HEDGER: The Long Look
THE VILLAGES, Fla. — As anyone who has spent time in Florida knows, the entire state only has about three dozen natives. Everyone else came here from somewhere else, mostly from cold winter states.
Thus it was no surprise that when Michigan’s Allen Brown spoke at The Village’s Motor Racing Fan Club meeting this week, he was warmly received by members from the Midwest and Northeast.
Longtime readers know Brown as the former publisher of the “SuperFans Bible,” the National Speedway Directory, as well as the author of the highly regarded History of America’s Speedways, a comprehensive listing and history of tracks both past and present. But he also ranks among the nation’s foremost racing fans, having seen and enjoyed racing from coast to coast and border to border.
Club members were blown away by the map that Allen and wife Nancy carry with them, showing where they’ve been. Allen tipped that they’ve logged more than two million miles in their travels selling the NSD and visiting the speedways of America.
Brown’s father had been a race fan since 1928 and he took up the sport as a youngster and has never faltered in his quest to visit every track possible. At 17, he drove solo from Michigan to Oswego, N.Y., to watch Johnny Benson Sr. race in the International Classic, setting the stage for a lifetime of travel.
His quest was aided while in the Army, as he got sick during basic training in Fort Dix, N.J., and could not deploy to Europe with his unit. Once he recovered, an assignment to the Ft. Dix motor pool let him set his work schedule and he took full advantage, following the All-Star League’s midweek schedule while catching weekend shows at 28 Eastern speedways during the 1968 season.
Allen worked as a carpenter after leaving the service, but spent his leisure time at speedways around the Midwest and in the early 1970s he became involved with Midwest Auto Racing Guide publisher Larry Yard. Together they expanded the publication and by the time it was a truly national publication, Brown had taken charge and, with Nancy’s assistance, would publish the directory until he sold the business to Tim Frost in 2009.
“That let me become a full-time race fan instead of a carpenter doing the book in my spare time,” offered Brown, who added that the other major change in his life came with the purchase of his first computer in 1983. This allowed the development of a true database and the ability to print the book yearly instead of every other season.