East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame: Looking Back To 2002
Story by Jim Hill
The 2016 East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Weekend is now just a few short weeks away (Oct. 14-15-16), so this week we’re taking a quick look back to the “appetizer and salad days” of the event and it’s first-year honorees. That 2002 group had an all-star cast of characters but this space won’t allow me to cover each one. For brevity, I’ve broken them down into just four categories: Racers; Officials; Track Owners-Promoters; and Media, and selected my pick as representative. Please note that my choices may not match yours, but I am trying to be as objective as possible with this.
So, along with a brief note about my choices of these four from the Class of 2002, I’ve listed the entire enshrined group in alphabetical order. Some of these folks have since passed away, a couple just this year. To them and their families I say God Bless You for all you did for the sport. After you look over the list below, feel free to admonish my bad judgement on Sunday, October 16, during the ECDT Hall of Fame 2016 Induction Ceremonies. I caution you to bring your “A Game”, as I’ve been married nearly 47 years to a feisty lady who never withholds nor tempers her opinions of me and my actions!
Hemi Hunter Team
Pee Wee Wallace
Luminary Figures From ECDT Hall of Fame 2002:
RACER: Ronnie Sox
Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin created the magical Sox & Martin Racing team that began in the early 60’s.
I expect this to be the least challenged selection, because Ronnie Sox did it all as a racer. Sox had a lengthy and hugely successful career as a driver and key team member of the Sox & Martin Plymouth drag racing juggernaut. He was also a star in the Chrysler-Plymouth Performance Clinic program that toured the East during the 60’s. As a driver Ronnie Sox will forever be “Mr. Four-Speed”. Ronnie’s flawless manual transmission power-shifting abilities made him an enduring legend. Beginning with 409 and Z-11, 427 Chevys, 427 Mercury Comet A/FX’s, a variety of Super Stocks and finally Pro Stocks created a career win-loss standard by which all door car drivers are judged. Whether it was the early days, tuning race cars out of his Ronnie Sox Sinclair Service, in Burlington, NC, or the many years of National event wins and World Championships, Ronnie Sox was an easy choice here.
SANCTIONING BODY OFFICIAL: Darwin Doll
This was Darwin Doll’s NHRA Division 1 Certification Team in 1971. Doll and this intrepid crew operated WCS Points Meets and became part of the crew officiating at major events.
Darwin Doll’s annual York U.S. 30 Nostalgia Weekend brings in a large group of Eastern nostalgia race cars and racers each summer.
Darwin Doll manned the offices and managed the drag strip events of NHRA’s Northeast Division through three different decades, 1964 through 1981, then crafted a second career as a drag racing event organizer and promoter. During his NHRA NED years Doll chased both regional World Championship Points races across the lengthy NHRA Division 1 member tracks map. He also was a member of the NHRA National Events team. During his career he became a favorite with racers, especially those in the Sportsman categories, and was known for fair if not always popular decisions. His most recent activities involve the very popular and successful York U.S. 30 Nostalgia Weekend, where he’s gained the nickname of “Mr. Nostalgia Drag Racing”.
TRACK OPERATOR-PROMOTER: Steve Earwood
Steve Earwood had a dream of owning his own drag strip. That materialized in 1992 when he purchased Rockingham, NC. His ownership has since brought back the historic facility to major stature among Southeastern drag racing facilities.
Steve Earwood carved out a viable career for himself by serving as a member of the NHRA major event public and media relations team. He became a valued member of that team and gained a reputation as a “go-to guy” for an increasing number of media figures and personalities covering major events. He then managed and promoted Gainesville Dragway and then the New Atlanta Dragway, at Commerce, Georgia. After more career moves that included two Texas ventures, he settled permanently into the role of manager, promoter and owner of Rockingham Dragway in 1992. Opened in 1970, “The Rock” stands alongside the NASCAR superspeedway originally built by L.G. Dewitt. Earwood’s smooth personality and creative promotions returned the venerable old North Carolina drag strip to a position of prominence among Southeastern tracks. Today, Rockingham Dragway hosts a full season of drag racing events and special events.
Steve Earwood came from a racing family. His brother, Terry, was a successful Super Stock drag racer and currently manages a race driver school. Inquiring as to how Steve is usually brings about an immediate: “Never Better!” and an Earwood smile.
MEDIA MEMBER: Jack Redd
Jack Redd (left) enjoys a moment with Michelle Feil and Nostalgia Gasser and Funny Car magnate, Rocky Pirrone.
Those ubiquitous “Jack Approved” and Drag Times stickers have turned up in many strange places. For decades Redd was everything that was Drag Times, the weekly newspaper for Eastern drag racers.
The 2016 East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame will celebrate its 15th year as one of the East Coast’s premier events. The ECDT Hall of Fame honors drag racing drivers, car builders, promoters and media members who have faithfully covered drag racing through the years. Of the 2002 group of inductees Jack Redd served as Editor, publisher, photographer, proofreader, ad manager and-everything-else guy that made Drag Times one of the East Coast drag racing media’s most popular titles. Redd’s “Jack Approved” stickers have appeared on everything from World Championship winning race cars to drag strip Porta-Potties. All were a celebration of a lifetime spent covering drag racing and its diverse and sometimes perplexing personalities.