Memorable Racers Are Still Making Memorable Moments
Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports
BY RON DRAGER
Ron Drager’s grandfather founded ARCA in 1953 and today Drager is the president of the stock-car sanctioning body.
It’s an honor to do a guest column for a newspaper I have so much respect for and have read since I’ve been involved in the sport. I’ve run across some great, memorable people. These are a few of them.
• Jack Bowsher had been retired from driving for 15 years when he was asked by Tracy Leslie to sub for him on the mile dirt at Springfield. As usual, the temperature and the humidity were in the 90s. All Bowsher did was win the pole and finish on the lead lap at the end of the 100-mile race. He was 59 at the time.
• Ken Schrader and Brian Ross were running nose to tail at Anderson Speedway at the end of a 200-lap race. Coming to the finish, Ross slowed. Schrader ran into the back of him, turning Ross. Schrader parked at the bottom of turn three and waited for Ross to re-fire, then drag-raced him back to the finish line. Of course, several cars had passed them, including Mark Gibson, who won the race. Schrader has more class and sportsmanship in what’s left of his bad thumb than most drivers today.
• Red Pugh was the “superintendent” at Daytona before that title got replaced by double digits of “departments.” By the time I got to know him, most of his red hair had turned gray, but he was red-faced and always wore a big straw hat that protected him from the sun. Whenever anything came up — and I mean anything from a gate that needed to be unlocked to a broken concrete retaining wall to overseeing construction of a grandstand addition — Pugh drove up in his red pickup truck, surveyed the situation and handled it expertly.
• Jim Bockhoven ran the control tower at all the ISC tracks back when there was only one guy in the control tower. From the time the gates opened at the start of the day until everybody was run out and they were locked, Bockie dictated policy over the base station radio in the tower. This meant that whenever his watch said it was time for the practice session to be over, it was over. When his booming voice came over race control, you didn’t have to guess who it was or whether you should pay attention.
• Tony Stewart was an unannounced entrant at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds for three-consecutive years. The first two years, Larry Clement and Frank and Bill Kimmel fielded a car for him, and he finished second to Frank both years. Stewart was close enough to have banged Frank out of the way to pass him at the end of either race, but he didn’t.
The third year, Stewart and Jimmy Elledge brought their own car and won. It was a patchwork team of Cup crew members, and they overlooked the rule about needing helmets and firesuits. They borrowed extra uniforms from other teams. They were colorful in the victory lane photos.
• Iggy Katona won six ARCA championships and most of his 79 career victories by the time I got to know him in the late 1960s. I will always remember him winning at Daytona in 1977 in his big old Dodge Charger, orange and yellow No. 30. He was at the end of his 25-year ARCA career, but fearless, confident and still sporting jet black hair and forearms like tree trunks — at age 57.
• Joy Fair won everything there was to win as a late-model driver, including 21 championships and more than 500 features at ARCA-sanctioned short tracks. At the end of one season in the early ’80s, Fair was leading the Flat Rock Speedway late-model points when he didn’t show up for a race. It cost him the championship. I called him on Monday to see where he was, and he’d gone to his grandmother’s birthday party. “You’re having races again next weekend, but I don’t know how many more birthdays my grandmother will have,” he explained.
• Zachary Gibson won a sprint-car race at Toledo Speedway last season. He’s the third generation of Gibsons to win with our organization (grandfather Todd the Flintstone Flyer and his sons, Gene Lee, Terry and Larry). Guess that means our company has been around awhile.
There’s really nothing like looking at a candid photo of parents after their kids have won a race. We’ve got three hanging on the walls at the ARCA office — Dale and Kerry Earnhardt at Pocono, Judy and Davey Allison at Talladega, and Richard, Kyle and Adam Petty after his victory at Charlotte. Smiles that could light up a dark race track.
Memorable stuff still happens pretty much every weekend, and I’m just glad to be part of it.
(Original Print Date: August 15, 2007)