WOOLER, Ont. – June 5, 2017 – The 2017 season is not just another year of racing for Curtis King. The Wooler, Ont. driver has a special connection to Brighton Speedway’s 50th anniversary season. King is racing this year in memory of his late father-in-law Larry Stacey, a Quinte racing legend in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
King is married to Stacey’s eldest daughter, Patti. While King never got the chance to see Stacey race, his legacy looms large during Brighton Speedway’s 50th season and the Kings are excited to honour him this season.
“When he stopped racing in 1972, I would have been only four years old at that time, but he talked about it,” King said of Stacey. “It was a part of his life that he enjoyed quite a bit.”
Stacey was a multi-time champion at Brighton and the extinct Riverview Speedway north of Trenton, Ont. Stacey raced as much as three times a week, often in multiple divisions on the same night, including weekly destruction derbies. He was well known for his success in all divisions and was well known for his signature move of running the track’s top lane when few others would.
Stacey’s patented move earned him plenty of fanfare at the time and generated fan mail even more than 40 years after he had retired from racing. Fans and reporters involved in the sport were aware of his excellence even while he was still actively racing. “No matter who your favorite driver is, you can’t help but admire the way Stacey drives,” remarked a local newspaper article published June 7, 1969.
“Talking to him, it was all about going as fast as he could,” King said. “He used to say, you held on, you put it to the floor and you rode the car. He talked about the high line a lot. All the guys would be running around the bottom and he would be around the top, wide open.”
Stacey was inducted to the Brighton Speedway Wall of Fame in 2009, a few months after he passed away. Former Brighton Speedway track announcer Huck Flindall, who raced in the six-cylinder division during the same time period before his days behind the microphone, recalls Stacey as simply the man to beat.
“He was an awesome driver,” Flindall said. “He was the dominating man in the eight-cylinder class. He would hang the car out and run the right-rear quarter panel against the wall. It never slowed him down.”
There are plenty of newspaper articles and clippings to back up the statements. “As a rule, when Stacey gets the lead, he keeps it, and today was no exception,” read another local article on October 27, 1968, the same year he was named outstanding driver of the year at Riverview.
While Stacey drove multiple car numbers in several divisions, he was best known for his No. 007 that he drove in the weekly Super Features, the top division at both tracks. Since he began racing in 2012, King’s car has been No.07 with a James Bond-esque gun on the side of the car in tribute to Stacey.
“He ran many different numbers over the years in different classes, but he’s best known for 007,” King recalled. “He and Mo Linde were a team and they raced that number for many years. After Larry retired from racing, the Linde family raced that number and continued to race it for many years.”
“Just like the K5 of Danny Reid, that number has a lot of legacy at Brighton. I’m very honoured to run it.”
For King, this season is about honouring Stacey. Fans will be able to collect a special anniversary hero card for the 2017 season that highlights the relationship between King and Stacey at Brighton Speedway. While the two are closely linked, King’s approach to racing is different. While Stacey loved to drive and had the help of his mechanic Linde, it’s the setup and performance aspects of racing that most intrigue King.
“The biggest thing for me is the research and setup of the racecar,” King said. “I live, breathe and sleep that. I read as much as I can to educating myself. That’s the greatest thing for me and it consumes seven days a week.”
That’s not to say the Wooler, Ont. driver doesn’t enjoy making a pass in the outside lane himself. Some may need a quiet space to get rid of their stress, but King finds the cockpit of his Canadian Modified the best place to relax.
“Getting behind the wheel and racing itself, I find it actually relaxing,” King said. “It’s something I enjoy.”
His relaxed approach is certainly a more reserved driving style than Stacey’s and is one he has modeled after another Brighton legend in the making.
“I try to keep the car controlled,” King said. “There’s times where I probably should take a little more chance, but I’m more apt to be cautious and maybe try the second time. I try to be as smooth as I can.”
“Doug Anderson is a family friend and worked with Larry for a number of years,” King said. “The first time I met him was when he came to Larry’s shop asking for advice. Shortly after I went to a race and watched him, I realized there is a reason they call him the ‘Big Smooth’. He’s a very smooth and a very calculated driver. If anybody, I try to model after his style of racing.”
Over the course of the off-season, King made several changes to his program in hopes of chasing his first career track championship. He attended the Rocket Chassis development school in West Virginia and put together a new engine package with Trenton’s C. Smith Machine Shop.
“This year we made a lot of investment in the car, both money and time,” King said. “We felt this was the year we really wanted to do the best we could and be able to setup the car to drive on different parts of the track when needed. I feel like I’ve already accomplished that goal already so early in the season. The car’s feeling far more comfortable to drive.”
King’s ultimate goal is to enjoy each week at the track with an end game of paying tribute to his late father-in-law with a championship trophy.
“My goal is to focus on my program one race at a time and have fun,” King said. “We made a lot of changes with hopes of honouring Larry in the 50th year by winning a championship.”
So far, King is off to an impressive start. He his first win of the season last Saturday night to go with a second-place finish on opening night and a pair of third-place results sandwiched in between.
“Its definitely been a good start to the season,” King said. “It means a lot to Patti. She’s a big supporter of the racing I do and her dad means a lot to her.”
Stacey is a cherished part of Brighton Speedway’s early years and King hopes to make him proud by adding his own name to the track’s history books as a champion. Time will tell how this 50th chapter is written.