Chris Richards / Arizona Daily Star
In the driver's seat: In his 47th year of racing, Tucsonan Carl Trimmer went back to dirt-track racing in Casa Grande after a disagreement with Tucson Raceway Park.
Photos by Chris Richards/ Arizona Daily Star
Carl Trimmer's cheering section includes, from left, his wife Lola Trimmer, his daughter-in-law Lila Trimmer and his son Rick Trimmer.
Photos by Chris Richards/ Arizona Daily Star
Trimmer powers sideways out of a banked corner during a preliminary heat on the dirt track.
By Jack Magruder
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
CASA GRANDE - Carl Trimmer wheels his Bluebird into the gravel parking lot at Central Arizona Raceway at 5:52 p.m last Saturday, and he is hot.
The generator in his motor home, which he also uses to haul his racing car and accessories, cuts in and out on the 65-mile trip from his home in southern Tucson. Trimmer, along with his wife, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, are left to ride with air that is only intermittently conditioned.
He is working on 90 minutes of sleep after concluding a 63-hour work week (bean counters, read 60, the maximum allowable) at noon. He hauled 24 yards of cement in his company rig on his last shift, which began at 1 a.m. The next one begins at 1 a.m. Monday.
Earlier in the week, Lola Trimmer thinks it might have been Tuesday night that vandals snuck into the garage at home and stole a welding machine and helmet, a chop saw, about $700 worth of tools and three beers.
"I know it was three," said Lola, Trimmer's vivacious wife of 43 years, "because someone said we ought to make a beer run and I saw we still had six left."
But while it might have been one of those days, the sweat and fret fade as Trimmer heads for the pits to prepare for another one of those glorious nights.
Trimmer, 64, has been racing for 47 years, and he is not about to stop now despite a dispute with Tucson Raceway Park that has kept him off that track since early last year.
TRP wanted him to install a new, straight-from-the-factory engine, and he liked the old one, thank you - the one that had won three events that year already and had helped him to track championships from 1993 to 1999. The family believes track officials simply wanted someone else to win.
So now the most decorated auto racer in Tucson history - 747
asphalt and dirt-track championships, said son Rick, who monitors the family Web site - has made a run back to his roots, the dirt tracks of the Southwest.
Trimmer's career was born on the dusty half-mile and three-eighth-mile ovals that he came to dominate in a career that often included three stops a weekend - Phoenix on Friday, Tucson on Saturday, Albuquerque or somewhere else on Sunday.
They certainly do not do it for the money. Lola won $86 in the 50-50 raffle at Central Arizona Raceway last summer ... and got more then Carl, who earned $58 for finishing in the top three.
"Racing is addictive," Rick said. "You have to get your fix every weekend."
Trimmer has won at tracks in Kansas City and Southern California, and places in between, and it has always been a family affair.
Rick, 51, remembers the nights the family would drive to Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix before Interstate 10 was built, when you took Arizona 87 to Baseline Road, then made a left. Rick would make the trip in the back of Carl's racer at the time, a 1941 Ford Coupe.
That car brought the family together in the first place. Lola lived two houses down the street from Trimmer, and little Rick would wander over to check out the cars.
Once the baby sitter came over to ask Carl if he had seen Rick and Carl said no, even though he knew Rick was hiding behind the wheel of his racer. Carl dated the baby sitter for a while, then fell in love with Lola and took her three kids as his. They had two more.
Usually there are about a dozen Trimmers at Carl's races, but the count is lower Saturday because one daughter is at a wedding and another has taken her kids to a birthday party.
Years ago at the Ascot track near Los Angeles, the man who made crankshafts for Carl's racers dubbed Lola the "first lady of racing," and it seems hard to argue. Lola has missed three weekends in 43 years - two when she gave birth, the other when she had surgery.
"This is our life," Lola said. "We love it."
She stayed with her husband for five days at Phoenix Memorial Hospital in 1980, after his most severe driving accident, when his drive shaft broke and gashed his right leg. A few more inches, and the leg would have been severed.
Lola, Rick's wife Leila, and a granddaughter take their familiar seats in the wooden grandstand an hour before the races are to begin while Trimmer rolls his red No. 74 super modified car off the trailer and onto the dirt. The dirt pit is swollen with screaming engines and dust.
"Every town has a dirt track like this. This is the backbone of racing," said Rick, who raced for 13 years.
While most of the other crews make last-minute adjustments, Trimmer's crew applies a coat of solvent designed to keep the mud on the track from sticking to the car. His car - still dedicated to niece Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, who was abducted and murdered in 1984 - is already ready.
Trimmer and crewmen Bill Deyoe and Ralph Stubbs spend the Sundays after a race tweaking the engine or making body repairs to get the car ready for the following weekend.
When that is done, Trimmer relaxes by watching that day's NASCAR race, which Lola tapes. The two have lived in the same house for 43 years; you can recognize it by the Christmas lights they hang every year high up in the trees in the front yard.
"He often wonders what it would be like to race with Dale Earnhardt, Billy Elliott, Harry Gant," Lola said, ticking off the names of NASCAR greats.
Trimmer was the Winston car series Winter Heat champion at TRP in 1996-97, beating a field that included current NASCAR drivers such as Ron Hornaday. While Earnhardt called Hornaday about joining the NASCAR circuit, Trimmer's phone remained idle.
Trimmer's current favorite is Matt Kenseth, who drives well and keeps his mouth shut, qualities that make him a throwback to the vanishing Trimmer model - quiet, unassuming, ultra competitive.
The first order of business Saturday is to pack the track, so Trimmer and other drivers follow the water truck onto the track and run a few laps to dry it out. After a few more practice laps, Trimmer leads his heat race until the final lap, content with second place - the top three in each of four heats make the final event.
The track is very crowded this Saturday because the Phoenix tracks are not running, so there is plenty of time to kill while the other heats and classes run.
Trimmer watches some of the other super modified qualifying heats, then goes back to the pits. He has plenty of company. Friends stop by to chat, and talk turns from racing to cement to old buddies and to 401Ks.
Rick remembers the time he and Carl did the stunt driving for a scene in the "Petrocelli" TV series that starred Barry Newman in 1974. Their two cars were supposed to try to spin each other out. On the second take, one of the cars got so close to a cameraman that he took off and ran. Rick howls at the memory.
"Thirty-five is about your best time," Trimmer offers about the old days. "You've almost got enough money to do what you want, and you can still do it."
The crew swaps out the rear tires on No. 74 for the main event, which does not start until after midnight. Among the field in the super modified final is fellow Tucsonan R.C. Whitwell Jr., a third generation racer with a long connection to the Trimmers.
Trimmer raced against R.C.'s grandfather, who operated a garage in Tucson not far from where Trimmer worked. "I was either at my dad's garage or Whitwell's garage," said Rick, who caught on so quickly that he was a journeyman mechanic by the time he was a freshman in high school.
Whitwell has the faster car this night, and also seems to benefit from a generous flagman, who allows Whitwell to reposition himself in the prized outside lane near the front after a yellow flag. The placement pushes Trimmer down to the inside, from where it is almost impossible to make up ground, especially on a short track. Whitwell wins while Trimmer finishes eighth.
Afterward Trimmer helps push his car onto the trailer, pops open a cool one and talks with family and friends as the racers slowly load up and pull out of the pits.
While the Central Arizona Speedway summer season is over, Trimmer is not done. His stops this weekend were in Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso this weekend. Why change now?
"They'd just find something for me to do," Trimmer said.
Among the many accolades in his 41-year career, Carl Trimmer has won a driver’s championship every year since Tucson Raceway Park was covered with asphalt in 1992.
By Amit Mehrotra
Special to the Arizona Daily Star
On Sunday, Rick Trimmer woke up to the sound of a race car engine at 6:30 a.m.
His 61-year-old adopted father, Carl Trimmer, was up early getting his vehicle prepared for the next race, only one day after winning his first NASCAR Super Late Model feature race of the season at Tucson Raceway Park.
• 34-time racing champion
• Age: 61
• Racing for 41 years
• Since 1968, he has won championships in 20 of the last 21 years. He finished second the only other year.
• Won NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Sunbelt championship, a points race between tracks in six states, in 1987 and 1996.
• In 1996, he was rated as one of the top 10 drivers in the nation by NASCAR.
• In 1992, he was inducted into Tucson Raceway Park hall of fame.
• 1972 and 1994: Won Tucson Conquistadores athlete of the year award.
• Since TRP turned to asphalt in 1992, he has won every year.
“We slept four and half hours. He about killed me that night,” said Rick, owner of Carl’s team, “He can’t sleep, because all he thinks about is his race car, and by 12 noon, it was ready.”
For Carl, it’s all in a day’s work. He has been driving for the same cement company for 28 years. Along with that, he’s become a local racing legend.
His 34 championships have come in local and regional competitions since he started racing at age 18. He won the Sunbelt Championship, a racing league comprised of tracks from six states, twice, in 1987 and 1996.
Still, Rick says he regularly complains about his six-days-a-week job because they don’t give him enough overtime.
“He’s a workaholic. He can retire now, financially. Age wise he can retire, but he’ll never retire,” said Rick, “He gets mad because they don’t work him overtime. I call him up and he says, ‘They only gave me eight hours today.’ He drives the cement truck like he drives the race car. He wants to be the best at it.”
When the company offered to buy Carl a new truck a few years ago, Carl didn’t want it.
“It’s what you’re suppose to do,” said Carl, who is in his 41st year of racing. “You get up in the morning and go to work, and usually what happens when you don’t get up and go to work is you die. So I’m ready to go to work.”
Carl’s hard work has made up for what he lacked in education. Growing up as the youngest of five children in Traverse City, Mich., Carl spent much of his childhood working on the farm with his father, helping the family survive. He didn’t attend school after the eighth grade. His family moved to Tucson when he was 13 because of his father’s health problems.
“I was out in the cotton fields picking cotton until they ran me off, told me I had to go to school,” said Carl.
Carl helped his father race cars in Michigan, and when he arrived in Tucson the interest crept up on him. At age 15, he had a steady job as a mechanic, and by 18, he was racing a 1941 Ford sedan at the defunct Tucson Speedway racing track.
In 1960, he married Lola and adopted her three children from a previous marriage. The couple had two daughters of their own, both of them born on race days. Carl met his newborns in the hospitals and then went off to the track.
“We don’t let very much interfere with our racing,” said Lola, “We had a granddaughter who got married on a Friday, because she knew if she got married on Saturday, we wouldn’t be there.”
“Everybody was happy and friendly and had big parties after the races were over back then,” Lola said, “It’s just a different type of people now. After NASCAR took over, the cars were different, more money involved.”
Carl raced six different beefed-up consumer vehicles at Tucson Speedway until 1968, when the original TRP track opened. He won championships among tracks in Arizona and New Mexico for 13 of the next 14 years. Since 1992, when TRP turned to asphalt, he has won every year.
“You always feel good, but you don’t get real excited about it,” Trimmer said, “Instead of being thrilled about winning, you just understand that’s what you’re suppose to do. I can’t explain it.”
The low-key tone is one of Carl’s most admirable character traits, Rick said. Throughout his career, Carl had many opportunities to move up the NASCAR ranks, but turned them down to support his family.
“He was 21 when he married my mom, who had three (adopted) kids, making $67 a week and he supported us,” Rick said, “That’s one of the reasons he never went into big-time racing. He didn’t want to give his family up. He was always good enough, but you have to live on the road.
“He’s humbled by being so good. It embarrasses him when people come up to him and ask him for his autograph. He really doesn’t think he’s that good.”
Rick said Carl’s personality can hurt his team’s sponsorship; companies look for younger drivers that will engage the crowds. But for Carl, the racing goes beyond the business. To him, it’s duty.
“When it gets to be too much work and I am not having fun, I’ll quit. I don’t know when, but time’s getting short,” Carl said. “I just do it because I’ve been doing it and everyone’s involved. It’s a job, something to do. If I didn’t do this, I don’t know what I’d do.”
Tuesday, April 19, 2005 Biffle's greatest season After marginal success, driver performs splendidly this Nextel Cup series. USA TODAY and Tucson Citizen FORT WORTH, Texas - Don't feel too bad if you don't know much about NASCAR driver Greg Biffle, the man who is rapidly putting together a breakout season in the Nextel Cup series. Fellow competitors are aware of Biffle's talent, but even they are a little hazy about the credentials of the former Tucson Raceway Park driver heading into Saturday's Subway 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Asked to assess the man who is emerging as his main championship rival early in the season, points leader Jimmie Johnson began talking about the aggressive driving style Biffle showed in winning the championship in NASCAR's Busch Series. Then Johnson paused. "I think he won the championship," Johnson said. "Maybe not." Biffle did, in 2002. Now, after only sporadic success in his first two seasons in Cup, a championship at NASCAR's top level seems possible. Biffle dominated Sunday's Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 219 of 334 laps and taking the lead for good when he blew past Casey Mears with 23 laps remaining for his second victory of the season. He is second in points to Johnson, who finished third Sunday. Rivals might not know that Biffle, 35, tore up Tucson Raceway Park in the now-defunct Winter Heat series when he was just starting. From 1995 to 1998, he was a constant contender in the Late Models division, battling legendary Tucson driver Carl Trimmer. Biffle got his first break in Tucson when NBC television announcer Benny Parsons, a former NASCAR champion, was here covering the 1997 Winter Heat races for ESPN. Parsons, who hosts a nationally syndicated radio program on racing, tipped off NASCAR owner Jack Roush to hire Biffle. "Benny Parsons told me he was impressed with Greg because he built his own cars," Tucson driver Dennis Fetter told the Tucson Citizen in 2003. "A lot of racers came through here at that time and got a break because there were no other races at that time of year." Biffle is from Vancouver, Wash. "Tucson certainly was a turning point in my career," Biffle told The Arizona Republic in 2002. "I'd never been outside my local atmosphere up in Washington. Then to come to a new racetrack where we'd never been and do so well was key for our team." Biffle's victory was the third of the year for Roush Racing, which has combined with Hendrick Motorsports to win six of the first seven races. But other teams might be catching up; Chip Ganassi Racing cars driven by Jamie McMurray, Mears and Sterling Marlin finished second, fourth and fifth on Sunday.
Our condolences go out to James Maguire and his family.
James Edward Maguire a long time resident of Arizona and an active member of Professional Auto Sports and the Pro-Racing Trans Am Series passed away on June 19, from injuries sustained in a car racing accident in May of this year. He is survived by five children: James P. Maguire, Mary C. Lumm, Stacie M. Anderson, Griffith L. Maguire and Donald F. Maguire. Seven grandchildren also survive him. Jim will be deeply missed by both family and friends.
Our condolences go out to John Baker and his family.
Dies at Irwindale
For Immediate Release
May 17, 2002
Racing Legend Carl
Trimmer Retires from Tucson
Friday, May 17, 2002
Carl Trimmer, and his family would like to extend their gratitude to the fans, sponsors, and friends for their support and loyalty throughout the years.
With their support, he has been able to have a racing career that all would be proud of, and very few will ever achieve in their lifetimes. Carl is currently the only driver in Arizona to have won the NASCAR Winston Series Sunbelt Regional Championship, and he’s won that title twice. Carl was also a ESPN Winter Heat Triple Crown Champion as well. However, it was his 1996 Sunbelt Championship that brought Tucson Raceway Park a national ranking. Carl has won eight track championships of the last nine full seasons at TRP. Since the track was paved Carl holds the distinct honor of never having missed a Super Late Model Event during regular and postseason racing. Carl and his family were instrumental in building the racetrack when the Tucson Auto Cycle Racing Association (TACRA) built it in 1966.
Carl Trimmer in the news...
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 21, 2001
racing veteran Carl Trimmer (right, with son Rick) has won three NASCAR
Regional Sunbelt titles and about 800 auto races. Trimmer, 62, recently
won a battle with prostate cancer.
Of all the many trips Carl Trimmer has made into victory lane over the past 40 years, perhaps the one he will cherish most is the one he made from a hospital bed.
Diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly 1 ½ years ago, Trimmer, who with approximately 800 career stock car wins may be the state's winningest race car driver, was informed three weeks ago the disease no longer was detectable.
"They did all the tests and the blood work, and the doctor told Carl he was clean," said Lola Trimmer, Carl's wife of 41 years. "He still has to go back every three weeks to get checked again, but right now the cancer isn't there."
Trimmer, 62, began experiencing symptoms related to prostate cancer several months before the diagnosis, yet hardly muttered a word of complaint.
"I'm his wife, and I had to pry it out of him," Lola said. "He was having to urinate every 10 minutes, and I finally started calling around for urologists.
"I don't know how scared Carl was inside because he's a very quiet person and he keeps everything in. But it was a shock to all of us."
Carl said he wasn't overly frightened.
"When they told me I had it, they said that was the bad news," Carl said. "The good news was they could cure it. I just figured I'd let them do what they had to."
It was recommended Trimmer, a cement truck driver by day in Tucson, start a treatment of female hormone shots to shrink the prostate, then be implanted with 105 tiny, radiation-emitting seeds.
"The hormone shots gave me hot flashes, and I gained 20 pounds that I haven't been able to lose," Trimmer said.
The hormone injections also enlarged his breasts, Lola said.
"We had some jokes about that," she said. "We said, 'Carl, we're going to have to buy you a Wonder Bra.' But he took it pretty good."
Less humorous side effects were several bouts of flu-like sickness, but Rick Trimmer, Carl's son and late model team owner, said his father never missed a race.
"There were times he'd show up, go run a few laps, then come back in the pits and throw up," Rick said. "I've seen him so white in the face I didn't think he could keep racing. But he would, because that's the way he is. He never misses a day of work and never misses driving that race car. I think it's because he feels more comfortable at the racetrack than he does anywhere else. It's like he believes it's his duty to be there."
The elder Trimmer said he believes he had no choice but to race.
"What are you going to do?" said Trimmer, a three-time NASCAR Regional Sunbelt champion. "I could be sick and stay home and feel bad, or I could go race and be sick. What's the difference? I still only lost (last year's championship) by only eight points."
It was only the first time since 1993 than Trimmer hadn't won the Tucson Raceway Park championship.
Healthy again, Trimmer is nearing another Tucson track title and is in third place in the Sunbelt region.
Terry Belcher, who often raced against Trimmer in past seasons at Manzanita Speedway, isn't surprised.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't even know Carl had cancer," said Belcher, a winner of more than 200 career races. "But that doesn't surprise me. Carl is a dang good racer, one of the best there is. But he's never been one to say too much. He keeps to himself and just goes and does his thing."
Doing it as good as ever?
"I don't know about that," said Trimmer, who has five wins this season. "I think I've had a good career, and I think as long as sponsors keep giving us money to race I'll keep doing it for a few years. But if I can't run up front and I don't have a chance to win, I'll hang it up."
2002 Season Results
June 8 CAR Modified : 4th heat race - 8th in the main