Rick Ellis remembers being 12-years-old in 1955 and seeing his first race car up close.
His family was living on the corner of Fourth Line and Goulais Avenue in the McQueen Subdivision.
It was there he saw a neighbour, Stafford Smith, towing an old coupe race car.
“And I thought it was pretty cool,” Ellis, who turns 72 on June 18, recalls. “When I heard the engine fired up, I thought it was the most-awesome sound I'd ever heard.”
Just a few years later, he was watching local racers battle it out on the old dirt track located on Case Road.
“And that's where I got hooked,” said Ellis. “I heard the engines and it was a lot of fun to watch the races. I liked the action and the competition.”
From those experiences was born a life-long relationship with the sport.
But Ellis, who's become a local stock car racing ambassador, will call it quits at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
The new year at Laird International Raceway is slated to begin one week from tonight.
For Ellis, this marks his 50th season – including 43 behind the wheel – of involvement in local racing.
“I knew if I could get in 50 years, it would be a milestone,” he said during a Wednesday conversation. “And I'd be happy to call it a career.”
But for those who may get the wrong idea, Ellis isn't retiring from full-time driving because his skills in the driver's seat are slipping.
In fact, he feels as good as ever.
But retiring will allow he and wife Donna to spend more time with their eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Some of the grand-kids want to get into golf, Ellis explained, and he wants to be involved as they learn the sport.
“And this way, I'm leaving on my terms and while I'm still competitive,” he added. “I don't want to be a backmarker.”
A backmarker is a term that refers to a racer who holds a poor rank or is lapped in a race.
“I still feel really good driving,” said Ellis, who's also spent four years in track management and three years as a crew member for former driver Fred Page.
In fact, Ellis won Modified Division points championships at Kinross Speedpark in 2011 and 2014, and his only Laird points crown running a modified car in 2012. To read the full article go to: http://www.saultstar.com/2015/05/13/fifty-and-out-for-local-driver-ellis