Remembering a free-wheeling friend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

For longtime race fans in the Tri-State, the name Fred Dillow is a familiar one.

Dillow was a fixture at dirt tracks in the region for more than 20 years. He began his racing career in 1968 at Champion Speedway in Kitts Hill, first as a car builder for his brother, Ken, then soon after as a driver himself.

Carrying his familiar No. 83, he competed at Southern Ohio Raceway in Portsmouth, Checkered Flag Raceway in Ashland, Ky., Atomic (K-C) Raceway, in Alma, Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, as well as many other tracks in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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In 1987, then piloting the Dillow-Willis Racing No. 84, Dillow began following the All-Star Circuit of Champions Series, racing regularly against Hall Of Fame drivers such as Charlie Swartz, Larry Moore, Jack Boggs, Delmas Conley and Jeff Purvis.

Despite not winning a race on the series, Dillow earned the respect of his fellow racers nonetheless. He summed up his racing career in an article in The Ironton Tribune in 1987:

"I love it," he said. "Nobody makes me do it. I may not win every race, but I play fair and square. I don't believe in bumping into other cars and causing wrecks."

His love for racing was never more evident than at a race at Skyline Speedway July, 17 of that same year.

An on-track incident with Larry Moore caused Dillow to dislocate his left shoulder. He didn't know it had happened until he got to the pits and tried to get out of his car.

The movement popped the shoulder back in place and he was racing again the next night at Muskingum County Speedway where he won the B-main and finished 10th in the feature.

His racing career continued until 1989 when illness forced him to stop.

Dillow lost a two-year battle with leukemia in 1990.

He is survived by his wife Edna - at one time a top notch powder puff racer herself - daughters Sherri Willis and Susan Dillow, son Steve Dillow, son-in-law Mike Willis, daughter-in-law Michelle Dillow, and three grandchildren, Shayne, Braydon and Addison.

Steve currently continues the family racing tradition, competing in the limited late model division and carrying the familiar No. 83.

The respect his fellow drivers shared for Dillow led to Delmas Conley and Gary Cheek suggesting a race be held in his honor and their suggestion became reality in 1995.

The annual event has continued since, with the 11th running of the Fred Dillow Memorial scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20, at Portsmouth Raceway Park.

Previous winners include: Barry Bragdon (1995), Jack Boggs (1996, 1997), Shawn Holliday (1998), R.J. Conley (1999, 2000, 2001), Steve Lucas (2002), Eddie Carrier Jr. (2003) and Jackie Boggs (2004).