41 Years Of Winning!
By Doc Lehman
Dean Alexander: 41 Years Of Winning!
Doc Lehman

     There are dirt Late Model racers out there who, at age 41, wonder how many years they have left in
their racing careers. That hasn’t been too much of a worry for 60-year-old grandfather
Dean Alexander.

     He’s raced for 42 years before calling it a day although he is still involved as a parts & chassis
distributor and owner of Alexander’s Racing Bodies. And you never know when Alexander could slip the
helmet on and strap in.

     This story was written in 2003 during Alexander’s last active year as a racer.

     It all started when a then 18-year-old Alexander climbed into an open-wheel ‘Modified’, a forerunner
of today’s Sprint Cars, at Holmes Hilltop Speedway near Millersburg, OH. He had spent his younger
years chasing racing with his father at the now long-closed Ashland Fairgrounds Raceway and Olivesburg

     “Back in ’62 we had one division and there were always 50-70 cars,” recalled Alexander, who resides
near Orrville, OH with his wife of 42 years, Barb. “I was thrilled when I made the feature, but I sure was
     Alexander continued racing at Hilltop, as well as Lakeview (now Lakeville), Mansfield and other
venues. When Wayne County Speedway opened on June 26, 1965, Alexander was there. And he’s been
there ever since.

     Alexander raced open wheelers through most of the 1960’s. During the latter stages of the decade he
began to race Late Models, as their popularity began to soar. Beginning in 1967, when Wayne County
went two two nights a week, one night with open wheelers and the next with Late Models, Alexander raced
in both classes each weekend. At the end of the decade when the track went back to one night per week
operation, many times Alexander could be found competing in both divisions on the same night. And

     During this time Alexander began racking up the wins in both divisions. One night he set fast time, won
the dash, heat, pursuit and feature. Before 1970 hit Alexander had established himself as one of central
Ohio’s toughest dirt track competitors in any type of racecar.

During that era Alexander drove for owners like Newt Fergeson, Harry Kane, Clyde Shoup and
occasionally Pete Jacobs, founder of Wayne County Speedway and father of famed Ohio 60’s racer Ken
‘Jake’ Jacobs and grandfather of currently well-known Sprint Car stars Kenny, Bud and Dean Jacobs.
“Whenever Pete would get mad at Jake (Ken), he would put me in the car,” related Alexander with a
knowing smile.

     Soon after the start of the 1970’s Alexander began to race Late Models full time, although he
competed in numerous Sprint Car events around Ohio, including many sanctioned events, until around
1975. The wins continued.

     Over the years Alexander has raced with, and won against, the likes of David Pearson,
Tiny Lund, Tim
Richmond, Bobby Allison and Ralph Quarterson on the dirt in both Sprints and Late Models. He has raced
in five different decades (and in two different centuries and two different millenniums!). And over the years
he has also competed and won against dirt stars like
Butch Hartman, Bob Wearing, Sr., Danny Dean, Bob
, Charlie Swartz, John Mason, Brad Malcuit, Jim Dunn, Delmas Conley, Jim Gentry, Tom Jarrett,
Glenn Gault, Blaine Aber and scores of others. During much of the 70’s and 80’s Alexander got around
quite a bit visiting several of the states surrounding Ohio and was a regular fixture at Pennsboro during
most of the 80’s.

     During his career Alexander has accumulated nearly 200 wins and an incredible 16 point titles, mid-
season and season championships honors. You want career consistency? Alexander has been in the top
five in points 30 times at Mansfield, Lakeville, Wayne County and Coshocton.

     So do any special wins really stand out when Alexander looks back on his long career?

     “Every win is special,” he says. “One night over 30 years ago Joe Carney and I tied for the win in the
feature and we both carried the checkered flag. But my greatest night is when my son Chet won his first
feature nine years ago. I had to choke back tears.

     Dean & Barb have two grown sons, Chet and Denny. Chet has had an extremely successful dirt Late
Model career for nearly a decade now driving the entire time for long-time family friend, Mark Nussbaum.
Chet’s oldest son, Chase, 16, serves as Grandpa’s crew chief, and is likely a third-generation racer
sometime soon.

     Dean Alexander and his famous #16 has raced at a wide variety of tracks over the years, including
Eldora, Volusia, Pennsboro, Attica, Elkins, PPMS, Mt. Vernon, St. Clairsville, Atomic (KC), Coshocton
and dozens more. He has competed in events sanctioned by NDRA, STARS, All Stars, UMP, PROS,
USAC, Sunoco ALMS and MACS. He has seen the evolution of Late Models from the home-built,
junkyard supplied racers through the wedge era to today’s version of dirt Late Models. And he has won in
every incarnation.

And he is not without his opinions.

     “I think the local tracks have to put an engine limit in their rules, like a 358,” stated Alexander. “A tire
rule is good if you would limit the compounds to two choices. “What I dislike the most about racing is that
the promoters will not get together and set rules to cut costs.”

     In Ohio Dean Alexander means winning and history. He has legions of fans, always has, and one of his
biggest fans is longtime historian, former Wayne County and Lakeville announcer, and current Race
Director for the Renegade Dirt Car Series, Bret Emrick, who, like this reporter, grew up watching
Alexander in action.

"Dean Alexander, man, around here in north central Ohio that name has been heard for years,” offers
Emrick, with his trademark smile. “My first recollection of watching Dean race was at Lakeville
Speedway when I was a kid. Dean, Jim Gentry, Lloyd Wirt, Danny Dean.... those guys were tough! I must
admit I was a Gentry fan as a kid so I was always disappointed when the #16 (Alexander) finished ahead of
the #14 (Gentry) (laughs)!”

“Back in the 60's at Lakeville the crowd was either Dean Alexander fans or Jim Gentry fans. Sure, there
were Danny Dean and Lloyd Wirt fans but Dean and Jim were the two favorites. And, those two had some
classic battles!”

“I really never knew Dean until I started to do the announcing at Lakeville and then later on at Buckeye
Speedway, now Wayne County Speedway. And, you know what. After meeting Dean and getting to know
him the mental image I had of Dean as a kid was quickly erased. Being a Gentry fan as a kid I always
thought Dean was the one with the ‘black hat’. You know, the bad guy. But, I can honestly say Dean is a
great human being!”

“Sure, he wasn't afraid to mix it up every now and then on the track. But, you had to give him his due. The
man was one of the best racers this area has ever produced. And, he would do anything he could to help
out his fellow racers and the younger kids who were just starting. And, even though he doesn't race much
any more he still does the same thing. I don't know how many stories I've heard from the area racers of
how Dean Alexander really helped them when they needed it. Parts, advice or just plain encouragement.
He has helped so many of today's racers from this area.”

Emrick is one of hundreds who can testify to seeing, hearing and experiencing what perhaps could be
Alexander’s greatest skill: joke teller. Perhaps it comes with the turf of being a tavern owner but
Alexander could have easily fit in with the Rat Pack in Vegas around the time he started racing. His
encyclopedic memory of jokes is truly amazing. And legion. He could have been a success in Hollywood.

“Dean sometimes will stop by the office to chat and you know that the conversation is going to start with a
joke,” chuckles Emrick. “Dean just absolutely loves to tell jokes. Since this is a family publication I can't
repeat most of them (laughs)!  And, I've seen some of the practical jokes he's pulled on people. Wow!”

“I really have the utmost respect for Dean Alexander. Great racer, great family man and just a plain, salt
of the earth good person. I guess if you wanted to come up with a phrase to describe Dean Alexander the
best would be: just a regular guy who was one hell of a racer!”

     Alexander spent years confounding the “big boys”, like
Moran, Boggs and Swartz, and the regulars at
his current stomping grounds, Wayne County and Lakeville. And he has considerable respect for several
racers. “Bob Wearing, Sr., is almost a hero of mine,” revealed Alexander. “He’s a friend, a nice guy and a
winner. He’s got over 500 wins, after all.”

     “Keith Berner is the smartest racer in the area, and a good friend.”

     When asked who has been the toughest competition year in and year out over the course of his long
career, Alexander never hesitating in responding with, “Eph Davis years ago and then Jim Gentry. Gentry
is a real hard charger.”

Drivers from all across the region rely on Alexander’s advice. Besides being a tavern owner he is a
Rocket Chassis distributor and proprietor of Alexander’s Budget Bodies, who adorn dirt Late Models all
over central Ohio.

     “You’re always learning,” reflected the friendly, and popular, driver. “I still learn from different
people. I listen, but you have to think for yourself. Wearing, Bob Cannon and Bob Dickerson are a couple
who I learned from."

     Despite having a 37-year streak of a minimum of two wins per season broken a couple seasons back,
the wins still come for Alexander who has admittedly slowed down some off the track. These days it’s just
like it was 40 years ago, all for the fun of it. Some nights he and Chase might haul down to Lakeville, or
maybe wait and go to Wayne County on Saturday night. If perchance, at the anointed time to head out for
the track arrives, and Alexander suddenly gets a hankering to eat a big steak with Barb at a nice air-
conditioned restaurant instead, the racecar sits. But when Alexander gets his #1a Rocket Chassis on the
track and the green waves, it’s thermo-nuclear throttle-stomping in one of the smoothest styles being
practiced today.

     He may be self-admittedly “old”, but the old guy is still hungry once the helmet comes on.

     Alexander is pensive about retirement.

     “As for how long, who knows?” states Alexander. “I really like spending time with my grandchildren
and racing isn’t the priority it once was.”

     For years a reporter would ask Alexander each season how long he would race, and usually the cagey
Alexander would always imply that it was it his last year as a racer, year after year, and always with his
trademark wink. The reporter finally came to the blunt and brutal conclusion that Alexander would quit
racing entirely when they pulled his cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel. He isn’t really kidding
anyone. Even if he doesn’t race week in and week out, people all across central Ohio could never get used
to not seeing Dean Alexander at some track at some point in the season. It just wouldn’t feel “right”.
Besides, Alexander has tons of fans at area tracks and sells tickets.

     Alexander is pretty casual, modest and nonchalant about his long and impressive career that has seen
dirt Late Model racing evolve from one extreme to another. But stop and think. He has battled the likes of
Allison, Richmond, Lund, Pearson, Quarterson, Jan Opperman, Rick Ferkel, Kenny Weld, Lynn Paxton,
Butch Hartman, Bob Cowen, Jim Dunn, Jim Gentry,
Jeff Purvis, Larry Moore, Bob Wearing, Sr., Jack
Boggs and Donnie Moran, among the hundreds of other local and regional racers over the years. And how
many have raced against Charlie Swartz in both a Sprint Car and a Late Model?

     There have been racers who have won more than Alexander but not many will be able to match him in
cherished memories.

©2003/2005 Doc Lehman/Dirt America