Known early in his career as “Little Foot,” a derivative of his superstar father’s nickname, “Barefoot Bob,” Tim McCreadie is now recognized everywhere for his own accomplishments, not just for being Bob’s son.
Currently plying his trade on the World of Outlaws Late Model circuit, McCreadie has been a big winner in the DIRTcar modifieds, shocked the open cockpit world by winning the Chili Bowl, claimed the WoO title, gone to NASCAR (and back) and crashed hard enough at another Chili Bowl to suffer career threatening injuries. Through it all, he’s stayed grounded in reality, regained his health and continued building a career atop the knowledge garnered from watching his dad when he was just another kid in the pits.
“I learned a lot by watching him, especially what you have to put into the sport to get something back out,” offers Tim. “A lot of people, and especially the fans, don’t see what goes on after the gates close and everyone goes home. We gave up a lot over the years as a family to do what we do. It’s more than a full-time job, racing the way he did.
“Now he watches me. And there’s a lot of pressure when somebody is watching you who was one of the best to ever put on a pair of racing shoes.”
Like every racer, Tim has had his ups and downs, wins and injuries, and credits the mental attitude he inherited from his father for helping him get through the bad times.
“It’s good to have my dad there, because he’s been through it all. He and my mother made it through 35 years of living off racing with three kids and that alone is an amazing feat. You have to learn how to handle things when you’re struggling instead of winning.
“We’re struggling right now. You don’t know how to get over the top sometimes but you can’t let it overwhelm you, whether it’s the racing business or your personal life. You have to stay calm and figure out what you have to do to get better!”
Looking back, Tim recalls his father offering advice, not criticism, as he learned his trade.
“When I was young, I raced go-karts and he couldn’t go because he was racing somewhere all the time. I traveled with another family who threw my kart on with theirs. He never got on me about what I should be doing, he just kept telling me that ‘racing is a professional sport and you have to treat people the way you want to be treated.’ I wasn’t brought up with things like throwing helmets or having a temper tantrum.
“It’s different now with the late models, especially with some of the younger guys. You see that a lot. They don’t operate in this division the way they did where I came from. Up there, you settled your problems on the racetrack. Now it’s tantrums, meetings and dirty looks, like in grade school.
“One of the first things I learned is not to go into somebody else’s pit area. If you do, expect it not to go well. My dad preached to me – don’t ever go talk to somebody right after a race. It’s the worst time because the only guy who is happy is the winner. Everybody else is mad about something. They’ll all calm down in a day or two and you can call them and work it out.
“Don’t go down there with a crowd and make a mockery of the whole deal. I learned that right off. Treat guys the way you want to be treated. When tempers flare, don’t get in somebody’s face.”
When it’s suggested that the cars have changed as well as the drivers, McCreadie reflects a moment, then nods his head.
“That’s true, but it all goes together. Guys raced a lot different when there was a bigger chance of getting hurt. With all the new safety equipment now, guys are a lot braver. And they know you can’t lay your hands on anybody, anywhere, because of the threat of lawsuits and more attention from the sanctioning bodies.
“I’m not saying it’s right or wrong but I do know you might think twice about running over somebody who’s a known fighter. Look at Donny O’Neil and my dad — you automatically give them a little more respect out there on the track. A lot of guys now feel like they’ve got a bubble around them and they drive differently.”
Still, McCreadie loves the high-powered late models and the intense competition in the division.
“I had aspirations and tried to go higher but it didn’t work out,” he says with an air of resigned sadness. “That was a low point of my life, personally and professionally. Some days I probably rehash it more than I should but right now, I’m happy doing this. And I don’t care what anybody says, if they think this is easier than what they’re doing, they’re dead wrong. This division is the toughest one in the U.S. right now. I don’t know another division with as many cars and as many well-funded teams. There are two major series that can co-exist and that isn’t happening anywhere else.”
Does that make him a “lifer” with the late models?
“I love the modifieds and I like trying different things but the problem is that where I’m at in my life, at my age, I start looking at the bills more than when I was 25 or 30. This is where the money is! The problem now is that I think we should be better than we are and I think I should have won more big races than I have. That hurts my pride and keeps me focused on the late models.
“When I’m struggling, it’s tough on my dad. He doesn’t want to see me fail and I’m always comparing myself to him. He averaged 25 wins a year through his career and I’m nowhere near that. We talk after every race and we talk a lot about regaining confidence and getting better. It’s hard for him because he’s a realist. He knows we have a talented team and we should be better. I’m young enough that I get over things in a day or two but he doesn’t.”
Looking back, the younger McCreadie had seasons when he could do no wrong and knows that if things come together, another “career” season is just a hot streak away.
“It’s all momentum. Look at the year we won the Chili Bowl. That was in January and I stayed on top all year. We won the Outlaw title and I had the momentum to make a career move. But when you get down south, you’re helpless. You’re dependent on what they do for you and you can do very little for yourself.
“In dirt racing, I can try something to improve the team and if that doesn’t work, I can try something else. Down there, they’ve got an idea what they want and they treat drivers like tearoffs. They rip you off, throw you away and go on to the next guy, whether he’s got a pedigree or he’s got nothing.
“It was tough. That’s the only thing I’ve failed at in my life. People say ‘Well, you didn’t do that bad!’ but it was only six races. I raced all of my career to get to that point. Here’s an owner who’s supposedly for the working guy and doesn’t take money from people. ‘You’re gonna make it like I made this guy,’ he tells me, then after a year he doesn’t even talk to you. It’s tough!
“I’m not going to act like it was easy to come back. Not because I think I’m better than everybody, but because I was focused and that was where I wanted to be. I really want to give it another try, if anybody cares.”
Observers in the modified and late model world, cynics that most of them are, figured that Richard Childress had only hired McCreadie to get his grandson’s dirt late model program headed in an upward direction.
“It might have been,” reflects the Watertown, N.Y., native. “But Richard could have saved me and Mike Dillon a lot of time, because I would have set up his LM program and drove for him and got it right without going down there. I didn’t need to move to do that.
“They’re all good people. I don’t know Richard very well but I think Mike Dillon truly regrets what happened. They could snap their fingers tomorrow and put me in a car and we could be winning. I just needed more than six races with a pick-up crew to get going.
“For me, it wasn’t about dollars. It never has been. Racing people think that’s the top level, so that’s what I wanted to do. I got a shot and appreciated him doing that for me. I would have been there until they shut the building down. I never would have left for more money here or more money there. I went figuring we’d work together and get better until we were winning.”
When Bob McCreadie, still recovering from a racing injury, was knocked off his Harley by a driver cutting the corner in a parking lot and hurt even worse, many figured the resulting insurance settlement would be Tim’s ticket back to the big time. But while the settlement was substantial, it wasn’t that big.
“It was nowhere near what everybody thought it was,” summed up Tim. “But I lived with him and knew what he went through and he deserved 10 times what he got. The pain he still goes through every day, most people couldn’t weigh against what’s going on in their life. Now he and my mother can live normally, as long as he watches his money, but he’d need a lot more than that to buy a race track, as was rumored, or get me a ride in somebody’s Nationwide car.”
When he gets his program adjusted and has the car to run with the other Outlaw top guns, McCreadie may well go on a tear and rip off another string of wins as he has in the past. He’s been fast but off just enough to not qualify well and has been battling from the rear of the field.
When he gets squared away, both he and his dad will flash that patented McCreadie Victory Lane smile.
It’s in the genes!