My quest today is to make contact with some of the drivers and crew chiefs that I once lovingly ribbed every racing weekend as "The Lady in Black", your raving reporter.
Just a day ago, I learned of the existence of an organization that gets far too little press and consequently, far too little funding. The organization is The Old Timers Racing Club and the fund they have instituted is "Racing Legends Medical Hardship Fund." http://racinglegends.org/
Many of you loudly applauded some of my Memory Lane articles, in which I chronicled some of the biggest and brightest stars of stock car racing, with some reaching back to the very beginning of the sport. Those men were only a tiny representation of the many dedicated racers that raced in many cases only for the thrill of the race and the excitement of the win.
In the beginning, and indeed, far into even the 1970s and 1980s, drivers, and all those that worked with them on the car, were not paid the princely sums that the drivers of today pocket after each race. Yes, a few managed to make a living from racing, but many more maintained Monday-Friday jobs just to afford to go racing on the weekend.
It doesn't take a math whiz to understand that those racers, the ones that are still with us, have attained the age of retirement and well beyond. Kids, since you haven't been there, let me assure you that old age, though pleasant in many aspects, can sometimes be a bear to deal with. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, the aging body declines until one day, you wake up and see your grandfather looking out from the mirror. Sadly, for many, the mind follows suit. Life becomes one long doctor's visit, with short intermissions spent at home.
The premise of the Hardship Fund has been for those still racing to assist those well advanced in years with the problems they face in aging. However, it seems that something has changed. The drivers and families that originated the Fund are now well up in years themselves, but the safety net seems to have evaporated.
Please remember that I have no affiliation with either The Old Timers Racing Club or the Hardship Fund. I am just the messenger, and I am relaying what I have learned. In no way am I implying that the drivers of today are shirking a responsibility nor could the same be said for NASCAR itself. Our sport, if nothing else, is well noted for the charitable works done by the Sanctioning Body and everyone involved at the upper level of racing.
The problem, I believe, is one of lack of exposure. Now, I'm no spring chicken myself, at the tender age of 72 and counting, but if I just learned of this Fund, I'm guessing that a whole lot of younger folks haven't heard about it either. It is my intention to get the word out, if you will, that this fund exists and is in desperate need of funding, as there is a distinct need for assistance among some of our sport's senior citizens.
Almost all of the Cup drivers have foundations in their name, with funds designated for donations to deserving charities. NASCAR also has a charitable foundation of its own. Please, if you are a driver, a mechanic, a team owner or are in any way affiliated with those good folks, spread the word. Print out this article and paste it somewhere it can be seen. I hope to reach some of my old contacts that still write for other sites and have more articles appear about this in the future. I just can't imagine that the men we cheer for today would turn a blind eye to helping those before them, who indeed have made the sport what it is and raised it to the level of an elite, and extremely well paying occupation. Charity, it is said, begins at home, and these pioneers of stock car racing built the home we enjoy today.
Let me tell you just a bit about the Club and the Fund. Racing Legends Medical Hardship Fund was established in 1991 to assist with the needs of life hardships for drivers and other racing professionals. Whether it be medical emergencies or the burial of a driver, the Medical Fund tries to assist those that continue to make racing what it is today.
The fund was developed by the founders of the Old Timer's Racing Club in 1991. The first chairman of the fund was Jimmie Lewallen of Archdale, NC. The original board members were Jimmie Lewallen, Margaret Rominger (wife of early racing pioneer Slim Rominger), Bunny Turner (wife of racing legend/pioneer Curtis Turner), Larry Frank (who passed away this year), Doris Roberts (wife of Glenn "Fireball" Roberts), Wanda Lund Early (wife of Tiny Lund), Tim Flock and his wife Frances Flock. The current board members are Gary Lewallen, Chairman, Frances Flock, Fred Harb, Mike Sykes ex-officio and President of the Old Timer's Racing Club. As you can see, all members are family of racers and racing.
That about wraps up my purpose for coming today, and I hope and pray that someone with some sort of connection will be kind enough to point these words out to any or all persons in the Cup garage. It wouldn't hurt if the Sanctioning Body were to contribute as well. Guys and girls, if you think today's economy is tough on you, just try to imagine its effect on someone of advanced age and failing health...someone within your own family. Racing has always been family, and I hope that feeling is never lost.