Father#039;s racing legacy brings Dillow family together

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2003

PEDRO - Thanks, Dad.

Even though Leukemia took the life of Fred Dillow 13 years ago, his legacy lives on. And not just in the annual Fred Dillow Memorial Race.

Dillow's son, Steve, has been racing for years thanks to his father's influence. And not only is Steve in the racing game, many members of the family have followed suit in some fashion.

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"We went out to Grayson (Ky.), and they let us run 50 laps. I was thinking I was going really fast and my sister said afterwards, 'You look like you were really going slow,'" Steve Dillow said with a laugh.

"But after I was in the car that first time in Grayson, I knew why Dad loved it so much. It's a rush. A sudden rush. You have to hit the corners so hard."

A lot of Fred Dillow lives on in his son's car. The number 83 on the side of the car is the same number his father used. It also happened to be the badge number of his father when he worked at the old Ironton Solvey plant.

Steve also has a similar philosophy about his car racing.

"I don't want to conquer the racing world. Sure, if I could support our family racing, I would, but it's just not possible," Steve Dillow said. "Dad never took away from us, the family. If we had a junior high game or my sister had something going on, he always made racing second."

Dillow's First Family of Racing consists of his wife, Michelle, who teaches at Ironton St. Joseph, his mother, Edna, who retired from Powder Puff racing undefeated, son Brayden, 2, and daughter Addison, 3 months.

There's also his brother-in-law Mike Willis who heads the pit crew. His sister, Sherri, is a race scorer for Portsmouth Raceway, and Steve calls his sister Susan "our lead cheerleader."

"There are three or four guys who work on the car all year," Steve said. "Mike's the chassis man. The last race (when he finished second) the car was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better car. I couldn't do it without him."

Being a family racing team has helped Dillow draw various sponsors. Not only his mother, Edna, his biggest supporter, he gets advertising support from Cost Cutters Family Hair Care, Off The Wall motor sports and decals, Valvoline, Accent Home Health Care, River's Edge Cafe, Hans Golf Shop, Fine Line Team Week, and George Caldwell Performance Racing Engines.

"If not for sponsors and mother, there would not be a car on the track," Dillow said. "Mom will criticize me. She'll tell me I'm running too high or that I hit that guy. (Michelle) came up to me after a close situation on the race track a while back and said, 'You got a little anxious back there, didn't you?"

Dillow has moved along the racing ranks steadily. After beginning his career at the age of 18, Dillow ranked 14th in points this past season in the Unlimited Class where he ran four out of nine races including a second place finish, his best ever.

"Last year (2002) we started up front a lot and didn't finish real high. This year we didn't start out in front all year," Dillow said. "Last year we ran every race at Portsmouth and we ran just four this year. I've increased my race knowledge 100 percent over the last two years."

One of Dillow's highlights this past season was racing at Southern Ohio Raceway.

"One of the places I've always wanted to race was SOC, and we got the chance this year. We also ran at Atomic Speedway," Dillow said. "A lot of these guys (racing at these tracks) are second generation drivers."

And if imitation is the ultimate compliment, son has repaid his father several times over.

"I kind of modeled my racing style after dad. I respect others out there. I don't put myself in a position to hurt myself or anyone else. But it's not 100 percent safe out there," Dillow said.

"I'm not comparing myself to him. Dad was just doing what he could to compete. I just wish he could see his grandchildren."

Memories of his father continue to flow when Steve talks about family. He said racing has the family back together "and having good, clean fun." Steve said he remembers his father building a car in a junk yard.

"We've had a lot of emotional moments in the last two years, missing dad, thinking about how he's not there," Dillow said.

And just like his father, Steve Dillow will continue to race for the fun it brings him and his family.

"It would be a dream come true for someone to call and say 'I've got a NASCAR or Busch car I'd like you to race,' but that's never going to happen. It's more of a hobby. A very expensive hobby," Steve said. "I have no doubt in my mind that in four or five years I'll be watching him race Go-Karts on Friday and I will race on Saturdays."

Thanks, Dad.

(Chris Payne contributed to this story.)