Racers know that on occasion there’s going to be a bad night where things just don’t go right. One or two flat tires in a race may happen. That’s part of racing. However, a couple flat tires on the trailer before even getting to the race track isn’t part of what’s usually expected. But that’s what happened to Bay Area Modifieds racer Greg Hopkins this past Saturday night.
Hopkins left his home in Repton, Alabama Saturday morning to head 70 miles away to Northwest Florida Speedway for that night’s $500-to-win race. He didn’t even get 10 miles before the first issue came to the surface.
“I got about six miles down the road and I blew a trailer tire,” Hopkins told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I turned around and went back home and to make sure the spare tire was good. We put air pressure in it and changed it at the shop.”
Then Hopkins got back on the road. Everything would be fine at that point. Or so he thought.
“We got back on the road and got about 30 miles down the road and another trailer tire blew out,” explained Hopkins while laughing. “That was really unexpected because they were good trailer tires. They were probably less than a year old.”
At this point Hopkins is out of spare tires. He only had one spare and it was already bolted onto the open trailer that Hopkins uses to carry his IMCA-style dirt Modified.
“But I decided to go on to the track and tried my luck getting there,” said Hopkins, like any other racer would.
Hopkins limped the remaining 45 miles to the race track, hoping that the tire would hold up well enough to keep the rim from scraping on the asphalt. But, as Hopkins explained, that didn’t exactly happen as he’d planned.
“I got about 10 miles from the track and I guess the wheel was hitting the track a little bit more than I thought it was after the tire had come off of it and it finally broke the wheel,” Hopkins said. “When it did it kind of sat on the ground and scraped the bottom of the leaf springs on the trailer. At that point I got out and a couple race fans pulled over and helped me out on the side of the road. I chained the leaf springs back up. I took the wheel off and chained it up and went onto the race track with three wheels.”
All Hopkins wanted to do was get to the race track. He said he may have gone a little bit too fast after the second tire blew out.
“I really didn’t slow down a whole lot,” he said. “I got down to maybe 45 or 50. It felt pretty good. I kept watching the mirror and looking for smoke or sparks, but you know how it is. Us racers have to get there.”
He knew that once he got there that the tight-knit racing community would help him out, and he said that’s exactly what happened.
But he also knew that once he got to the track he could focus on racing in the 25-lap feature that night.
Hopkins started fifth and quickly made his way to the front of the field. He said that he’s pretty certain he was in the lead before the halfway mark of the race. Then he led the rest of the way to claim the trophy and the $500 prize money.
After the race, Hopkins had to figure out how to get home. He had another 75-mile trip ahead of him, and still only had three tires on his trailer. Then he came up with an idea.
“I took the worst tire I had off of the car,” he said. “It was the right rear tire that I just got done racing with. So I took that off the car, broke it down, put it on the wheel and put it on the trailer. I had a Hoosier G60 on the left rear of the trailer and we made it home fine. It was just one of those nights.”
Fortunately, for Hopkins, the night wasn’t as bad as it could have been. On the way home he discovered that his friend and fellow racer, Larry Faulk, was hit by a drunk driver nearly head-on. Hopkins found Faulk on the side of the road, Faulk’s enclosed trailer with a lot of damage and missing its left-side tires. Faulk was fortunately unhurt because the driver managed to only hit the trailer that he was towing.
“A drunk driver came across the lane and hit his enclosed trailer,” said Hopkins. “It took both left side tires clean off of it. So I did pretty well compared to how he did. But I pulled over and helped him out. I figured people helped me out so I better help him.”
As for Hopkins, he’s already figured out how to fix his own situation. Most racers take their winnings and put the money towards tires for the next week. Hopkins will do the same, but this time the tires won’t be for the race car.
“I’ve got to put it towards tires for the trailer,” said a laughing Hopkins. “I’ve got to get to the track next week somehow.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Greg Hopkins