Interesting article about a unique part of Memphis Racing History.
This thing is quickly coming to an end. Maybe not as quickly as many want. But we are making great strides. We will see the reopening of the motor sports community sooner rather than later. Just be patient and not do anything stupid which could cause harm to a loved one this close to the end.
I know it is frustrating for everyone, but do not buy into these internet groups who demand we take action and do something about this tyrannical government which is holding us down. I do not like being restricted form enjoying my entertainment choices anymore than anyone else. But i recognized the authority given to the state and local government by the SCOTUS in Jacobson v Massachusetts in 1905 and confirmed again in 1922 in Zucht v. King. In 1905 in its 7-2 ruling the court ruled that personal liberties could be suspended when “the safety of the general public may demand” for example during a smallpox outbreak. Also “there are manifold restraints to which each person is necessarily subject for the common good”. This ruling was also revisited this year when the federal United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit relied on Jacobson when upholding a Texas regulation halting abortions by including it in its ban on non-essential medical services and surgeries.
So it is the law of the land and getting frustrated over it is not going to do anyone any good. We just need to be patient and try not to get too frustrated while we work toward total reopening. Which should be no more than a few days to weeks away. So enjoy your online racing and get your cars ready for the season to start. It is not that far off.
And remember one thing, you are not going to win anything the first turn of the first lap of the first night of racing. So let’s not let our boredom cause us to drive like an idiot. We still have a long season of racing a head of us. So lets not destroy all that hard work on the first night.
Stay Safe Out There.
Hiding our light under a bushel basket.
Mark 4: recorded the parable Jesus told about hiding our light under a basket. 21:He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand?
Jesus was talking about sharing the light of his teachings with all.
But the parable can be applied to other activities in our life.
I recently read an article in the local news about 5 people who were shot over an incident at an illegal street race.
It saddens me that we have so many people involved in illegal street racing in our community and that it brings out the bad side of so many.
There is no reason why we should have illegal street racing in Memphis.
We have some of the most modern motorsports facilities in the nation available for anyone and everyone who feels the need to test their need for speed.
Just about every form of motorsports you would want can be found within the metro Memphis area.
Memphis International Raceway has a world-class drag strip and has weekly test and tune sessions.
ANYONE can bring their car to one of these sessions and as long as they meet safety standards they can run down the strip as many times as they please.
The facility has both SCCA and NASA events on the road course where3 you can compete either against the clock or other drivers to test your skill.
Each year the Rusty Wallace Driving Experience males several stops at MIR where you can pay your fee, take a class and then do a ride-along or even drive a Cup style stock car on the 3/4 mile oval.
The Memphis area is home to Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis.
Opening in 1949 it is one of the oldest continuously operating tracks in the nation.
A facility where you can either watch some of the best local and national drivers compete.
Or you could build your own car and compete.
Still, there is more as there is over half a dozen karting track within 2 hours of Memphis.
We have so many options when it comes to motorsports, yet outside our group, no one knows about them.
We do not share our sport with others as fans of other sports often do.
We keep our light hidden under a basket.
The only exposure that many in the city see of motorsports is the aforementioned article about the illegal street race and shooting.
Many see motorsports as a lower-class white-only sport.
Little do they know just how diverse the sport is these days.
How much minority participation there is in the sport.
How quickly the A.A. community is taking to the sport.
I have a close friend who posted on the back of his car proudly for all to see “The Fastest Black Man on Dirt”
Women compete regularly head to head with men and many times beat them.
We even had transgender drivers in the Memphis area long before the transgender movement we see today.
So many youths today do not even know we have a motorsports community.
In years past they would gather around the house in the neighborhood with the race car and when the weekend came along would pile into the back of a station wagon to watch that car compete.
We have done a poor job of promoting our sport in the Memphis community.
We must do better for the sport to continue to grow in the future.
We cannot allow stories such as the one about the illegal street race and shooting to be the image the rest of the community has of our sport.
We must let our light shine brightly and not hide it under a basket.
Memphis Racing History
Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?…………..
The Possum had a hit in which he asked that question referring to where will the future stars of country music come.
Luckily that question was answered by a new group of up and coming Country music entertainers.
When it comes to racing that question is also being answered with the addition of new racers every year at the local tracks.
Never in our history has the local racer had the opportunities we see today to move up to either a regional or national racing series and then up to the top racing series in the US.
Sadly the same cannot be said about the fans in the bleachers.
Today’s fan base is growing steadily older with every season.
The only kids we see at the tracks these days are the family members of the racers themselves.
Because of this, tracks across the US are having attendance problems leading more tracks every year to close their doors.
We all know the problem, the question is what has created this problem and what can we do to correct the problem?
Society has changed dramatically since the day of my youth where we spent most of our time in the neighborhood with other kids running around and enjoying the outdoors.
Even in my teens, we were physically active playing some sort of ball game just about daily in the summer.
Today many in our society spend most of their time behind a computer monitor or with their noses stuck in their cell phones.
Rarely looking up to see the real world around them.
Everything is instant gratification.
No one has patience for anything that doesn’t happen quickly.
I still remember when the first home drip coffee maker went on the market.
Mr. Coffee took brewing time from 15-20 minutes down to five minutes.
Today it is individual cup coffee maker which takes just seconds to brew a cup of coffee.
Everything is instant instant instant.
How do we get this instant generation interested in racing programs which last between 3 and 4 hours?
One way is to get them to the track each week and letting them see the action with their own eyes.
While TV has its place in the sport.
Racing is best viewed live where you can feel the energy.
But this will not happen on its own.
It will take an organized effort from every racing fan to introduce our sport to those outside of our racing community.
We must work together to promote our sport.
We need to pursue community groups such as church youth programs.
We must represent our sport in the community.
If there is a gathering we need to make sure we have a presence at that gathering.
Car shows to get the rest of our community exposed to our sport.
We need to be in the schools in auto shop classes.
We need to have exposure in our community Christmas parades.
We can no longer adopt the open the doors and they will come attitude.
There are too many entertainment options in today’s society for us to go along with that mindset.
We must ALL take an active part in promoting our sport to the community as a whole.
While we in the racing community are a close-knit community, we are steadily growing older and smaller.
Either we take steps to correct this or there may not be a racing community a few generations from today.
A Dysfunctional Family
by Rick Johnson
Memphis Racing History
It is common for all sports to look at their fans as a family.
In 1979 the Pittsburg Pirate used the song “We Are Family” as their theme for the year as they won their fifth World Series Title.
Parents pass their love of their favorite sport down to their kids. But somehow motorsports takes that concept a little farther than most sports. Maybe it is because those involved in motorsports are more readily available to their fans than competitors of other sports. The fans see them more as regular people than untouchable icons up on a pedestal.
Yes, we are family, but at times we are a dysfunctional family in many ways. We deliberately separate ourselves into little groups supporting a certain type of motorsports. Then we go onto social media and denounce other forms as inferior. You do not see that in other sports. Sure you have NL baseball fans who do not care for the AL style of game and vice versa. But you never see the sheer negativity you see in motorsports.
While you see bitter hatred between fans of opposing teams such as Yankees/BoSox or Cubs/Cardinals or Packers/Bears. But you never see the hatred for other forms of the sport. College football fans do not go out bashing the NFL, nor College basketball fans bashing the NBA. If anything the different types of these other sports work closely together and their fans intermix.
Of course, things are a little different in motorsports. We not only have different types of motorsports we have so many different levels of motorsports. Each type has its own feeder system. Every college football players dream is to make it to the NFL, or every college basketball player dreams of making it to the NBA. All fans of that particular sport know the ultimate goal of the players in their particular sport. No so in motorsports.
For some the dream is to make it to Daytona, while others dream of running the Imdy 500, others want to make it to the US Nationals, still others see the Knoxville Nationals, the Short Track Nationals or the Chili Bowl as their goal and still others dreamly nightly of running the 24 Hours of Daytona or Lemans. Our ultimate goal in the sport may be very different. But we often start at the same spot.
Most start out in the same manner maybe karts at the local commercial recreational facility. Or if your lucky your own personal kart. Then we move apart to our own particular form of motorsports. Our early influences often help us decide the form of motorsports we follow. If there is a racer in your community you may navigate to his form of motorsports.
This is where our family starts to become dysfunctional. For some reason, many develop a desire to follow our favorite form and then develop a dislike for all types of motorsports. Then as another form becomes more popular the dislike we have become more openly prevalent. Especially with the advent of social media.
Take the time to visit the social media pages of other forms of motorsports and you will see words such as NASCRAP, or taxi cab racing. Or even my granny can drive in a straight line. Doesn’t even have to be in different types of racing, just different groups within that form. Such as during the so-called “open wheel war” when the social media groups went out of their way to bash the other groups. Using terms such as Chump Car.
All we do when we take part in these type of activities is marginalize ourselves to those outside looking in. Sponsors see our dysfunctional behavior and question if they should be involved with such negativity. We are all guilty of this behavior yours truly included. We have philosophical disagreements and we let them split us into tiny groups. But by doing so we do nothing but drag our sport down and to be honest we are in an era where it has damaged our sports to the point which our sport may never fully recover.
We can still love our own form of motorsports, and we can debate the quality of our form of the sport compared to the other forms. But we need to do so in a positive manner and quit the negativity, especially online where potential sponsors can see it. We have a very expensive hobby and we need to keep the sponsorship dollars coming in to keep our sport healthy. To do so we must clean up our act and work on correcting the issues we have in our dysfunctional family.
We must come together as a whole family for the love of the sport and not our little cliques. If our sport is going to rebound to anywhere near its glory days we must take action to correct the mistakes of our past. We may never see peek TV and attendance numbers as we have in the past. But we can do better. No, we MUST do better.
Do it for your track,
Do it for your sport,
DO IT FOR FAMILY.
We had the pleasure of chatting with dirt racing legend Eddie Ray Alexander this month. He agreed to be the second LOCAL LEGEND to respond to the questionnaire for Memphis Racing History.
Eddie has been heavily involved in racing for decades, long before ever making a start in a race car.
At age 14, he was given the opportunity to drive one of his father’s cars for the 1962 race season. After just one lap, he fell in love.
He would go on in his career to post hundreds of wins over his 38 seasons as a driver, all across the mid south, though many were won right here in the Memphis area at Lakeland and Riverside.
We have been wanting to sit down with him for a while now and I was truly honored to be able to get a few minutes of this legend.
Eddie Ray Alexander
NAME(NICKNAME) YOU ARE BEST KNOWN:
Dont reckon I’ve ever had one
YEARS INVOLVED IN RACING:
I started racing when I was 14 years old in 1962. 2000 would have been my 38th year driving but a stroke affected my eye sight
METHOD OF PARTICIPATION (owner, promoter, driver, etc) :
Driver until my son started racing in 2006
YOUR HERO (racing or non racing) :
My dad Hoyt Alexander
GREATEST RACER YOU HAVE EVER MET:
That’s tough because I’ve raced against so many but I would say my dad. He was so smooth and he could win on asphalt at Lakeland on friday and then win on dirt at Riverside Speedway on Saturday with same car and basically same set up
BIGGEST MOMENT IN RACING:
One of my biggest achievements that I’m most proud of is in 87 and 88 I won 37 out of 40 races.
BIGGEST REGRET IN RACING (if any):
Racing takes alot ot time away from your family, especially if you’re racing as hard as we used to. Plus I was building race cars for people while also working a full time job. There were many days I would come home from work and head straight to the shop and by the time I came inside for the night my kids would be in bed
FAVORITE EVENT OR TRACK:
Riverside Speedway is my favorite track. I dont have a favorite event, any race is my favorite haha
BIGGEST CHANGES YOU HAVE SEEN BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE:
Safety in racing had come so far since I started racing where we had a seat off an old tractor as a race seat. But the cost of racing is ridiculous
WHERE DO YOU SEE RACING HEADING IN NEXT DECADE:
Dirt track racing has grown so much even since I quit in 2000. I think it’s just gonna get bigger and bigger but we all have to get out and support our local tracks
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IF YOU HAD THE POWER:
I guess I would change the cost of racing but that’s never gonna change
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEWCOMER IN RACING:
Enjoy every lap, because one day you’ll race your last one
SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT MOST FANS WOULD NOT KNOW:
I had a scholarship offer to play football for Ole Miss, but I turned it down because i couldn’t race as much
WHAT YOU MOST WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR (racing or non racing):
In racing I’d like to be remembered as a tough competitor that gave it his all every single lap for 38 year! Non racing I wanna be remembered as a husband, father, and grandfather that loved his family with all his heart
MEMPHIS RACING HISTORY QUESTIONAIRE
YOUR NAME: Winfred Gatlin
NAME(NICKNAME) YOU ARE BEST KNOWN: Wimp
YEARS INVOLVED IN RACING: 45
METHOD OF PARTICIPATION (owner, promoter driver etc:) Owner/Driver
YOUR HERO(racing or non racing) Alvin Gatlin
GREATEST RACER YOU HAVE EVER MET(not counting yourself): Bobby Allison
BIGGEST MOMENT IN RACING: last race won
BIGGEST REGRET IN RACING (if any): no regrets
FAVORE EVENT OR TRACK: the Ditch, place looks better but ownership sucks
BIGGEST CHANGES YOU HAVE SEEN BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE: priced out of control-costs too much to get in & purse smaller
WHERE DO YOU SEE RACING HEADING IN NEXT DECADE: Don’t know
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IF YOU HAD THE POWER: pay more,
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEWCOMER IN RACING: do something else,
SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT MOST FANS WOULD NOT KNOW: ???
WHAT YOU MOST WANT TO BE REMEMBERED
(racing or non racing): RACING & WINNING!!!