News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

August 14, 2013

TRACKSIDE: Drivers, fans pay tribute to fallen sprint-car driver at Lincoln Park

PUTNAMVILLE — The heartbeat of America short track racing — your weekly Saturday night racers and fans — came out to pay tribute to one of their own at Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday night.

The show might have been billed as a $3,000-to-win Midwest Sprint Car Series special but the night rightfully belonged to the family and friends of the late Ed “Slick” Griffin.

Robert Ballou went home the big money winner on the night winning the MSCS sprint feature but the biggest round of applause during the evening came on the parade lap of  the UMP Super Stock main event.

That’s when the capacity crowd gave the starting Super Stock field a standing salute in fitting tribute to fallen veteran short track racer Slick Griffin who passed away unexpectedly this past March at his Carbon home.

The show drew added attention and slightly higher purse and provided a nail-biting finish and a first time LPS winner in Marshall, Ind., driver Mike Staggs. The script couldn’t have played out much better for those in attendance.

 For anyone who has followed short-track racing anywhere in the Midwest — and most recently at Lincoln Park Speedway — during the past 30 years, there’s a good chance they’ve had the good fortune of watching Griffin manhandle his familiar front-running number G2 stock car.

What many didn’t have was the opportunity to encounter the frequent off-track escapades that earned the colorful competitor the well-deserved reputation of being a true Saturday night short track racer.

In the rough and tumble ways of weekly short track racing friendships can be hard to come by- even harder to hold on to. Griffin’s relationship with his fellow racers over the years ran the gamut.

On a night set aside to honor the Clay County native many of his fellow racers spoke of the tumultuous times shared with the hard charging racer.

Car builder and LPS official Bob Franklin probably knew him best. “He had his own circle of people. Those people within that circle he protected as if they were family. He was old style-rough cut racing type of guy,” praised Franklin.

“For many of us, he was like a dad. Once you earned his respect there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you. There is a lot guys out here tonight that has lost more than just a friend,” voiced Franklin, who serves as race director at LPS.

C.J. Bryan was both a friend and competitor of Griffin.  He said there was seldom a dull moment while being in the presence of his fellow racer.

“He was an old school racer, one that raced you hard. When you went out on the race track there were no friends. That’s the way he raced you every night. What I’ll miss the most is his stories. When you went to his shop you could count on being there an hour and half hearing his stories. Those were good times,” reflected Bryan.

Make your way past his rough exterior and you found a much kinder and supporting racer in Griffin, who made the most out of his time spent Saturday nights at the race track.

Young Tyler Loughmiller found the 65-year-old Griffin a  guy more than willing to pass along helpful advice and encouragement in a highly competitive and tough learning environment.

“I didn’t get to know him that well but he was a big help teaching me how to drive the race track, care for your car, your tires. He took me aside and told me not to let the older guys get into my mind, that they were no different than me, just that I was younger than them,” recalled the-up-and-coming 13-year-old racer.

Steve Peeden of Martinsville, Ind., knew Griffin since he was a kid and was quick to point out their relationship both on and off the track was not without its moments.

“I remember coming over here a couple years ago and I beat him about six inches for a win. He never would let me forget it. He was the type of guy you didn’t want to mess with on the track,” cautioned Peeden.

“You could get into it with him at the race track on Saturday night and he would be the first one to call you on Sunday morning inviting you over for a beer. We had our moments. That was Slick being Slick,” said Peeden.

Seldom would you find Griffin and his race car not surrounded by well wishers and a loyal band of followers. None closer than Marc Willey, who proudly described his official role with Griffin’s race team as “best friend.”

“I knew him from the time we started racing go-karts together 40 years ago. He was the type of guy who would do anything for you. I don’t care if it was at or away from the race track. It didn’t matter,” voiced his long-time racing buddy.

Its been a difficult year on several fronts for racing in 2013. Too many losses. For those at LPS on Saturday nights, none are bigger than the friendly smiles and sincere handshakes that came your way from the guy they respectably called “Slick.”

 

Joe Buckles can be reached at

jbuckles4@frontier.com.

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