More than four decades ago, a four-year-old boy with a deep passion for auto racing was absolutely devastated when a rain shower swept across what was then known as Cayuga Speedway in Nelles Corners, Ontario.
“It was raining one Friday night and I just bawled my eyes out because I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just take the speedy-dry truck and dry up all the rain so they could race that night,” recalled Roger Slack, who was honored as the 44th Auto Racing Promoter of the Year during the annual Racing Promotion Monthly Workshops earlier this year in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Slack’s passion for the sport has not waned and today, at age 45, he serves as the promoter and general manager of Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway, the legendary half-mile dirt track located just north of Rossburg, Ohio.
Slack was born into a racing family. His grandparents, Bob and Leone Slack, owned and operated Cayuga Speedway, now known as Jukasa Motor Speedway, for several years and his father, Randy, was a successful regional racer, competing in asphalt late models, dirt modifieds and even race-prepared semi-trucks.
Slack and his brother, Bobby, who is now a partner in Bicknell Racing Products, began working at their grandparents’ track at a young age.
“From the time we were of any value, like a traditional rural family we were out there working,” Roger Slack shared with SPEED SPORT. “Whether it was cutting grass, carrying chairs or selling programs for grandma when she had the souvenir stand, we just kind of grew and grew and grew. Grandpa would give you more opportunity whether it was with a bigger tractor or he let you start taking care of the bathrooms. When I was 16 years old, we had our first rock festival and I was in charge of the men’s and women’s restrooms and the showers. I got quite the education that weekend.”
As one of the nation’s premier short-track promoters, Slack is still utilizing lessons he learned from his grandfather.
“Grandpa had a thing about getting with the program, getting everybody on the same page and keeping the show timely,” Slack recalled. “In addition, I learned from him about thinking big because you work just as hard, if not harder, to put on a small show as you do to put on a big show. Grandpa brought in attractions, whether it was NASCAR drivers; Bigfoot, and that was back before Monster Jam. He had Monster Trucks and he brought in jet trucks. At Cayuga, you saw the show you could not see anywhere else.”
Roger Slack originally tried racing quarter midgets and go-karts but soon discovered he could get paid for flagging races rather than paying to compete in them. Interestingly, it was a gig flagging a World Karting Ass’n event at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1992 that pointed the teenager toward a career in racing promotion.
“That was back when there was the big WKA event over Thanksgiving weekend down at Charlotte and they needed a flagman on American Thanksgiving,” Slack recalled “That’s just a Thursday in Canada, so here I was like in 12th grade and flying down to Charlotte to flag for WKA.
“I told them I would do it if they would pay for my flight, give me 50 bucks a day and I wanted to meet Humpy Wheeler. I got a chance to meet Humpy and I spit out my résumé right then and there. I hadn’t even started flagging for ASA yet as that was still yet to come the following spring. We got along and the next May Humpy made me his radioman, which was a fancy word for gopher, and the rest was history.”
Slack has also worked alongside other legendary promoters such as Glenn Donnelly, Rex Robbins and Tom Deery, but it was Wheeler who had the biggest impact on his career.
“Humpy gets so much credit for being a great promoter, but he also helped toughen me up. The first time I ever had to fire somebody was when I worked for Humpy. I had to make a lot of hard decisions and go through a lot of tough circumstances with him,” Slack said. “He was supportive. For so many of us he was close to that tough high school or college coach. Also, Humpy was such a great manager. He knew everything about everything and you couldn’t B.S. him. I didn’t like college, but he made me stay in school. There were a lot of life lessons.”
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