Hall Of Famer Knows He Was Lucky To Get His Big Break
Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports
BY SHANE CARSON
Shane Carson will be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Today: Shane works in Industry Relations for DIRT MotorSports.
Still Races: Shane still races sprint cars when his schedule will allow.
Everyone has someone in their life who gave them a chance when no one else would. My dad and older brother, Scott, gave me the inspiration and tools to become a racer. I see so many with the talent to do it, but who can’t get the break to make it happen. I was one of those in the 1970s. I had a dream, but not a clue how to get with the right people or gain the exposure I needed.
After selling programs, running the scoreboard and other assorted race-track jobs, I graduated from motocross to racing my brother’s modified on the quarter mile at Oklahoma City, while he raced a supermodified on the half mile. OKC was unique in those days and ran both tracks weekly. My dad, Bud, ran the OKC races from 1957 until he passed away in 1991. His love was the speedway, and in the late ’60s and early ’70s, we had more than 100 cars in two classes, with crowds close to 10,000 every Friday.
After receiving rookie-of-the-year honors in ’73, I was lucky enough to get Scott’s half-mile car when he bought a McElreath sprinter. The Nance super was Greg Lee’s Tijuana Taxi from Amarillo. It gave me a car I could take on the road.
But 1974 was a difficult year for our family’s Mar-Car organization. The Oklahoma Racing Ass’n wanted more money as its members believed the purse had not kept up with the expenses of the cars. How many tracks have we seen this happen to? When the ORA organized a strike against my dad’s events in OKC, I was done. I started traveling to Dewey, Okla., to race on Fridays and Tulsa Speedway on Saturdays. Racing was good there, with big crowds and new opportunities for me.
The National Championship Racing Ass’n had a six-cylinder class, and there were hundreds of them within a four- or five-state area.
My brother Scott had always carried the nickname “Crash,” but I saw his style on track as smooth; aggressive, but controlled. I wish I could have been more like him in those early days when that big concrete wall in Tulsa and I seemed inseparable. I finally got a handle on it and became a full-time modified driver when there were none, running 50 to 60 races a year.
John Kalb, the always moody but very loyal Firestone dealer in Tulsa, took a liking to me. He elected me as test pilot for his theories and we started winning. Scott’s old Nance super that I scaled down to a modified with a six-cylinder Ford was one of the cars to beat. But I wanted to get out on the road and run with Leep, Woodside, Ferkel, Opperman, Shuman, Linder, McElreath, Leavitt, Corbin, Wolfgang, Allen and others. I wanted to race against them, but I felt they were way out of my league.
Kalb told sprint-car owner Lavern Nance about me, and Nance set up a two-night audition for me at Dewey, Okla., and Tulsa in ’76. I can’t tell you the difference in a 100-inch wheelbased six-cylinder modified and a full-blown 86-inch sprinter, but it was big. We tested at Tulsa after I had won the modified feature and the supers had raced. What was left of the track was right on the wall. It felt like the old black No. 1n was running 150 miles per hour all the way around that big circle.
I managed not to hit the wall, and Nance and I were on our way. I left Tulsa and the modified point lead behind to follow the sprints to Denver, where I was a mid-pack runner in my first sprint-car race, while Doug Wolfgang and Eddie Leavitt split the twin features.
Over the years, Nance had some of the best in his company. George Gillespie, Chris Paulsen, Tommy Sanders, Tim Carlson, Kenny Jenkins, Dave Brozowski and so many more that have graduated from the Nance college of racing.
When Nance and I won the 1977 sprint-car opener at Phenix City, Ala., it put me in the pool of drivers that could win, and I got called on for rides all over the U.S. and Australia.
People took an interest in what I was doing. It is hard to single out just one, as there were years I drove for eight to 10 owners while living out of my old blue Suburban, with Debbie and I wondering if we were driving 10 hours for a rain-out, or if the car I was about to drive would be less than promised.
It’s been one great ride — one I’m still on today.
(Original Print Date: May 30, 2007)