Dicksons: 7 decades of racing

What started out as a group of teenage brothers tinkering around with a dirt track race car while trying to keep it a secret from their father turned out to be one of the most successful sports stories ever to come out of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Way back in the early 1950’s Richard Dickson bought an old race car and his younger brothers Larry, Paul, and Tommy helped him keep it in an area hidden from their father Robert who had not granted the youngsters permission to purchase the car or let alone race it.

One afternoon at the old Marietta Fairgrounds, where at the time they raced dirt cars on a weekly basis, the Dickson’s unveiled their car unaware that their father had decided to attend the race.

Their secret came unraveled however when Paul decided to take his turn behind the wheel in a mechanics race only to end up rolling the car on it’s top in front of the entire crowd which included his father.

Fortunately Paul wasn’t injured in the accident and shortly after their father actually warmed to their new hobby and even allowed them to work on the car in the garage at the family business.

That hobby has become a family tradition as more than sixty years later, the Dickson family name is not only one of the most recognized in the area but has also left it’s mark on the national scene.

Things began to take shape for the Dickson’s in the late 50’s and early 60’s as Larry began to dominate the area short tracks such as Torch Speedway and Hilltop Speedway.

By the early sixties Larry’s career continued to progress as he began to taste success in the United States Auto Club (USAC) sprint car series.

With Larry moving onto bigger and better things, younger brothers Paul and Tommy took his place on the local scene.

Paul’s racing career was short lived however as a bad accident at the Torch Speedway left him temporarily unconscious and although he was able to recover, he would never race again.

Tommy continued to follow in Larry’s footsteps as he dominated the local sprint car scene and was just beginning to make his mark regionally when he was hit in the eye by a rock at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg causing a serious injury to his eye and essentially halting his promising career.

All the while Larry’s career continued to progress and in 1966 he landed a ride in the prestigious Indianapolis 500 where he finished 32nd.

That would be the first of eight Indianapolis 500 starts for the Marietta native with his best finish a ninth in 1969.

While Larry was beginning to taste success on the paved tracks, his most success came on the dirt tracks as he won some 45 times and claimed three national USAC sprint car championships. (1968, 1970, and 1975).

Larry continued to compete in the Cart series as well as he claimed 44 top ten finishes in 105 career starts including a career best second place finish in 1968 in Sprinfield, Illinois.

Dickson went wheel to wheel with some of open wheel racings greatest names such as A.J. Foyt, the Unser Brothers, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford to name just a few.

He even got a chance to run in the Daytona 500 in 1972 and found himself running in the top ten before engine trouble relegated him to a 21st place finish.

Dickson’s career began to wind down in the early eighties although he did compete in the late 1980’s in the Silver Crown series in a car owned by Tommy.

His sprint car career was honored when he was inducted in the very first class of the Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1990.

While Larry was racing all across the country the rest of his family would travel to the races as well, sowing the seeds for a whole new generation of Dickson racers.

Polio had confined Richard to a wheel chair but that didn’t stop Larry’s older brother from coming to as many races as possible many times with his sons Steve and David.

By the time Steve was in high school he was driving a family owned sprint car at the local tracks.

After a successful driving career, Steve applied and accepted a job in the mid 1980’s with Indy Car driver Bobby Rahal where he has been a part of a pair of Indy Car Championships as well as being the team manager for Buddy Rice’s 2004 Indianapolis 500 win.

Today Steve is the general manager of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team that just missed a top ten finish in last weekend’s Indy 500.

David has raced sprint cars for many years in the area and continues to pilot the number 7A sprint car at tracks such as Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe and Skyline Speedway in Stewart.

Paul’s children took a similar path as he did as his son Mark began to drive a street stock car before he even had his driver’s license.

Mark has driven the family number ZERO for 37 years in the street stock, late model and modified series, chalking up over 200 feature wins while still racing competitively today.

His career was recently honored as well as he was elected to the area’s first Modified Hall of Fame class.

Mark’s younger brother Todd was his chief mechanic for many years before forming his own racing team.

Tommy’s son Chris raced for awhile and is now the owner of Dickson Racing Shocks which provides shocks for many of the local racing teams.

While the family has been saddened in recent years by the passing of Richard, Paul, and Tommy, the third generation of Dickson drivers appear primed to carry on the family legacy for many years to come.

Steve’s son Brandon has raced some and currently is working his way up the ladder with the Rahal program while his youngest son Bryce is a third-year student at the Ohio State University and an up- and- coming sprint car driver in his own right.

Mark’s son Travis races in the same series as his dad and is a threat to win every single weekend in his number 16 modified.

Travis currently sits in third place in the regional point standings and has won a feature race this season as has his brother-in-law Jess Hartman, who is married to Mark’s oldest daughter Tiffany.

Todd recently formed Dickson and Son Racing and his son Brad is in his second year behind the wheel as he drives the number 30 hot-modified car at area tracks such as Hilltop Speedway.

At this point in time it’s a little too early to predict if any of the third generation Dickson’s will be able to match the success of the first two generations, but judging from six decades of success I sure wouldn’t bet against it.