|The Graybeard Report by Doc Lehman||
|THE GRAYBEARD REPORT 12-11-06|
By Doc Lehman
NOTE: An edited version of this column originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of
Dirt Late Model magazine.
It’s been a pretty hectic year for me personally and frankly speaking I can’t wait for the
damn year to end. Believe me! Everything more or less collapsed for me at the end of July
when I had my third (!) heart attack and subsequently was split open and field dressed like a
deer with open-heart surgery (five bypasses). A couple setbacks and return trips to the
crash house sure didn’t help matters in the following couple months and for all intents and
purposes my racing season was basically over except for a couple nights at Wayne County
Speedway that is five minutes from home.
Then throw in a very ill and elderly mother, a 27-year-old daughter who had a heart attack
at the end of November, assorted funerals in between allt hat, well, yeah, 2006 pretty much
sucked and I’ll be happy to see the end of it.
(Yes, it sucks getting old and fending off that hateful old bastard known as the Grim
With half a century on this planet (where’s my AARP card?) and the good news (finally!)
that our fourth grandchild is on the way, coupled with battling with cardiologists and
surgeons the past couple months, for the first time in a long time circumstances has given
me pause to reflect.
Where the hell has time gone?
I swear to God it seems like only a few years ago that it was the 1960’s and 1970’s. It doesn’
t seem that long ago I was watching dirt Late Model drivers like Bob Cowen, Tom Jarrett,
Fats Coffey, Ray Godsey, Butch Hartman, Wally Hemminger, Earl Hill, Vern LeFevers, Ira
Bastin, Danny Dean, H.E. Vineyard, Bruce Gould, Doc Simmons, Jim Gillespie, Pat Patrick,
Ron Dolen and so many others kicking butt and taking names all over Ohio, Kentucky,
West Virginia and elsewhere.
Has it really been 26 years ago that the first DTWC was held? Has it really been 28 years
since the NDRA was formed? Has it really been 33 years since I started working in this
crazy business? It certainly doesn’t seem that long yet that is the reality.
The aforementioned drivers, along with scores of others, were at the top of the game back in
my more youthful days and I can remember thinking they would be around forever but alas,
as I later found out, that isn’t the case. They grew older and retired and yet the sport didn’t
dry up and blow away. More came into the ‘game’ and kept the sport moving right along
nicely thank you very much.
The aforementioned stars gave way to drivers like Larry Moore, Jack Boggs, Jeff Purvis,
Donnie Moran, the Kosiski’s, Gary Webb, Dave Yobe, Scott Bloomquist, Mike Balzano,
Billy Moyer, Steve Francis and so many others. Now you look around and drivers like
Moore, Boggs, Purvis and many others are gone from victory lanes around the country to
be replaced by rising stars like Brian Birkhofer, Earl Pearson, Jr., Shannon Babb, Matt
Miller, Tim McCreadie and the list goes on.
And right now some of the top veteran superstar drivers are becoming 40-somethings and,
deny it or not their days are numbered. In another decade or so there is a good chance we’ll
be missing personalities like Chub Frank, Rick Eckert, Bloomquist, Moyer and too many
But yet, there is a whole new group of potential superstars busting their butts to succeed
and someday replace our current superstar drivers and believe me, it will happen. Which
makes this sport so unique, so vital and so long lasting.
Yes, there are exceptions. There are a number of drivers out there with over 40 years
behind the wheel of dirt Late Models, like Freddy Smith, Jim Gentry, Blaine Aber and the
list goes on although it is shrinking somewhat.
But as someone who values the history of this sport it amazed me upon reflection that so
many talented and exciting ‘characters’ have been around over the decades to thrill and
chill us. Old farts like myself will always remember the old days and old drivers but what
astounds me these days is how many young folks out there have a real and true sense of the
history and importance of the past.
My youngest son Jarrod is only 23 but damn if he can’t quote chapter and verse names,
tracks and series from years before he was even born. Sometimes I have to ask him to
confirm a certain fact from 20 or more years ago.
He isn’t alone.
A couple ‘industry outlaws’ like Jody Shannon and J.T. LeFevers via their Dirt Fans
website (www.dirtfans.com) have embraced the past i.e.; the drivers, the tracks, the car
owners. They too, among others, can quote facts, stats and results from before their time on
this planet. 20-somethings who cherish the past, who respect what came before and who care
about what lay ahead.
DirtFans.com is a treasure trove of photos, facts, stats and more that delves into the past of
this sport and what makes it more amazing and unique to me is that most of the contributors
are the same ages as my kids.
I doubt very much that drivers like Bob Cowen, Tom Jarrett, Fats Coffey, Ray Godsey,
Butch Hartman, Wally Hemminger, Vern LeFevers, Ira Bastin, Danny Dean, H.E.
Vineyard, Bruce Gould, Jim Gillespie and Pat Patrick, among scores of others, would have
thought that anyone, especially people not yet born when their careers ended, would
remember them, let alone respect and honor what they had accomplished.
But they do.
And to me that is a wonderful thing to happen.
The passion of this sport is infectious and addicting to say the least, and it does an old man’s
(like me) heart good to see so many young people that have a true passion and thirst for
knowledge about the history of this sport.
We may grow old, we will certainly sometime pass on, but when it comes to this sport, no
one is really forgotten.
©2006 Doc Lehman/LMS