CHICAGO — Richard “Dick” Potts, 76, the “Hurry’n Hoosier,” died Jan. 22.
During his racing career of some 50 years, Potts won a reported 521 stock car feature races and numerous track championship titles, nine of them coming at the old Rensselaer Raceway, which was only a short trip east of Potts’ longtime home of Morocco, Ind., and the location of Dick Potts Auto Parts.
Potts began racing in 1960 at the Rensselaer fairgrounds dirt track, racing a ’34 Ford coupe. The coupes turned into modifieds with Potts moving into late model competition in 1971 when the Rensselaer oval reopened after a year layoff.
Potts won nine late model track championships at Rensselaer, the first one coming in 1972. He would win a total of three more in a row, having a total of seven track titles during the 1970s. A couple of more Rensselaer championships came in 1982 and 1985. Records show Potts scoring 75 feature wins at Rensselaer, making him the track’s winningest driver before the third-mile dirt oval shut down in 1987.
Potts won Rensselaer’s season-ending special, the Brooks Ford 100, five times. His first victory came in 1976 with the last one coming in 1982. If Potts didn’t win, he was usually among the top contenders.
Potts competed at other local tracks — Henry’s Speedway in Boswell, Ind., the Broadway Speedway in Crown Point, Ind., and Illinois’ Kankakee County Fairgrounds oval. Records show that he won a career 10 features on the dirt at Kankakee and scored his last feature win at the Crown Point dirt track on May 4, 2002.
Potts’ trademark number was “92”although he drove a car for Buddy Pullins, lettered “007” during 1965-66. Numerous sponsors and supporters were part of Potts’ career.“My best sponsor was Johnson Well Drilling of Valparaiso,” Potts told Newton County (Indiana) historian Beth Bassett in 2010. “We had two cars on our team at the time. We were a team for five or six years until Mr. Johnson’s passing.”
Potts biggest racing rival was the late Earl J. Hubert of Aroma Park, Ill.
“We were friendly rivals, a lot of beating and banging, knocking around at each other,” Potts told Ms. Bassett. “During one season, I was leading him in points and it was the final race at Rensselaer Raceway. I had arrived at the track not seeing Earl J. anywhere, so I just figured he not was going to show up and I was going to win the championship right then. (Later), I looked up at one time, and there was Earl J’s car being towed into the track by him in my tow truck.”
Potts’ biggest win was the Budweiser 200 in 1979 at the Yellow River Speedway in Marshfield, Wis., collecting over $10,000 for his victory on very cold day. A $10,000 second-place payday in 1985 at the Dirt Track World Championship at West Virginia’s Pennsboro Speedway is also a highlight of Potts’ career. Ironically, Potts was involved in a serious accident at Pennsboro in 1995.
Potts told racing historian Bob Markos, “(After coming home), they found out I had a concussion, my leg was fractured in four places, I had a chipped bone in my knee and a fractured elbow.”
Between 1979 and 1981, Potts ran a number of races on the old United States Auto Club stock car circuit. Driving from car owner Gilbert Read of nearby Lake Village, Ind., Potts ran both paved and dirt tracks with a 10th place finish at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway, the high-banked half mile paved oval. Potts also tried his luck on the pavement at several local tracks.
Potts was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2006.
Potts’ final full season of racing was 2010 — his 50th year of speed. Rest in peace, Dick.