Some racing fans grew up around the sport, and can hardly remember a time when they weren’t watching races on TV or attending them in-person. Others may have come to the sport later in life, introduced thanks to a friend or just sheer curiosity.
No matter the case, racers and race fans can point to a moment in the past that sticks out as their first racing memory. Speed51 asked fans to share those first racing memories on social media during Monday’s episode of “The Bullring” while also talking to drivers about fond memories of their own.
Two-time Southern Super Series champion Casey Roderick is now one of the most recognizable names in Super Late Model racing. However, there was a time when the Georgia native was just a young boy who wanted very badly to try his hand at racing after going to a go-kart race with his family.
“This has been a long time ago,” said Roderick. “I remember when I decided to race, I was four years old. My dad and my uncle took me to a go-kart track not far from my grandmother’s. It was down in Barnesville, Georgia, the track was called Lamar County Raceway. That’s where I decided to start racing, after I saw that first race. All the way home, I was begging my dad for a go-kart to start racing.”
Young gun Grant Thompson is a multi-time winner in the Pro Trucks at Five Flags Speedway and is now competing in Pro Late Models, driving for Augie Grill. While he couldn’t point to a specific “first” memory from racing, there was one incident in his formative years that stuck out in particular.
“I remember I went to the race track a lot with my dad when he was racing Late Models. My first memory of me actually being in a race car, I was about five years old in Grand Bay, Alabama at my hometown race track, Sunny South Raceway.
“I don’t know what I was thinking, I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t want to get in the race car at the time. We went to the racetrack and my dad kept telling me it would be okay. He just kept telling me to make a couple of laps and then we’d come home.
“I got in the go-kart, made a couple of laps in it, then all of a sudden I crashed and my dad comes running up to me asking ‘What did you just do?’ I said, ‘I did a big crash, daddy!’ Oh my gosh, it was bad.”
Fans watching the show also shared some of their racing memories, both on Speed51’s Facebook feed presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies and by tweeting @speed51dotcom.
A pair of viewers mentioned watching races at Nazareth Speedway (PA). Brian Bachman grew up watching races at the track when it was a half-mile of dirt, while Chad Frankenfield remembers watching the CART open-wheel series compete on the paved mile.
“My parents took me to the Nazareth speedway (1/2 mile) before I was able to walk,” said Bachman. “Every Sunday night. My father, Bill Bachman, was the track champion in 1951. My brother and I grew up working on the Richard Marinelli M1 at Middletown and Nazareth. Gary Balough drove for us in 1977.”
“1997 CART race at Nazareth,” responded Frankenfield. “The sound of Champ cars and the smell of methanol!”
Rod Wortham was another viewer who was going to a dirt track at a very young age, visiting Tri-City Speedway (IL) at just six months old.
“I went to my first race in 1959 at the age of six months at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, IL,” said Wortham. “My mother put me in a pillowcase so that when it got too dusty she could cover me up by folding the top over my head. Now 61 years later I am still in racing with Race Face Brand Development and proud to have Grant Thompson as one of my drivers.
Cecil Chunn’s vivid early memories didn’t come from a race track, but rather the shop of champion racer Mike Alexander.
“Going to Mike Alexander’s shop with my dad,” said Chunn. “I would sit in car pretending to drive while they worked. 1st and best memories of mine and dad’s time in racing.”
Speed51 also received several tweets from fans sharing their young racing memories.
The first race I ever attended was in 2005, the @NASCAR_Trucks at Mansfield, Ohio. Bobby Hamilton’s final NASCAR win.
That was a good track, I preferred it as a paved track, enjoyed my 2 visits there when it was dirt as well though. Shame it’s not likely to ever open again.
— CraigsCache (@CraigsCache) July 27, 2020
The now Defunct Canton Motor Speedway. Hooked at 6yrs old
— Hoss Cartwright (@Strokerace14) July 27, 2020
Speaking of Doug Wolfgang on #TheBullring, although it wasn’t at a track, one of my earliest memories was of him signing autographs (along with Terry Labonte in the picture) at the 1990 Miller Motorsports Show. pic.twitter.com/5dmSLhvyMr
— Aaron Creed (@aaron_creed) July 27, 2020
Fans can also watch a replay of “The Bullring” presented by FK Rod ends by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR