Dickson family has rich racing legacy

It has been some 60 years since a racing legacy began right here in the mid-Ohio Valley that eventually has led to success on the highest levels of racing.

Who would have thought that when the Dickson brothers began to dominate the local dirt tracks in the mid 1950s that six decades later their family’s history on the race track would still be being written?

This is the first of three columns that touch on the Dickson family’s racing story both past, present and future.

Marietta native Mark Dickson began racing a dirt track car in the mid 1970’s well before he had his drivers license.

Mark’s father Paul was quite a racer in his own right but saw his career come to a premature end due to a racing accident that would never allow him to race again.

A trip to the Indianapolis 500 as a youngster to watch his uncle Larry Dickson race in one of his eight starts in the legendary race likely spurred on Mark’s racing aspirations.

“Larry took me on gasoline alley before the race where I saw drivers like A.J. Foyt, Al and Bobby Unser close up and it was just a really neat experience,” said Dickson.

Mark participated in some other sports such as football in middle school, but by the time he was in his mid-teens there was no doubt that racing was in his blood.

He first helped his cousin Steve Dickson, who was just beginning a lengthy racing career of his own, with his sprint car, before climbing behind the wheel of a street stock car with the number Zero on it at the ripe old age of 15.

With help from his mother and father and his brother Todd turning the wrenches, Dickson began to establish his own racing career.

37 years and some 200 feature wins later, you will still find the now 51-year old Dickson behind the wheel of the number Zero running very competitively each week against some of the toughest competition in the area.

“I have just really been fortunate to have a job that allows me to continue to do something I love,” said the veteran racer, who has moved to Gallipolis and opened his own business. “I never hunted much or played golf so racing has pretty much been it for all these years.”

Sunday afternoon Dickson’s lengthy career was honored at the Tyler County Speedway as part of a three-day racing event when he was inducted into the first local Modified racing Hall Of Fame class.

“Its just a real honor and I would like to thank the ones that voted me in,” said Dickson. “Racing has always been a family thing for us and it’s just something that we love to do.”

Over the past few years Mark has gotten the chance to race against his own son Travis, a budding star on the modified circuit in his own right.

Travis finished a strong third place in Friday night’s feature event which featured some forty cars, many coming to the West Virginia track from racing rich North Carolina.

“He is probably my biggest competition every time we go to the race track,” said the elder Dickson, obviously quite proud of his son. “These young guys drive these cars a completely different way than I do and they are tough to beat.”

Travis feels fortunate to have the opportunity to trade paint with his Dad .

“I think Dad and I are the only members of the family that actually got to race together,” said Travis, who has already claimed a feature victory in the young season.

“I think maybe me racing has helped keep the fire in him and kept him young.”

Mark and Travis aren’t the only two family members competing in the modified series as Mark’s oldest daughter Tiffany is married to Jess Hartman, another up-and-coming driver.

“This is what we do as a family each and every weekend,” said Dickson, a 1980 graduate of Marietta High School.

“It is a real family affair and just a whole lot of fun.”

Dickson has been married to his wife Diane for over 30 years and the couple has another daughter Taylor who also travels to the track each weekend.

While Mark has raced in five different decades he has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“I would really like to keep racing as long as can,” said Dickson, noting that he enjoys the sport more now than he ever has. “I have always said that I’ll keep racing as long as I still enjoy it and I’m still having fun and I think I’ve got a lot of years left in me.”