Goldsmith: Well, it was a lot cheaper to run USAC because you'd arrive at the racetrack Sunday morning, practice for a half-hour, qualify, and be racing by one o'clock. In a lot of places we'd go, you couldn't even fire an engine before 12 o'clock. We'd practice, qualify, and race that afternoon. So, the economy of it was great. At some of the bigger races like in NASCAR, you'd get there on a Thursday to set up. Friday, you'd be practicing and qualify maybe that afternoon or Saturday, if you didn't get qualified on Friday. It's a longer process, and you have motel expenses for all of your crew-it got pretty expensive that way.
Nichels: My first trip down to Daytona was with Pontiac, and Pontiac General Manager Bunkie Knudsen said to bring lots of money. At the end of three weeks, we went around and paid the bills and when we got to the motel bill, it was $9,000. For all that, we took in $2,400!
Goldsmith: That was the sad part because it was just backwards, and it's leaning that way again today. With what it's costing now, and the prize money is great, don't get me wrong, but the prize money cannot support the racing today, and it didn't when I was racing.
Nichels: When we first got into stock car racing, we could build a ready-to-run for $3,500. Now you can't even put tires on them for that.
MM: How was your relationship with Chrysler during this period? Were you given access to engineering data, and did you have sufficient input with the engineering staff?
Goldsmith: We had a lot of secrets of our own, but we did get a lot of input from those folks. Some of the stuff that I can remember in handling, they would give us different ideas about roll rates, and how to compare them, front to rear. The torsion bar was a little different than a coil spring, and they would help us out with things like that. We had special blocks made, the list goes on and on. So yeah, you have to work hand-in-hand with them.
MM: Explain to our readers just how expansive the Nichels Engineering reach was at Chrysler. The "Go-Fast Factory" was absolutely huge at this time and employed a huge number of people. What were your key responsibilities to Chrysler during this period?
Nichels: We used to do a lot of dyno work.
Goldsmith: I would say that all the race teams in the South that raced a Chrysler product were developed here. We would supply those folks with parts, and the knowledge that we would learn developed right here in this building. It was quite a lot, from axles, wheels, brakes, steering, spindles, radiators, everything.
Nichels: Knudsen was smart. We didn't have sole rights-he'd put Smokey Yunick against you, he'd put Jack Zink against you, he'd set up little operations, and you gotta go beat them. The way Chrysler set it up, you'd be competing against your own people.
Goldsmith: We would run against other Chrysler racers, even though we were supplying parts and knowledge. Everything we would learn, we would feed it to the rest of the people in the South. That's what Chrysler wanted us to do.
Nichels: We'd take a truckload of engines down there, and we'd have somebody pick "our" engine while we were picking "theirs."
Goldsmith: Foyt used to accuse me of getting the best engine. I'd say, "OK, which one do you want?" then I take whatever was left. That happened more than once.
MM: How many people did you employ at your peak?
Nichels: About 200 total with all of our shops and related businesses. And you'd be picking the brains of 200 people. So when they say, "Ray Nichels did that," the truth was Ray Nichels did not do much. He had 200 people under him. Nobody does everything alone.
Goldsmith: I thought I was!
MM: The next couple of questions are for Paul. When you retired from driving in 1969, was it something you had been thinking about for a while or was it simply, "I'm done?"