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Hopkins County Atticfacts and Folk's Tales

 

racing 300HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (5/24/13) - I think it might be a pretty good choice to stay off the streets this weekend here in the big city.

You might not realize it but Madisonville is and has been what ya might call a racing town.

And Memorial Day Weekend is the biggest racing weekend of the year. Mainly because two of the biggest racing events in the world happen Sunday, the Indianapolis 500 and the Charlotte World 600.

Many associate Madisonville as a stick and ball town. But actually its racing history is just as deep and the little realize fact that of its sporting events of the town a stock car race held just outside the city at Nebo stands as the most attended sporting event in County history.

Don Bowles drag racing exploits have been widely shared over the years, and there is no doubt that drag racing has a firm hold of people’s hearts in the 42431. But its stock car racing is equally as solid.

Madisonville and Hopkins County is one of only a couple of places in the whole United States to have featured three race tracks operating on weekends at the same time. Usually for the most part towns have one or possibly two tracks usually one dirt and one asphalt operating and hosting races. Back in the 90’s there was three dirt tracks racing here. Western Kentucky Speedway in Nebo, Madisonville Motor Speedway in Hanson and Pennyrile Raceway at the Morton’s Gap exit off the parkway. Actually only another Kentucky town in the 50’s is known to have three tracks operating at the same time. It’s a testament to the popularity of the sport.

But back to staying off the streets. Friday is beauty shop day for the Moore’s. The beautiful Thelma Jean Moore ALWAYS gets her hair teased and set on Friday down on Center Street and then usually it’s a short trip up the hill to the Wal-Mart for some shopping. Nothing dangerous about that except the use of five cans of hair spray to the environment but what should scare us off the streets is her chauffeur on Friday’s. The driver of the Eight-ball White Coupe race car, GOOGIE MOORE! George to his mom and dad, Googie now plants his foot to the pedal of a White Ford to take his wife to the beauty shop and market and gives me good reason to avoid Madisonville streets on Fridays!

It’s not that Googies a bad driver, he stands as one of the best ever in the county and is still just as spot on behind the wheel as ever… but ya just don’t know when some whippersnapper is gonna pull up alongside him on Center Street, rev their engine and the race to Big Springs will be on. You and me are better off, locked inside out house cause you just don’t tease ole Googie like that and expect to win… you won’t. That’s the real reason they use five cans of hair spray on Thelma’s hairs, she’s learned after all those years the wind blows hard when the cars going 100 mph!

I’ve only been in there once but for a race fan there is no better treasure chest in Madisonville than Googie’s outback storage shed. Magazines stacked high all about racing. The wealth of knowledge in that building can only be matched by talking to Googie himself as he’s absorbed most all the words in those magazines in to his own brain.

racing 500

Visiting him has become my favourite racing spot in Madisonville. I used to hope our family Buick would get a flat tire every week just so we would have to go to Uniroyal Tire. Back when I was pretending I was Darrell Waltrip on my big wheel, it was the only place in town you could see a race car. Hanging on the wood panelling wall of the tire store was a blue coupe race car #42 picture with Uniroyal sponsorship on the side of it in the picture. Henry “Sonny” Watson’s race car.

Sometimes if I was lucky on a Friday after school driving down Park Avenue one could catch a glimpse of that car being loaded up to head to Central City to race out of the back garage of the Watson’s family home.

That’s the way it is today, still. Here and there you’ll see a car or two sitting in a back yard or garage being worked on during the week. People like Jeremy Rickard, Levi Bell, Evan Gaultney are carrying on traditions started back in the 50’s in this town of leaving the racing for the track instead of being hoodlums on the street.

But just to be safe this weekend, I’m going to be watching really close pulling out of the driveway just in case that foot to the floorboard Googie Moore comes screaming up the road in his White Four door Ford, with Ms. Thelma riding shotgun smiling up a storm… every hair in place.

Richard Cunningham is a Hopkins County native and a Kentucky Arts Council Community Scholar. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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3/13 - 16

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