Eddie Rickman (68) tries to pass Lee Ray in a race at Columbus Speedway earlier this year. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
September 1, 2017 11:00:45 AM
There was a time when Eddie Rickman didn't know what he was doing with a race car.
In the 1960s and '70s, before racing technology boomed and before Rickman became one of Mississippi's best Super Late Model drivers, he was still figuring out how to make a car go fast and handle better.
"You're going fast tonight, but how fast are we supposed to go?" Rickman said. "What's the car supposed to feel like? We didn't quite know how to make the car go fast. Now, you can pull it up on the internet."
Rickman was 18 when he built his first car: a 1956 Ford with a 289 cubic-inch motor. He worked at Dixie Auto Parts and had access to used parts. He also had some working knowledge of car repair from watching his brother in-law work on his racing motor.
"It took me probably six months to build it," Rickman said. "I pulled it from West Point with a tow bar. My mother said, 'You ain't driving that thing.' My dad had the roll bars put in it."
Rickman has competed every year since his first race in 1968. Each year, he learned more and eventually became a championship-level driver. His hottest years were in the mid 1980s through 2000, when he won a string of midseason state titles and three state championships. He even competed in a NASCAR-sanctioned regional dirt series, finishing sixth and earning an expenses-paid trip to the banquet in Nashville, Tennessee.
Rickman twice competed in dirt races at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. He even made the field for a $1 million-to-win race at Eldora in 2001. More than 240 cars attempted to make the field, and Rickman started 16th.
Now 67, Rickman is in his second year competing in Street Stocks, a division growing in popularity and participation each year, so much so that $5,000-to-win races appear on schedules at tracks across the state.
Rickman, who has won the last two Street Stocks features at Magnolia Motor Speedway, will compete Sunday in the third-annual Fall 40 Street Stock Championships, a $5,000-to-win feature. Rickman finished ninth in the Street Stock Nationals at Whynot Motorsports Park on Aug. 19.
"Last year, I didn't have a shot at it," Rickman said. "I made a couple of shows at Meridian, but I didn't put much effort in it. But these last couple of months, I've put in the effort. I was just driving and having fun last year. I've worked at it and worked at it, trying to improve the car and everything."
Rickman, who drives the yellow No. 68 Camaro, enjoys the pace of Street Stocks and vows to keep competing until he's no longer competitive. Some people have told him he's "wasting his time" racing, but each week he watches his two sons, Brian and Rick, compete in Super Late Models. He also watches his grandson, Trey, compete in NeSmith Late Models.
"I don't hunt, fish, or play golf, so I got to have something to do," Eddie said. "And how many people have their kids and grandkids and know where they are on the weekends? No amount of money can take that away from me. My sons do really well. They make me really nervous watching them -- wanting them to do good and run good, and they do. It's nice feeling to have a close-knit family like were are."
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