Woody: Father Time Eats Red’s Dust
Red Farmer spent his formative years listening to the whine of racing engines just down the street from his home near Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway.
It was a siren song that lured Farmer into racing and decades later – at age 77 – refuses to let him go.
Farmer was recently admitted to a Bessemer, Ala., hospital for treatment of double pneumonia. According to his wife, Red was fussing because it messed up his plans to race in the Jan. 10 Ice Bowl late model race at the Talladega Short Track.
Farmer, who for years jokingly refused to divulge his age, is determined to continue to let Father Time eat his dust.
Red is one of racing’s Last Cowboys, a charter member of the famed and faded Alabama Gang, a genuine living legend.
Back in the old days, Farmer would barn-storm the South with the Allison brothers, Bobby and Donnie, later joined by Neil Bonnett and Bobby’s bright, talented son Davey. When the Alabama Gang rolled into town things livened up.
Those old days are gone, and with them most of the old drivers. Bobby and Donnie’s careers were ended by injuries. Davey perished in a helicopter crash at Talladega, with Red a passenger. Bonnett, who dragged a dazed and injured Farmer out of the chopper wreckage, later died in a crash at Daytona.
Racing doesn’t have a lot of happy endings.
But Farmer, despite the scars, refused to quit. You’d see him around the garage area, chatting with young drivers, offering advice and encouragement. And on Saturday nights he could generally be found flying low and fast through the red dust storm at the local short track, battling drivers the age of his grandkids.
Red is a tiger on the track but a pussycat when the dust settles. Example: when things were darkest for talented but troubled young racer Tony Stewart, it was Red Farmer who took him under his wing and settled him down. Red taught Tony how to hunt wild turkeys and, I suspect, in the process taught him a whole lot more.
I doubt that it was coincidence that Stewart seemed to be a different person – a better person – after spending time with Red Farmer.
That’s what always impressed me about Farmer – what a genuinely good man he is.
Farmer, like most of the old guard, didn’t get rich racing. In the early days, he and the Allisons struggled to make ends meet. They slept in their hauler, lived on baloney sandwiches, and hoped to win enough on the weekend to cover their checks when the bank open on Monday.
Yet they kept going – part pride, part stubbornness, part because they enjoyed the heck out of it.
Today Farmer races for the same reason as he raced back then – for the pure love of it.
Men like Red Farmer made stock car racing. It would be nice if kids today, making millions off the sport the old cowboys built, would pause now and then to say thanks.
A get-well card from drivers and NASCAR would be nice. A card with a check enclosed would be even better.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments