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Favorite Drivers

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My all-time favorite drivers

From the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”

 

 

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Dake Deland 1971311

It was fun being a fan of Fords and the drivers who “made” me go to the track to see them race.
When I first became interested in auto racing I chose my racing location based upon where my favorite drivers would be competing.  My racing career as a fan started out in the “jalopy” days at the Peoria Speedway at the Mt. Hawley airport.  It was here that I started cheering for my first ever favorite driver Rocky Nohl.  I think I liked him because he drove a Ford and won his share of races.


As time went on I began to travel.  This allowed me to see racing all over the Midwest.  Dirt racing was strong in Illinois and Iowa.  That’s where I started following my all-time favorite driver Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa who was driving a Ford at the time.  From dirt racing I branched out into the ASA circuit and their asphalt racing.  Dick Trickle (driving a Ford Fairlane and then a Mustang) was always my (and my stepfather’s) favorite driver.


Corporate relocations would move us from Illinois to Ohio to Arizona to California to Connecticut and back to Illinois and finally back to California.  All along the way I picked up favorite drivers in all of the major divisions of U.S. racing.  I hope you enjoy reading and seeing my list of favorite drivers.  I’m sure you have your own.  It’s fun to look back over the many years of racing and remembering the drivers who brought me to the racetrack.

 

 

 

This is my most cherished photo of Darrell Dake in my collection.  This is the first car I ever saw Darrell drive.  This would have been during the 1967-69 period.  He won feature after feature at the Sterling Speedbowl in this 1962 Ford.  This photo is my favorite because Darrell gave it to me many years after I first saw him racing this car.

This is my most cherished photo of Darrell Dake in my collection. This is the first car I ever saw Darrell drive. This would have been during the 1967-69 period. He won feature after feature at the Sterling Speedbowl in this 1962 Ford. This photo is my favorite because Darrell gave it to me many years after I first saw him racing this car.

 

All I needed to guarantee a good night of racing was to see this hauler coming over the hill.

All I needed to guarantee a good night of racing was to see this hauler coming over the hill.


Darrell Dake – My all-time favorite driver

I first start watching Darrell Dake race at the Sterling (IL) Speedbowl.  As far as I am concerned that was the golden age of racing.  During this time Darrell Dake raced a ’62 Ford convertible.  It seemed as if he were nearly unbeatable against the stiffest of competition.  Of the more than 100,000 drivers I estimate I have seen race Darrell became my all-time favorite driver.  Don’t miss my Darrell Dake tribute page found elsewhere on my site.

 

Rocky Nohl

Rocky Nohl – my first ever favorite driver

I first started going to the races in about 1955 at the Peoria Speedway located at the Mt. Hawley airport.  Back then the top stock car division was the old 1932-1940 coupes.  To this day this class is my most favorite.  At the age of five or so everyone in my extended family drove a Ford.  Maybe that’s why I latched onto Rocky Nohl as my very first favorite driver.



"Cousin Ernie" Gilkerson

“Cousin Ernie” Gilkerson

Ernie Gilkerson

‘Cousin Ernie” as he was known around the dirt tracks of Southeastern Illinois, at tracks like Macon Speedway, was actually my great uncle.  He and his family hailed from Chrisman, Illinois.  Despite Chrisman being just 140 miles from my hometown of East Peoria I never got to see my uncle race.  We didn’t have any money for that kind of travel!  However, at family reunions I wore out “Uncle Ernie’s” ear with questions about his racing.  It is said that when one of his friends was killed in a race Ernie was also in Uncle Ernie lost his desire to race.

 

Don Bohlander

Don Bohlander

Don Bohlander was probably the winningest driver ever at my home track, the Peoria Speedway.  He was known as a clean driver who never spun out or spun anyone else out.  He often hugged the bottom in Hemi-powered cars with the number “57 or 65” on the side.  I probably saw Don win more features at the Peoria Speedway than anyone else.

 

Bill Cheesebourg, from Tucson, Arizona was always one of my favorite west coast drivers.

Bill Cheesebourg, from Tucson, Arizona was always one of my favorite west coast drivers.


Bill Cheesebourg (left) with his Arizona rival Carl Trimmer.

Bill Cheesebourg (left) with his Arizona rival Carl Trimmer.

Bill Cheesebourg

Bill Cheesebourg was probably best known for racing in the Indy 500 six times.  However, I first saw him race when we lived in Phoenix and Manzanita Speedway was our home track.  I liked Bill because he drove Fords and won races.  I saw him race several time at the Corona Speedway (CA).  




Billy Moyer

 

Billy Moyer, Batesville, Arkansas, has always been one of my favorite late model drivers.

Billy Moyer, Batesville, Arkansas, has always been one of my favorite late model drivers.

Billy Moyer.

As I began to travel further and further from home I began rooting for Billy Moyer Jr. in the biggest dirt races in the country.  Like all of my favorites Billy seemed to race intelligently, raced everyone clean and won races.  To this day if I go to a major dirt race I will be pulling for Billy Moyer.

Dick_Trickle_1973

 

We followed Dick Trickle all over Wisconsin and Illinois and lots of other places.  He is one of my all-time favorite drivers.

We followed Dick Trickle all over Wisconsin and Illinois and lots of other places. He is one of my all-time favorite drivers.


Dick Trickle

I first started following Dick Trickle at the Rockford Nationals in Rockford, Illinois in 1969-70.  Dick was driving Fords and winning races.  However, in those days, it seemed as if Dick Trickle was as likely to blow an engine as win the feature.  We followed him to the USAC races on the Milwaukee Mile where he always seemed a little underfunded against drivers like Don White, Jack Bowsher and A.J. Foyt.  I’ve seen Dick Trickle race well over one hundred times.  I’ve had the chance to meet him a few times as well.  When he began racing in the NASCAR Cup races he was always my favorite.  Even though I really rooted for Dick my stepfather Bill had Dick Trickle as his all-time favorite driver.

 

Richard Petty

 

Carol and I have always been Richard Petty fans.  Some even think our youngest son, James Richard (Petty) was named after the King.

Carol and I have always been Richard Petty fans. Some even think our youngest son, James Richard (Petty) was named after the King.

 

Richard Petty

I saw my first NASCAR race, the Atlanta 500, in 1971.  A.J. Foyt won.  However, from the very first NASCAR TV broadcast I ever watched until 1992 I was a Richard Petty fan.  I’ve been down to Level Cross, North Carolina several times to visit the race shops of the “King”.  Richard Petty was the first NASCAR driver I ever pulled for.  I waited behind the scoring tower after a NASCAR West race at the Phoenix International Raceway to get Richard Petty’s famous autograph.  Another time my stepfather and I were walking in the pit area of the Nashville International Raceway only to cross paths directly with Richard.  Of course, he gave us a smile and hello.


Ramo Stott #0 racing his nemesis Ernie Derr.

Ramo Stott #0 racing his nemesis Ernie Derr.

Ramo Stott

I first started watching Ramo Stott race Mopar products at the USCA stock car races in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I was surprised to see him show up one night racing his Plymouth Hemi at the Sycamore Speedway which was about like watching Mickey Mantle show up at your local pony league game.  I rooted for him when he raced in NASCAR on a limited basis as well.  I always regret I never saw any of his epic battles with Ernie Derr in IMCA stock car events.


Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

It seems as if everyone has a favorite driver in NASCAR.  I have always rooted for Jeff Gordon.  He’s in the mold of most of my favorites, a well-spoken clean driver who has success on the track.  To this day I will be pulling for Jeff as I watch flag to flag coverage of every NASCAR Cup race.

 

Hershel McGriff was always my favorite in the many NASCAR Northwest races I saw.

Hershel McGriff was always my favorite in the many NASCAR Northwest races I saw.

Hershel McGriff


 

Rick Ferkel racing at Hales Corners (WI).

Rick Ferkel racing at Hales Corners (WI).



RickFerkelatLawton78

Rick Ferkel

I first saw Rick Ferkel race and win at the Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona in 1974.  Back then they were racing sprint cars without a wing.  Over the years I went to more than 100 World of Outlaws sprint car races.  It seemed as if several of my favorite drivers were on the underfunded side.  However, they were always the “nice guys” of their sport and won often enough to keep me happy.  I never watched a sprint car race with Rick Ferkel in it that I didn’t have an eye on “my driver” no matter where he was in the pack.

 

Buster Venard

Buster Venard

In 1974 we moved to the greater Los Angeles area and the famous Ascot Park became my home track.  They raced wingless sprint cars.  I fell in love with the wingless sprinters and to this day prefer them over winged sprint cars.  Buster Venard battled Jimmie Oskie, Dean Thompson and Rick Goudy for some great wins at Ascot until it closed in 1990.



Lealand McSpadden the "Tempe Tornado"

Lealand McSpadden the “Tempe Tornado”

Lealand McSpadden

I first started watching Lealand McSpadden race back at the Manzanita Speedway when we live in Phoenix back in 1974.  Lealand, known as the “Tempe Tornado” was one of the hardest charging drivers I had ever seen.  He was a “checkers or wreckers” type of driver. He also was one of the nicest guys on the track.

However, it was a chance encounter with Lealand on an airplane that made him one of my all-time favorites.  I was returning from Indianapolis to Phoenix with a change of planes in St. Louis.  Who do you think I sat next too on the flight from Indy to St. Louis?  Of course, Lealand McSpadden!   I recognized him immediately.  Lealand was returning to his home in Arizona after a race in Indiana.  All during the flight I peppered him with questions about racing.  While we waited for our next plane in St. Louis I bought Lealand a piece of cherry pie and we talked some more.  He could not have been nicer.

I followed Lealand McSpadden’s racing all up and down California and along the World of Outlaws tour from time to time.  I was concerned about his bout with cancer but it looks as if that dreaded disease is in his rearview mirror.

 




Bob McCreadie 1995039

Bob Mccreadie

“Barefoot” Bob McCreadie

We were transferred to Connecticut in 1979.  This gave me my first exposure to D.I.R.T. modified racing in the Northeast.  I loved it.  There weren’t then and there aren’t now many racing groups that will put the fastest guys toward the back to start the race.  Nevertheless, the fastest drivers with D.I.R.T. including “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie usually made it to the front.  Bob was another driver who I followed until the end of his career.



I loved watching Kenny Brightbill race modifieds all over the northeast.

I loved watching Kenny Brightbill race modifieds all over the northeast.

Kenny Brightbill

 

 

Mark Noble

Mark Noble

One of my favorite racing classes is the modified originated by Hawkeye Racing News editor Keith Knaack back in 1979.  Whenever I can I try to watch the United States Modified Touring Series (USMTS) race.  That’s where I discovered Mark Noble of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota.  I’ve seen him win as far away from home as Florida.  As a matter of fact my last speeding ticket, in 2003, was in Mark’s hometown of Blooming Prairie.  I didn’t have the good sense to use Mark’s name with the police officer (who was a race fan) until after he had written the ticket.

 

Parnelli Jones

Parnelli Jones

My first ever road racing even was at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin back in the late 60s.  My college fraternity held a summer campout each summer during my years at Northern Illinois University.  Road America was running the famous Trans-Am series then.  My favorite driver of the group, Parnelli Jones, ran a Ford Mustang.  I’ve never been a big road racing fan but the Trans-Am races were fun.

 

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Peter Becker

I have seen racing at well over 200 figure 8 racetracks.  No one has seen more.  If there were a minimum of 15 drivers at each track, I have seen somewhere around 4,000 figure 8 drivers racing.  I could not tell you the NAME of a single figure 8 driver other than my all-time favorite…..Peter Becker.  Peter races all over Ontario, Canada.  He drives car #57.  Why car #57?  Because Peter is fifty-seven years old.  I first met Peter when he was driving car #53!  The car in the picture is eight years old.  Peter estimates that during each of his four championship seasons with the car he won $8,000-10,000 Canadian.  However, on the day this photo was taken he told me this might have been the last race on this car.

 

Frankie Wainman Jr.

Frankie Wainman Jr.


Frankie Wainman Jr.
I’ve seen more racing at more tracks in the United Kingdom than in any continent outside of North America.  The BriSCA F1 stock cars are my favorite racing class in the U.K.  Frankie Wainman Jr. is my favorite driver in BriSCA F1, the U.K. and in all of Europe.  Frankie routinely starts each race from the back of a 30-car field and either wins or finishes in the top 5.  Check out my photos of Frankie Wainman Jr. from my 2012 visit to the Stoke Stadium.


Steve Williams - New Zealand Saloon Car Champion

Steve Williams – New Zealand Saloon Car Champion


It was fun seeing my favorite New Zealand driver compete "down under" during an end of the 2013 season trip to NZ.

It was fun seeing my favorite New Zealand driver compete “down under” during an end of the 2013 season trip to NZ.


Steve Williams

Carol and I first met Steve Williams in late December, 2006 during our 12-track trip to New Zealand.  Steve was organizing and driving in a seven night “speedweeks” when we first saw him racing his Valvoline sponsored Ford Mustang.  Steve is a hard-nosed competitor and a fan favorite in New Zealand.  Steve was most impressed with our trackchasing hobby.  When Steve isn’t racing his “day job” is as a professional golf caddie.  Currently, he’s on the bag for Adam Scott winner of the 2013 Masters tournament.  In the past Steve has worked with Tiger Woods, Ray Floyd and Greg Norman.  Look for the “Valvoline” logo the next time you see “Stevie” on TV.

 

 

ice

As the “World’s #1 ICE trackchaser I’ve seen my share of ice racing.  I’ve seen ice racing in several foreign countries outside of North America including Andorra, Finland and Russia.  In Canada I’ve visited racing on the ice in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.  In the U.S. I’ve shown up to see ice racing in Alaska, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

 

 

Yep!  I’ve seen a lot of ice racing….all over the world.  However, I have just one favorite ice racing driver.  It’s Alan Darrah from Rutland, Massachusetts.  Alan’s been racing the very SAME car for 50 years on the ice!!  Yes, in 2015 Alan marked his 50th consecutive year of racing his red #20 1930 Model A Ford coupe.  

 

Alan Darrah

 

Alan Darrach 35

You can only have so many favorite drivers right?  Nevertheless, I have been fortunate to see so many famous (either locally or on the national or international stage) drivers that I wanted to give them a shoutout too.  Here are several that made my racechasing days so much fun.


Doug Wolfgang from 1997 in Findlay, Ohio.  Doug was one of the most calculating drivers ever.  His autobiography is a great read.

Doug Wolfgang from 1997 in Findlay, Ohio. Doug was one of the most calculating drivers ever. His autobiography is a great read.

 

 

Brett Hearn shown here in 1995 at Elbridge, New York.  Brett "The corporate jet" understood sponsorship better than just about anyone.

Brett Hearn shown here in 1995 at Elbridge, New York. Brett “The corporate jet” understood sponsorship better than just about anyone.

 

 

Jack Johnson aka "Jumpin Jack" racing out of New York.  On this day Jack won the 200-lap feature at Rolling Wheels.

Jack Johnson aka “Jumpin Jack” racing out of New York. On this day Jack won the 200-lap feature at Rolling Wheels.

 

Brad Doty down at Devil's Bowl in Mesquite, Texas

Brad Doty down at Devil’s Bowl in Mesquite, Texas

 

Brady Doty.

Brady Doty.

 

Bob Pierce, racing out of Danville, Illinois, always did well.

Bob Pierce, racing out of Danville, Illinois, always did well.

 

I first started seeing Bobby "Scruffy" Allen race when he made the trip from the east to Ascot.  I would see his race team sleeping overnight in highway rest areas when I traveled "back east".

I first started seeing Bobby “Scruffy” Allen race when he made the trip from the east to Ascot. I would see his race team sleeping overnight in highway rest areas when I traveled “back east”.

 

Billy Moyer, Batesville, Arkansas, has always been one of my favorite late model drivers.

Billy Moyer, Batesville, Arkansas, has always been one of my favorite late model drivers.

 

Very few of the drivers that I followed were your "hair on fire, use the chrome bumper types of drivers.  They were just hard nosed competitive people like Jimmy Sills.

Very few of the drivers that I followed were your “hair on fire, use the chrome bumper types of drivers. They were just hard nosed competitive people like Jimmy Sills.

 

I've been following Mark Martin for nearly 40 years.  I watched him race on the ASA and ARTGO circuits before he ever made it big in NASCAR.  Back in the day after winning the Rockford Nationals at age 16 he was known as the "kid".

I’ve been following Mark Martin for nearly 40 years. I watched him race on the ASA and ARTGO circuits before he ever made it big in NASCAR. Back in the day after winning the Rockford Nationals at age 16 he was known as the “kid”.

 

I wasn't a big fan of Steve Kinser's interaction with the fans but there was NO DOUBT who the best sprint car driver of all time was.

I wasn’t a big fan of Steve Kinser’s interaction with the fans but there was NO DOUBT who the best sprint car driver of all time was.

 

Ronnie Weedon from Pleasant Valley, Iowa.  I first saw him race at Davenport and then at Peoria many times thereafter.

Ronnie Weedon from Pleasant Valley, Iowa. I first saw him race at Davenport and then at Peoria many times thereafter.

 

I always enjoyed watching Tim Green race with the World of Outlaws.  He was a hard charger.

I always enjoyed watching Tim Green race with the World of Outlaws. He was a hard charger.

 

Tim Green

Tim Green

 

Jimmy Horton is probably best known for his dirt modified racing.  However, I was at Talladega the day he ended up flying over the wall in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Jimmy Horton is probably best known for his dirt modified racing. However, I was at Talladega the day he ended up flying over the wall in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

 

My love of wingless sprint cars began at Ascot Park with drivers like Dean Thompson.

My love of wingless sprint cars began at Ascot Park with drivers like Dean Thompson.

 

I've followed the Allen Automotive #16 (a) since the car was garaged just two doors from where I lived.  That dates back more than 50 years!

I’ve followed the Allen Automotive #16 (a) since the car was garaged just two doors from where I lived. That dates back more than 50 years!

 

Ronnie Shuman was a great open-wheel driver who raced against some tough competition.  I was there for all of his Ascot Park turkey night wins.

Ronnie Shuman was a great open-wheel driver who raced against some tough competition. I was there for all of his Ascot Park turkey night wins.

 

Every winner needs a trophy queen.

Every winner needs a trophy queen.

 

Although Canadian Tim Gee always seemed a bit underfunded I enjoyed watching him race.

Although Canadian Tim Gee always seemed a bit underfunded I enjoyed watching him race.

 

Although I didn't get the chance to see Larry Phillips race as much as I would have liked he was one of the very best ever to drive a short track stock car.

Although I didn’t get the chance to see Larry Phillips race as much as I would have liked he was one of the very best ever to drive a short track stock car.

 

Shane Carson, racing out of Oklahoma City, was a tough competitor.

Shane Carson, racing out of Oklahoma City, was a tough competitor.

 

Bob Senneker was as tough as they come on asphalt short tracks as any EVER. I followed him to five straight Winchester 400 wins (that's 2,000 laps!).

Bob Senneker was as tough as they come on asphalt short tracks as any EVER. I followed him to five straight Winchester 400 wins (that’s 2,000 laps!).

 

Jack Hewitt always a crowd favorite.

Jack Hewitt always a crowd favorite.

 

Two of the best share a smoke at the World 100, Larry Moore and Jack Boggs.

Two of the best share a smoke at the World 100, Larry Moore and Jack Boggs.

 

Eddie Wirth was "worth" the price of admission at Ascot Park.

Eddie Wirth was “worth” the price of admission at Ascot Park.

 

Alan (A.J. Slideways) Johnson always a top driver in the Northeast.

Alan (A.J. Slideways) Johnson always a top driver in the Northeast.

 

Rockford Speedway has played host to a large number of great drivers.  Who was the very best at Rockford?  Lil Joe Shear!

Rockford Speedway has played host to a large number of great drivers. Who was the very best at Rockford? Lil Joe Shear!

 

Jimmie Oskie made for lots of fun nights at Ascot Park.

Jimmie Oskie made for lots of fun nights at Ascot Park.

 

Gary Balough, one of the best ever racing talents, who didn't fully reach his potential although he was very good.

Gary Balough, one of the best ever racing talents, who didn’t fully reach his potential although he was very good.

 

Buster Venard was my all-time favorite Ascot Park sprint car driver.

Buster Venard was my all-time favorite Ascot Park sprint car driver.

 

Now THAT'S why I like wingless sprint car racing!

Now THAT’S why I like wingless sprint car racing!

 

I didn't get to see Karl Sanger race all that much but had to include him here because he was one of the "Sanger boys".

I didn’t get to see Karl Sanger race all that much but had to include him here because he was one of the “Sanger boys”.

 

I watched Jeff Swindell race all over in the 1980s and saw him win again at the Jackson Speedway in 2013.

I watched Jeff Swindell race all over in the 1980s and saw him win again at the Jackson Speedway in 2013.

 

Danny (The Doctor) Johnson, brother to Alan Johnson and famous NY racer.

Danny (The Doctor) Johnson, brother to Alan Johnson and famous NY racer.

 

Pennsylvania's Keith Kauffman was a solid competitor.

Pennsylvania’s Keith Kauffman was a solid competitor.

 

Charlie Swartz revolutionized late model racing with the "wedge" late model.

Charlie Swartz revolutionized late model racing with the “wedge” late model.

 

Mark Kinser, cousin to Steve Kinser, was an excellent driver and World of Outlaws champion.

Mark Kinser, cousin to Steve Kinser, was an excellent driver and World of Outlaws champion.

 

Sadly I've seen six drivers and one fan killed during the events I have attended.

Sadly I’ve seen six drivers and one fan killed during the events I have attended.



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