2009 Rodders Reunion

The 2009 Rooders Reunion turned in a victory lap Thursday November 19th, with the "Tennessee Tornado" waving the checkered flag. Shown here with Hooker Hood are Larry Nolan, and Rickey Hood in front of the restored 1967 Sprint Car that carried Hooker to 56 wins, in 63 starts.

The theme of this years reunion was focused on the time honored American pastime of short track sprint car racing, and the honoree was local legend and National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Clarence "Hooker" Hood. Larry Nolan located Hooker's dominant homemade sprint car from 1967 and gave it a complete restoration specifically for this year's reunion. The gold sprinter was one of fifteen vehicles displayed at the reunion, and was just one of the race cars on hand once campaigned by Hooker during his 50+ year driving career.

Another was the black & gold # 99 with Bruce Cogle Ford sponsorship (above). This immaculate restoration, owned by Mike Brown and Danny Parks, was an exceptionally well detailed and drew many admiring glances. It shared center stage with the dual wheeled race car that served Hooker so well during the 67-68 seasons. Mike Brown also brought the # 44 Bruce Cogle Ford Sprint car (below) that was among the many race cars on display this year.

Yet another noteworthy Hooker race car was the black 'B' car that Dennis Kelley has restored (above). It dates back to the late 1960's, and held the third spot in the front row of displayed race cars.

Obviously, there was no shortage of vintage dirt track race cars on hand. All of them accurate to their era and painstakingly restored. Two current winged sprint cars were also displayed, as well as two motorcycles. There was also no shortage of interest, as some 450 reunion attendees joined in for the celebration. The familiar faces that were on hand, the new friends, and the members of Memphis' original hot rod club made for a lively crowd of hot rod and race car enthusiasts.

Many of Hooker's oldest fans and friends were at the reunion to acknowledge his storied driving career. One of Hooker's earliest "pit crew" helpers was former Shelby County mayor Jim Rout, who stopped by for the festivities. 1980's era pit crewman Dennis Kelley, who has been helping with many aspects of this years reunion, was on hand with his restored 'B' car. Dennis and Larry Nolan both received recognition plaques from the Hood family for their restoration efforts. Although 1960's-70's era crewman Pete Walton could not attend the reunion, he did provide a captivating story recorded for the multimedia presentation by teleconference, all while organizing today's sprint car races from the road.

Hooker's son Rickey was also present at this year's reunion to witness the affection directed to his Hall of Fame father. Rickey was en route to Arizona for a race, but made the detour to Memphis just for the event. By no small coincidence, Rickey is also a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee. When one considers that Rickey started driving quarter midgets under Hooker's guidance as a boy, it should be no surprise that he now has an accomplished driving career that is almost as lengthy as Hooker's own.

Again this year, support from local area car clubs will help ensure a substantial donation to the Shriner's Burn Transportation Fund. Jack Mabry (above) of the Memphis Classic Chevy Club addressed the crowd, and donated $4,000 of the club's charitable fund raising efforts to the cause. The Memphis Street Rods (below), once again pitched in with a $2,000 donation. An exceptionally supportive gesture was made by Bob Carlock, who personally donated $1,000 to the cause. A big thanks to each of these major contributors. Your efforts are beyond generous. These donations, when combined with the ticket sales from a larger than expected audience of reunion attendees, should provide considerable help to the Shriner's during these otherwise challenging economic times. We'll provide a full report on the scope of the of the reunion proceeds once the presentation is made, so check this website for an update soon.

Dennis Nolan not only brought out his state of the art sprint car, but also brought this very rare, 1948 vintage Solar midget racer (below) that is awaiting restoration. Larry Nolan brought his own fully restored midget racer, which has a Kurtis Kraft style body mounted on a one-off chassis. Larry's midget has a significant history racing at Sun Prairie Wisconsin's Angell Park Speedway; a notorious hotbed of midget action.

One final observation... I don't think there was anytime during the night, when Hooker was without someone reminiscing with him about their memories of his legendary driving career. From an enthusiastic Gwen Vaughn, who admired Hooker as a child when she attended races with her father over 40 years ago, to fellow Memphis Technical High School student and pioneer drag racer Raymond Godman. Hooker's former crewmen, fellow competitors, and legions of fans were there in force. Needless to say, Hooker was a popular guy Thursday night. Considering the sizable health problems Hooker has endured as of late, and the fondness that he has always shown toward his fans, the mutual appreciation that was expressed made the evening pretty special to everyone involved. Furthermore, everyone in attendance seemed pleased to leave with a smile on their face, which seems to be the case every year.

We're already working up ideas for next year, and I think we're going to go way back into the Memphis Rodders history books to make 2010 something to remember for a long time. So make plans to be there... Thursday November 18th, 2010.

A closer look at the 2009 Memphis Rodders Reunion can be viewed on the Reunion Photos page.