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At an early age, racing quickly became a way of life for these folks, happily spending their best years completely absorbed and unwilling to make allowances for anything that might interfere.
Despite the one-track mind, there comes a time when the thrill has gone. Once that shocking realization occurs, what might be the next move? Is it gradually unwinding that interest, to the point of being able to eventually walk away with no regrets?
Or, is it simply quitting cold turkey? As I have unsuccessfully tried on more than one occasion, any extrication from the racing world is no simple task.
For the longest while, any random stroll through a sprint, midget, or Silver Crown pit area could easily identify individuals who had been a part of the scene for decades upon decades. However, as time rolls on, such a feat becomes increasingly difficult, as one by one attrition has quietly taken its toll on the docket of long-time legends.
Feeling like we reached a definitive end of an era, after August 12th of we would no longer be able to enjoy a Paragon Speedway sprint car contest hosted by Keith and Judy Ford, nor would we be able to witness Jon Stanbrough in competition.
The exits of these key members of the Indiana sprint car community permanently alters the landscape, infiltrating my resulting Monday morning commute with some sobering thoughts. Who will be next? And, how much longer am I willing to stick around when my idols have all but left the building?
Secretly, I have always concluded that once guys like Stanbrough, Dave Darland, and Shane Cottle have called it quits; that would be my signal to move on to something different as well.
Thankfully, Darland and Cottle are still going, so that buys me some time. After all these years, what else can I possibly write about Keith, Judy, and Jon?
For the last 32 years, the Fords have kept the little guy alive by providing him a place to race, revolutionizing the sport with the multi-feature format back in that also served to save the track from sprint car extinction.
I was always a small guy. Back then, there was nobody to cater to the little guy. If you wanted to run, you had to run with the hotdogs and grow up fast. Building and maintaining his own car and engine, assisting in the day-to-day operations of the SCIRA, and working full-time for General Motors, Keith was a top-five contender on an extremely limited budget.
Qualifying quickest and winning several trophy dashes along the way, he even defeated an extremely young Steve Kinser on one occasion. A rollercoaster ride over these last 32 years, Ford weathered the storm when weekly winged sprint car racing nearly put him out of business.
Although he endured endless criticism for his format change to traditional sprinters, lower purses, and multi-features, he enjoyed an outstanding year span when sprint car counts hovered right around But, what goes up, must come down, as the rotten economic times of the late s dramatically slashed his number of participants.
In addition, several people who did come to race, particularly in his stock car classes, literally drove him nuts, as he told me seven seasons ago. Hanging on as long as he could, Keith confessed in June of that this would be his last year to operate the speedway, as it was finally time to do something different.
When the world seems to be changing with every second, I still marvel at the fact that a place like Paragon Speedway has somehow survived, as pure as the day when the Fords were first handed the keys to the property. I take care of the dirt and the equipment and she takes care of everything else.
Paragon was quite the contrast to B-town, which required a police escort upon exiting the grounds after incidental contact with Bob Kinser resulted in a near riot. Oddly enough, the very first time I witnessed such Hoosier lightning came on May 2nd, Just 18 years old at the time, Stanbrough finished 14th against some stiff competition: Rayburn, Bill Kimmel, and Ray Godsey, to name a few.
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