Checkered Past: Kid from Apple Creek

Who is Brad Doty? Readers and racers born 32 years ago never feared the beard from Apple Creek, Ohio as he smashed track records for Bowers Coal and Coors Light beer. They never saw him grace victory lanes from Silver Dollar to Devil’s Bowl, Knoxville, Lernerville, Williams Grove and Volusia County, FL. Today’s generations see him only as a nationally televised World of Outlaws commentator. That seems sad yet fortunate to know nothing of the pain that enveloped the entire auto racing community when Brad Doty broke his back at the 1988 Kings Royal.

Who was Brad Doty? As a driver of sprint cars, he was very good. Only three guys were truly great during that 1982-88 era of the World of Outlaws: Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Doug Wolfgang. They hoarded 80 percent of the cheese and left little for the mice. Even the richest season of Brad’s career (1987) was stacked on second-place, winning seven to Steve’s phenomenal 50. Doty’s entire career contained 73 checkered flags; 18 under Outlaw jurisdiction. Outlaws however, are rarely judged solely on victory totals.

2.8.81 Tampa, FL (East Bay) Gene Marderness photo

Brad Doty remains the same fan who piled into Ed Haudenschild’s van as a teen to witness the 1973 Williams Grove National Open with Kenny Jacobs and Ed’s kid brother Jac. The fastest men in their universe were Jan Opperman, Kenny Weld, Bobby Allen, Steve Smith and “PA Posse” pioneers who repeatedly rode into Wayne County and rode out with the loot. Opperman was extremely charismatic, sprinkling biblical passages as he made every last man, woman and child feel special. Jan personalized each autograph and drew smiles in the “O” of his name. When he became a driver, Doty emulated Opperman’s affability and artwork.

Doris and Dale Doty’s son Bradley was born on July 27, 1957. Holmes County Speedway in Lakeville was where local farmers found their racing thrills. At the age of 21, Brad Doty landed his first Lakeville victory with the Ken Bodkins sprint car. He was asked to drive for John Gantz, Dave Pope and John Harmon in 1979. They took their wingless Nance to Florida for Brad’s first foray into the World of Outlaws that would define him. Six-X won 14 times at Lakeville and once at McCutchenville, scored second at Atomic, third in Franklin, fourth with new MOSS gathering at St. Clairsville, and eighth against Outlaws at Ohio Valley, WV.

Christmas 1979 was especially joyful. Brad was in love with Laurie and moved them into an apartment northeast of Pittsburgh in Kittanning, PA. Sam Bowers became Brad’s boss. Sam mined coal but Doty was his full-time racer. They won five Fridays at Lernerville, two Saturdays at Franklin’s Tri-City Speedway, ran second at Latrobe, third with MOSS at Wayne County, fifth with The Outlaws at Lernerville and eighth at the National Open.

2.8.81 Tampa, FL (East Bay) Gene Marderness photo

Sam added Tom Sanders in 1981. Before joining Bowers Coal, he had learned from legends like Opperman, Weld, Allen, Wolfgang and Swindell. Sanders raised team performance and profile. Doty conquered Central PA at Williams Grove and Susquehanna plus All Stars at Sharon and Eldora. They peaked second with Outlaws at Lernerville, Mansfield and Paragon. They were second with MOSS at Southern Ohio, third at Wayne County with Outlaws and All Stars, fourth at National Open, fifth at East Bay with and without wings, and sixth on Brad’s first mile at Syracuse.

The 1981 All Star Circuit of Champions event at Port Royal was when and where I first saw Brad Doty race. Lynn Paxton left the field to fight over second-place hotly contested between Brad and Smokey Snellbaker. When a caution flag waved, both thought they had the spot. Scorers agreed with Snellbaker yet Doty circled alongside defying chalkboard orders until he hopped Smokey’s wheel and eliminated himself. To his credit, Brad’s ensuing seven seasons displayed nothing so foolish.

7.25.81 Hanover, PA (Lincoln) Doty and Steve Siegel (Doug McClatchie photo)

Doty ended third in All Star points as Rookie of the Year. He and Laurie were married in Hawaii. Bowers and Sanders chose 1982 Gamblers for the World of Outlaws though Tom gave way to Memphis mechanic Daryl Saucier. Of their six wins, two were split-field preliminaries at Devil’s Bowl and Gold Cup. They settled for second at Winnipeg and Sedalia, third at Motordrome 70, fourth in Brad’s first Knoxville Nationals, and fifth on Springfield’s mile. He finished fourth in points and was Rookie of the Year.

Brad’s sophomore season with the World of Outlaws was eventful. Stop Seven was the Oklahoma State Fairground in OKC when Doty officially became a series winner. One month later, he added another at Eldora where everyone wants to win. But his third Outlaw win was unique. It began at Lincoln Speedway on Saturday and ended on Monday thanks to rain. Upon removing his helmet on the homestretch, Doty was told that he was a father. He rushed home to meet Brandy. Lincoln had been kind. Two months earlier was their Doug Stambaugh Memorial that Brad won hours after his one USAC Silver Crown contest at Nazareth.

3.26.83 Nazareth, PA: Doty drove for Ed & Bill Mataka (Steve Koletar photo)

After three wins in ten starts with the 1983 World of Outlaws, the door slammed shut. Saucier grew ornery and Doty did not like the mood in the truck. The first Ohio Speed Week fell during an Outlaw schedule break so everyone and his brother became All Stars for seven nights on seven tracks that Brad knew well. Speed Week could have lifted Bowers Coal back to prominence. Instead it destroyed them. Mansfield’s jarring collision was the end of Sam as car owner though he later sponsored Saucier and Keith Kauffman. Three weeks after Bowers quit, Brad got Gil Suiter of Arizona into his first Knoxville Nationals final. Doty closed 1983 at Ascot Park and initial Gary Patterson Classic at Baylands aboard Bailey Brothers 01.

8.20.83 McCutchenville, OH (Quad City) Gary McKisson photo

Doty departed Amish snow for 1984 Florida Speedweeks and a J&J chassis owned by Emory Wisenbaker of Houston, TX. It reached sixth at East Bay before Brad’s first race for Gary Stanton of Phoenix, AZ. Gary had won the 1979 Knoxville Nationals with Ron Shuman and was second with Wolfgang in ‘82. As chassis builder, Stanton created winners of sprint, midget, champ car, modified and super modified size. To hire Doty was not Gary’s obvious move. But they gelled nicely, winning with The Outlaws at The Grove, Lernerville, Santa Maria and Nationals qualifier. Brad bagged second at Colorado National, third at Syracuse, fourth at Nationals, and fifth at the first Kings Royal. He finished 1984 fourth at GP Classic in the Gambler house car of Quentin Bammer.

8.9.84 Knoxville, IA (Max Dolder photo)

In the third World of Outlaws stop of 1985, Stanton and Doty dusted everyone at Big H Motor Speedway in suburban Houston, TX. Then the well went dry. They took second at Hagerstown and third in Chicago before pausing the partnership for three years. Gary hired Dave Blaney and Brad phoned Ron Pack of Little Rock, AR. Pack’s crew chief was young Tony Wilson long before Tony became a winning driver, TMC crewman to Sammy Swindell, and designer of his own Builtwiser chassis. Doty and Wilson won immediately at Granite City, Lakeville, Farmington, I-30 and I-70 and made a dramatic C-to-B-to-A charge at Nationals netting sixth-place. Brad won at Wayne County for engine builder Carlon Hine. Outlaws paired with MARA Midgets at I-70 so Nick Gojmeric offered four cylinders. Doty held that Volkswagen wide open to win twice. GP Classic again brought fourth-place in the Gambler house car.

Gambler proprietor C.K Spurlock had ceased owning cars in 1983 to bestow house car status on Suiter and Bammer as ‘84-85 bosses to Bobby Davis Jr. Crew chief Ken Woodruff often drove the truck. Gambler’s plan for 1986 returned Woodruff to car owner status with Coors Light sponsorship. Their new car won at Volusia and Hanford right away. But the driver caught debris at The Grove that lacerated his face. Brad healed for third-place at Odessa and Battleground but after a dismal Nebraska weekend, Woodruff was replaced as Gambler’s house car owner by Fred Marks and Les Kepler of Pismo Beach, CA. Coors and Doty did remain.

Doty did not produce instant dividends for his new investors. Third at Fargo and fourth at Cedar Lake was best until beating the All Stars at Wayne County shortly after Braden Doty joined the world. A brand new Gambler gathered preliminary honors at Knoxville Nationals. Another prelim fell at the Gold Cup. October winds brought Five Grand from West Virginia Motor Speedway and 12k at Ascot. They crossed second at Gold Cup, third at Jackson Nationals, fourth at Manzanita and fifth at Ascot with no wings.

8.6.86 Orrville, OH (Wayne County) Linda McKisson photo

Brad Doty emerged as America’s most popular Outlaw of 1987. Women found him adorable. Men thought him amiable. Kids aspired to be in Brad’s shoes just as he had looked at Opperman. Popularity is measured in T-shirts and none sold better than Coors Light 18. But he received little if any percentage. Marks and Kepler explained how all things Coors belonged to them. It should have been a happier time. They swept Ascot to open the season and five more at I-55, Knoxville, Eagle, Chicago and Martin, MI. But the soul-crushing pursuit of Steve Kinser brought little joy. The flashy Californians may have believed that Kinser’s crown could be bought. Fred had enough. Les became sole owner. He replaced beer with tobacco but as soon as Kodiak graphics were greenlighted, Doty printed shirts. Kepler blew his cork. Tension was thick through four nights in Tampa that opened 1988. During the 2000 miles to Arizona, ultimatums were uttered. Lester’s new Shaver Lightning ran out of fuel at Manzanita and harsh words were hurled. Brad unbolted his bucket seat.

10.10.87 Syracuse, NY (David Pratt photo)

When the tour reached Ascot, Kepler had replaced Doty with Haudenschild, which angered Brad because Jac had encouraged Doty to quit. In an ironic twist, Doty filled Jac’s open seat with Gary Runyon’s Party Tyme Rental of Carmel, IN. USAC was into its brief wing phase and Brad became a USAC winner at Paragon. Third at Tri-State was the best Outlaw result for the red Challenge chassis spawned from Stanton jigs. Party Tyme was over after New York. Gary’s son Jack Runyon placed family focus on midgets.

When the 1988 All Star Circuit of Champions converged on Wilmot (WI) Doty ran Runyon’s car as hard as humanly possible because Brad was blind with rage. He and Jack Hewitt had traded slides for the lead until Hewitt hooked Doty and turned him on his side. Restarting last with wrinkled left sideboard, Brad was a man possessed. “I didn’t know what I was going to do if I caught him,” he told me later. “I was just so pissed!” Doty drove clear to third that night.

Two weeks after Runyon left Rolling Wheels, Stanton and Doty reunited at Knoxville, finished fifth at Eagle and fourth in Denver. USAC held a winged weekend when Brad qualified quickest at Eldora and won at Millstream one week before Kings Royal.

As drivers walked from stage to starting grid, Earl Baltes sprayed much water. Puddles collected. In the first corner, Jeff Swindell found one. It sent Ben Cook’s car straight across the track and just before it impacted concrete, Jeff turned away from the wall and caught the right side of Doty’s tail. Brad bounced sideways. Wolfgang (ironically in Kepler’s car) vaulted Doty as they flipped together. The savagery severed the frame member holding Brad’s seat. He was bent backward to fracture the thoracic level vertebrae between T-4 and T-5. Paralysis below the chest was the grim prognosis though he retained full use of both arms. He was flat on that broken back in a hospital bed when daughter Brittani was born. Christmas 1988 was difficult.

Attica Raceway Park was born two months before Doty’s debilitating accident. Brad never got to race there yet in its second season, Attica staged the first Brad Doty Classic. It was sanctioned by the United Sprint Association and fittingly went to Steve Kinser. The next five Doty Classics (1992 was a wash) were conducted without sanction. Winners were Hewitt, Allen, Mark Keegan, and Danny Smith for Ken’s Speed Shop that fielded Doty in 1978. All Stars staged 1995-2000 Doty Classics won by Randy Kinser, Dale Blaney, Tyler Walker, Jeff Shepard, Butch Schroeder and Kelly Kinser. Attica again dismissed banners from 2001-04 Doty Classics and threw those fees into the purse. Danny Smith (13k), Alvin Roepke (14k), Dean Jacobs (15k) and Greg Wilson (16k) reaped the increase. Brad’s race stimulated sales of his autobiography “Still Wide Open” written with Dave Argabright and released for Christmas 1999.

Attica’s 2005 Doty Classic won by Stevie Smith was its first with the World of Outlaws. A year later when Attica appeared unstable, Doty moved his race to Limaland Motorsports Park. It remained in Lima for eleven summers when winners were Joey Saldana, Jac Haudenschild, Jason Meyers, Steve Kinser, Blaney again, Donny Schatz, Kerry Madsen, Schatz again, and Paul McMahan. The 2015 edition was the second claimed by wet weather. The race’s return to Attica in 2016 was won by Schatz. David Gravel won in 2017 then Schatz secured a fourth trophy. Last year’s monsoon removed the Brad Doty Classic while Kings Royal raged for three nights. This year, Coronavirus curtailed Kings Royal yet Doty Classic should happen 130 miles to Eldora’s northeast. Strange days indeed.

Who was Brad Doty? He was a winner of 73 features on 30 tracks in 13 states at Lakeville (14), Lernerville (6), Sharon (5), Knoxville (4), Odessa (4), Ascot (3), Dallas (3), Eldora (3), Franklin (3), Williams Grove (3), Chico (2), Lincoln (2), Little Rock (2), McCutchenville (2), Wayne County (2), Big H, Chillicothe, Cortland, Eagle, Findlay, Granite City, Hanford, Hinsdale, Martin, Oklahoma City, Paragon, Pevely, Santa Maria, Susquehanna and Volusia. He competed on 105 tracks in 28 states at Aberdeen, Albuquerque, Battleground, Baylands, Bloomington, Bridgeport, Brownstown, Butler, Canandaigua, Cedar Lake, Charlestown, Colorado, Conneaut, Crossville, Danville, East Bay, Elbridge, El Centro, Ellisville, Eriez, Fairmont, Fargo, Fremont, Grandview, Grantville, Greenville, Hagerstown, Hales Corners, Hartford (SD), Indy Mile, Jackson, Jax, Kansas City, Kilgore, Kokomo, Lake City, Lanier, Latrobe, Lawrenceburg, Lawton, Mansfield, Manzanita half, Manzanita quarter, Mercer, Metrolina, Middletown, Milan, Motordrome 70, Nazareth, Ohio Valley, Omaha, Petaluma, Placerville, Port Royal, Portsmouth, Putnamville, Rapid City, Rocky Mountain, San Jose half, San Jose quarter, Sedalia, Selinsgrove, Sioux Falls, Springfield Mile, St. Clairsville, Syracuse, Tampa, Weedsport, West Lebanon, West Memphis, Wichita, Wilmot plus Winnipeg, Manitoba.

5.25.93 Sarver, PA: Jac Haudenschild & Brad Doty (Steve Koletar photo)

Long before he was banished to a chair, long before picking up a microphone, long before National Sprint Car Hall of Fame enshrinement, Brad Doty was a fan who became one of America’s very best at circling dirt tracks with the throttle wide open.

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