Short track racing fans have that one driver that helped make them the fans they are today. The Speed51 staff is no different. Our staff comes from different areas of the country and grew up in different time periods of short track racing history, for a unique list of drivers from multiple disciplines.
Our current staff members take a look at their childhood favorite drivers and the memories made growing up.
Evan Canfield, Speed51 Northeast Contributor – Brett Hearn: As a young kid, one of my favorite short track drivers was none other than Brett “The Jet” Hearn. Although I don’t know what made me pick the greatest Dirt Modified driver of all time as my favorite, I certainly picked a good one. Over the years I was able to watch Brett take on the best in Dirt Modified racing and saw him win multiple races, including his final Super Dirt Week victory at the Syracuse Mile in 2012. Through the races and victories, none stands out to me more than one of his final Super Dirt Series victories at Outlaw Speedway in 2018. Not only was it the only race I ever photographed that he won, but I was also fortunate to interview him and do one of my first articles for Speed51.com about his win. Even though his driving career is coming to a close, I always have been, and always will be, a Brett Hearn fan.
Daryl Canfield, Speed51 Field Ops Manager – Dave Nichols: I have been in racing my entire life. Through the years when I was a little kid sitting in the stands, our family followed Dave Nichols of Macedon, NY and the beautiful red No.34 wherever he went. Dave was always a contender and raced with the best of them. Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Geoff Bodine, and George Kent, just to name a few.
As I grew into my teen years, Dave had exited modified racing and was running a late model at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY. I would go spend a week at Dave’s every summer just to work on the car and go racing with him on Friday night.
Then came some of the best years of my life in racing. I got to crew on a sportsman modified that Dave was driving for car owner Joe Grosso. We visited victory lane at least a few times a year at Tioga Speedway (Owego, NY) during that time. The knowledge that Dave taught me with tire and chassis setups was pivotal later in my own racing endeavors.
We are all still involved in racing as it will never leave the blood that pumps through our veins. Most recently Dave was the truck driver for the GEICO No.13 in the cup series and I get to chase racing all over the country with Speed51.
I will be forever grateful to my parents for bringing me into this sport that we all love so much.
Alan Dietz, Speed51 Broadcaster – Ed Gibbons: My favorite short track racer was Ed Gibbons from Manning, SC. I remember very little from his days driving the White L1ghtening car at Lake View and Timmonsville in the early 1980’s, but my first clear memory of him was winning the last big dirt race at Myrtle Beach in 1986. He drove a red No. 07 and outran the Coors-sponsored #6 of Freddy Query and the Flintstone Flyer, Mike Duvall.
The thing about Ed, though, was him as a person, not necessarily a racer. My Grandpa Howard and I had watched him race for years and used to stop at his Car Quest Auto Parts store in Manning, SC when we would go down to the Santee-Cooper lakes to fish. The only thing quicker than Ed on the racetrack was watching him run around that store. He always made time for us, always talked to his fans wherever he raced no matter where he finished, and even came down and ate fish with us one afternoon before racing at Lake View. My Grandpa and I talked about going to the Hav-A-Tampa Shootout at Dixie Speedway in 1993 and Ed told us we could come down and watch the races from his hauler on Friday night. In 1994, he suggested that we stay at the same hotel as he and his crew while in Gaffney, SC for the Blue-Gray 100.
The funny thing is, is that there are hundreds of stories just like mine when you talk to other dirt track fans in the Carolinas. Unfortunately, Ed lost his life in a traffic accident near Lake Marion in SC in 2008. His dad, Slick, a legend in his own right, became a type of surrogate father and mentor for Ed’s sons, Gib and Kerry, when they began racing. Slick passed away earlier this year due to complications from COVID.
Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Tom Usry: Growing up going to races at Southern National Speedway – now known as Southern National Motorsports Park – I saw some big names compete at the 4/10-mile oval. Early track champions at the track include Scott Riggs, Jamey Caudill, Randy Renfrow, “Big” Jim Kelley and Billy Lucas.
However, as a kid I was admittedly more drawn to the unique Pro Trucks. In that division, my favorite driver was a local hero named Tom Usry. Unfortunately, most fans of a certain age only know of Usry for a violent ARCA crash at Daytona in 1989. However, he was one of the best in the Pro Trucks and was no slouch in Late Model competition as well.
I honestly have no idea why I was drawn to his signature No. 00 machines at Southern National. Still, my mask could barely hide the smile on my face when I saw Jody Measamer unload his own Pro Truck at events throughout the Carolinas this year, sporting an Usry tribute and that familiar No. 00.
Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Andy Bozell: The unique thing about growing up in Outlaw Super Late Model country (and only being 22) is that a lot of the drivers and teams who are competing in the discipline today were the same ones I watched as a kid. And back then, there was no bigger name in Outlaw racing than Andy Bozell.
He mostly made his name at Kalamazoo Speedway, winning 12 track championships and nine in a row from 1998-2005. Anytime I saw that No.83 at Kalamazoo or when he’d go south to M40, New Paris, you name it, I would instantly get really excited and I knew he would at the very least be racing for the win later on in the feature.
He also made his legend with the Call of the Wild and the “Rocket Car” owned by Harry Foote Jr. He has since dropped down the record to a 9.4, but I remember when he first broke the record with a “measly” 10:038 in 2010, then broke it again with ten-inch wheels the next year when nobody thought it would be touched. After winning the feature in 2010, I went down to the fence where they were doing victory lane at and he gave me and another kid a glove, which I had Bozell autograph the next season during an autograph night at Kalamazoo. I still have that glove to this day, ten years later.
Adam Mackey, Speed51 Broadcaster – Rich Rohrer: This was an easy question. I started going to the races every week at my hometrack, Midvale Speedway, when I was just 2 years old. Sometime shortly thereafter, I started rooting for the sharp looking and fast No.7 of Rich Rohrer. Not sure why he was my favorite, as I was too young to remember. Didn’t matter whether it was a dash, heat, pursuit, or feature, he gave it 110% going for the win. Winningest driver in Midvale Speedway history as well as the Main Event Racing Series. Down the road we became friends and he helped prepare the racecar that we picked up a good number of strong finishes with, and much of that credit goes to him. While he started racing in 1974, he still races on a part time basis to this day, in fact winning two big Late Model features at Midvale in 2019. Fortunately, after taking 2020 off, it sounds like he might get back behind the wheel again during the 2021 season.
Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Tim Brackett: Earning his nickname from legendary track announcer Bobby Walker, Brackett piloted the No. 60 Dunkin’ Donuts Pro Stock at Oxford Plains Speedway during my childhood.
I became a Tim Brackett fan through a family relationship. I eventually lived in one of his old houses, which also sat directly next to the garage where he housed his race cars. In addition to seeing his Pro Stock in the garage, I also remember seeing his old Busch North cars outside the shop.
My fondest memories growing up are watching “Timmy” battle fellow Pro Stock stars such as Jeff Taylor, Gary Drew and Ricky Rolfe each week at Oxford.
“The Donut Man” is still going strong and has qualified for every Oxford 250 since 2009.
Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Ted Christopher: With Stafford Motor Speedway being my home track, 20 years ago I learned quickly as a kid that there were two sides I could take during the Friday night SK Modified features: being a Ted Christopher fan or being Ted Christopher hater. I chose option one.
Here was a driver that could make any battle one to watch every week it seemed, mostly for the lead. He could go on the road and do the same, some times against “top tier” drivers in different cars, and on TV a few times for all to see.
Best of all, he didn’t care who he’d tick off on track to get the trophy, and he had no reservations of telling someone exactly what he thought of them. Which in my childhood was something I could relate to (for better or worse).
Nowadays, there’s sadness mixed in some sadness in how much we all miss TC. But, I always end up feeling pumped up when I think back to all those great memories.
Elgin Traylor, Speed51 “Stat Boy” – Stan Meserve: I had a lot of drivers that I followed when I was growing up, but one of the more memorable ones was Stan Meserve. He was big deal at my home track of Unity Raceway back in the day when my mom first started watching racing. He went south and ran NASCAR in 1968 before returning to Maine to build his own cars at Distance Racing in 1983.
In the early 90’s he replaced Jim McCallum in the No.2 P.T Watts car and I got my first exposure to him. He was a terror in the Summer Sizzler Series around Maine and I watched him win the Long Long 100 at Unity one night. There was something about that car that was all black with a giant number two on it. At times it seemed like it was a big shark in the water lurking for the win. As a fan he always took time for anyone and I can remember him answering almost every question I had. In 1998 he completed his quest to be the only driver to win championships at Unity Raceway, Speedway 95, Wiscasset and Oxford Plains Speedway.
-Story by: Speed51 Staff