We all knew he’d do it. The only question was when. Well, now the waiting is over. Ronnie Weedon of Pleasant Valley won his 500th career feature on Friday (Aug. 15) at Davenport Speedway. What an accomplishment!
Just think about it: Ronnie is 71 years young. And he’s been racing since he was 16; that’s 55 seasons. The 500 career features means Ronnie has captured, on average, 9.09 main events for every year he has competed.
“It was nice to do, especially in Davenport,” Ronnie said.
He also mentions “something real ironic” that took place on the night of his big accomplishment.
“The flagman from the old Mahoney’s race track, Gus Heinrich, was down at the flagstand when I got done racing. That was just amazing.”
Ronnie began his racing career at the Mahoney’s track, located under what is now Lake Canyada in west Davenport, in 1948. And that’s the track where Gus began his flagging career a few races into the 1948 season.
“He told me that in ‘48 and ‘49, he did flag out there,” Ronnie said of Gus. “He could have flagged my very first race. I don’t know that. But he very well could have.”
Gus lives in Moline.
“I thought it was great,” Gus said of Ronnie’s win.
He flagged races at five different tracks from 1948 to 1976, Gus told me in a phone interview. He was at Mahoney’s most of 1948 and all of 1949. He got the job there after complaining about the man who had had it.
“They said, ‘If you’re so @#$% good, you do it!’ So I started and was doing it ever since.”
Although no one knows for sure if Gus flagged Ronnie’s first race, back when he competed in the car he drove back and forth to the former Davenport High School, “I flagged all of his after about the first two or three races in 1948. After that, I flagged all of the races he was in.”
Gus thinks a lot of Ronnie. “You can’t beat him. He is a peach of a guy.”
Gus is in his 80s now and has a little trouble getting around. He knows that old age creeps up on a guy.
“One of these days, he’s going to have to quit,” he said of Ronnie.
But the driver of the 00 car predicts it won’t be anytime soon. “No, in fact, I was talking to (my sponsor) Auto Ron’s about freshening up the motor so it’s good shape for the end of the season here.”
Ronnie’s 500th win came in a Modified car. He switched to Modifieds from Late Models several years ago, and he loves the racing division.
“I don’t want to say I had anything to do with it,” said Ronnie. “But three years ago, when I started this class, people were running over everybody and what have you,” he said. “And I talked to a whole bunch of people and said, ‘Hey, I’ll help you work on your cars, just don’t run into me. Now, they’re so damned competitive, I can’t catch them.”
Well, he did catch them — and pass them — for that 500th win. And celebrating with him was Dee. She was “just tickled to death,” Ronnie said.
Dee has been his racing companion, as well as his wife, since 1961.
“She has been true to it,” said Ronnie. We used to have the big crew, and all the women would sit together (in the stands). They had their clutch up there, and we had ours in the pits.”
Now it’s mainly Ronnie and Dee working on the car.
“In fact, right now I suppose if she wasn’t so helpful with it, I’d have to quit,” he said. Because she goes to all the races, she does my helmets and tires and all that stuff. You know, without her, I’d be (nearly) alone down there.”
Ronnie’s not being critical but realistic when he notes, “You know, these young people don’t like to help with old people. That’s just nature. I understand that. When an old fart is 60 or 70 years old, you don’t want to go out and help him in the garage. The young guys, they want to drink beer and raise hell.”
Despite his 71 years, Ronnie is still young at heart.
“But it’s only true in how you feel. It isn’t true in how people look at you. You’re still the old fart.
Well, he may be an “old fart,” but Ronnie can get around the track as well as competitors one half or one third his years.
And when people ask him when he’s going to get feature win number 501, Ronnie tells them, “I’m here to get it now, but I’ll get it when I get it.”
~ Phil Roberts