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Carrera Plymouth Roadrunner #25 - Nascar 1971 - Jabe Thomas

Carrera Evolution 27728 Plymouth Roadrunner "No.25“. RRP £49.99 Available now.
Carrera Digital 132 31059 Plymouth Roadrunner "No.25“. RRP £69.99 Available now.

There's something very special about the Carrera Classic Nascar range. Undoubtedly targeted at their North American market, these big 'tanks' have fans the world over - partly because of their fabulous tail-out handling with the traction magnets removed and partly because of the Nascar nostalgia element. This new pair of cars released for the summer off '22 features a household name - Benny Parson's 1970 Ford Torino - and a more obscure racer's Plymouth Roadrunner from the 1971 Nascar Grand National season, the inaugural year of the Winston Cup...

It's the big names that hog the limelight in this coverage of the June 1971 Motor State 400 at Michigan International Speedway - one of forty-eight races on the calendar that year. However, you will get an occasional glimpse of Jabe Thomas' red and gold #25 Roadrunner in the background on his way to a sixteenth place finish, twelve laps behind winner Bobby Allison. With no factory backing or big-time sponsors, the likes of Jabe Thomas played a different game to the mega-stars of the sport - they scraped together the funding to run as many races as they could, drove to preserve their cars and to pick up points and prize-money. Sometimes, one of these also-rans would achieve a miraculous race win, but as the sport moved into the big time of Tobacco sponsorship and TV deals, the chances grew ever smaller.

In 1971, Nascar was still a southern sport - and Jabe Thomas was a southerner, from Christiansburg in the south west corner of Virginia, a stones-throw from the Appalachian mountains. Thomas worked his way up through the local stock car scene - as had African-American racer Wendell Scott, who lived in Danville, about 100 miles away. Because of his unique story, Wendell's Scott's Nascar career is well-documented, giving us an insight into the challenges of a small-time owner-driver in the 1960s and early 70s. You see Jabe Thomas and Wendell Scott pitch up at most of the same races. They'd ignore the long treks out West to California, but otherwise they would be there every week - the Nascar officials could count of these guys to fill out the grids and put on a show. The big difference between Scott and Thomas' experiences was racial prejudice - there were times when Scott feared for his life, but he also gained respect from many Nascar fans and drivers, hopefully including near-neighbours like Jabe Thomas.


Jabe Thomas was on a roll in 1971. Having made his top-tier debut in 1965, he'd finished eighth in the points in '68 and '69, improving to seventh in 1970. His Plymouth Roadrunner - a hand-me-down, but decent machinery for 1971 - was painted in his characteristic red and gold, with sponsorship from Star City Body Shop in nearby Roanoke. Thomas would compete in 44 of the 48 races in 1971, sometimes two in a weekend. His tally of two top fives, fifteen top tens and sixth place in the points table was the highlight of his thirteen-year career. The $31,895 of prize money probably covered his costs - the goal of any Nascar owner-driver.

If it was a good year for Jabe Thomas, then August 1971 was a magnificent month. Starting on Sunday 1 August in Atlanta, Thomas finished fourteenth in the Dixie 500. The following Friday, he finished eighth at Bowman Gray in Winston-Salem. The Myers 250 race on this legendary quarter-mile short track became known as the race nobody won - open to Trans-Am style pony cars, Bobby Allison's winning Mustang was removed from the record books. Two days later, Thomas raced at another short-track at Ona, West Virginia, finishing tenth. As with many races of the time, owner-drivers like Thomas and Wendell Scott drove carefully, avoiding expensive wear-and-tear to their cars. Thomas' tenth in West Virginia saw him 33 laps behind winner Richard Petty - Scott was a further 35 laps back in thirteenth. Both gained those all-important championship points and some prize money to pay the bills.

That was just the first eight days of August! Jabe Thomas would race four more times that month - finishing ninth in a return to Michigan, ninth again at the big-money Talledega 500, a magnificent fifth at the Sandlapper 200 in Columbia, South Carolina and tenth the next day at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina. Jude Thomas' August itinerary of Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, South Carolina and back to North Carolina shows the immense commitment to his sport - close to 3,000 miles in a month.

Nascar began to change after 1971. The big tobacco money and TV coverage meant the trips to local short tracks ended. The 48-race calendar was cut to 31 races in 1972. A total of thirteen tracks were dumped from the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule after 1971, including South Carolina’s Columbia Speedway, which had hosted 43 top-tier races, starting back in 1951 and including the August '71 Sandlapper 200 where Jabe Thomas grabbed that fifth place. Thomas would continue racing at the top level until 1978, by which time his son Ronnie had made his Winston Cup debut and won the '78 Rookie of the Year award.


If you've never had the joy of driving a Carrera classic Nascar model, then Jabe Thomas' Plymouth Roadrunner is a good place to start. The cars are big, heavy, underpowered, but glorious to drive. Whip out the traction magnets, add a little weight to the underpan, grind the front tyres a little, fit some urethane tyres to the back and you're ready to go. Paul Gage makes tyres that fit the rear hubs perfectly - his 23103XD tyres are available in the PGT (shore 40) and XPG (shore 20) compounds. The XPG is perfect for Scalextric Sport track.
[+] 2 members Like woodcote's post

Thanks for this Andy - you have inspired me to revisit my Road Runner. I had been running it with the centre magnet in place, but have just removed it and am playing around with weight placement. I have 3g just in front of the motor at the mo and that seems to be working okay - plenty of controllable sliding! Have to track down some of the Paul Gage tyres next. Just running with scuffed-up standard tyres for now.
[+] 1 member Likes RetroRich67's post

There's no escaping the fact they're impressive looking race cars

Life is like a box of Slot cars... Cool Drinkingcheers

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