A Hall of Fame Inductee takes us back in time. Today’s inductee into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame, has numerous stories, some can be repeated some well, you just have to ask him. Before we announce who is the recipient of this honor we are retreating in time to Riverside Stadium. The local Saturday night hangout for many of us. A time when the races were conducted and the last feature circle track race was complete and nobody left the grandstands. We would not leave because the last race of the night was the one race in which heat races were not run. It was the always exciting always thrilling dodge the intersection or smash the intersection Figure 8. Some, such as Gene Claxton would enter his Late Model racecar, others like Dennis Gann would enter his Street Stock, and some would have special built Figure 8 cars with the engine relocated to the center of the car (after all the cars would turn left and right).
Today we induct Randy Grimmett into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame. Randy was the Central Auto Racing Boosters Rookie of the Year in the Figure 8 at Riverside Stadium in 1971. In 1980, he became the Figure 8 champion winning every race except the very last race. That last race was won by Dennis Gann. In 1981, he would have repeated as champion except he had a disagreement with Eddie Adkins over something that occurred at the infamous intersection. The disagreement earned Randy a two-week vacation and allowed Adkins to claim the championship. In 1982, Grimmett roared back and grabbed his second Figure 8 championship.
Grimmett grew up at the junk yard located next to the Hudson Station on the north side of the river before you would cross the old Chouteau Bridge. For those who do not remember the old Chouteau Bridge was a narrow two lane former railroad bridge. Driver’s Education instructors would love to test their students with a trip across the bridge. Now this area is home to the entrance to the Harrah’s casino, but in the 1960s and 1970s there was not 210 Highway, instead there was a two lane road known as Chouteau Trafficway.
In these days if you wanted to race you went to the junk yard. Cars were built out of stock parts found at the junk yard. Randy’s Dad, if he knew you needed the part to race, would practically give the part away to support the local racer. Randy grew up attending Olympic Stadium, Riverside Stadium, and Lakeside Speedway. He loved the figure 8. He raced his first car at 15 years old and yes back then you had to be 16 years old to race. His dad would sign in the car and then Randy would race it! His first racecar was a 1956 Ford, which he built and eventually sold and then bought back. After initially selling his first car he built a Chrysler with a Hemi engine in it. He would run it through the woods between Chouteau Trafficway and Searcy Creek. His dad one day observed him racing through the woods and instructed him to sell the Chrysler. He sold the car and bought back his first figure 8 car.
He loved racing in the Figure 8 against his idols Jesse Walton, Larry Winters, and Jerry Beach. Grimmett attended Eastgate Junior High School and was member of the first graduating class of Winnetonka High School. His initial high school years were spent at Oak Park High School where Winnetonka students attended noon to 6 p.m. In his Figure 8 career he stated there was a time Gene Claxton got upset with him because they met in the middle, Grimmett’s Figure 8 car and Claxton’s Late Model car. While there might have been some upset people with those actions as a fan in the stand I guarantee that was excitement, that was fun!
Speaking of fun, Grimmett and Dave Edwards would normally stop at the Waffle House on Vivion Road and park the trophy in the middle of their table unwinding from a night of racing until 4 or 4:30 in the morning.
As 1988 came to a close, and Riverside Stadium and the old Lakeside Speedway closed, Randy moved on in his racing to the tracks of Northwest Missouri. He won a Street Stock feature at I-35 Speedway. He won a couple of championships at US 36 Raceway. He and his pal Jesse would also help out at the new asphalt Lakeside Speedway. He even mentioned during our interview about the time I was disqualified and how angry I had become. He remembered the officials ran a height gauge under my Camaro and said I was an inch too low (this car had been raced there the previous 3 years with no problems). It was actually a move to disqualify me to show there was no favoritism, since Diana worked in the Lakeside office at the time.
A couple of Randy’s championships came in the B Mod class at US 36 Raceway. He had the Ashers’ build him a stock rear suspension B Modified. He would even start in the back every week and this led to another championship. He also won a track championship at the Grand River Speedway. So all in all he was a Five Time Champion. His favorite years were the last two years of his racing, -He took the time to travel and race at numerous other tracks in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Iowa (including Boone, Marshalltown, Knoxville). He just went to have fun, no worry about points. Randy stated it was the most fun he ever had in racing.
In the twilight of his involvement in racing, Randy became an official. He says it is the hardest task he has ever taken on. Officials only have a few seconds to make a call and everyone has an opinion on what was observed. He said the parents asked him what he called on their young racer and then wanted to argue about it. Randy is straight forward with his opinions telling me once, “you know J. D. I have seen you make some good calls and I have seen you make some really bonehead calls”. Can’t say as I can dispute that, we are all human. Randy still has fun at the racetracks. We both have great physiques for entering a hot dog eating contest, maybe the truth be told we have eaten too many racetrack hot dogs over the years? Randy is always asking me how many hotdogs I have eaten each night.
A long time racer, a former champion, a fixture at the local race tracks, with this article we induct Randy Grimmett into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame! Congratulations sir!