Powering Countless Wins …

Posted: July 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

Region Racers at the Indianapolis 500

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published by the Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 22, 2010 

His family and friends have called him “Minnie” for as long as he can remember, and one would have understood that during his days as a high school athlete, a local sports scribe might have labeled him as “diminutive.”

But there was nothing small about the career he chose and the results of his tireless work ethic.

Minnie Joyce built racing engines. He built engines so powerful that at the end of their life, they exploded into bits. But during the period of time that he first brought those engines to life and their final demise, they won auto races. A lot of auto races.

Following his graduation in 1950 from Griffith High School, Joyce entered the Army, eventually being stationed in Germany. Upon his return to the States, he pursued his interest in working on cars, both in the shops where he was employed and in the classrooms of the trade schools he attended.

By the early 1960s, he was in the employ of Louie Lohse at his Phillips 66 garage on the southwest corner of Broad and Elm streets in Griffith.

In early 1962, Dale “Tiny” Worley recruited him to join one of the most successful racing operations in America, Nichels Engineering. Joyce soon became a disciple of Worley’s racecar-building philosophy, “Build the cars fast and tough, and if they’re going to blow up, they had better be leading the race when they do.”

Joyce flourished under Worley’s counsel and when Worley died unexpectedly in April of 1964, Joyce stepped up to become the primary engine builder for Nichels Engineering. By virtue of Nichels Engineering being the “house” builder for Chrysler Corporation, Joyce had become the key engine builder for all of the Chrysler stock car effort.

During the period of 1963 through 1971, Joyce worked in virtual anonymity. Chrysler’s agreement with Nichels Engineering was predicated on engineering development. It was the task of Nichels Engineering to push Chrysler’s cars and engines to the brink of failure and then document the research. The task for Joyce and the rest of the engineers and drivers at Nichels was not to win races, but to push the cars to unbelievable limits, so that the resulting data could then be disseminated first to the other Chrysler race teams and then to Chrysler as an entity, so the automaker could engineer and build more durable and safer automobiles for the American public.

Joyce’s brief stint at Indy was not for a lack of belonging in a long list of Region Racers who toiled there. It was because he was part of the Nichels Engineering effort for Paul Goldsmith that ended with “Goldy’s” run in 1963. Beginning that summer, Joyce’s skills were too valuable developing and building the vast majority of Chrysler’s Hemi engines for stock car competition in NASCAR, USAC, ARCA and IMCA, than to be working on Indy cars.

In his NASCAR debut, Joyce’s Hemi engines took the pole position for the 1964 Daytona 500 at 174.910 mph, setting a new world stock car record and taking pole at almost 15 miles per hour faster than the 1963 Daytona polesitter Fireball Roberts’ qualifying speed of 160.943 mph. Joyce and Nichels won the two 100-mile support races and had the first three finishers in the 500. Joyce went back in July and with Nichels drivers A.J. Foyt and Bobby Isaac, took first and second place in the Daytona Firecracker 400. It was after this race that Foyt told Ray Nichels, “No one, I mean no one, works on my engines but Minnie Joyce.”

For the next eight years, Joyce’s engines won on the asphalt of Daytona, Talladega, Rockingham, Bristol, Riverside, Charlotte and the Milwaukee Mile. They also won on the dirt tracks of Langhorne, DuQuoin, and the Indianapolis Fairgrounds, with these being just a very short list of all the places where Joyce was a winner.

In fact, it is impossible to tell just how many races were won by the engines that Joyce put together during this era due to the “Nichels Engineering Syndrome.”

Simply put, race teams that got their original engines from Joyce and Nichels, including those for Richard Petty, Harry Hyde, Norm Nelson, Ray Fox and virtually any major player in NASCAR, USAC, ARCA or IMCA, would seemingly always take credit for the performance of the equipment after a victory, but would be quick to blame Nichels Engineering if they had lost due to a mechanical failure.

All the while, Joyce stoically went about his business of building world-class engines and keeping meticulous records of each engine made. Records still in his possession today. Along with the very first Restrictor Plate ever invented. And why you ask, did Joyce have to invent the Restrictor Plate? Because his engines ran so fast, NASCAR had to slow him down.

Today, Joyce and his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Govert Joyce, still reside in Griffith, just a handful of city blocks from where he built some of the fastest engines in all of racing.

His craftsmanship and dedication to excellence are what make him a true Region Racer.

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