When I joined b/r a short while ago it was all about the NFL but what I didn’t realize is that NASCAR was in its final stages of the Sprint Cup Championship races. I don’t follow NASCAR as much anymore. The funny thing is I grew up in and around stock car racing at an early age.
Bear with me as these are nearly 40 year old recollections that may or may not be historically accurate but I reserve the right to modify, over simplify or out right lie to make my article more appealing. Can you be a good story teller and not stretch the truth?
Frank Warren was an also ran from 1963 through 1980. He was one of the journeyman drivers that usually placed in the middle of the pack with a few top 10 finishes and on rare occasion a top five finish. If you Google his name and you will find obscure references to him.
My father turned wrenches for Frank Warren in the '60s. At that time, my dad owned the last gas station heading out of town before you got to the Augusta International Speedway. I was the garage shop rat and general gofer at the gas station.
The Warren family and mine were pretty good friends. I went to school with the Warren kids, Francis (Franny), Judy, Troy and Nancy. My mom and Judy Warren are friends to this day.
A very fond memory of that time was the race car garage. It was a kids dream, hanging out with dad as he and Frank worked on the car. Occasionally I was allowed to fetch certain tools for either of them, that or a fresh beer.
This was a place where a kid could get filthy dirty. I could actually take pride in the condition of my clothes and the grease on my hands and face. Frank and dad would have grease all the way up to their shirt sleeves. I could go home and not get yelled at because it was all in the name of work.
I’m sure the reason I got to hang around with dad at work at that age was because, one I was a bit of a hand full and two, Mom had my younger sister and brother to deal with. Dad got the babysitting job or face her wrath later.
Because of their friendship and the mechanical help my father provided we often went to the races that Frank drove in. We were always infield. I do remember the pit area but I never got to hang around when it was race time.
Instead, I would be relegated to the back of my Dad’s truck where Mom could keep an eye on me. It was usually an all day outing and picnic with the Warren family and ours.
Before the racing began the mothers would gather up all the kids and stuff our ears with cotton as we were all read the riot act and rules of behavior. During the races all the kids would turn in circles watching the cars race around until we were dizzy.
I don’t know what it is like to watch the races from the stands but infield you got sensory overload. The smells of racing fuel, exhaust and burnt rubber. The sounds of high revving engines, cars screaming around the track and occasionally the screeching of tires and tearing metal of cars in mid crash. You could feel the breeze and a rumble in your bones as the cars whizzed past.
I don’t know if Frank remained an owner operator through his entire career. But I do know that he was the reason that I always watched the races on TV with my dad as I got older.
These memories were sparked by the passion of the b/r writers of the NASCAR community. Being as young as I was at that time a lot of stuff goes right over your head. Now when I look back I was right in the middle of a historic time.
Even though I didn’t know it at the time, it’s possible that I pumped gas for some of the NASCAR greatest racers like Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Richard Petty. And then some pretty obscure drivers like Possum Jones, Cotton Farmer and Pee Wee Ellwanger. They all came and raced at the Augusta International Speedway.
I’m glad the passion for this sport lives on. I’m sorely tempted to attend a couple of races up here in NH next year and see what other memories I can jog loose. So remember, take your kids to the races and make some memories.