How a Photo Became A Racing Icon

wally9By David G. Firestone

Recently, Paul Lukas covered the history of league logos in sports. 1969 was a banner year for logos.That same year, The MLB silhouette logo came into being.  The other logo is interesting as well. It is the NBA logo. It is based on a photo of Jerry West and was introduced in 1969.  That got me to thinking, and I realized something. In 1969, another photo got turned into an icon. It was this photo of Jack Jones…wally9My thanks to Michael E. Mescher of Northidge Alumni Bear Facts for use of this photo!

If that photo looks familiar, it is because that photo became the legendary Wally trophy. That photo of Jack Jones in his driver suit, holding his helmet, and resting a pair of gloves and Nomex hood on a rear tire became the standard NHRA trophy. wally11Named after NHRA founder Wally Parks, this trophy, in varying sizes and weights is given to all winners of all national events, and other trophies have integrated the Wally design.wally1This example is from a class winner at the 2003 Gatornationals. Held at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville Florida since 1970, the Gatornationals is one of the opening events in the NHRA season. Since this is a Lucas Oil series trophy, it is much lighter and scaled down than it’s Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series trophy. This trophy weighs 2 or 3 pounds and is a little over a foot tall. The Mello Yellow trophies are 18 inches tall and weigh 12 pounds each. The trophy is made with a composite-standard metal mix and is plated in antique brass. The base is solid walnut.

Since these are the only trophies given to event winners, trophy shelves of drivers look awesome. That is the collection of former pro stock motorcycle legend George Bryce who has 77 event wins in total! John Force has 140 national event wins, the most of any driver, and his collection is awe inspiring!

The origin of the photo is interesting. According to the June 30, 1995 edition of National Dragster, the story goes that in early 1969, Jack Jones was at his day job, and got a call from Wally Parks. Parks asked him if he would be willing to pose for pictures for a trophy at Ponoma Raceway. Ponoma is a 16 minute ride from Glendora where the NHRA is based. Jack agreed and a number of pictures were snapped, including the now iconic photo of him with his equipment and a tire. Later that year, the famous Wally trophy was introduced. It is perfect because it is still the same design as in 1969. It does not evolve because it does not have to. Looking at it close, it really is a beautiful trophy.wally1 wally2 wally3 wally4 wally5 wally6 wally7

It is amazing how a sports photo can evolve into something much more than a photo. It has been said by those much wiser than I that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well photos that become iconic, whether it be in logos or trophies or stuck in public consciousness are not just worth a thousand words, they are priceless.

That’s going to be all for this week, there was not enough paint schemes to warrant an entry this week, so I’ll save it for next week!

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