CONCORD, N.C. — When Coleman Pressley raced late models around the Southeast, he always drove a car owned by his father, retired NASCAR racer Robert Pressley.
That is, with the exception of one race.
To tell this story, we have to go back to November 2010. Pressley, then 22 years old, was at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway with his late model to compete in the Myrtle Beach 400. It was there he was approached by car owner Don Satterfield, who was looking for a little help to sort out a problem with the car he owned that was being driven by Julia Dawson.
Pressley agreed to help Satterfield, a veteran team owner who also made a handful of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts as a driver during the 1980s. He jumped in Satterfield’s No. 1 and quickly got it up to speed.
The chance for Pressley to drive the car was unique. Typically, he always practiced his No. 59 late model on old tires, saving any new tires his family team purchased for the race. Satterfield happily bolted new tires on the No. 1, meaning Pressley was fast right out of the gate.
It was fun for Pressley to turn a few laps in Satterfield’s car and Satterfield liked seeing how fast Pressley was in his car. When Pressley brought the car back into the pits, Satterfield told Pressley he’d pay him back by putting him in his car for a race sometime soon.
Pressley, admittedly a bit pessimistic, said sure and went on about his day. He didn’t think much of the offer from Satterfield for the next few months until he got a phone call from Satterfield the following June.
Satterfield wanted Pressley to drive his No. 1 car, which was sporting a new Chevrolet Camaro body that had been produced and released the previous year by ARBodies.
Naturally, Pressley wanted to know what Satterfield needed in return. Did Satterfield want him to bring a sponsor? Did Pressley have to bring money to pay for tires? As it turned out, Satterfield wanted none of that. He simply wanted Pressley to drive his car.
Pressley couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Fast-forward to June 25, 2011, and Pressley was at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the Banjo Matthews Memorial, which was sanctioned by the now-defunct UARA-STARS Late Model Series. He climbed aboard Satterfield’s No. 1 car and was instantly quick.
He was so fast, in fact, that Pressley admitted he made a big mistake.
Throughout Pressley’s entire career he never had new tires during practice, so he was always focused on making his car more drivable for the race. On that Saturday afternoon at Hickory, Satterfield had new tires for Pressley to use during practice.
Thus, instead of spending his practice sessions working on race setup, Pressley was focused instead on setting fast laps. He never prepared the car for a long run during the race, something that would come back to bite him.
Pressley was fast enough during qualifying to earn the second starting spot, alongside Andy Mercer. Determined to put Satterfield’s No. 1 at the front of the field, Pressley hounded Mercer in the opening laps of the race before taking the lead on lap three.
Pressley stayed out front until the 12th circuit when Mercer returned to the lead.
At that point, Pressley’s focus on setting a fast lap in practice came back to haunt him. With his car not setup for a long run, Pressley dropped like a rock through the field. He ended up finishing 16th in the 23-car field.
After the race Pressley was frustrated, but Satterfield was thrilled. Satterfield tried to insist that Pressley take the winnings from the race, but Pressley declined. The two agreed that they’d have to get back together for another race.
Unfortunately, that never happened. A little more than a year after Pressley drove Satterfield’s car at Hickory Motor Speedway, Satterfield died. The resident of Spartanburg, S.C., was 59 years old at the time of his death.
These days Pressley has given up driving race cars, though he hasn’t left the industry behind. He now works as a spotter in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski, a role he enjoys as much as he enjoyed his time driving race cars.
But no matter what he’s doing, Pressley will never forget the one time he drove a late model for someone besides his father.
It’s a memory he’ll cherish forever.