One of the original legendary “Alabama Gang” Charles Lawrence “Red” Farmer was born on the 15th October 1932 (his birth year is uncertain) in Nashville, Tennessee, moving to Miami, Florida with his mother in the mid 1940s’ after his parents separated.
It wasn’t until 1958 that Red moved to Hueytown on a part time basis with Bobbie and Donnie Allison, racing there during the summer months and returning in the winter to his family to work as an electrician. During this time construction work was slow and often Red had to support his wife, children and his mother in law on unemployment money. Finally, in 1962 Red took his family to live in Hueytown, Alabama and that is where they have settled, considering it their home town.
His first race was in 1948 at Opa-locka Speedway in Florida, driving an old 1934 Ford Coupe for a friend’s father. He won his first prize money of around $300 at the Dixie Speedway at Midfield in a 1936 coup and the following day won again in the feature at Montgomery, giving him around $600, giving him more money than he had had in a long time.
After moving to Hueytown Red continued to work as an electrician until after a few years he gave it up to concentrate on racing full time and so began an incredible journey over the next sixty or so years. Ray has accrued an incredible estimated 700 to 900 victories on dirt, asphalt and superspeedways, has won the NASCAR Modified championship in 1956, and then claimed three Late Model Sportsman (now Busch Series) titles in 1967-70-71. Four times he was voted NASCAR’S Most Popular Driver and he’s been inducted into the Talladega/Texaco Walk of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Farmer was the 1999 recipient of the Alabama Governor’s Award, annually given to an individual or organization for their contribution to auto racing. Perhaps the most prestigious award that Farmer has earned was being named in 2000 as one of NASCAR’S 50 Greatest Drivers of all time.
He has been married to wife, Joan for over 55 years and has three children, two daughters, Cindy and Bonnie and one son, Michael. He also has nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Red is still active as a NASCAR racing driver and regularly races at the Talladega Short Track and also works as consultant with ARCA team.
Alabama Gang legend Red Farmer will be honoured at the track where he still races at age 77. It has been announced that Talladega Short Track will host the Red Farmer Classic on the 15th of May, 2011 at the dirt track in Eastaboga across from Talladega Super-speedway. In honour of Red’s number – 97- the super late model race will be 97 laps and will pay $9,700 to win. Red replied to this honour by saying,”Having a race named after him “is quite an honour, especially since they want to do it every year” when asked during an interview for the Stock Car Magazine. When asked if any track stood out as his favourite Red replied;
“Any track I win on is my favourite. But I guess Daytona and Talladega were two of my favourite tracks. That’s unusual for a short track driver. Of course, I loved Birmingham and Huntsville and Montgomery, tracks we ran Thursday, Friday and Saturday for 20 years. We ran Huntsville on Thursday night, Birmingham, Friday night and Montgomery on Saturday night. Then we would go find a big race somewhere. Sometimes we would go all the way up to Manassas, Virginia, and run on Sunday, or up in Tennessee somewhere. We ran four nights a week a lot of times. Basically, I was always a short track driver, but I like Daytona and Talladega. I like the super-speedways”.
He was asked if he preferred dirt or asphalt tracks and he replied;
“Nothing but dirt. That’s one thing I really enjoy anymore. It’s just a lot more fun. I’ve got two dirt cars, Super Late Model dirt cars, right now. I’ve got a GRT and a C.J. Rayburn chassis. I’m building a new engine for next year. I’ll be starting my 58th year in 2006. My grandson has a car. We’re building him a crate motor class to start running with. I don’t even care anything about short track asphalt racing anymore. To me it is dull compared to a good dirt track race. You go see a World of Outlaws Super Late Model race with Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer, Rick Eckerd, Darrell Lanigan, and Dale McDowell and those guys run on a half-mile dirt track and you’ll never go back and watch another asphalt race. You watch those guys put on a show and that are what I really enjoy it. I just love the dirt tracks sideways, broadside, running up the cushion and it’s a lot more fun racing to me than asphalt is. On asphalt you can set up a car and go back the next year and never have to change it. It’s the same every week. But you go to a dirt track and you’ve got to work on it all the time. One time it’s moist, sometime it is dry slick, sometimes it blacks over, and you have to continually work all night long to keep up with the track. It’s just a lot more interesting to me.“