Racingkc.com Hall of Fame Inductee #44, interestingly this was his most preferred car number during his driving career. How he came up with #44 as his number is an interesting story in and of itself. You see when he started racing, they had to determine what number he wanted, and his wife said there were four of them in the family so how about number 4. The inductee though liked two-digit numbers, he really liked Richard Petty but did not want to copy his famous #43 number. So, he pulled out his social security card and there were more fours in his social security number than any other number so that is how they settled on Racecar #44.
This inductee was obviously a driver and he competed locally at I-70 Speedway, Riverside Stadium, Lakeside Speedway and the Holmes Road Racetrack. He raced in a time where tracks held heats, trophy dashes, and features and there was a trophy girl presenting the trophy at the end of the race. He has competed at several tracks over the years in other states, including Manzanita in Phoenix, Shreveport, and tracks in Iowa and Minnesota while chasing IMCA. He has competed with the likes of Larry Phillips, Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott, Gordon Blankenship, Don White, Terry Bivins, Jim Hager, Joe Wallace (bought his Nova), Thurman Lovejoy, Jerry Wichman, and Gene Claxton. He remembers when Claxton was a skinny kid and would hit the first turn wall and figured he didn’t have a future in racing. Like this inductee said you can’t judge a book by the cover, Gene Claxton is one of those drivers.
This inductee got his start in 1965 racing a 1955 Studebaker at Riverside Stadium and Lakeside Speedway. He had a gas welded roll cage and a cheap motorcycle helmet. He had more fun just racing and didn’t realize he was supposed to go for the win. His wife won the Riverside Powder Puff Derby and received a trophy and flowers from trophy boy Al Manning. A couple of weeks later he won his second feature at Riverside and everyone was partying in the pits and the pit steward came by and said you better go get your money they are fixing to close the pay window. Money, I get money? He just loved to race, didn’t realize there was money in this sport.
His first win came at Holmes Road Speedway. They had a Sunday afternoon race and they utilized a tow bar to take the racecar to the track. There were 4 Late Models, 4 Super Modifieds, and 4 other type racecars that day so the track officials decided they would run them all together. This inductee won the race for his first ever feature win but there was no trophy just $9 for winning the feature. An unfortunate accident happened the second time they raced at Holmes Road, on the way back the tow bar broke and the racecar careened into the oncoming lane of traffic and the subsequent head on collision messed up a couple bad. This accident almost caused the inductee to quit racing.
When I-70 Speedway opened in 1969 it was an abbreviated season. This driver built a 1957 Plymouth with a big block 440 to compete at the track. This car would get half way down the straight and want to turn left immediately, before entering the turn. After the I-70 season was complete the inductee loaded up the car and took it to race on the dirt at Bolivar Speedway. Once again there was a powder puff derby and he allowed his wife to enter. Racing a car that wanted to turn left in the middle of the straight his wife over corrected, hit the front stretch wall, stepped harder on the gas instead of the brake, scraped the entire wall, exited the track in turn one, and ended up in a ditch. This car was done for the season but subsequent seasons this car became a winner, apparently, she crashed it just right!
When the 1970 I-70 racing season opened the inductee had built a new car, a 1965 Plymouth Fury. He left all the glass in the car and the doors would even open. People like Eddie Adkins would climb in and roll the windows up to get warm during those cold race days. When the summer months came the inductee would roll the windows down and duct tape over the window channel. For those who have competed at I-70 on the asphalt you are aware coming out of turn 4 the car will drift into the front straight wall. This same thing happened to the inductee with his 1965 Plymouth Fury, he hit the wall and it careened him towards the inner wall which at that time was a guard rail. He hit the wall so hard he broke the brake pedal, but he remembers it all as he went flipping through the air, the sudden quiet, seeing the sky, seeing the announcers with their jaws dropped in awe, and he landed upside on John Eppenheimer’s racecar, rolled off that car to land on all four tires. His great friend and partner in crime Tony Maucelli got him out of the car, of course he had to be seen by the track nurse. This ended the inductee’s I-70 season. He then took the 1957 Plymouth and discovered how great it now handled, after his wife’s Bolivar accident, at Riverside Stadium.
One year he ran the mile race at Sedalia with IMCA, as he crossed the scales the official told him get off get off, his car weighed 4,650 and the officials was afraid he would break the scales. All he had to weight was 3,500.
This inductee is now 77 years old. He is responsible for influencing Hall of Fame Driver Rick Beebe to become a racecar driver by simply doing a wink to a group of kids at I-70 Speedway who gathered around the fence after he won a feature. One of those seeing that wink was a 12-year-old Rick Beebe and we all know Rick’s story.
This inductee has earned the 1983 Special Sportsmanship Award from C.A.R.B. and the 1988 NASCAR Sportsman Most Improved Driver Award. Through the years his team earned Best Dressed Pit Crew in IMCA and at I-70 Speedway. He finished 5th in points in the IMCA Late Models which earned him a STP jacket one year. His favorite track was I-70 Speedway for the speed, his most fun track was Riverside.
This interview lasted 2.5 hours and there are more stories to tell, but I think it is time to reveal the 44th inductee into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame, but before we do, let me tell you the theme which continued to come from this inductee during the conversation. Racing is all about the people and all about the fun! Per the words of the Racingkc.com 44th Inductee, Gary Truelove, “There is not a sport more wonderful for family than racing”! Congratulations Gary Truelove.
Opening night at I-35 Speedway, Gary met up with Charlie Thompson and his son, Scotty. These were fans who became friends from the I-70 Speedway days. Scotty was eight years old and sat in Gary’s racecar. From that moment a life long friendship was born leading to the meeting at I-35 Speedway.
Now for more of the stories: Only twice does Gary remember he intentionally got into people, once with the 6 Pack to Go driver John O’Neal at Riverside Stadium which ended up in a scuffle and a driver named Sawyer at I-70 in which Gary was leading and this driver, 3 laps down, spun Gary who ended up third instead of first. The adrenaline was flowing in both situations and the intentional bump to the Sawyer car in the pits was probably a little too much. It did end up in a suspension. The incident with O’Neal led to neither talking to each other for several years but both drivers found themselves together sitting at a picnic table at I-35 Speedway last year and they are now friends on Facebook. Maybe there is hope for a certain radio personality and me.
There are people who might challenge when Truelove got into them. He mentioned Larry Harvey but he would not get into them intentionally because they would race with welded axles in the bumper.
Gary was in line behind Clyde Ellis at CVS in North Kansas City and Clyde knew by the voice it was Gary.
One race with Jim Hager, Truelove lost the brake pedal on the car when the pin slid out. Every turn he would enter the corner and without brakes bump into the rear of Hager. Hager would pass him down the straight. After the race Jim Hager asked him why did you keep bumping me? Truelove showed him the missing brake pedal and Hager replied your welcome for me being your brakes.
Most embarrassing moment for Gary was a race at Lakeside. They had put a copper radiator in the racecar and going into turn 1 the radiator blew the top off and he spun out in the water. Sitting sideways in turn 1 Mike Dibben was leading and never slowed, as Dibben entered the turn, he hit the water and slid into Truelove. There was discussion about cutting the top off the car because Truelove was knocked unconscious. As he came to, he refused treatment, but they told him he needed to ride in the ambulance to the pits and he agreed. He wanted to change clothes from his racing suit to his street clothes but as they let him out of the ambulance, he was going to hide behind the open door but not in front of his crew, so he went on the other side of the door and changed. He realized after that fact the other side of the door was the grandstand side for all the fans to see.
Not all stories can be told completely but Dee Dee Charles and Charlene Karrick you were correct about a certain driver at a race at Lakeside many years ago! However, the statute of limitations has expired!
Gary loaned his car a few times to friends, Tom Taylor, a friend from Texas, ran Gary’s Plymouth at a race in Des Moines. In Oklahoma, he rented his car to lady who needed the heat points. He then ran the car in the feature and got pushed upon the back straight guard rail. An official came running and when he got there his only statement to Gary was, “you’re not Martha” and left the scene.
Truelove lapped all but John Oswald in a 25-lap race at Riverside and was behind the second-place car at the checkered flag. Second place, Oswald, pulled up thinking he had won but instead it was Truelove. Of course, this created some interesting after race activities.
Truelove only once raced for one championship. At the end of that season there was the possibility going into the last night of five racers claiming the championship. However, at the start of the race one driver was overzealous and took out four of the five allowing Terry Bivins to claim the championship. Gary decided racing for championships was not as much fun as racing for wins.
Let’s end with Gary saying Racing is all about the people, all about the fun! It is kind of like at Riverside Stadium everyone complained about the chili dog but the minute they got to the race track they would head for the concession to get a chili dog! We look forward to seeing our racing family, we may complain about them, but we must get together and enjoy our sport with each other! It really is about the people! Congratulations Gary Truelove, Racingkc.com Hall of Famer!