CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.
It has only gotten worse lately.
He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.
That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.
This they can’t.
While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.
“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’
They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.
Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.
They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.
Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.
Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.
“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.
“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’
While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.
Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.
“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’
As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.
As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’
He also was prepared.
Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.
“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’
Robert also felt nervous.
“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’
The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.
Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.
“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’
His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands.
After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.
Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.
When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.
“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’
That passion led him to this moment.
“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.
While Saturday night’s All-Star Race had its moments — there was some three-wide racing early and Kyle Busch’s winning pass on the final restart proved exciting — this event again didn’t measure up to its past.
Admittedly it’s difficult to match the 1992 All-Star Race — that “hot night” that marked the first night race at a 1.5-mile track and finished with winner Davey Allison crashing after a last-lap duel with Kyle Petty. But when a NASCAR fan asks another “Were you there the night that …” they’re often talking about an All-Star Race 15-20 years ago.
Saturday’s event soon will fade except to Busch fans who saw their driver win his first All-Star Race.
The problem is this event, as much as any Cup race, is meant to entertain and introduce the sport to potential fans with its club-like driver intros, on-track action and short timeframe (Saturday’s race ran 72 minutes).
Three lead changes in 70 laps is hardly considered entertaining even by the most generous fans.
So what’s next?
NASCAR has shown it is willing to make major changes to enhance the action from stage racing to a new playoff format. Stage racing has created excitement at points in races that normally might not have had as much action.
NASCAR hoped to follow that by introducing a second tire compound, a softer tire, for this event. The goal was for the tire to be quicker than the normal tire — but to also wear quicker. The hope was that it would create cars moving forward and backward, giving fans the action they want it see.
“I don’t think Goodyear hit the tire very well,’’ Brad Keselowski said after finishing ninth. “I think they missed pretty big. The tire was supposed to be much faster than it was.’’
Busch said Goodyear could have gone with a “little bit softer, utilize a little bit more grip in order to be faster, have more split between the two tires.’’
Maybe the next move is that NASCAR tries it again next year but Goodyear does more with the tire and creates the bigger difference in speed.
If not that, what else could NASCAR do to match its stance of bigger and bolder moves?
Maybe it’s time for a venue change.
“Bristol Motor Speedway,’’ Clint Bowyer said. “They (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) own them both. It’s only a three-hour drive for Charlotte. That’s where I’d have it.
“If you want to put on a show, you want to see emotion and beating and banging and being able to do something. I don’t know.
“We’ve tried and tried and tried to get ourselves in a situation here in Charlotte where we could do that, you can’t find it. It’s a great big-track program with the 600 and the long runs and that’s when the outside line widens out and you get a little better show. It’s just hard. Everybody is trying. We’re just missing it somehow.’’
Runner-up Kyle Larson, who won the opening two stages, also would like to see the event be held elsewhere.
“I think it’s really cool to change the venue,’’ he said. “I don’t know if racetracks could bid on the All‑Star Race or bid on the final race of the season.
“It would open up different fan bases to come see a big event. You’re not going to get many people from the West Coast to fly out here for the All‑Star Race, I don’t think. It would be cool to have an All‑Star Race in Fontana or Vegas or Sonoma. Road courses, anywhere. It would be cool to switch it up every year.’’
Or maybe it’s time for a change to the rule book.
“The rule book is so thick, and the cars are so equal, we run the same speed,’’ Jimmie Johnson said after his third-place finish. “You can’t pass running the same speed. It’s just the bottom line.’’
But even a seven-time champion admits he doesn’t know how much to cut.
“I’m like everybody else that is involved in this sport: I have an opinion, but I don’t have the answer,’’ he said.
“I just know when you look at qualifying and you look at the cars on the track, we want parity, we want the manufacturers to all have the same opportunity to go fast. These teams all build the same stuff. We all sit there and run the same speed. I mean, it makes sense. We all have access to the same stuff.
“I don’t have the answer. I guess I say that in trying to not say that it’s the track’s fault or something that’s going on here. Mile‑and‑a‑half racing is mile‑and‑a‑half racing. It’s kind of that way. When all the cars are qualifying as tight as they do, we can’t pass as easily as anybody, we have to logically look at it and say, ‘Hey, we’re all going the same speed, no wonder we can’t pass.’’’
This track can still have its moments with this event but it’s time for NASCAR’s leadership to consider what’s best for the sport. It is still best for the sport to have this event on a 1.5-mile track? Or is it better to keep it here but make other changes?
More needs to be done to make this event something fans won’t soon forget.
CONCORD, N.C. – Roughly 40 minutes after the 1992 Winston ended in smoke, sparks and battered sheet metal, at least 1,000 fans still occupied the stands.
They were still trying to wrap their minds around it all.
TNN pit reporter Glenn Jarrett was tasked with talking to Richard Petty after his final start in the All-Star Race.
When Jarrett found him, Petty was looking out at the fans, still drenched in the brand-new lights surrounding Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Petty turned to Jarrett and pointed.
“These people think we’re going to go back out there and do this again?” The King asked in disbelief.
In those stands was Kyle Petty. The SABCO Racing driver, along with unofficial bodyguard Eddie Gossage, was walking through enemy territory.
Without an elevator available, they had to walk all the way to the press box. They ascended the steps through verbal and physical projectiles, all so Petty could tell his side of the story that was the last lap.
Petty appeared to touch Earnhardt in Turn 3 (he didn’t), turning him sideways. Then his contact with Davey Allison at the finish line caused the first night race on a 1.5-mile speedway to end in a “shower of sparks” and with Allison in the hospital.
“Every freaking fan in the grandstands is teed off,” Kyle Petty says. “According to every fan, I wrecked Earnhardt going into Turn 3 and I wrecked Davey (at the start-finish line). That’s a fact. … I’m telling you, they were going to kill my butt. It was ugly. ”
In the garage, Larry McReynolds sat on a cooler next to the hauler for Allison’s No. 28 Ford.
The 33-year-old crew chief had just left the infield care center. Allison, after being taken there by ambulance, had left the track via helicopter to a hospital.
McReynolds just sat there, “trying to figure out what the hell just all happened.”
THE FORCES OF DARKNESS
When McReynolds watched the leaders of The Winston enter Turn 1 for the final time on May 16, 1992, he thought his car was going to finish third behind Earnhardt and Kyle Petty.
Had he been right, those gathered around a long table in Charlotte’s Speedway Club on a Tuesday night 25 years later might have had other plans.
Among the attendees are Petty, McReynolds, Michael Waltrip, announcer Mike Joy and former crew chief Robin Pemberton.
On a plasma TV at the far end of the table, the broadcast of the 1992 Winston, also known as “One Hot Night,” silently runs in all its standard definition glory.
The sounds of a Camping World Truck Series test session dominate the air outside the club’s windows.
Over the course of the evening, the familiar images shown every May play out in their natural context. At one point or another, everyone’s past peers out from the TV.
Joy, the lead announcer for TNN’s broadcast, doesn’t speak too much this night. But when he does, he makes it count.
“Being a full moon Saturday night, this race was completely unkind to white cars,” Joy says. “This is going to come down to three black cars in the end. The forces of darkness, whatever you want to call it.”
After an hour of conversation and jokes, everyone’s attention turns to the TV for the last segment and then the final lap. The final lap by which all final laps have been judged since.
For half of it, McReynolds lived vicariously through a crew member named Roman. The crew member had flipped a 55-gallon barrel over and stood atop it to watch the race’s conclusion.
“All of a sudden the crowd is going crazy,” says McReynolds, wearing a vintage Texaco/Havoline blazer. “Then I saw Roman, his eyes were as big as saucers. I was like, ‘What the f— are they doing back there?’”
When the leaders reappeared exiting Turn 4, Allison and Petty were door-to-door with Earnhardt nowhere in sight.
“When they came off (Turn) 4 like that, I said ‘I know who’s going to win that drag race, Robert Yates,’ ” McReynolds says proudly of his former car owner and engine builder.
What happened next was depicted on a painting sitting near the other end of the table. Allison’s car pointing backwards, about to impact the outside wall after taking the checkered flag and making contact with Petty. A spinning Earnhardt is shown in the background.
“It’s like two runners running for the (finish) line and you didn’t think about what was beyond that line,” McReynolds says.
“You just saw the line,” Petty says. “It’s like when you break that tape, you fall.”
The crash put Allison in the hospital until Monday, sent fans into frenzy and resulted in a rival’s car sitting in Allison’s hauler.
As McReynolds sat on his cooler processing the night’s events, he thought about the near future.
“Our team had been through so much,” McReynolds says. “We had an unbelievable start. We won the Daytona 500 … we won North Wilkesboro (and Talladega). But were kind of going through a pattern. Winning one week and wrecking one week. … Here we figured out how to do both in the same night. But we were out of cars.”
From the garage appeared Tim Brewer, crew chief for Bill Elliott’s Junior Johnson-owned car.
“I don’t even know what to say to you, I guess I want to say I’m sorry, but then I also need to say congratulations,” Brewer said.
“This is not good, Tim,” McReynolds responded. “We’re out of frickin’ race cars.”
McReynolds told Brewer he had a brand new intermediate car for the Coke 600, a road course car and two speedway cars. He needed a backup car.
“I’ll give you guys a car,” Brewer said. “You keep it as long as you want, use it if you want to.”
The whole month of June, Robert Yates Racing hauled a Budweiser car with Texaco/Havoline decals stuck in the window, just in case.
NO HARSH WORDS
Even as Petty walked through the angry grandstands, he was concerned for his friend, Allison. Petty would call Allison two days later.
“I talked to Davey on Monday, I think he was still at the hospital when I talked to him,” Petty says. “He had a Busch (Xfinity) car and I was going to drive it over here the next week just to shut everybody up. But we couldn’t work it out with Ford and Pontiac.”
While fans may have wanted or expected there to be bad feelings between Allison and Petty, they were disappointed.
“I can say by the time I got to the hospital, there was never a negative word toward Kyle, between the 42 and the 28, it never even crossed our minds,” McReynolds says. “Two months later at Pocono with (Darrell Waltrip), that’s a whole ‘nother story.”
Anyone wanting bad blood between the drivers wasn’t aware of the nature of the relationship between the men who came of age in NASCAR’s garages.
“Davey and I were competitors, but there was never a rivalry,” Petty says. “We grew up together. We grew up in the garage area when we were 10 years old and (NASCAR official) Bill Gazaway trying to throw us out and running him through the garage area.
“We grew up at the swimming pool at the Sea Dip in Daytona Beach, Florida, swimming together and playing together. … Then he started racing and I was working with my dad, we didn’t see each other in those years. Then all of a sudden you’re back at the race track racing against each other. We never had harsh words. I never in my whole life, in my whole career racing against Davey in any way shape or form ever remember having anything but respect and a good relationship. There was no base for that, even after that wreck, there was nothing there.”
What about Earnhardt?
“Earnhardt’s OK, he’s not mad,” Petty says. “He’s mad, but not mad at anybody.”
‘TIME HAS REALLY GOTTEN MESSED UP’
The passage of time has a weird way of reminding you it’s relative.
Just ask NASCAR drivers.
“You know what’s crazy to me? ’92 seems like a thousand years ago,” Waltrip says. “And nine years later was ‘01 when Dale died and that seems like yesterday.”
“I know, it does,” Petty agrees.
“Time had really gotten messed up for me,” says Waltrip, who won the Winston Open that preceded “One Hot Night” and later won the 1996 All-Star Race.
“I know … the same thing with Adam,” says Petty of his son who was killed in an accident during Busch Series practice in 2000 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Everything before Adam’s accident sounds like it was history. A million years ago.”
“It’s a blur?” someone asks.
“No, it’s just a long time ago,” Petty answers. ‘You know what I mean? … It feels like it was yesterday. It really does. Everything’s happened, like we were talking about how this years’ gone so fast, it’s like everything’s just sped up.”
Whether they’ve sped along or crept by, the 25 years since “One Hot Night” are punctuated by those who are not cutting it up with everyone in the Speedway Club.
Fourteen months after winning the race the helped define the sport for a generation, Allison died at 32 from injuries sustained in a helicopter accident at Talladega Superspeedway. He would have turned 56 in February.
A week after “One Hot Night,” Earnhardt won the Coke 600 for the third time. Earnhardt raced eight more seasons and won two more championships before being killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 at 49.
“By Davey not being here and Dale not being here now, that adds to it,” Petty says, now 56 and a NBC Sports analyst nine years after leaving the cockpit. “That’s a moment for (them). That changes how you perceive this race as you look back at it. If we were all three sitting here laughing about it and complaining about it, you may view it different. You wouldn’t view it in that nostalgic tone as much as you do now.”
The weight of the race and its impact on the trajectory of NASCAR didn’t hit McReynolds until the race’s 20th anniversary. In 2012, he, Pemberton and Joy sat on an infield stage at Charlotte to discuss the race with fans. Instead of his blazer, McReynolds wore his old team uniform.
“Honestly, that’s when it really sunk in me that was something pretty big and special,” McReynolds says.
“One Hot Night” was an exhibition. The eighth of 31 times the All-Star Race has been run.
Petty admits in its immediate wake, he considered it “just another race.”
“It lived up to every bit of the hype, like few things in sports do,” Petty says. “Rarely do things ever live up to the hype that you throw at them. The funny part in this sport … We’ve witnessed … some really great races. Some incredible races. Everywhere. But they don’t stick with you the way this race sticks with you. For some reason this race sticks with fans different than other races stick with you.”
The only thing more amazing than legendary short-track racer Red Farmer continuing to race regularly at the age of 84 is that he continues to win.
Recently named one of 20 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018, Charles “Red” Farmer is doing anything but slowing down in his golden years.
Instead of sitting in a rocking chair, he’s behind the wheel of his Late Model and still putting racers 60 or more years younger than him to shame.
Farmer’s favorite track – and one he competes on most weekends from April to October – is the Talladega Short Track, a 1/3-mile dirt track across the street from Talladega Superspeedway.
“I look forward to Saturday every week because I know I’m going to go and race in my car and run,” Farmer told NBC Sports.
But don’t think that because of his age, Farmer is a start-and-park driver.
Farmer finished third in the standings last season at Talladega Short Track. He led the points the first 10 weeks before he had to skip a couple of races. Had he not missed those two races, he likely would have won the track championship.
Two weeks ago, Farmer won a qualifying heat race at Talladega Short Track, just three days after undergoing a heart procedure.
When he was discharged from the hospital on a Wednesday, his doctor told Farmer not to drive anything for 48 hours. Obviously, his doctor forgot Red was a racer, Farmer said, laughing as he related the tale.
“But they didn’t say nothing about me racing on Saturday night,” Farmer chuckled.
So what happened?
“I won the heat race, had a front row starting spot in the feature, but I didn’t think running the whole race would be too smart,” Farmer said. “I had a little bit of pain in there when they had the tube in me.
“They said if I started bleeding again, that I’d have to go to the emergency room. I hated to give up the front row start because the car was so good, but I let a buddy of mine – Chris Mullenix – drive for me. They put him to the rear. It was hard to give up. That’s the way racing goes. Sometimes, it doesn’t wind up like you want it to.”
Farmer then described the heart procedure he underwent in another humor-filled manner.
“I had two oil lines that were (blocked) 50 percent – that’s what I call ‘em – and I got a burnt valve in my heart,” he said of his arteries and heart. “They said the two oil lines that were plugged up about 50 percent was not enough to put a stent or anything like that; they have to be worse.
“So I figure that at 84, almost 85 years old and I only have 50 percent blockage, I’m in pretty good shape.”
ONE OF THE MOST REVERED RACERS
Farmer is an iconic racer. He’s enshrined in several Halls of Fame, including the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, the Dirt Track Hall of Fame, Living Legends of Auto Racing in Daytona Beach and the Jacksonville Hall of Fame.
“They’ve all been great honors,” Farmer said.
But the biggest honor Farmer feels he’s ever received was “when I was voted one of the 50 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR history in its 50th year (1998). That was quite an honor to be in that top 50.
“I look back at that list now, and I think there was only one guy I never raced against, and that was Red Byron, who won the first NASCAR championship in 1948. But he quit in 1951 or 1952, and I started in 1953.
“But all the other great drivers in there – Lee and Richard Petty, Buck and Buddy Baker, Junior Johnson, Ralph Moody and all those guys that made that 50 Greatest Drivers list, I raced against all of them at one time or another. It was quite an honor, it really was.”
But soon, Farmer potentially could earn what would be the biggest honor of his 70-year racing career: possible induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“It was a great honor to be able to get in that top 20, that short list,” Farmer said. “I’ve been a NASCAR member since 1953 when I ran out on the beach course in Daytona. There’s an awful lot of good people on that list, that’s for sure.”
“This would probably be the ultimate. It’s like the star on top of the Christmas tree. It’s a great honor to be in the other Halls of Fame, but this one here (NASCAR Hall of Fame) is the ultimate. It’d be a big honor if I get elected.”
While he’d welcome induction into NASCAR’s Hall, it would be sweeter if something else also happened.
“The only thing that would make it better is if Davey (Allison) and myself both got in it together at the same time,” Farmer said. “That would be unbelievable, really.”
Farmer and Davey Allison, son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, were very close. Farmer was injured in the same helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway that claimed Davey Allison’s life in July 1993.
Like Farmer, Davey Allison is in his first year as a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee.
“Davey was like a second son to me, and I worked as his crew chief and car chief for about eight or nine years in the (Busch) Series,” Farmer said. “That would probably be the ultimate right there, if me and Davey both went in together. But if we don’t, I hope he gets in anyway, and maybe I’ll get in later. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
SWEET HOME ALABAMA
Farmer still lives in Hueytown, Alabama, about an hour west of Talladega, in the same house he’s lived in over 54 years.
The love of Red’s life, wife Joan, died in June 2015, a week after the couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
But family is still at the center of Red’s life, as he races regularly with grandsons Lee and Matt Burdett at Talladega Short Track.
“This year starts my 70th year of racing,” Farmer said. “I started driving in 1948, so I’ve been racing for 70 years. I just love it.”
Why does he keep racing?
“It’s hard to explain unless you are a driver, but it’s like people that get up with playing golf or bowling or hunting, anything that they really love to do,” Farmer said. “I’m still competitive, that’s the main thing. As long as I can be competitive and race with those youngsters.
“It’s just something I love to do. I go out to the garage every day at 8:30 in the morning and work on my cars until about 5:30 in the afternoon. I have three cars in my race shop that I work on. I still love working on the cars, going out there and racing and trying to keep up with all these youngsters. It’s just something in my blood that I love to do.”
How long will Farmer keep racing?
“As long as I’m competitive and still have good health, I’m going to run,” he said.“I don’t have a timetable, but I figure if the time’s right, then I’ll quit.”
A DIFFERENT CAREER COURSE
Farmer was part of NASCAR’s original Alabama Gang that came out of Hueytown in the mid-1960s, along with brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison.
“When we were running as the Alabama Gang with Bobby and Donnie, back in the 60’s, we ran 106 races in one year,” Farmer said. “We were pulling the cars all over in an open trailer behind a pickup truck and we ran all over the country.”
Although Bobby and Donnie took to the Grand National Series, Farmer decided to do what he did best – race on short tracks.
How many races Farmer has won in 70 years varies widely. Because records weren’t as well-kept as they are today, estimates of Farmer’s trips to victory lane range between 600 to more than 900 wins. And then there are countless match races he won.
And though he competed in just 36 NASCAR Grand National races (0 wins, 2 top-fives and one other top-10) in his career, his legendary NASCAR short-track prowess landed him on the 50 Greatest Drivers of NASCAR list in 1998 and also contributed to his NASCAR Hall of Fame nomination.
Farmer, whose age has often been in dispute, said he was born in 1932. He drove in his first race in 1948 – and has been going virtually nonstop ever since.
“My first race was Opa-locka, Florida in 1948, on an abandoned Air Force base,” Farmer recalled. “There were two parallel landing strips. We’d run down to the end of one, turn left and go through the dirt and grass, get on the other strip and run down to the other end and turn left again on the grass and dirt. They eventually made it a real racetrack two years later.
“That’s where we started. We just kind of made our own racetrack.
“I remember that first race still. I flipped the car twice, rolled it over, landed on four wheels and kept on running and finished the race. That was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. It got in my blood, and I’ve been doing it for another 70 years.”
Farmer isn’t the only octogenarian still racing. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Chris Karamesines both still are drag racing part time at the ages of 85. Garlits is involved in electric-powered dragsters that approach 200 mph, while Karamesines still can hit 300 mph in his NHRA Top Fuel dragster.
Racing keeps them all feeling young, Farmer said.
“I’ve got a saying that I came up with: ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?’ ” Farmer said. “Seriously, if you didn’t have a birth certificate and didn’t know old you was, how old would you be? In other words, it’s a state of mind and how you feel about yourself.
“I’ve seen people that are young at 75 and old at 65. I still think that if you don’t have a goal to accomplish or something that you really look forward to, like I do every Saturday night to get out on that racetrack and run, if you’ve got no goals you get older a lot quicker.
“My other saying is, ‘I’m going to wear out, not rust out.’”
SOME OF FARMER’S BEST CAREER STORIES
Farmer has an uncanny memory. Here are some of his favorite stories of his career:
— “I won my first NASCAR championship, the Modified Championship, in 1956. And you know who stood up at the banquet with me at Daytona and won the Sportsman Championship that same year was Ralph Earnhardt (father of Dale and grandfather of Dale Jr.). And then, back in 1990, I had a match race with Dale Earnhardt. That was the year he won the Winston 500, the IROC race and the sportsman race (all on the same weekend at Talladega Superspeedway). And the only race he lost was Friday night in a match race against me at the dirt track.”
— “I won the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman championship in 1969, 1970 and 1971. I said that was enough for me, four national championships was quite an accomplishment, which I never had an idea I’d ever do. I told Jack Ingram, ‘You take over from here,’ and he won the next three (championships in 1972-74).”
— “I was basically a short-track driver. I didn’t follow NASCAR’s Grand National much like Bobby and Donnie did. But I also won two ARCA 500s at Talladega in 1984 and 1988 and I won Daytona in 1971. So, I won on two of the biggest racetracks in the country, even though I was a short-track driver. I also ran fourth in the Talladega 500 (1972) in a (Grand National) car I built here in the backyard.”
— “One race I wanted to win bad was the Daytona (Late Model) race and I finally won the Permatex 300 in 1971. It was a very special race because my mother (Florence O’Neil) was there for the first race she’d ever been at Daytona. She didn’t travel that much or follow my racing, but she was there when I won and it was on her birthday, February 13, and she got to go to victory circle. I think that’s the biggest race I’ve ever won, to win it on my mother’s birthday.”
— “Everybody always asks me why I didn’t follow what Bobby and Donnie (Allison) did, but back in those days, if you didn’t have a factory sponsor or something like that, you were an also-ran. You’d be lucky to run in the top 15 if you were an independent. I didn’t have the big factory sponsorship, but I was not going to be a backburner, one of them start-and-park cars. I didn’t want to run 30th in a 35-car field and say I was a NASCAR Cup driver. I would rather go out on a short track and win a 30-lap feature and win the race rather than being a backburner. That’s why I didn’t do it. I went back to short track races and won all over the country. I’d rather go out and win at places like Huntsville, Montgomery, Birmingham and run on Friday and Saturday nights – and win races, too. That’s what I was there for, to win races. Second place was like kissing your sister, it don’t do nothing for you.”
— “I had a match race here a few years ago against Kasey Kahne. We were going to run three dashes, like five-lap races. Whoever won two of them was named the champion. I won the first one after I started on the pole, and he was on the outside pole. Then the next race, he won the pole, and I started on the outside pole, and I won that one, too. When I won the first two, we didn’t even run the third one.”