No longer rac­ing, but still driv­ing mem­o­ries

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TIM MILLER tim­millerthe­car­guy@gmail.com.

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.

TIM MILLER PHOTO

For­mer Hamil­ton-area rac­ers get to­gether and swap sto­ries ev­ery month.

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