Fathers watch sons follow in their tracks
By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times,
John Coleman's first feature win at Citrus County Speedway in 1995 earned him a handsome trophy and a generous cash payout.
But to the son of veteran Mini Stock driver Frank Coleman, none of the tangible rewards could compare with the look of pride on his father's face when John greeted him with a hug and handshake in victory lane.
"That was probably our closest moment ever," John Coleman recalled. "Knowing how happy and proud it made him was worth everything to me."
You don't have to look far into the racing world to see a long-standing family interest between fathers and sons -- even daughters. Familiar names such as Earnhardt, Petty, Andretti, Unser and Jarrett have produced third- and fourth-generation drivers.
Citrus County Speedway has plenty of long-standing names as well.
George and Herb Neumann, Jr. followed their father's footsteps into the sport. So have Sportsman racers Chris Hooker and Jim Smith. Hobby Stock driver J.D. Goff is part of a family that has been active at the track for close to three decades.
Frank Coleman, whose father raced modifieds throughout south Florida, was thrilled to find his son eager to carry on the family tradition. He probably would have started John racing sooner. However, Frank was concerned that the commitment of time and energy toward the sport might somehow become a distraction to his son's college aspirations.
"I told him he had to finish college before I'd build him a car," Frank recalled. "He did, and I kept my promise."
Though they're staunch competitors, John thinks the experience has enriched the bond he shares with his father.
"He's always been a good teacher," John said. "But when we're on the track, it's all out between us. Whatever I do, I have to do myself."
Some racing fathers think competition provides an excellent lesson in character building.
Hobby Stock driver Scott Teague, who recently introduced his 14-year-old son, Josh, to the entry level Street-Legal Junker division, thinks the experience helps keep the teenager focused on more positive activities.
"Racing keeps him busy, and it gives him something he can be proud of," said Scott Teague, who has raced two years at Citrus County Speedway.
Though Josh is a novice, his father has seen how the responsibility of keeping up a race car has improved his son's esteem.
"This is his thing," Teague said. "He works on his own car and spends a lot of his own money on it. Most of the guys he races against are much older than him, so it means a lot to him when he does well."
Josh's best finish of the season came two weeks ago when he was runner-up in the night's feature event. Because only the winner of the division gets paid for a victory, Josh went home empty-handed. His father stepped up and bought him a trophy to commemorate the accomplishment.
Scott Teague is looking forward to next season when he hopes to be racing against his son in Hobby Stocks. "I want him to stick with it because it's good for him to have goals at his age. For me, it's pretty special because we have a blast doing it."
CITRUS COUNTY SPEEDWAY
WHAT Short-track stock car races in the Late Model, Sportsman, Mini Stock, Hobby Stock and Street-Legal Junker classes, as well as the Jackie Gordon Memorial 30-lap feature for Street Stocks.
WHEN: Saturday. Grandstand gates open at 4 p.m., and the first heat race is at 6:30.
WHERE: Two miles south of Inverness on U.S. 41.
ADMISSION: Adult general, $10; seniors and students to age 17, $8; children under 10, $2; under-12 child with paid adult, free; pits, $20.
INFORMATION: (352) 726-9339.
LATE MODEL 1. Herb Neumann, Jr. (369), 2. Dale Sanders (343), 3. (tie) Billy Bechtelheimer, Danny Johnson (306), 5. Tim Sharrone (300).
SPORTSMAN: 1. Mike Veltman (466), 2. Rex Struble (419), 3. Chris Hooker (385), 4. Alan Struble (366), 5. Johnny Sanders (357).
STREET STOCK: 1. Travis Nichols (444), 2. Mike Bell (430), 3. Ernie Reed Jr. (423), 4. Dean Lawyer (404), 5. Victor Stanley (388).
MINI STOCK: 1. Kevin Harrod (394), 2. Frank Coleman (391), 3. John Coleman (377), 4. Mark Sowell (369), 5. Mike Moore (368).
HOBBY STOCK: 1. Richie Smith (508), 2. Roy Perkins (426), 3. J.D. Goff (413), 4. Brandon Johnson (380), 5. Art Brueningsen (371).
FIGURE 8: 1. Bob Hage (236), 2. Robbie Hage (214), 3. Charlie Meyer (206), 4. Peanut Higgenbotham (202), 5. Robert Aaron (200).
STREET-LEGAL JUNKERS: 1. Stuart Madison (450), 2. Jerry Hoover (392), 3. Allen Turner (358), 4. Rick Bedessa (354), 5. John Donahue (342).
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