Dirt Track Memories - Ken Anderson

6/30/2024
Ken Anderson
I still remember going to the state fairground, quarter-mile clay oval back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The track is still there in the upper Michigan peninsula town of Escanaba. They have to water the track to keep the dust down, and then they turn loose 40 or so racecars to do some hot laps.
 
 
The first time I went, we stood at the ticket booth. I heard the unholy roar of W.O.T. V8s all in unison and unmuffled, and it was very intriguing to me. The sound alone was enough to draw me in. The very ground I stood upon was shaking! As we made our way in, the spinning dirt track tires were pelting us with bits of clay. Racecars were slinging dirt and dust. Their headers were spewing orange and blue flames and made distinctive crackling and popping sounds in rhythm. The combined smells of exhaust, heated rubber, racing fuel and oil paired with hamburgers and French fries to make an intoxicating brew. To say the least, I drank it all in. As if that wasn’t enough, there were hundreds of screaming fans who I’m sure knew as well as I did that this place in small town America was the place to be on any given Saturday night during the summer.
 
The cars, mostly ’57 Chevys and ‘30s coupes, were brightly painted and sponsored. In those wild and wooly days, drivers still wore open-faced helmets. So if a fan was close enough to the fenders they might see their grit-streaked grins as they sped into the turns doing dirt track slides. You knew they were really hooking up as they would lift the left front tire as they rocketed out of the turn.
 
They did time trials and inverted the field putting hot shoes like Gene Coleman, Ted Mott and Duke Gardner in the back. In those wild looking modifieds, the Brothers Iverson were fast and hard to beat. Bobby in blue, Herbie in orange, and younger brother Kenny in red. These guys never failed to make a race exciting. Later in the pits we’d get autographs and get up close and personal with the cars.
 
For myself, it was a given. I’d say “Someday I too will race a stock car.” I wanted to race—not just to sling dirt but to maybe serve as an inspiration to some bright-eyed kid who feels the same way I did then and still do today. Over the years I’d race with friends and coworkers. I’d feel at one with the car at speed on a racetrack. Sometimes we were still wrenching on the car as we loaded it to go racing, but we’d be “fast” off the trailer and even won a few races. Afterward I would spend my nights fixing my car for next weekend’s race.
 
Ken Anderson.........Fox Lake, WI
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