Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Passing Of A Legend

Silver Lake, KS – Ever since January of 2006, I felt like I have been cursed every off season. Good things don’t happen in the time away from racing. I don’t know why. All that I do know is that bad things tend to happen between November and March.

Tonight I have learned that Ron Whitworth, owner & promoter of Humboldt Speedway, has passed away.

I didn’t want to believe it. My brother John texted me around 9 p.m. that he was seeing posts related to Ron’s passing. Carl Flower, a friend and tech official at Humboldt Speedway called shortly after to give me the news. It’s hard to believe.

Sitting here at the computer all the thoughts run through my mind after getting such horrible news.

The first thing that came to my mind was Ron’s wife, Rhenda, his two boys, Ryan & Riley and the rest of the family. This is a very tight family. Anyone that attended Humboldt Speedway over the years would see the entire Whitworth family involved in their operation. It was indicative of just how much family really means to local racing. My thoughts and prayers go out to them in this troubling time.

Does anyone really understand just what kind of loss this means to our local racing community? It’s huge and that might even be an understatement.

When we first got started in this business, Humboldt Speedway was a place that we liked to go to watch great racing. Going to Humboldt Speedway meant that you were going to see great racing, passionate fans and the Whitworth family.

Ron and Rhenda welcomed us in at their track. From the time that we started covering races back in 2000 to the present day, there is no track owner in our area that put back more into their race track than those two people. Financially they invested back into their track adding new buildings, bathrooms, new pit area and more. Not only did they invest financially, but they also invested with their heart and soul into Humboldt Speedway. It showed. Humboldt Speedway is one of the nicest dirt tracks you will attend in the Midwest. I have always said that if Humboldt Speedway would have been closer to a more populated area, it would have had over 150 to 200 cars a night and it would have had 5,000 fans a night.

Ron Whitworth did things the way he thought they should be done. He would use common sense and stood by his decisions and the decisions of his employees at Humboldt. Even when it wasn’t the popular choice, Ron was there to make the right call and stand by it.

If there ever was an artist at prepping a track it was Ron Whitworth. He loved getting his track in shape for a race night. Whitworth would know exactly how he wanted it. I can recall a two day race where he wasn’t happy with his surface and it was eating at him. I have never seen a track owner so hard on himself over prepping a race surface. Personally, I thought the surface was better than 90 percent of the tracks I cover, but that’s just the way Ron was.

In 2006, John and I got the chance to re-open Heartland Park’s dirt track, it was Ron Whitworth that we called for help on ideas for taking care of the track. He was there to lend a hand, not only with advice but he would also show up and offer to lend a hand from time to time. It’s just another example of how nice of a person Ron was. He didn’t have to do it, he didn’t have any investment in HPT. It was just the way that Ron Whitworth was.

I can recall another time when we interviewed Ron on our radio show and inadvertently got him in trouble! In visiting with racers from Humboldt Speedway you would hear stories of how great of a guy Ron Whitworth was. Some racers had talked about breaking in hot laps or getting involved in a crash in their heat race and they weren’t able to make the main event. Ron would pass by after everything would happen and would give the drivers some cash for their troubles. I thought this was a great gesture on his part and brought it up during the interview. The only problem was that he never told his wife about doing this and I should have just kept that one to myself. Again, it goes to show what a special guy that Ron Whitworth was.

He didn’t just think about the surface or the racers, he also thought about the fans that came to Humboldt Speedway. Whitworth wanted to give them a good show and he wanted to provide them with a clean, first rate facility. Again, as I sit back and remember some of our conversations, there was a night that a touring series came in and raced with his weekly show. The show pushed on a lot longer than his normal show and once again it bothered him. Ron had a standard that he held himself too. Maybe other track owners and promoters in the area should take a lesson from Whitworth.

All kinds of thoughts have run through my mind while trying to write this article, but the sad fact remains that we have lost a legend in our local racing community.

In the beginning of the article I expressed my condolences for Ron’s family. Thinking about it now, there are a lot of people that will need thoughts and prayers for this tragedy. Ron Whitworth touched a lot of lives. Racers, sponsors, employees, fans and more were all important to Ron Whitworth and I think a lot of them would be surprised to know how important they were to him.

Ron Whitworth was one of the best track owners I have ever had the pleasure to meet, he was also one of the nicest people I have ever met and his passing is going to leave a huge whole in our racing community.

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