January 21, 2010
SHANE'S SENSATIONAL '78
Any rail bird has tales of races with unexpected finishes. You know,
the “it ain’t over til it’s over” thing. Something outrageous
happens to the racy rabbit, and the unsuspecting turtle chugs across
the line the winner.
Well, it can happen over the course of a whole racing season, too.
The poster boy of seasonal ups and downs has to be Shane Carson,
pride of Oklahoma City. How about what happened to him the first
summer he was in office of a sprint car?
Carson had done the six cylinder modified circuit around Oklahoma
with some flourish in the mid-seventies. LaVern Nance saw the spark
and offered him the occasional ride in his sprinter, including a
Southern swing in 1977. There was a double feature, open comp show
in Phoenix City, Al. Doug Wolfgang took one of them, and a very
green Shane Carson snagged another. Then in Lakeland, FL, Shane was
really laying it on ‘em, way out front. Until he flipped, that is.
Right about then, Wolfie decided to pull up stakes from Bob
Trostle’s operation in favor of Speedy Bill Smith’s #4x. Doug and
Bob discussed the replacement. “It had to be someone without bad
habits and baggage,” Shane recalls, “and they thought how about that
kid we saw down South? It was one brave move for Trostle. When he
called, I said ‘sure!’ I had no idea what I was getting into. At 22,
I thought it was just another ride. I could do anything.”
Shane moved up to Des Moines to maintain the Trostle cars – and to
go on the road, 100 races worth. But coming on after Wolfgang was
like coming on after the stripper. It was obvious immediately that
Shane was in deep doo-doo. “It really was tough. They coached me –
gave me a learning window. I guess I passed cause we kept going til
the very end of the season. But you gotta remember that that was the
car Wolfie won EVERYTHING in in ’77, including the Nationals. Here I
was some punk kid – and half the grandstands hated me before I even
got on the track.”
All considered, Shane did pretty darn well. He won the Knoxville
weekly point championship and the MSCA title and its Rookie of the
Year silverware. In fact, Shane reflects, “I won about 20 shows,
more than I had ever driven in a sprint car before.”
That fall, Trostle, as normal, took the team on the road for the big
shows. It went just okay. Towards the end, at Chula Vista, CA, Bob
gave Shane his walking papers. “Bob told me Doug would be back in
his house car in ’79. Bob also told me he did not want to go to the
late October ‘King of the Outlaws” show at Eldora. I had only been
there once, and Bob thought it would be too much for me. He told me
to go home. I did.”
A tough moment in sports. That’s
the moment Bob Trostle gave Shane
the bad news at Chula Vista. (Carson Collection)
Then, suddenly, the phone rang. It was
Don and Harold Nickles out there in Lima, OH, just down the way from
Eldora. They had just purchased a new light weight Trostle chassis
and wanted Shane to run the big show. Nobody knew what to expect,
but the Nickles promised Shane that, if they made no money, somehow
they would help get him back to Oklahoma.
“When I got to Eldora,” Shane smiles, “things didn’t look so good.
The motor was on the ground and there were parts strewn everywhere.
There was a tiny van and an open wheel trailer. Pretty sad. I
remembered what Danny Smith had told me – ‘you better take your
worse fire suit up there, cause you’re gunna get covered with oil.”
But Shane had something up his sleeve. “Sure, I didn’t have a lot of
laps around Eldora. But I always liked the fast, momentum tracks.
And I had just run Knoxville all summer. I knew how to get around up
there on top. Didn’t bother me a bit.”
Shane aboard what the Nickles
Brothers called the Hillbillies car. (Carson Collection)
That King of the Outlaws, the first ever
$10,000 to win race at Eldora, was a shootout. The WOO championship
– a battle between King Kinser and Zero Ferkel – came down to that
feature. The eyes of the open wheel nation were all over it. Rick
Ferkel ended up exploding early, Steve Kinser won the championship,
but, stunningly, Shane Carson won the race!
On the way back to Lima, Shane took some delight in calling out to
Des Moines to give Trostle the results He teased Bob just a little
bit, and, when he finally told him who won, “there was a long
That last gasp victory in 1978 was tremendously significant for
Shane. The buzz was strong enough to land him in the CK
Spurlock/Loretta Lynn Sprinter for the next spring. Irony of
ironies, later in the season, Wolfie and Shane played some serious
musical chairs, as they switched back and forth among the Trostle
and Speedway Motors house cars.
All parties remain great friends today.
Everyone was happy in Victory
Lane at Eldora in ’78. Rick Ferkel (left) had just finished
second in WOO points, while Steve Kinser (second from right
had won). Ted Johnson (right) had just put on a great show,
and Shane Carson (second from left) sure was pleased to win
it. (John Mahoney Photo – Carson Collection)
© 2010 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181