October 23, 2018
Saturday was race day in Bassett.
A crowd estimated at 1,500 turned out to see 15 race cars and about 305 antique cars at the “Race Night” Bassett Hwy. 57 Cruise-In. Amid the vehicles, there were drivers, car owners and others who helped build the sport from dirt tracks to asphalt in this region.
Legends such as drivers Donald “Satch” Worley, Johnny Bryant and Monk Tate; car owner and driver Jeff Tate; car owner David Kemp; master mechanics and car owner Wayne “Speedy" Thomas, Talmadge Thomas, who heads the racing program at Patrick Henry Community College, and Harold Smith, and many others mingled with the crowds in the parking lots in front of and on both sides of Bassett Furniture Industries.
Bryant and Speedy Thomas both won races at Martinsville Speedway, according to Tim Stone of the cruise-in committee with the Greater Bassett Area Community Inc., which organized the event,
Also, Tami Carroll of Henry County showed the car driven by her father, the late Brice “Spider” Stultz. In all, 15 race cars were displayed.
Among those was a car that was a tribute to Worley and Speedy Thomas, according to its owner, Mark Dowdy of Roanoke.
Dowdy said he enjoyed the modified races at the Franklin County Speedway when he was growing up. He wanted to thank the drivers he admired, so he bought a car and spent a year turning it into the tribute car, complete with Thomas’ No. 7 and had lettering. Worley even won a July 4 race at Franklin County driving the tribute car, Dowdy said.
The cruise-in was held from 3 to 8 p.m. At 4:45 p.m., about 225 antique and classic cars had pulled in to take part in the event and a steady stream of vehicles still was arriving, taking the total to more than 300, Stone said. They were parked around the lots with their hoods raised, owners nearby and residents chatting about the vehicles’ features and histories.
While it was impossible to determine the size of the crowd at the cruise-in because there were not tickets or admission fees, Stone said the organizers think about 1,500 people turned out.
“We were very happy with the results” of the race-themed cruise-in, Stone said afterward. “Race people, like Speedy Thomas, he told me it was like going down memory lane for him. He really enjoyed it because he got to talk with drivers, competitors” and others.
The band Sunset Drive performed during the cruise-in, and food and crafts were available.This was the third year for the cruise-ins, which were held from May through Saturday.
Stone added that he expects the race theme will be repeated again next year. “All those who came wanted to do it” again, he said.
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