|Steve Stroud was at home on May
21, 2015. The much-admired benefactor of the racing
community and the force behind the Arizona Open Wheel Racing
Museum may have been in Phoenix, but his mind was in
Indiana. Glued to his computer, he was monitoring the
progress of his employee, Rickey Hood, at the Hoosier
Hundred Silver Crown race. When at one point Rickey popped
to the top of the qualifying chart, Steve smiled with a dash
of relief. The day would go well. And so it did.
Rickey Hood is son of legendary East Coast gunslinger Hooker
Hood and himself an old-time outlaw nigh on to his 63rd
birthday. It had been a dozen years since he had ventured
onto a mile track and, remarkably, he ended up 15th on the
starting grid and cruised to a solid 7th in a stout field of
Racing on those miles has never been for
the faint of heart. Folks have certainly been jawing about
Rickey's accomplishment, especially noteworthy at a time the
whole sport is aging and a generation of graying drivers is
coping with the question of just how long they can actually
Rickey is remarkably resilient - and
reflective. Here's what he had to tell us.
now I'm really lucky. I'm at work at Steve's Museum and I'm
looking at an old Supermodified - all restored. It was like
yesterday that Dad bent those roll cage bars around an oak
tree in our backyard in Tennessee. It didn't look that
pretty back then. We had nothing, but Dad won anyway.
When I was 15, Dad gave me that car and built another
one. He taught me so much, but I think I learned more by
watching him. Dad was on the hammer. Most of the time he
would get through, but sometimes he didn't. I decided on a
different approach. A little easier into the turn, a little
stronger at the payoff.
That’s the restored Hood
family Supermodified back in Tennessee in 2009.
L-R are Larry Nolan (restorer), the late Hooker
Hood, and look-alike Rickey.
Photo, Memphis Rodder Collection)
We won lots of regional races. Tennessee was kind of
on the racing border. Dad raced regionally and some in
NASCAR and the South. For better or worse, I ran regionally
and then began to go north into open-wheel territory.
I guess I got noticed around 1980 and on July 15 of that
year I was living in Indiana and started driving for Pat
Corsi. It was a great ride, and we won 27 by the fall,
including a couple of Outlaw shows. My strategy didn't
change. I'd like to say I became a calculating driver.
Later we moved to Phoenix, and I drove for the Herrera
Family. Johnny was running up in the Midwest then. You know,
we'd go two to three years without crashing, and my stuff
would wear out. Thinking about it, I probably would have won
more if I had hit more and needed more new parts along the
I've never been one to be too concerned about
physical training, but I've always ridden a bicycle.
Everywhere I can. Getting groceries, whatever. I still do.
One time I really thought about that was in 1985. That
had been a good period. I had just wrapped up the USAC
Sprint Car championship and I went out to the Western at
Manzanita that fall. We were in the first practice,
everything okay, so I walked over to the corner to see who
was fast. A guy apparently turned way too early and clipped
my legs and then hit nine others. I was really broken up and
was laid up for weeks.
I've always been conscious of
concussions because I want to keep racing. It's a good thing
I've never been knocked out. But, I have to say, it might
have been better to have the lights out that night at Manzi.
Winter didn't last too long, though. Dean Thompson
couldn't make the opener at El Centro (CA) in February 1986,
so Bruce Bromme called me and asked me to drive for him. I
think my injury may have slipped his mind. I showed up in a
walker, but we ran second. I could feel the metal inside my
leg flexing when I got on the brake.
I lost 35 pounds
recuperating. We went to a longer race the next week back at
Manzi. I was leading and I just plain wore out and began to
fade. Thank goodness there was a caution, and I was able to
recover. We won, and I am sure glad I had done that bike
It's funny how a certain race can stand out
for me. There was a Silver Crown show at DuQuoin - probably
in the late nineties. Steve Chassey was leading, followed by
Chuck Gurney. I was third, wondering how I could pull
something off. Then, going down the backstretch around mile
95, Chassey's car burped and Gurney shot to the outside
around him. I went upstairs to the third groove, right
around both of them into the turn. It probably looked pretty
ballsy. Now, you could say that it was a real Hooker move,
but it really wasn't that bad and it sure was satisfying.
I've been running Sprinters right along out here in
Phoenix, trying to keep it going. Just two shows
last year. I just got a hankering to try those miles again,
so I called Galen Fox and asked him for a ride in the
Hoosier Hundred. It was one of those "Oh, I don't know. I'll
have to talk to my boys." I heard nothing back. Finally I
called him again. Over to the Indiana Fairground they came
with the blue #56.
I wasn't really nervous up there,
but it did have my attention. Back when I was running those
miles, I was running 80 times a year. Could I still go the
distance? Those cars can really jump out and hurt you.
It all came back so quickly. As always, Galen's car was
perfectly prepared. Qualifying felt real good.
race I kept to my usual way - trying to roll it in and pick
it up early coming out. We were just a little bit tight and
it stayed that way. There is little we could do. You put so
much fuel in those things that, when it burns up, the rear
lightens a lot, and you push more. But we trucked on and
landed in 7th. It was cool. Even people from back in
Tennessee had come to watch.
Aside from working for
Steve right now, I just got a Maxim chassis and will try to
do 10 or 12 shows this summer. Also, I have called Galen and
said, "How about us doing Silver Crown again at Springfield
You guessed right. He said "Well, I
don't know. I'll have to talk to my boys...."
bet I will be calling him again.
|“It all came back so
quickly.” (John Mahoney Photo)
© 2015 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181
you like this Tearoff, you would enjoy one of Joyce
Standridge’s Sprint Car titles: