Ellis Palasini, the “Man in Black,” and driver of the No. V8 supermodified, “Black Widow” will return to Mobile International Speedway, Saturday March 11 as Grand Marshall and pace car driver for the O'Reilly USCS Asphalt Thunder Sprint Car race.
From 1950-1972, Palasini was always the driver to beat at southern speedways. Saturday March 11, Palasini will once again drive his famous black/red V8 supermodified on the high-banks of Mobile International Speedway, where he won many races and several championships.
“I looking forward to coming back and seeing all my fans,” said Palasini. “It's an honor to come back and talk with all the fans that supported me.”
Palasini, a cotton plantation owner from Leland, Miss. raced against many of the era's top drivers as they competed regularly on a supermodified circuit. Included in that list are Wayne Niedecken Sr., Hooker Hood, Armond Holley, Gene Tapia, Ival Cooper, “Flying” Phil Wendt, and Bobby and Donnie Allison.
“We had a lot of fun racing back then,” he continued. “It seems like everyone helped everyone else. It's a little different now. I have two sons that race open-wheel cars that go throughout the country, and it's more business oriented.
“Skip” Wetjen of Mobile was the promoter, and he did a heck of a job, as well as helping racing get started. He was the one that built Mobile International Speedway and was instrumental in setting up a southern supermodified series that ran five or six nights a week in different cities in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
“They have lots better tires and equipment than we had back then, but I believe you could afford to race a little better, then. I don't ever remember getting less than $1,000 for winning a feature.
“I'm getting the car all ready. I've had the magneto rebuilt and I've borrowed some new tires from the USAC Sprint series, and maybe I can complete another few laps, but don't expect any new speed records out of me.”
Palasini will be joined on Saturday night by Joe Caspolich, another former supermodified and NASCAR driver, Rick Crawford's uncle, Buddy Bielarski, a former NASCAR car owner and crew chief, and Johnny Ardis, who has fielded race cars for over 50 years.
Fans will be able to meet, get autographs, and share old memories with these former greats in the main grandstand prior to the night's racing.
There will also be plenty of action on the track from the 700-plus horsepower USCS winged sprints.
Drivers pre-entered for the event include 2005 O'Reilly USCS National Champion, Kenny Adams from Malabar, Florida who has won at both speedways on multiple occasions and 2005 O'Reilly USCS Asphalt Thunder Champion, Wayne Reutimann, Jr. from Zephyrhills, Florida.
The track record holder at both half mile paved ovals is 16-year old Kevin Swindell from Bartlett, Tennessee who won both series events at Mobile in 2005 and set new track records at both tracks. O'Reilly USCS National Championship runner-up 19-year old Danny Martin, Jr. from Sarasota, Florida, who won the October 7, 2005 feature race at Five Flags Speedway is entered as well.
In addition to the sprint practice, qualifying, heat and feature races, this will also be the first night of points racing for the bomber and sportsmen classes.
The bomber and sportsmen will practice, qualify, and run heat and feature races.
All other local classes will begin their points racing, April 1.
There will be an open practice on Thursday, March 9, from 5-9 p.m. for all divisions. Price is $5 for everyone with minor releases required.
Schedule for Saturday, March 11: Pits open: 2 p.m.; Grandstands at 5 p.m. Practice will begin at 5 p.m., qualifying is at 6 p.m., and racing gets underway at 8 p.m.
Ticket prices: Pits (everyone): $25; grandstands: $15; senior/military: $14; children under 11 admitted free with paying adult.
For additional information, call the speedway at 251-957-2063, or log on to the track website, www.mobilespeedway.com .