The late Lee Raymond always drove his race car with one hand on the steering wheel.
The two-time ARCA champion, who also taught the same driving style to best friend Russ Bobb, said the one-handed style gives the driver more control over the car. Or perhaps it was so Raymond could have the other one free to lend a helping hand to a fellow racer or friend in need.
“He’s all about helping people. To talk to him you woudn’t know he was a two-time ARCA champion,” said Beavercreek’s Bobb, who met Raymond in 1975 and bonded instantly. “He didn’t brag about it or anything. He was just a down to earth guy.”
It’s with that mindset that Bobb undertook the task to honor Raymond, who died of cancer Dec. 12 at the age of 59. The Lee Raymond Memorial will be held at Kil-Kare Speedway on Friday for the modified division.
Shady Bowl Speedway will also hold a Raymond tribute race Aug. 23.
Through T-shirt sales and donations, Bobb has collected enough money to pay the entry fee for the modified field. Bobb is also offering an extra $100 to 10th-place finishers and back, a $100 Hard Charger award and five free gallons of gas to as many as 30 drivers in the modified field.
“Lee believed the driver shouldn’t have to pay their own way in. He also believed you should also help to take care of the guys in the back,” Bobb said. “So to put this race on is to do some of othe things he believes in. … All the racers and the people who know Lee Raymond have donated. It all adds up.”
To get the project going, Bobb donated about $500 of his own money to start the T-shirt sales. He admits he could have spent more since he hasn’t kept an accurate tab on his expenditures. His goal was to raise $6,000. If everyone who agreed to contribute does he’ll meet that. If not, he said he’ll be about $500 short.
“That doesn’t matter (to me),” Bobb said. “I don’t want a pat on the back for any of this. The thing that matters is I want people to come and see Lee’s race and pay tribute to him. It’s all for him.”
Bobb won’t race in the modified division Friday. He will compete with the late models. His No. 53 won’t be hard to find — it’s the one with the image of Raymond on the hood.
“He rides with me all the time,” Bobb said.
And how about winning the late model race on Lee Raymond’s night?
“No words could express it. I’m going to do everything in my power to win it,” he said.
As for other tributes to Raymond, fellow late model driver Ryan Fleming’s No. 1 with a star in the middle — just like Raymond’s number — will tail the modified field during the parade lap. Fleming detailed his late model to look like Raymond’s ARCA car to honor his mentor. Raymond’s ARCA car owner, Jim Coyle, will be in attendance and ride in the pace truck.
The trophy awarded to the modified winner is the last trophy Raymond won, which came at Kil-Kare in 1996.
“It’ll be a little bit more than just winning a trophy,” Bobb said of the coveted prize. “Lee Raymond, besides being a great champion, it amazes me how he has touched so many people in his life and reached out to help so many people.”