

For that matter, for a long time Little Irvy was outdrawing Boss Truck all hollow. Malone could not understand it. He was sure good Americans would pay to see the Boss Truck. It is red, white and blue, with pinstriping by Neil Averill, chrome that won't stop, lots of racy-looking wings and his and her sleepers. Yet people would not pay to see the Boss Truck of America.

Then one day Malone put up a sign: THIS TRUCK WILL ATTEMPT 200 MPH. Revenues soared by 25%. "Attempt," Malone says. "I just said attempt. It's like the killer lizards. I didn't say what they killed."

Good point. What did they kill?

"Bugs. But still, my whale kept out-drawing the Boss Truck. And you know what it was? I wasn't paying enough attention to the truckers. They would admire the Boss Truck all right, but then they would say to me, 'But it don't do nothing, Tyrone.' No, I was still Jerry then. They would say: 'But it don't do nothing, Jerry. The whale truck may not be quite as pretty, but it pulls a load.'

"Just remember that about truckers. Didn't I tell you they was honest? They don't want to see trucks just for show. They want to see something beautiful that actually does something, too. That's why truck racing is so great. You'll see drivers pull up to drag, coming straight from work. Some of them will still have their trailers, and they'll have to unhitch them right by the track. All real honest working trucks."

Then one fateful day in the spring of '71 at a parking lot in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it occurred to Malone that the Boss Truck had been sitting idle too long, and he got one of his workers to rev it up. Va-room, va-room, va-room. And all of a sudden people started coming to see what was cooking. And they started reaching in their pockets for 50¬¨¬®¬¨¢. "So I started revving the Boss Truck every 10 seconds all day long," Malone says. "They just needed to hear it. As soon as I started revving it, the Boss Truck and the whale started coming close in revenues."

That fall he went to Bonneville and attempted 200 mph. He fell short by 85 mph and change, but the 114.896 was the world's first official truck speed mark. The Bandag Bandit, Malone's newest machine, named for his major sponsor, Bandag Retread Tires, boasts 1,300 horsepower, more than double that of the Boss Truck, and Malone figures he can reach 160 next time he gets to Bonneville. "There's no telling how fast trucks can go," he says. "We're just now learning how to juice up diesels. Everything me and my crew does is new, revolutionary. Why, you could say I'm like the Barney Oldfield of diesels. I think you could also say I'm the Bob Hope of trucking."

ICC is a checkin' on down the line.
Well, I'm a little overweight, and
my log book's a way behind.
But nothin' bothers me tonight,
I can dodge all the scales all right—
Six days on the road, and I'm gonna
make it home tonight.

© 1961 Newkeys Music Inc. and Tune Publishing Co., BMI

It wounds Malone that some people think he is giving trucking a bad image with racing. He has a lot of high-powered sponsors now—besides Bandag, there are Detroit Diesel engines, Allison Automatics, Eaton Axles, Truckmate Chrome Goodies and American Steel Foundries (which makes the fifth wheel, the gigantic slotted plate on the back of the tractor into which the trailer post is hitched). These outfits help open doors for Malone, but not so long ago he had trouble getting his rigs into truck shows. "And even now," he says, "I got guys come up shake my hand who don't want me in the business. And me, Tyrone Malone. Why I probably recruit as many kids as anybody in trucking."

And those stick-in-the-muds who still consider Malone an unsavory influence now have someone else to shout at, too. In June, in Atlanta, when a promoter named Jim Donoho put on the Great American Truck Race, a 200-miler, the first real race for trucks on a banked track around turns, not only did much of the automotive industry come down on Donoho, but so did the U.S. Government. Joan Claybrook, the administrator of the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, warned that the afternoon would be a "bloody spectacle" and "public suicide" in the Peach State.

The race, run at an average speed of about 80 mph, with the leaders topping out at around 105, was won by Mike Adams of Seneca, S.C. in his '65 Jimmy (a GMC) that he built from junkyard parts and uses most days to haul scrap metal. Only three of the 25 starters had to drop out because of mechanical malfunctions—a much lower percentage than in auto races—and the only injury was a bruised knee sustained by one of the drivers. The 18,500 fans had a dandy time.

"Those people will love my Truck Hall of Fame," Malone exclaims, highballing down the Interstate in pursuit of another star turn on the 6 o'clock news. He is the latest—and, perhaps, the last—in that line of happy American mavericks, the benign hustler. Put up another sign: THIS MAN WILL ATTEMPT $1,000,000 A DAY. He has been tapped out, down on his luck, knocked out of business, and still been able to walk into a bank and get a man in a suit and tie to lend him $107,000 to catch a whale and put it in a truck. Malone's philosophy: "It's no crime to go broke in America, but it's a crime to stay broke in America."

George, the Armenian, is always asking Malone why he has to keep on adding trucks to his caravan, particularly now that there's a fuel crisis on and what-not. "All I know about fuel," Malone replies, "is that when I started out it cost 16¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a gallon and I couldn't afford it. Now it costs 90¬¨¬®¬¨¢ and I can."

Malone has his own way of righting age inflation. No matter how old he gets—he is up to 49 now—he keeps marrying women in their 20s. The incumbent wife, No. 3, Cindy, is pretty and perky, about the age of his three oldest daughters, and she and Jerry Tyrone also have their own little girl, Cory Jessica, who is 20 months.

Malone is bald and blue-eyed. You seldom see a blue-eyed bald man that doesn't get himself a rug. Not Malone. But then very little of Malone is what you'd call typical, which is why he is the one who originated Little Irvy on the one hand and truck racing on the other. A lot of folks are crazy about trucks and driving fast, and no doubt there are plenty of people who could play the Daredevil Diesel Driver better than Malone does, but only a guy who was a showman first and a trucker second could figure out how to turn an entertainment dollar from a collection of Brockways, Peterbilts and Kenworths. When you think about it, there never has been much original promoting in the racing field, except for Evel Knievel's death wish.

But a truck drag race, what with the obligatory truck beauty show combined with it, is more leisurely, more fun. It's sort of like a child's birthday party, where everybody who shows up wins something. At the $1,000 Truckers Nationals 3rd Annual Drag Racing Championships at Atco, the judges gave awards in the following categories: Best Truck, Best Conventional, Best Paint Job, Best Dump, Most Unusual Straight Job, Best Fire Engine, Best Crew, Best 3-Axle, Best 2-Axle, Most Livable Cab, Best Interior—Non-sleeper, Best Roll-off, Best Wrecker, Best Garbage.

The judges and spectators wandered about all afternoon, inspecting the 150 trucks and then drifting over to see the crème de la crème, Malone's million-dollar cavalcade. Cindy said it was like a carnival midway, what with all the children running around. There were not a whole lot of people present with gold chains about their necks, but some had cigarette packs rolled up in their sleeves and a great many wore visored caps with such names on them as MACK, INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER, CAT and so forth.

The truckers worked to bring their rigs to a high shine. Skip Kropowski, a third-generation trucker—his grandfather started with a horse and wagon in Jersey City—had his whole family laboring on his Jimmy Astro, which was emblazoned with a drawing of Snoopy and an eight ball. That would include wife Kathy; son Joey, age eight, who wants to be a trucker; and daughter Jeanne, seven. In the winter, when the Jersey roads are a slurry of snow runoff and salt, Skip washes his truck four times a week, going over it inch by inch, by hand. "I just like my truck to be clean," he says.

Jimmy Kropowski, his brother, had his truck parked in the next slot. It is called Summertime Blues and features a mural Jimmy did of a surfing scene that goes from the tractor right onto the trailer. Jimmy is a bachelor and only had a girl friend to help him tidy up, which may be why the judges gave Skip the nod as Best 3-Axle and also Best Crew.

Twenty-one-year-old Joe Roscino Jr.'s spotless '77 Kenworth wrecker named Super Hooker (a wrecker—get it?—hooks cars), with blue, green, yellow, orange and red stripes plus a large rendering of Mickey Mouse, earned the prize as Best Truck, as well as the awards for Best Paint Job and Best Wrecker. Joe and his associate, Jeff Turner, had worked seven hours the night before up in Vails Gate, N.Y. washing, waxing and polishing. The victory was a popular choice. Everybody especially admired the custom wheels.

"Where'd you get them special wheels at?" Tony, the announcer, asked over the P.A. when Joe took Super Hooker down the strip, leading the victory parade. All the winners trooped the line that way, like beauty pageant contestants sashaying down the runway. The crowd was appreciative to a fault.

First, though, Miss Atco had given each winner a trophy. For the races that were to follow, there was a $1,000 first prize and $500 for the runner-up. Tony, the announcer, kept ballyhooing this bonanza, but nobody paid much attention. These people are used to reading about ballplayers holding out for another six figures. A lousy grand. Oh well, there was a certain antique charm to it. Also, it made the trophies even more precious.

During the afternoon's judging, several truckers lined up in front of their rigs the trophies they had won in the past. At home, they keep the trophies in places of prominence, in the family room or on the TV console. These truckers are not the sort who have been all-state this and that and are used to collecting awards and scholarships. Winning a prize is something altogether new.

Malone says that he was giving out the awards at a truck drag in Orange County, Calif. once, and he handed one winner a smallish trophy and a check for $150. Now this trucker was the sort of fellow who certainly could use an extra hundred and a half, but he looked at the check and he looked at the little trophy, and he said, "Tyrone, I'd rather you keep the $150 and buy me a bigger trophy, because I never won anything before."

Atco did not make this mistake. All the trophies were 2½ to three feet high. Each had a little gold-colored model of a tractor trailer at the bottom, and on top, past a lot of golden columns and arches, there was an Athena-type lady holding a torch high. As trophies, these certainly were keepers. Miss Atco presented them. She was a fetching redhead with an extremely large chest, and she wore white short shorts and high heels, as if she had learned how to dress for the occasion from a 1952 Betholine-Sinclair service station calendar. The most fetching part of her get-up was a tight plunging top that was cut about three inches higher up one breast than the other, so there was a tendency for all the truckers to accept their trophies with their heads tilted.

Malone stood straight up next to Miss Atco and gave each winner a red, white and blue cap adorned with a rendering of the Super Boss Truck and the slogan: TYRONE MALONE SALUTES THE AMERICAN TRUCKER. Then he took the microphone from Tony. "Let's hear it for truckers!" he said. "Tonight they might be on the drag strip, but tomorrow they might be delivering the milk and the meat that make this country of ours great!"

Then Malone went to his Bandag Bandit and became the Daredevil Diesel Driver, revving up the truck, roaring back and forth on the strip, blowing a lot of horrible black smoke and flames and noises that you could not conceive of, and then sending the Bandit pirouetting through some elephantine 180-degree spins, preparatory to trying some 360s. This chilly night, though, he didn't have his favorite Bandag retreads on, and he could only pull off some 270s. The crowd loved it anyhow and applauded mightily.

Well, Interstate 80—we was cuttin' the fog,
Just me and old Sloan—old Sloan's my dog.
We had an 18-wheeler with 10 on
the floor, and a stereo—layin' a strip.
And then we spied a sign, says:
'Eat, Gas Now,'
We decided to whip in and pick
up some chow
At the old home filler-up an' keep-
on-a-truckin' cafè.

© 1974 McCall, American Gramophone, SESAC

Unfortunately for the uninitiated, drag racing is not just a matter of taking off like a bat out of hell, letting the fastest vehicle win after a quarter of a mile. Maybe that was O.K. for James Dean, but figuring out formal drag racing is considerably more complicated than scoring the decathlon and only slightly less difficult than the computation H & R Block does every spring. For example, here is how a truck merely qualifies for Class E, which Richard Smith won: "Ten wheel (three axle) fifth wheel tractor from 381 to 460 horsepower with turbo and aftercooler. Manual transmission only (2-speed, 5 x 2, 4 x 4, 10- and 13-speed Road Rangers). No semi or automatic transmissions. This class may also include Roll-off trucks without bodies. Full synchro transmissions move up one (1) class."

When all 16 classes had been deciphered and run and Jerry had come out and raced the Smokey Bear Corvette, the division winners started competing against each other on a handicap basis, in what is known as "bracket racing." First, the driver "dials in" his time; that is, he tries to figure how fast he can go and registers that clocking with the race starter. If he should go as much as a hundredth of a second over his dialed-in time, he has "sandbagged" and is eliminated, even if he has beaten his opponent by several Fruehauf trailer lengths.

For example, when Smith, the E-class champion, faced off against Norm Shipley, the F-class titlist from York, Pa., Smith dialed in at 18.90, Shipley at 19.70. The "Christmas Tree" (two stacks of amber lights, one for each driver, that blink down a light at a time until a green one is illuminated to signify the race is on) was timed to give Shipley a four-fifths of a second head start, and he burst into the lead in his full Mack cab with a sleeper. Getting away fast is crucial to drag racing. If you "leave too soon" or "go up in smoke at the line," forget it.

Quick starts are all the more important now because more and more trucks have automatic transmissions. "It used to be that accuracy in shifting was the difference in dragging," Malone says. But now, no clutches, no popping gears...no romance. Of course, it is a damn sight easier driving a big rig over the highway. Now, with the automatics, why even women and everyday people can drive a truck if they have a mind to.

Smith shook his head at it all. He is a proud, nice-looking man, well spoken. He owns five big trucks, but the one he always drives in competition is his beloved Kenworth, which has 400,000 miles on it and was burnt away to next to nothing in a garage fire in '73. All that was left was the engine and the chassis. It's a regular three-axle tractor, pulls a payload every day.

Smith calls his KW The Dirty Dozen because it has 12 cylinders. "I still want to shift," he says. "I never was very much interested in speed. I really drive very conservatively on the road. But I always liked to climb hills fast...shifting. Years ago we had those old gas jobs. In those days that was all we had—no diesels—and when you were pushing one of those gassers up a hill you could look down through the floorboards, through a hole, and you could see the machine glowing from the manifold all the way back to the muffler. All of it glowed, glowed cherry red. No, I'll always want to shift."

When the Christmas Tree gave him his green light 0.8 of a second later, Smith took out after Shipley, and they bellowed down the strip, Smith inching up on and at last catching Shipley just before the finish. But Smith had run his Kenworth too well. At 18.62, he had run 0.28 under his dialed-in 18.90. Shipley had run a 19.56, which was also a sandbag, but he had come in only 0.14 under what he had dialed in. He was declared the winner and eventually he went to the finals of the $1,000 Truckers Nationals 3rd Annual Drag Racing Championships.

His opponent was Bill Xiques (pronounced ick-ees) of Bayville, N.J. in a '69 U model Mack, 237 horses, five-speed transmission. Most of the drivers at truck races are independents, the ones who suffer most from the fuel crisis and the Byzantine state-by-state regulations, the ones who are packing it in now, selling their rigs and taking jobs with regular wages and benefits but without romance. Xiques is an exception. He delivers frozen foods in Jersey for a man named Nick Holowka, who lets him race the truck weekends.

This Xiques does very successfully. He has been in eight races and never lost his class. Normally, his Mack can do 21.10 for the quarter, but at Atco he had a fuel leak, so he dialed in 21.50 for the final. Shipley put down 19.50, so Xiques took off a full two seconds before Shipley could blow out after him.

Shipley caught Xiques at the wire. It was so close neither driver could tell who had won, but it turned out that Shipley was in front by 0.09 of a second. Unfortunately for Shipley, in the cooler late afternoon air he had sandbagged by 0.14, while Xiques had gone under his dial time by only 0.05, and so Xiques had won the championship. Although it was quite nippy by now, Miss Atco took off her wrap and presented the championship trophy. It was about four feet high and as imposing as a mausoleum.

Xiques' kids were all over him with excitement. There are seven of them, ages seven to 17, and all of the boys want to be truckers when they grow up. Xiques has been driving for eight years. He is 42 and white-haired, and he was dressed in his regular driving shoes, calf-high black socks, plaid shorts and a checkered shirt. He was some sight, but he was also very happy, because he had promised to take the kids and Mrs. Xiques out to dinner if they won the $1,000.

Actually, he had only won $500, because his deal with Holowka is that they split the money down the middle. "That's O.K.," Xiques said. "You see, I get to keep all the trophies." He is extremely pleased with this arrangement, and Malone came over to the Xiqueses and presented some more TYRONE MALONE SALUTES THE AMERICAN TRUCKER hats.

"You see, we've got to honor this kind of guy," Malone said, striding in the moonlight across the deserted drag strip to his trailer, where Cindy was waiting with a vodka and Hi-C for him. "These are wonderful Americans, and if I could just get some truck companies to support me, we could start my hall of fame. It would be good for everybody, because then the four-wheelers who visited it could appreciate truckers better."

In case you don't know, four-wheelers are all God's creatures who travel in cars, as opposed to trucks. It's one or the other—like the ranchers and the sheepmen. "I get so mad when I hear some trucker on the CB talking bad about four-wheelers," Malone said. "I break in and say, 'Hey, remember, your mother is a four-wheeler.' "

So the Tyrone Malone Truck Hall of Fame would go a long way toward helping to remedy this long-standing conflict. He estimated that if you were going to make a good job of it, the Hall of Fame would come in around $10 million. Ball park figure.

The centerpiece of the Hall of Fame will be the Wall of Fame, honoring trucking immortals. "You know," Jerry said, "there's a lot of truckers who saved lives, drove three million miles without an accident, got snowed in in their rigs, that sort of thing. We'd have a wall for these kind of guys. Then there'd be a place for meetings, for new products, for manufacturers to show off their models. And, of course, my trucks would be the center of attention. We might even have Little Irvy stay there."

When I've shifted gears for the last time,
Put me high up on the hill so I can see
Those big rigs rolling by,
Blowing black smoke to the sky.
Let those wheels, those big wheels,
Lordy, let those big wheels sing to me!

© 1968 Fred Rose Music Inc., BMI

SIX PHOTOSFor all their glittering brightwork and fancy paint jobs, these trucks aren't just showpieces. Pumping out pillars of exhaust and waves of deep-throated horsepower, they thunder head-to-head down a quarter-mile strip for small purses but big trophies presented by Miss This or That. TWO PHOTOSThe sky is darkened and the ground shakes at Atco Raceway as a pair of unhitched cabs get the "Christmas Tree's" green light. PHOTOMalone has had hard times, but once he put vroom into his act, things began looking as bright as the huge engines he puts on display. PHOTOChrome sparkles and stacks smoke as a sleeper cab sets off on its run for glory. TWO PHOTOSMalone's truck (above) is a show job, but the workaday entries make his show go. PHOTOShining up a truck is exhausting work. TWO PHOTOSThere is a category for every type of big rig, garbage truck to tire engine, and Miss Atco handed out trophies to nearly every driver.

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)