I was selected for this award in 2003 but was not able to attend the ceremonies because of an accident. I was able to attend the 2012 Induction Ceremony where I was awarded my plaque and was able to make my speech.
I had originally told Nancy I did not want to speak because I gave my ‘Thank You’ speech back in January in Greensboro. But someone mentioned something to me later which made me change my mind. I don’t want to speak about me, but there is something I would like to say to all of you about the people you’ve seen this weekend and hundreds of others you haven’t seen but who are all cut from a similar pattern. What I would like to stress is this: I don’t think any of these racers here have any clue of what they mean to all racers everywhere! I spent a lot of time at home raising children before I got heavily involved in drag racing but I continued to read my hot rod magazines, etc and I went to a race once in a great while. (Hold up picture)…This IS my pride and joy…you can’t read it but it says, “To Becky, Don Carlton!”
The group of racers who came out of the Hickory, Hudson, Lenoir area and other groups like them all over the U.S. can have NO idea how they impacted, not just local drag racing, but the sport as a whole. There was Don Carlton and Clyde Hodges, Charlie Woodard and Pete Odell, Stuart McDade and Johnny Hicks, Satch Gragg and Bruce Walker, Max Hurley and Lou Tabilio, Frank Teague and Betty Sigmon, Ray Sigmon and Johnny Farthing, Dale and Ralph Andrews and many more. Every spot in this country had one group of drag racing ‘heroes’ who paved the way and brought hundreds of racers into the sport with them.
YOU…all of you are the people who made all this possible…this entire sport…you came before…you are the ones who made it what it is today. You…who gave us our deep, fierce abiding love for cars with MUSCLE, for big loud engines and little loud engines, YOU…you gave us our heritage and taught us things like respect, sportsmanship and caring for our fellow racers. YOU…you showed us how to be fierce, mighty competitors while all the time, teaching us how to share and share alike, help anyone who needed it, be there at all times for your fellow racers. YOU…at least most of you, came from shoestring backgrounds where you had to rake and scrape and scrimp and work a second job to raise a family AND a race car! Most of you worked on your own cars with…maybe a little help from friends sometimes and taught us how to do the same…you let us KNOW and showed us ALL THIS IS POSSIBLE.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you every racer who came before us who taught by DOING and NOT by TALKING, thank you for teaching us we can be the absolute best of friends and the absolute fiercest competitors while all the time being good sportsmen and women. WE cannot thank you enough, there are no words to describe what you have meant to this sport, to all the little guys who came after and KNEW they could do this because they watched all of you struggle and fight for the sport you loved.
Clyde Hodges told me a story about one time when he and Don Carlton had been to Detroit, I don’t remember why. They probably weren’t testing a car because he told me how cold it was during the trip. Yes, sometimes they got paid by Chrysler and sometimes they raced FOR Chrysler and sometimes they raced independently, but as Clyde said, “They didn’t pay for everything!” They didn’t pay for that old car hauler they were driving on that trip and not long after they left Detroit heading home for good old North Carolina, that old rickety, falling apart car hauler…which already probably had a hundred thousand more miles on it than it should have…started smoking. Like the smoke coming from the stack of a coal fired steam train!
They just happened to have a case of ‘racing’ oil on the truck so they pulled over, checked the oil, yep…it was low so they started to put a quart of that oil off the back of the truck into the truck engine. Only the oil would not pour out of the can because it was nearly frozen! They laid the can on the engine and the heat from the engine warmed it barely enough to pour it in. They started on down the road. Shortly thereafter, they had to stop and put in another quart only this time they had been smart enough to put a can in the truck with them…near the heater. At least it worked. They put that one in but it was so cold, their fingers were literally freezing and they were having a really hard time. Being the ‘engineers’ all drag racers are known to be, they stuck a piece of hose in the hole in the valve cover and ran it in through the truck window and stuck the funnel into the end of that hose. They also put that whole case of oil in the front with them. From then on, all the way home, they just poured that warm oil in one end of that hose and let it run right into the engine.
He said they never WERE so glad to get back to get back to good old Lenoir, NC! There are a MILLION or 20 million stories like that in drag racing. Every racer you meet has several of them. Not many of them ever get published. I thank God I had the chance to publish a lot of those wonderful stories. I thank God I had the chance to have so many people like YOU help me raise my children…in their crucial teenage years…all drag racers who taught my girls how to be REAL people. THANK YOU for being who and what you are, the spectacular friends of drag racing. Thank God for DRAG RACERS!