It Begins with Family
by Erin Tesseneer for Harry’s Racin’ Photos, June 24, 2013
Every Friday at the Historic Cleveland County Fairgrounds Speedway, people fill the metal stands for another exhilarating night of dirt track racing. Taking in the action from the seats are families from across the county, and the surrounding areas. Mothers and fathers bring their children to share what they’ve enjoyed their entire lives. It is a sport that has been passed on from generation to generation, and continues to be shared. Not only is this seen within the spectators, but it is evident in the pits among the drivers and their teams.
No one else understands the importance of family within the sport better than Tim Sigmon. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on June 21 before him and his son, Dillon, took to the dirt for their family-based team.
ET: How are you doing tonight, Tim?
TS: I’m fine, thank you.
ET: How long have you been racing the local area dirt tracks?
TS: 33 years. I started February 28, 1981.
ET: That’s been a good while, huh?
TS: Yeah, we’ve had a long stretch.
ET: What got you into racing?
TS: One of my uncles had a race car when I was a little boy. I was about seven or eight years old. I’d sit around in the shop up there at night until I fell asleep. They’d take me home, because I’d always hang out at the shop with them. Then my brother started racing, and a few years later when I was thirteen I started. I took my brother’s hand-me-down car, and started racing.
ET: So it sounds like it’s been a family affair pretty much your whole life.
TS: It has. It really has.
ET: Who influenced you the most to get into the sport?
TS: I guess just being around racing my whole life. Dad took us to the races when we were real small; to Hickory, and Metrolina when it was asphalt, and Concord. We just, I just, all I ever wanted to do was race.
ET: With all of that history you have, with family and everything being around tracks, wether it be the bigger tracks or the smaller tracks, do you have any interesting stories, you’d like to share with the fans?
TS: I don’t know. I like short tracks better than I do long tracks, because short tracks are harder to drive. I just seem like I do better on the short tracks than I do on the long tracks. I just like it better.
ET: So you like to keep it local?
TS: Yeah, I’ve run at all the tracks around, and I’ve won at seven different race tracks over my racing. I’ve competed in probably 800 races, and I’ve won 113.
ET: Wow, that’s a really good record.
TS: That’s a pretty good average, and we’ve been fortunate. We do all the work and everything to our cars. We build them ourselves so when we win a race we feel like we’ve accomplished something, because we never really had a lot of money to work with.
ET: And I’m sure now with the economy the way it is, it does put a little bit of a strain, or have you guys had any issues with that?
TS: No. It’s tough on everybody that races, because racing fuel has went so high from what it use to be. Everything in general. Racing parts and all has gotten real expensive. We try to look around and buy used parts, and do it as cheap as we can, but still be competitive.
ET: That’s good, and it seems like y’all have been doing pretty good. What would be your most memorable win so far in your career?
TS: I won the Dave Watts race in 2006. That was a memorable race, because Dave helped everybody. After he died there was a lot of people that didn’t get help from him. We won that race, that was a good one. I don’t know, all of them are pretty special when you win that night, but that one in particular was a fun race. I won a lot of Late Model races at East Lincoln and Taylorsville, but that Dave Watts race was probably more memorable than anything. I got in a crash at the first of the race, and still come back and won the race.
ET: What’s your personal code of conduct out on the track?
TS: I try to race people like I want to be raced. If you go out there and beat and bang, you expect to get beat and banged on. If you race like you want to be raced, you still have to stand your ground. If somebody’s rough driving you, you gotta stand your ground and race. In general, we try to run clean, and not hit nobody and win races. If something goes wrong on the race track, come back and sit down on our trailer. That’s the best way.
ET: Who’s your favorite fellow driver to race against?
TS: I’d probably say, right now, Everette [Dunlap]. His family’s been around a long time. I knew his grandpa, and they raced Late Models for years. Me and Everette has battled each other hard for years. We’ve had real battles on the race track, and we’ve had good battles. Everette’s probably that one that I like racing with the best, because I like to beat him.
ET: You like to beat him?
TS: Yeah, he’s a tough competitor.
ET: He seems like the one to beat all season so far every time I’ve been down here. Who always gives you a challenge out on the track?
TS: Well here, it’s always, definitely, Everette. Like at East Lincoln we’ve had some good battles with a lot of different drivers. Brandon White’s tough over there. Ronnie White’s tough over there. We haven’t raced there much this year. We just decided to stick with the fairgrounds. But tough competitors? It would probably be the Dunlaps. That’s just the way it goes.
ET: What keeps you coming back here to the Historic Cleveland County Fairgrounds Speedway?
TS: It’s the track, the people that run the track. It’s a nice, smooth little race track. They don’t bog you down with a bunch of rules. You race, and you take care of yourself. It’s just a beautiful place to race, and the promoter and all the staff are good people.
ET: Besides this track, do you have any other places you like to race?
TS: We really don’t go anywhere else other than here, and East Lincoln. We use to travel around a lot, but as the money got tighter it’s just easier to stick to one track. Since Dillon’s [his son] racing, we race together. We try to stick to one track, and have the best time we can there.
ET: What advice would you give anyone who wants to get into this style of racing? I know that we’ve had some kids come in and race, and actually do really well. What advice would you give to them?
TS: When I started racing when I was thirteen, I had to race with the men. There was no kid’s class. I was the youngest driver to ever compete in North and South Carolina at that time. We had to race with the men in a 6-cylinder class. Now there’s some good classes that the kids can get into: the 4-cylinder, front wheel drive, and the Young Guns. If you’re older than that I would say start with the 4-cylinders and work your way up into the V-8’s because the parts are plentiful with the 4-cylinders. The higher you get with the V-8’s, the more it costs. Run whatever you can afford, but there’s plenty of classes that anybody can start in.
ET: That’s really sound advice, especially these days. Anything you’d like to say to the fans out there that will be reading this interview on DirtRaceFans.com?
TS: I feel very fortunate to have done this for all these years without getting hurt. Everybody that raced back years ago, when I started, there’s not many of them left racing anymore. I feel like I’m the old timer now, but I still feel like I could compete, and I’ll do it as long as I can. With Dillon racing, it’s really rejuvenated me. A few years ago I was getting real tired, and I thought about hanging it up. Then Dillon wanted to race, and it got me real interested in it again. We’re going to do it as long as he wants to do it, and as long as we can afford it.
After wrapping up my initial questions with Tim, he went on to share more stories about growing up in the world of racing. As a family unit, they enjoyed the sport together any time they could. Vividly, he remembers his mom telling his dad that he wouldn’t be racing because he was far too young. When race day rolled around, Tim’s dad would tell her they were going to the track, and if she wanted to come along to get in the truck. If not? They were going anyway. He “wouldn’t trade those times for anything,” because of the fun that was shared.
Now, Tim and his son Dillon represent the second and third generations of racing in the Sigmon family. Along for the ride is Tim’s girlfriend Sheila, his daughter, his parents when able, and their close friends. They’re usually present at the track when it’s Friday night once again. They believe in doing this as a group effort, keeping the tradition going, and getting out there to compete. Along with instilling the sport within his son, he’s also handing down his ideals. It’s not about hitting the track, and trading paint. It’s all about “handling yourself with decency,” and learning to “be humble winners, and gracious losers,” which exemplifies how close-knit the Sigmon family team truly is.
Before returning to my other duties at the track, Tim brought up a very poignant piece of advice on who will be carrying the sport forward:
“ The kids. You have to keep the kids interested in this racing, because if the kids don’t grow up racing then racing is a dying breed. The young kids is where the future is so we have to help them whenever we can.”
Dirt racing is one of the many important pieces of the puzzle to motor sports. It’s apart of how NASCAR was born, and has bred many strong and talented drivers. As a community, and as families, we have to keep these treasures alive. The preservation can begin with the children watching from the stands each and every week. It’s just another vital part of keeping this sport alive, well, and fun.
COPYRIGHT: ERIN TESSENEER FOR HARRY’S RACIN’ PHOTOS
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