Over the decades, countless drivers have decided it was time to hang up their helmet and taken up race promotion as both a livelihood and a way to stay active in the sport they love. Longtime sprint car star Shane Carson did that too, only he did both at once.
Now 65, the son of legendary Oklahoma promoter Bud Carson has been on both sides of the pit gate his entire life and says he is “proud to be in the Sprint Car Hall of Fame along with my father, partly for my driving and equally for my efforts as a promoter.
“My dad started MAR-CAR in the 1950s and I grew up at the big fairgrounds track in Oklahoma City, selling programs in the stands and doing whatever else my father wanted,” recalls Carson. “Then I started racing there in a modified in 1973, when I was 18. Now the track is gone, and I won’t even drive down that street anymore.
“Tulsa went the same way. They were both big, fast half miles and now they’re gone. There’s still a bunch of nice little tracks in Oklahoma, but it’s just not the same.
“I ran the modifieds for a while, then in 1976 LaVern Nance hired me to run his sprint car. From then until 2000, I raced all over,” Carson continued. “In 1978, we were there for the first World of Outlaws show at Devil’s Bowl that Jimmy Boyd won in Kenny Woodruff’s car. To be truthful, we went because we didn’t think there would be another one. But they drew 97 cars and Ted Johnson was off and running.
“I did a return of the World of Outlaws to Devils Bowl a few years ago and we had 52 guys show up for the reunion. Twelve others were deceased, so that was an impressive turnout.”
Carson finished third in the 1982 WoO standings and backed it up by finishing fifth the following season. But by 1980 his promotional gene had also kicked in and he spent the rest of his career wearing two hats.
“Today, the major facilities are Volusia, Williams Grove, Knoxville, Eldora and Lernerville,” Carson said. “They all do very well with their big shows. But Oklahoma City was in that group, too, before I lost it. The stands held 9,000 people and we could put 200 tow rigs on concrete in the infield.”
When asked if he would have stuck with driving or promoting if he could go back and do it all over again, Carson reacted as if a green flag had been waved.
“I wouldn’t have skipped racing to just be a promoter,” he declared. “All my heroes were racers. But as much as you love racing, you also have to know that you can’t race forever.
“My first hero was Evard Humphrey,” Carson added. “He drove the No. 12 and that was always my number if I could control it. When I drove for Bob Trostle, I had No. 20 because that was his number, but my own cars were always No. 12.
“My other heroes were Mario Andretti, because he was little like me, and Harold Leep and Grady Wade, who’d come down from Kansas and beat our Oklahoma guys because they ran a lot of tracks and had the experience needed to adjust to different track conditions,” Carson said. “I also admired Emmett Hahn and Shorty McWhorter, who were the superstars of their day.
“Grady was also one of my father’s favorite racers. He’d drop in and run the IMCA sprints as well as the Friday night MAR-CAR races at the OKC Fairgrounds. In turn, I think my father was one of Grady’s favorite promoters right up until he passed away in 1991. He was a people person and the racers all trusted him.”
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