This reporter was fortunate to attend the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daytona Thunder Fan Fest testing, Speedweeks with Daytona International Speedway NASCAR media day and more this first quarter of 2013.
More than 100 drivers, owners and celebrities answered numerous questions. A few themes stood out initially and then gathered momentum. One select question asked of many resulted in a variety of answers.
That single question was asked of each responder here: What are your best memories of growing up in motorsports as a child?
They beamed at the opportunity to share memories of their early years with fans. To accommodate fans here, all answers are complete without editing.
The “King” Richard Petty has been an icon for so long, that many fans might forget that he too grew up in motorsports and was a second-generation race car driver. His explanation is like an education.
“I was 11 years old when my dad run his first race in 1949,” Petty said. “I don’t know if there are a whole lot of memories until you look at where you are at today and where you were at then. And then you start remembering, like when Dale Inman said, ‘It’s not always been this easy.’ I was kind of a deal where everybody worked out of half of a pickup truck and a lot of the times you didn’t have nothing in the pickup. We drove the car to the racetrack.
“We drove to California a two or three times. Dad drove when we started to do Carolina. I think the second or third race we ever run was at Hillsborough, North Carolina, Sunday morning, had a little Plymouth Coupe, 49 Plymouth Coupe. My dad, mother and me and my brother would ride in the car and went to the race. That’s all we had. We didn’t have spare tires. Had a spare in the trunk, I think but it was strictly a stock deal.
“And when you look at what it takes today. I know I go into the shop every once in a while and look at the pit wagons that they got for pit road. That’s more than our whole season was in the 60s and early 70s, how much it costs.
“It’s just a different world out there.”
Kyle Petty is a third-generation race car driver who also has extraordinary communication skills that have served him well in video-network booths. His childhood had to be all about motorsports, as it was then that his dad, Richard, was winning and creating his place as an iconic legend, but his response to this growing up in motorsports question might surprise some.
“I have no memories,” Petty said. “Here’s the funny part, I don’t have a first because I was always there. It’s like what’s your first memory of your house or what’s the first memory of your bedroom? That’s just where I grew up, man. I grew up at racetracks. It’s not like I remember Daytona over North Wilksboro over Martinsville or Columbia, South Carolina. Those racetracks, they were all the same. We were just at a racetrack on the weekend. My memories are being at those racetracks, but I can’t tell you which one I was at.”
Ford Motor Company owners, Henry, Edsel, William Clay, William Clay Jr. and Edsel II have notched permanent spots in our nation’s history. Edsel Ford II certainly grew up in an automotive world, but his first great memory in motorsports as a child was a grand event.
Edsel Ford II
“That’s easy,” Ford said. “My first memory was going to Le Mans with my father in 1967. It was a very clear memory. I was 18 years old and excited. Obviously being there with my father and then seeing all these wonderful cars, including GT40’s that won the race. It was a very memorable time.”
John Coughlin and Cody Coughlin are a part of a family owned business, JEGS High Performance Parts. John is one of four brothers who operate the worldwide mail-order company. Cody is one of 10 third-generation Coughlins. Their slogan is “Track Tested - We Race What We Sell.” Nearly all of the Coughlins drag raced something at various stage of their lives, but Cody has chosen to turn left as well and is a Late Model racer at 17.
The Coughlins grow up in motorsports and have many memories. John and Cody shared their first recollections.
“That goes way back,” John said. “I remember going to work with my dad, at JEGS, when we had just a small speed shop. I guess I was a little crazy, running around. So they’d stack up two, three, four slicks and they put me in the middle of it, so I couldn’t get away. I guess that’s a motorsports memory.
“A lot of important memories came to mind when you said that. We used to play in the pit area with different racer’s kids like Bob Glidden, we used to play with their kids. We used to play with Jimmy and Tom Prock. We used to play with little John Muldowney. Larry Dixon. We used to run around the pit area and go out in the gravel and throw up rocks with our feet like we were doing a burnout. We had a flash light like the tree was coming down. And then we’d run and race.
“We’d be at Xenia at a pro stock match race or at Indy for the US Nationals playing with their sons.”
“Obviously growing up in motorsports—you’re around a lot of stuff, but one thing that sticks out in my mind was National Trails during the Nationals when it was still there,” Coughlin said. “My dad and I were up late, it was like midnight, Top Fuel and Funny Car still hadn’t run yet. We went out on the grid and talked to the drivers. That sticks out in my memory the most, growing up in motorsports. It was neat getting the professional side of it. It was pretty neat.
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FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.