Where are they now? Dave Marcis enjoying retirement, but keeping busy
The popular driver enjoys retirement after his lengthy NASCAR career.
One of the things that always made NASCAR auto racing so special to its fans was its relationship with the drivers. Fans pulled for their favorite driver because they won a lot or because they just liked rooting for the underdog racing against established teams.
In either case, Dave Marcis became a fan favorite for many reasons throughout his 35-year career in the various stages of the NASCAR Cup Series from 1968 to 2002.
He made his first start and last starts at Daytona International Speedway. Marcis still holds the record for the most career starts in the Daytona 500 with 33.
Motorsport.com recently caught up with the former driver known as much for his wing-tip shoes and wearing a Goodyear Tires hat than behind the steering wheel later in his career. Marcis, 75, was gracious to take time out from preparing his boat to go on a fishing trip to share with fans what he’s up to these days.
“Well I’m just enjoying retired life although I stay pretty busy,” a smiling Marcis said from the kitchen of his house located just south of Asheville, N.C. “I’ve got it pretty good here spending time in North Carolina and also back in Wisconsin a few times a year.”
Marcis still gets behind the wheel of a race car as he competes in land speed racing in North Carolina and most recently, in Ohio in the final car he drove in his last Daytona 500 15 years ago. He also owns Camp 28 in Rib Lake, Wisconsin which features a hotel, restaurant and bar that he goes back to several times year.
Legend in Wisconsin
Marcis began racing at a local track near his hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. It was not uncommon for Marcis to race seven times or more a week. He was very successful at short tracks, especially at his home track.
“One year I won every race I started at Wausau and I only missed one race all season when the track owner put a bounty on me,” Marcis said. “He wouldn’t let me race to win that money if I won, so I raced at Wisconsin Rapids that one week,” Marcis said. “The next week we talked it out and I went back to Wausau and won the rest of the races.”
Marcis, like many other racers of his generation, never raced for the money or notoriety. He simply raced for the love of the sport. Still, racing throughout the Midwest helped subsidize his efforts behind the wheel.
“Some race tracks would pay for everything you did,” he added. One of my best paydays back then was when I would set fast time in qualifying, win the trophy dash, the heat race and then the feature. I think I won $125 that day. That was a pretty good payday back then.”
Marcis would know. He still has the original ledger book listing all of his career race winnings.
“We all loved racing back home,” Marcis said. “Most every driver worked on their own cars and it was a lot of work and a lot of fun. Of course it’s always fun when you win and I was fortunate enough to win a lot.”
With the typically severe weather in the upper Midwest, Marcis’ racing season at the short tracks was limited. However, he made the made of his racing over the summer.
“In 1965 I ran 92 races in about three months and won $7,970,” he said. “That was a pretty solid year. I know we stayed busy and on the road.”
Moving to NASCAR
In 1968, Marcis decided to give NASCAR a try. He made his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Daytona driving for Larry Wehrs finishing 20th. Marcis made 10 starts in that season and drove for Milt Lunda for most of 1969 before deciding to field his own team in 1970.
Marcis drove his own equipment enjoying moderate success, highlighted by 21 top-five and 40 top-10 finishes and two poles in three seasons.
Roger Penske came calling in 1973. Marcis decided to give it a try driving for someone else again.
“When I was starting out in the sport you really had to prove yourself to get noticed,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to get offered a ride by Roger Penske in 1973 and I appreciated Roger. It was the only time in my life I got a regular paycheck to race. The rest of the time if I drove for anyone else, I only got a percentage of what I won.”
Marcis raced for one season for Penske before moving back into his own car for in 1974. He drove for Penske again in 1977 before the team owner decided to cut back on his NASCAR involvement.
“It was hard for Roger to have a team up North and not closer to the South where most of the races where back then,” Marcis said. “I had fun driving for him and I’ve always had a lot of respect for him.”
Marcis did pick up a win for Penske driving a stock car in a USAC race in Michigan.
“I think I was the only one who ever won a USAC race in a stock car for Roger Penske,” Marcis added.
Success in 1975
In 1975, veteran car owner Nord Krauskopf offered Marcis a ride in the famed #71 K&K Insurance car.
While Marcis enjoyed a career-best finish of second in the 1975 standings in what was then the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, he never amassed the financial success that many might have expected.
“I remember going out to Ontario (Calif.) and we had a fast car, started on the outside front row and led a lot of laps,” Marcis said. “We were leading when my engine blew and I fell out of the race. Back then I got paid 30% of my winnings and that was it and I had to cover all of my own expenses. I didn’t even make enough money to cover my travel expenses out there.”
Krauskopf eventually offered Marcis a 3-percent raise.
Marcis scored his first NASCAR Cup win at Martinsville in 1975 and three more in 1976 including a win at Talladega Superspeedway driving the iconic No. 71 car.
Marcis would score his final Cup win in 1982 in Richmond driving for J.D. Stacy.
Goodyears and Wingtips
“What do you think of when hear the name Dave Marcis?” Chances are it’s his Goodyear hat or his wing tip shoes.
“Back when I started Cup racing in 1969 we had Goodyear and Firestone tires to race with,” Marcis said. “Some folks at Goodyear asked us to stay behind after the race at Atlanta and scuff some tires for them to use and we did,” Marcis said. “That led to a sponsorship in 1970 with Goodyear and a store in Greenville, S.C. that allowed me a quota of tires to use during the season.”
In 1994, when everyone else in the field switched to Hoosier tires at a race in Charlotte, Marcis remained loyal to Goodyear during the last “Tire War” in NASCAR.
“Most of the guys felt that they couldn’t qualify at Charlotte on the tire Goodyear brought and they went with Hoosier and I was the only driver that stayed with Goodyear,” Marcis said. “Leo (Mehl) said he only had a Daytona tire for the race because back then if you supplied tires you had to supply enough tires for every driver in the race.”
“The record Goodyear has of years being consecutively involved in NASCAR Cup racing was because I was the only driver to stay on Goodyear Tires and without me running that tire at that race, they wouldn’t have the record they have today in NASCAR.”
In fact, Marcis feels he should have another pole on his resume by sticking with Goodyear.
“We qualified well for the Daytona 500 and NASCAR had a rule back then that you had to start the race on the tires you qualified on or go to the rear,” he said. “Everyone ahead of me qualified on Hoosiers but decided to switch to Goodyear for the race, but NASCAR changed the rule before the race.”
Marcis began routinely wearing a Goodyear hat in the 1970’s and still does today.
As for the Wing Tips, Marcis gives David Pearson credit for that coming about.
“Back in those days we had a lot of problems with our feet getting burned a lot especially on a short track,” Marcis said. “Bobby (Allison) had burned his feet really bad the week before the race at North Wilkesboro and I was talking with David (Pearson), Cale Yarborough and Richard (Petty) before the race and Bobby came walking up limping pretty bad,” Marcis said.
“I asked about that and David said do you have any dress shoes and I told him I had a pair of Wing Tips in my car so I went out and got them and put them on. The leather soles helped keep my feet from getting burned so I decided to start using them.”
The fans started picking up on Marcis’ fashion statement, although the veteran driver said it began out of necessity as he didn’t want to burn his feet as bad as he saw Allison had done before the race at North Wilkesboro.
“Bill Simpson has given me race shoes and Boris Said offered me some racing shoes, but I never did like the feel of the shoe because it felt like you were walking barefoot,” he added. “So I decided to just stay with my Dexter Wing Tips.”
Friendship with Earnhardt & Childress
In the latter years of his career, Marcis returned to his roots to help keep things going for his team. He worked with the IROC program for over 30 years testing cars that were used in that all-star series. Marcis then tested for Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
“I never took a dime from Richard to test his cars,” Marcis said. “While Richard always offered to pay me, I just asked that he provide me some really good used race parts so I could keep racing. The money wouldn’t have been able to pay the parts bill so it worked out.”
Marcis also went hunting and fishing a lot with the pair. He even got sponsorship from Earnhardt for a race once at North Wilkesboro.
“I called Dale up and asked if he could sponsor my car at North Wilkesboro through his car dealership and I asked for $2,500,” Marcis said. “Dale sent me the decals and I put them on the car and raced. When I got the check in the mail after the race it was for $5,000. That’s the kind of friend Dale was to me and others.”
“Richard has been a great friend for a long time too and we’ve been hunting together and I was happy to see him get into the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Marcis added. “He was always good to me and helped me a lot.”
Getting along with everyone
Marcis is proud of his achievements on the track but he’s also proud of what he accomplished off the track.
“I don’t think too many people in this business can say they always were able to get along with everyone and I was proud of that,” Marcis said. “I always raced hard, but I always tried to race everyone clean.”
Not only was Marcis well-liked by his peers, but he also went out of his way to maintain a cordial relationship with those who ran the sport, namely Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr.
He remembered before his first race at Talladega when there were tire problems and almost every Cup driver pulled out of the race.
“I know in 1969 I didn’t race with the rest of the guys in Talladega because I felt if I didn’t go with them that could come back to haunt me when I raced against them and I told Bill Sr. that,” Marcis said. “I met with Bill Sr. a lot of times in his office on things and while I didn’t always get the answer I might have wanted, when Bill Sr. told you something you could take it to the bank because you knew his word was 100-plus percent.”
Marcis might have moved away from his childhood home but the traits he learned in Wisconsin always stayed with him.
“I’m just a farm country boy from Wisconsin with a good work ethic and I always tried to be friends with everyone I raced against and came in contact with in my career,” he added. ““I just always tried to treat people like I want to be treated.”
Over the years, Marcis also befriended a lot of crew members. He still visits some of them on occasion.
“Maurice Petty was always nice to me and offered to help me a lot and I was a Richard Petty fan when I moved South,” Marcis said. “Maurice always offered to help with advice or parts when he could and I stay in touch with him. I like to go fishing in Virginia every now and then and I always try to stop by and see Maurice on my way to Virginia.”
Thanks to the fans
The last few seasons of competing in what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series really became a challenge for the privateer. The relationship he built with fans from all over the country still makes Marcis smile. He cherishes those memories today.
“I knew our time was running out when NASCAR started racing more in the West,” Marcis said. “We would drive everywhere and sometimes we didn’t get back to the shop until Tuesday night and have to turn around and leave on Thursday. I knew we couldn’t afford planes and we were all exhausted from the travel. But man did we have the support from the fans at a lot of places.”
Marcis made reference to fans offering him and his crew members places to stay at certain tracks and often feeding the entire team free of charge.
“When people say NASCAR has the best fans in the world it’s the truth,” he added. “Since we first moved down here from Wisconsin the fans have always been great to me and I just want to thank every one of them. From the ones who offered all of us help, to the ones who just cheered us on each week. I wanted to do the best I could every time I got in the race car and I raced hard. I raced clean, but I raced as hard as I could every lap. They deserved to see a show.”
Dave Marcis Bio
Born: March 1, 1941 (Wausau, Wisc.)
Wife: Helen (Married over 50 years)
Children: Richard, Shawn Marie
Race Starts: 883 (1968-2002 - NASCAR Grand National, Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, and Sprint Cup)
Daytona 500 Starts: 33 (Holds the record for most consecutive starts by one driver with 32)
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