Throughout the history of Muskogee dirt track racing, many drivers have made their mark.
Bud Morgan was not one of those. He never got behind the wheels.
Instead, the Muskogee native who died in March 2020 started the wrecking service that remains in the family to this day, Morgan Towing. He took care of the mishaps, and some of those cars included ones he sponsored.
On Friday, Thunderbird Speedway will honor his memory with the first-ever Bud Morgan Memorial Race. It’s the first night of the season for the Fairgrounds area track, which has a halftime schedule in 2022.
An example of its impact:
The side of Mike Brown’s 427 Late Model car reads “World Famous Bud Morgan Wrecker,” said Morgan’s son, Nik, now owner of the towing business.
“That was true because it really seemed like everyone knew him,” Nik said.
Definitely anyone who’s ever hit the area tracks, or maybe been shipwrecked in the city on regular streets.
Tommy Laster won eight championships throughout his career, which began in 1965 at Thunderbird Speedway. He won three championships at Thunderbird and five more at Tri-State at Fort Smith, Ark.
“Bud started sponsoring me in 1977 after he got into the demolition business,” Laster recalled. “He was not only a sponsor, but a very dear friend.
“He was always associated with racing and very dedicated to it, he was there for every one of my races. It didn’t matter if we were in Amarillo, Kansas City, wherever we were, Bud was there.”
Morgan ran towing services for the Thunderbird and Outlaw tracks, the latter now closed after it was sold over the winter.
And he never charged a dime for any of his services. Neither cents nor dollars, but Nik laughs as he recalls a form of compensation his father received at the track one hot summer afternoon in July.
“It was really hot and they had an old tanker truck full of water and everyone was looking around trying to find some kind of relief,” Nik said. “Dad finally went up there, took off his shirt, broke his shoes and climbed into the top hatch of the tanker. He was like, ‘I have to be cool somehow.’”
Stanley Slader remembers a rather cold December night, more like freezing, 31 years ago, when he was about to leave his job as a police dispatcher downtown when he received a call from Bud Morgan telling him to stop by.
“He had a brand new 1982 Grand Prix in his throwback, burned to a crisp but serviceable for what he needed to build a race car,” he said. “At the time I was building a Chevelle, the only kind I ever built, but now here is this one. At that time there were no metric cars. …
“I took it to the car wash, took it home and everything froze. But it became the car I drove that year.”
He went on to win what he called the World Classic held at Crawford County Speedway in Van Buren, Ark. The car was featured in the Christmas issue of Stock Car Racing magazine.
If he wasn’t putting his own money, time, or material into the sport, he was often the go-between for those who wanted to help anonymously, as Slader recalled.
“On the way he would come up and say, ‘here’s $500 and don’t ask where it came from,'” Slader said. “He would get sponsors for me that way. He told me once that a lot of people would do that and they just didn’t want his name on it because his phone would ring off the hook with sponsorship requests. Not everyone wants that.”
This weekend’s racing menu includes Oil Capital Racing Series sprint cars, Sooner Late models, B-Mods, Factory Stock and Pure Stock. The main prizes for Late Models and Sprints are $1.00 each. B-Mods are $450, Factory Stock $400, and Pure Stock $200.
Among those competing will be the Morgan Racing Team: Nik, his brother, Bud “Bubby” Jr., Bud’s grandchildren, Kort Morgan and Jaxson Morgan, as well as Blake Byrd. All but Bubby will be racing B-Mods and Bubby will be on the latest models.
“His guys got involved in racing and I know he’s up there with a big smile about it,” said Nik Morgan. “He always said dream big and dream often.”
Admission is $20 for adults. Children under 12 years enter free. Pit passes are $40 per person. Gates open at 5pm, fastest laps are at 6:30pm and races are at 7:30pm