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By SHAINA STOCKTON
For Randy Harmon of Galax, life has almost always been on a fast track. From motocross to race car driving, he has worked to leave quite a memorable impression on the circuits long after the dust clouds settle.
To continue what seems to be a growing family tradition, Harmon is now shifting more of his focus on to the next generation. His son, Derek, is now following in his father’s tire tracks, and it has already been said by some that he could someday qualify against the titans of racing — NASCAR.
When looking back at when racing first became an important part of his life, Randy Harmon recalled memories of a childhood spent with his dad at the race tracks. “He really enjoyed racing, and we decided to go into it,” he said.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that keeping up with a racing career was more difficult than pushing a gas pedal.
“We didn’t realize [in the beginning] how expensive it was to get into this,” he said. “It’s a lot of work... you have to work on the cars late into the night up to seven days a week. You never get a chance to practice racing unless you get the chance to run on a track.”
Harmon laughed as he recalled his first race back in 2001. “It was comical. I didn’t know what air pressure to run, I’d never even sat in one of these cars before,” he said.
The race was recommended by a friend, so Harmon wasn’t expecting a packed stadium and a national race with 50 to 60 other cars. “I came in last, but I wasn’t that far back,” Harmon smiled. “I was proud of how well I did.”
In addition to driving a race car, Harmon also spent a decent amount of time on two wheels instead of four. “I used to do motocross,” he told The Gazette.
Harmon recalled helping to build a track at the old Star Drive-In in Galax.
Racing in the super late division turned out to be eventful for Harmon. During his racing career, he has had the chance to meet drivers like Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne. His story has appeared on Fox News, and he has a cameo with his son in ESPN’s “Ultimate NASCAR."
“I was working on a car with my son, showing him something on the left front spring, and I look over my shoulder and see a big TV camera,” said Harmon.
The video footage captured by the camera crew that day is an accurate depiction of what Derek Harmon has been learning ever since he was a child. Like his father, Harmon has encouraged Derek each step of the way. “He has been working on cars with me since he was five years old,” Harmon said. “He started racing in lower classes when he was 12.”
Harmon said that Derek has already competed in around 20 races, and there has already been mention of his potential.
“A lot of people who saw him last year said that he has a shot at NASCAR,” Harmon said. “My goal at this point is to try to help him get to the next level.”
This year, father and son will finally get a chance to race together. “I’ll run a super car and a crate car, so we will be racing together in the same class,” he said.
Proud of their roots, the Harmon race cars have served as a proud reflection of their home. Local businesses including Hanks Insurance, The Galax Diner, Patton’s Motorcycle Sales, Roger Young Garage, D and H Construction, CarQuest of Galax and Coal Creek Grading acted as sponsors last year.
The first race of the year will take place on March 1 in South Carolina.
For anyone interested in sponsoring Derek Harmon, call 233-4338. Entries will be accepted through March 1.