He was the last of the independents, a storybook career with a long career in the NASCAR Cup ranks, dating back to the days when it was called Grand National racing.

But Dave Marcis was the proud owner of a proud team, and no one worked harder. He worked on the engines, the bodywork, drove the hauler. Unlike the Good Ol’ Boys of the South, he came out of the highly competitive stock-car ranks of Wisconsin to make his name at places like Talladega and Martinsville.

And he was on hand and made the field for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.

“I may have gone to the ‘500’ once in the ‘70s,” said Marcis, 69, from his home in Arden. N.C. “But I think the first time I was there was when we tested the IROC cars there and had the tire tests leading up to the race. Of course, I’d driven by there but never went in.”

He hasn’t raced since being in an IROC car, other than running a Legends race in April at Bristol. That’s his only racing activity today.

But he has Camp 28, a restaurant, bar and hotel in Rib Lake, Wis., his shop in the Charlotte area, some trucks and some hobbies.

“I’m busy all the time,” he said. “I try to get up there (in Wisconsin) about once a month, and I expect it’s about 50-50 between here and there. In the winter, I go deer hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling. We have a lot of area up there for that. I bought a place back in the ‘70s when you could afford it.”

About Indy, he said the race day crowd “narrowed” the front stretch.

“Those Cup guys … it doesn’t take them but a few laps to get it.

“When you came off Turn 4 and saw all those people, you just have to be there to believe it. It looks narrower. It’s an awesome feeling. It’s massive … quite an experience.

“I remember qualifying, going down the backstretch and thinking about all the history there. It was a funny thing. I was so focused that I walked by my wife in the pits and said, ‘How ya doin’?’ and didn’t even realize it was my wife.”

Marcis tested often and got some help from bigger teams along the way. He drove two races for Roger Penske and had an ongoing relationship with Richard Childress and the late Dale Earnhardt, doing a lot of their testing.

“Mark Donohue was the first to hire me with the IROC cars,” Marcis said. “I ended up doing it for 30 years. I had some opportunities to run for other teams, but they wouldn’t have been the full schedule and I wanted to race.”

Marcis qualified a credible 16th for the inaugural Brickyard 400 but an accident took him out early.

It was during another early departure from a race during his career that Marcis gave TV viewers the quote of the weekend. He dropped out to pit road early in a race, and a TV interviewer was right on the scene.

“What happened?” asked the interviewer.

“I just couldn’t keep the smoke in the engine,” Marcis said.