Many drivers will attest to the name of Wilbur Hebing as he once wheeled a Modified around the 5/8-mile paved oval of Oswego Speedway in Oswego, New York. Now working as a crew member and fabricator, it was a reminiscent moment that pushed Hebring to embark on an act of kindness.
It all started as just another day at Oswego Speedway (NY) as Hebing was at the track helping out the Catalano family with their race cars. Meanwhile, high school senior Tommy Rought was there with his family also competing in his own Modified.
“As the day went on, the rugged, battered look of the 40 car of Rought’s just kind of ate at Wilbur. He watched throughout the day and realized these guys really don’t have a lot and are just out here doing what they can with what they have got,” family friend and Speed51.com photographer Daryl Canfield said.
“Tommy is a nice young kid who shows respect around the track. Wilbur realized that a couple of the pillar post on the Rought 40 were actually off a car he had driven to many victories. By the end of the day, Wilbur approached the Roughts and said he would like to put a body on the car for them.”
Tommy Rought said that it was “out-of-the-blue” and “completely unexpected” as they had no real prior relationship with Hebing.
Hebing recognized those panels and saw it as a perfect opportunity to help a young racer.
“That was one of the reasons he came down. We had wrecked the car at Mahoning and dad had bought a couple panels from Ed McGuire, who Wilbur had drove for, and it had a winning sticker on there that Wilbur had gotten. He had seen them and he wanted those panels hanging up in his garage,” Rought told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Despite his young age, Rought has an extensive racing background himself as he has been racing for close to 10 years.
Like many others, Rought got his start in go-karts where he collected track and state championship. He then moved through the rankings of Four-Cylinders, Micro Sprints, and Sportsman before finding himself behind the wheel of a Modified.
“That was a Sportsman car last year but we decided to run it as a Modified this year, so we played last year just running a little bit here and there and this year Wilbur put a body on it and we are running it as a Modified before I leave for the Airforce,” Rought explained. “We are going to be running it for like six shows.”
On that day at Oswego Speedway, Wilbur Hebing saw something of himself in the young racer.
“I really liked his story. A young kid trying to go racing with his dad before he goes off to the Air Force,” Hebing explained. “That really hit home with me. I didn’t get a chance to do as much racing with my dad before he passed so I appreciated their story. My dad didn’t get to see the racers that my brother and I turned into.”
Hebing said that he couldn’t help the Roughts out monetarily but he would put a new body on the car if the family would bring the car to his house three hours away.
“I was fortunate to have a lot of people help me about and spend a lot of money on me as I was racing,” he said. “I wanted to pay it forward and to be able to help someone else out because it isn’t something you see very often anymore.”
A much-deserving teenager will now start his 2017 racing season off by sporting a new body before graduating high school and enrolling in the United States Armed Forces. That isn’t all though. This act of kindness went much further than just the body. Hebing redid the interior in the cockpit, nerf bar mounts, and upgraded a few other things on Rought’s ride.
And just to think, all of this started because of a few body panels on a rugged, battered race car.
-Story by Hannah Newhouse, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent