No longer racing, but still driving memories
During the week they worked in the steel mills, drove trucks and built houses. Then in the evening, after dinner, they would be out in their garages, building, repairing, and tweaking their cars.
And when the weekend came, they would load up their cars and head to the race tracks.
Racing cars was a passion for these men, and for some of these ex-racers, the memories of this passion of swapping paint and tuning engines continues just about every month.
Between bacon and eggs and coffee at the Hamilton Police Association Club on Hamilton’s mountain, these men relive their racing days. They are all local racers who, in their day, competed in all oval track racing, from Midgets to Sportsman to Modifieds to Late Models.
During these Wednesday morning get-togethers, they talk of their times on the track, their race cars, how they should have won the feature at Speedway Park that night back in 1964, and how so-and-so is doing after his operation.
“Every month, the stories get bigger and better,” joked Larry Woods, who started racing in the Sportsman division at Speedway Park in 1969.“Jack (Hollis) got me racing,” he continued. “I would go to the track when I was younger wanting to work on the car and end up babysitting his son Ron.”
Last week, Woods and Hollis sat at the table with a who’s-who of local racing: Wayne Ready, Al Banyard, Bob Fisher, Ron Horncastle, Jack Greenhalgh, Bob Slack, Don Deagle, Ross May, Bill Daniels, Jim Ruddy, Mark Shadwell, Terry Kitchen, Dan Monaghan, and the elder statesman of the group, Bob Davidson.
“I’m the oldest driver here,” noted Davidson, who started racing in 1953. “I’m 88, the same as Slack, but I’m two months older.”
Most of the group congratulated Deagle who, the day before, turned 80. Deagle and his brothers were one of the most colourful acts in local circles (“my brother Larry was the dirty one,” he said) with their green and white Edsels.
One interesting aspect of the meeting was how some of the former racers were represented or accompanied by their sons. Murray and Don Nichols, the sons of the great car builder Wimpy Nichols, were there, along with Randy Slack with father Bob, Ron Hollis with father Jack, and Dave Gunn, son of the late Alex Gunn.
All these “younger” members of the group were prominent racers in their own right, and Dave Gunn continues the weekend tradition to this day, although as a straight-line drag racer.
The stories never stop.
Former Hamilton-area racers get together and swap stories every month.