Time slows down for none of us and it was 10 years ago when my racing hero Ronnie Weedon passed away. I want to share with you my story as it was one of the most emotional Bleacher Views Iâve ever wrote. The following was originally published in April 2005. I hope you enjoy it as much as I still do. Long live âOld Blue.â
Ronnie Weedon and Old Blue
In our lives there are people who make such a big impact, that had they not been there, all things could have been different. Sports heroes are role models regardless what they may think because the fans look up to them in this fashion and they make huge impacts on peoples lives. Racing stars are exactly the same and the time and place of this profound impact can happen at any age. For most people it is when we are very young and when it happens we endure this driver forever.
My head and heart swelled with emotion last Monday night April, 11th (2005) when I first heard the news that Ronnie Weedon had died while working on his race car. I was shocked and I just thought it couldnât happen. At 72 years old Ronnie Weedon could still drive the wheels off a race car and you would never know his age based on his driving. When most people retire and look for the easy chair, Ronnie Weedon was still racing a Stock Car.
Ronnie Weedonâs death rocked the Quad City Area racing world and drew everyone together to think about the man who set the racing excellence standard for everyone in our area. Starting in era when Stock cars were really âStockâ in 1948 and racing into 2005, this man had seen it all, he had done it all and he did it the right way. Though a tough competitor on the track he was a gentleman off the track and had the respect and admiration of everyone.
Nothing could have demonstrated this more than the visitation and funeral services that where held at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds and Davenport Speedway on April 15, 2005. Thousands of friends and fans drew together to wish the family and Ronnieâs wife Dee their condolences. I knew too I had to go and give my final salute to the race car driver who was my favorite and made that impact that as influenced me forever. However I found this emotionally very hard to do.
It was beautiful spring day and once arriving at the fairgrounds it was as if it was race day. The parking lot was getting full and people were making their way to the grandstand. The normal jovial crowd was quiet and solace as everyone appeared to be having their own personal time to reflect on the man and race car driver who meant so much to them. I didnât make much effort to find out friends or make company as I usually do; I just made my way into the grandstand and sat down. It then started to hit me; here I was on the fairgrounds, in the grandstand and remembering the man and race car driver who was my first racing hero. I was in aw of it all and somber in a place where I became a race fan 35 years before.
I grew up down the hill from the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds and as a very young boy Iâd listen to the roar of race cars each and every Friday night from my bedroom window. By 1970 I was getting old enough to go on my own and almost immediately I was star struck by Ronnie Weedon. He drove Ford Mustangs back in those days and as always was bad fast. The 1970âs was a great era of racing and for me special. Iâd wait very patiently by the road near the pit entrance and look for Ronnieâs hauler. It only seems like yesterday and my thoughts are vivid of his drive on hauler and those beautiful blue race cars with that blazing #00 on the door panel. When Ronnie and Dee Weedon with Gene and Shirley Freeman walked from the truck to the pit shack window all dressed in blue shirts and bright white pants. I was ready to go racing.
Ronnie Weedon won 504 feature races in his career mostly in a dirt late model. He only raced in the modified division the last few years. Though his career was long maybe his best years and what he might be remembered for the most where his years racing âOld Blue,â from 1973-1978. This car was a Boyce Chassis Chevy Camero and was magic on the track with Ronnie behind the wheel. He had 76 feature victories alone in âOld Blueâ with 42 feature wins in 1974. He could take this car anytime, anywhere and race against anyone. If he didnât win heâd be up front going fast. He even graced the Eldora Speedway High Banks making the World 100 feature and finishing 19th in 1973. This car is the most famous race car in the Davenport Iowa area and special to everyone who worked on it or had the opportunity to see it race. In our modern era, when famous cars are sold and then later junked out, this car lives today in a fully restored condition, ready to race.
During the Funeral ceremony as I fought off the tears, my mind would dart back to those days of Old Blue at Davenport, West Liberty and East Moline. For most of those years I made the 3 track circuit each and every week. I just never could get tired of watching Ronnie race. Iâll never forget the night my Dad and Mom took be out to dinner after a High School Football game down at the Cozy Nook Bar and Grill. There to my shinning eyes was the whole Weedon gang celebrating the big Tri-State Championship in 1974. I wish I had talked with him that night but I didnât. It just felt good to be close and for just a short time I felt like I was celebrating with him.
With the funeral nearing the end, Phil Roberts asked that all 65 drivers who had lined the race track with their cars, to return to their cars. The grandstand was in complete silence with only the bird chirping in the background as we waited for Ronnie to have his last laps around the track. In the back ground you first heard the roar of âOld Blueâ and then the ringing of the modified, with anticipation everyone rose to their feet as the race cars entered track. The large crowd broke into a long applause and fighting back the tears meant nothing at this point. My friend Bob Peppers was right when he said, âThis is bigger than any race Iâd ever been too.â It was Ronnie Weedonâs last race and I was happy I was there. The first lap was single file and then in a final memorial the cars went side by side with the black hearse following and then Ronnieâs Grandson in his go-cart just behind. Dee Weedon was awesome in her thank you to all the drivers as she waved from the window of the limousine. I doubt if there was a dry eye in the house. It was one of the most moving experiences in my life.
I slowly left the race track and walked back to the car. I sat there for a few minutes and thanked God for letting me see Ronnie Weedon race. Had I not, I might not be who I am today and be part of the sport I love. Ronnie Weedon will live forever in our hearts and in our minds. Thanks for memories and long live âOld Blue.â
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