'Red Boots' witnesses track history

Published November 28, 2004

PINELLAS PARK - Tom Young did not have to be asked twice to help commemorate Sunshine Speedway's final day. The Pinellas Park resident raced a '49 Ford in the opening event on Jan.23, 1960, in what he called the Jalopy class.

"I was even here when they were putting the asphalt down," Young said. "So I had to be here on the last night. It's hard to explain the emotion you have to see it go. It's like a big family. The people I met when I first raced, they're still my friends."

Young, 70, even wore red boots. Appropriate since that is his nickname.

It's a heck of a little story. Better, even, than the one about the horn Young used to blow during victory laps. How loud was it? Consider it was built for boats to announce themselves as they approached drawbridges.

"My car was red. My shirt was red," he said. "I had some leftover paint so I said, "I'm going to paint my shoes red.' "

Young said it wasn't until he lined up his car on the track that the shoes were noticed by the track announcer. That was because his car had no floorboard and he could rest his feet on the pavement. "He picked up on that and from then on I was Red Boots," Young said.

Young was pretty much unbeatable in 1964, ripping off a Sunshine Speedway record 48 straight victories in a '38 Ford coupe he said he still owns.

Young, brother of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo, said he doesn't believe that kind of streak will be seen at any track. "I'll keep my car," Red Boots said, laughing. "If anyone tries to beat it, I'll come out and race it."