"Barefoot Bob" has crossed the finish line first 500 times in his career.
"Barefoot Bob" McCreadie has raced and won all over the place, even in Australia, but he almost walked away from his career as a racer about 15 years ago-or a couple of hundred wins ago if you're counting trophies, which McCreadie isn't.
He had just won at Flemington, New Jersey, and realized he had beaten the best of the best in Modified racing. He savored the moment and thought about how he had accomplished everything in the sport he had set out to do, and more, since he began racing in 1971. Now, he decided at Flemington that night, would be a good time to quit. No more long nights at the shop. No more hauling a race car all over the country.
The thought didn't have a chance. "Retirement" never made it past Flemington's Victory Lane. McCreadie, after all, personifies that indefinable something that motivates men to race week after week, year after year, short track after short track. As a competitor in Glen Donnelly's DIRT Modified series since its inception in 1976, McCreadie has been one of racing's most prolific winners, recently claiming his 500th career win, including 300 big-block DIRT Modified victories.
Mike Hayslett, a mechanic for McCreadie's team and a life-long friend of the DIRT legend, has been present for all but eight of the 500 victories. But a single race several years ago sticks out in Hayslett's mind as a defining event in McCreadie's career.
They were running Brewerton (New York) Speedway and McCreadie was leading when a light rain began falling. Thinking he had a tire going down, McCreadie pulled into the pits on lap 16, just shy of halfway in the 35-lap race. Before the other cars went back around to complete lap 17, a downpour hit and the race, short of halfway, had to be postponed for a week. Because he was caught in the pits, McCreadie would have to restart the race from last place.
"All that week in the garage, Bob was kicking himself in the fanny for making a mistake like that, for thinking he had a flat tire when actually it was just the racetrack going away because of rain," says Hayslett. "It bothered him all week long and we went back down there the next week-and although he had to start dead last in a field of very, very good cars-he just drove spectacularly hard and won the race anyway from dead last, in 19 laps. When somebody has that much drive and so much passion to win that they don't give up in a situation like that, it sticks in your mind."
Such determination has led to a phenomenal record since Barefoot Bob earned his first win in 1975. He says it took him five seasons to get that first victory, but for over 30 years now, racing has been the McCreadie family's livelihood.
In the 28 seasons since that initial win, McCreadie has won 12 or more races in a season 19 times and has never experienced a winless year. He's won 22 or more races in a season seven times, 31 or more three times, and had a 47-win campaign in 1994, while running 91 events. In nine seasons, from '89 to '97, McCreadie won 226 races, an average of 25 victories per year.
"He had those years, especially the early to mid-'90s, where he could just do nothing wrong at all," says Brett Hearn, one of McCreadie's DIRT rivals. "I mean, he could have problems with his primary car, pull his back-up car off the trailer, start dead last, and still smoke us all. He just had some incredible years."
Nonetheless, when he started out, the goals were simple.