TALMADGE PRINCE


                           TAB PRINCE
                        Death At Daytona


Tab Prince loved fast cars.  He sold them.  He drove them.  He died in one of them.  Forty seven years ago in the biggest race of his life, Talmadge Prince was killed in one of the 125 mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500, at the time, the fastest race in the history of the eleven year old track.  The life of the Dublin car dealer, the first ever in a NASCAR Grand National Race,  ended in a furious and hellish moment of death, death at Daytona.

Talmadge "Tab" Prince, who was born on February 16, 1937, in Cullman County, Alabama was a son of William T. Prince and Opal Marie Cryer Prince.Tab attended Cotaco High School and the the University of Alabama before going into a defense contracting business.  He started a company called PBR Electronics.   Prince, who had raced late model sportsman and sprint cars for a decade, Prince left his electronics business in Decatur, Alabama in the fall of 1969 to go into the car business in Dublin.

 Prince continue to maintain other business interests in Huntsville, Alabama, Atlanta, and in the state of North Carolina.    He joined with Bill Hodges to form the partnership Hodges & Prince,  Hodges and Prince, which sold Chrysler and Plymouth automobiles on their lot at 309 East Jackson Street. The partners sold used cars on their 245 East Jackson Street lot.  It has been said that Prince had patented some type of electronic device which provided him with the funds to do what he loved to do and that was to race cars.  During his short stay in Dublin, Tab Prince called an apartment at 302 Ramsey Street home.


Bill Hodges, Tab Prince, and Junior Scarboro 


Prince purchased his Charger Daytona  from James Hylton of Inman, South Carolina, in January of 1970.  Hylton, the 1966 NASCAR.  Rookie of the Year, had enjoyed early success driving Dodges, but decided to switch to Fords in 1970.  Prince had driven in small track races for ten years, but had never driving anything like the Daytona.  Unlike modern day race cars which are built from scratch, NASCAR racers took a stock chassis and body and made the necessary modifications to make the car go faster than the average car on the road.  NASCAR regulations required that at least five hundred models of an automobile be produced to qualify the car to be a stock car.  The requisite number of cars had to be produced before September 1st of the previous year.  Competition between Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors  was fierce.  Each tried to build a faster car than the other.  Tremendous sums of money were spent and lost in an effort to sell sports cars to the those who could only dream
of racing in a Grand National race.

Chrysler introduced a new and improved Charger in 1968, which had a powerful hemi engine, but was aerodynamically flawed.  Changes were made again in 1969 to improve the car.  The most visible change was the use of a nose cone on the front and a winged stabilizer on the rear of the car. Their Plymouth counterparts, were dubbed the "Superbirds."  The Daytona sold for $4200.00, but cost Chrysler more than fifteen hundred dollars for every one they sold.  Actually none of the 1969 Charger Daytonas ever wound up on the race track.  The car, which Prince bought from  Hylton, began its life as a 1968 Charger, was modified to become a Charger 500 and modified again to become a Daytona.  All  five hundred of 1969 Daytonas were sold.  The company had orders for twelve hundred in the first three weeks after the car became available.  Nearly seventy percent of the cars are still in existence today and are highly sought by muscle car collectors.


After Fords captured both races at Daytona in 1969,   Chrysler was looking to get back to victory lane in 1970.  The lead drivers that season were Richard Petty, the King of stock car racing,  Pete Hamilton, his teammate, both of whom who drove Plymouths, Bobby Isaac and Buddy Baker  in Charger Daytonas.  In March of 1970, Baker became the first NASCAR driver to attain a speed in excess of two hundred miles per hour.  The nose cone, flush window fastback roof, and winged stabilizer made the superbirds the most aerodynamic car on the track.  Some experts estimated that it gave the Charger a five hundred yard advantage per lap on the super speedways.  The superior design led to what had to be Chrysler's greatest year in racing.  That year the Daytonas and the Plymouth Superbirds won an incredible thirty eight out of forty eight NASCAR races.

Cale Yarborough, driving his Wood Brothers Mercury, captured the first of the twin 125-mile qualifying races on February 19, 1970.  Yarborough, who ran the fastest race ever run up until that time,  took advantage of pit strategy to beat Isaac in his Daytona.  Superbird driver, Pete Hamilton, the eventual winner of the main race, fell out of competition early on.  Prince had qualified for the second race with a speed of 165.562 miles per hour.  Charlie Glotzbach, who was lucky to be alive after being nearly shot to death in a quarrel with an employee, and Buddy Baker, both driving Daytonas took command early in the race.



Then, suddenly and without warning, on the twentieth lap of the second qualifying race as Prince's number 78 Daytona was entering the high banked first turn of the Daytona super speedway, Prince's hemi engine blew. Oil gushed onto the track.  The car started sliding sideways.  Bill Seifort, of Skyland, North Carolina, was behind Prince. His car, too, went into a spin as he tried to avoid Prince's No. 78 car.  The nose of Seifort's car struck Prince's car just behind the driver's side door.   Seifort was traveling at an estimated one hundred and ninety miles per hour.  Prince never had a chance.  Prince's car burst into flames.  In another micro instant, a third car, driven by Tommy Haliford of Spartanburg, South Carolina, smashed into the pileup.

Prince was killed instantly. His neck was broken.  His spinal cord snapped. Seifort, who suffered cranial and cardiac concussions, was taken to the hospital in critical condition.  Seifort survived the crash.   Haliford escaped any serious injury, despite the fact that his car was totaled.  After a thirteen lap caution period, Glotzbach went on the win the second qualifying race.

What nearly became a major controversy was averted when track officials apparently and successfully overcame allegations that officials and spotters had failed to alert drivers of the presence of engine wreckage and debris along with chunks of tire rubber on the track for extended periods of time during the qualifying races.  Track officials admitted that a four-foot long piece of tail pipe was left on the back straight of way, but denied it had anything to do with the Prince's accident.








Prince's death cast a pall over the crowd that Thursday and for the rest of the race week at Daytona. Twenty seven people have lost their lives at the Daytona raceway.   Prince, who was killed thirty two years ago today, was only the second man to be killed in a race at Daytona, the first to actually be killed in a Grand National Race - in those days the qualifying races at Daytona were actual races and counted toward the points championship.   Prince  was the first of three men killed in the qualifying races and the second of six men, including the legendary Dale Earnhardt who was killed a year ago during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, to be killed in a Grand National Race at the greatest of all car stock car tracks, the Daytona International Speedway.

   They buried Tab Prince in the Roselawn Gardens of Memory in Decatur, Alabama.

  Seven months after Prince was killed, his wife gave birth to a son, which she named Tab.  Tab remembered, " His wrecked car was in our garage in Decatur, AL for a while according to my sister. She said all the neighborhood kids would come over to look at it."  Tab was adopted by his stepfather Bradord.  He also remember, "Tab had a friend named Doris Rochelle who parted it out for him. Someone in Dublin may have bought some of it. I’m not sure."

 "I know he had in an apt in Dublin for a while.  My mom says he took her deer hunting over there one time. I’m an avid hunter as well. I think she was going to eventually join him there. Tab’s son. He definitely had an adventuresome spirit. He was a musician, pilot (planes and gliders)  race car driver and quite a charming businessman I’m told, the younger Tab remembered.

  Today, people still wonder what happened to the car in which Tab Prince was killed.  One rumor has it that it is buried in a field in Washington County, Georgia. Another account claims it was sold on Ebay.  In the car racing profession, it is considered extremely disrespectful to display a car in which a driver died.  So far now, let the car and the driver rest in piece.



video

         The surviving film of Tal Prince and his death at Daytona 

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