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Racing into the history books

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By Jessica Singleton

When Morgan Chandler started building cars in Owen County in 1965, he never imagined that his hobby would take him in to the record books. Chandler will be inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame at the Florence Speedway on Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. Bill Holder is the Executive Director for the Hall of Fame. He said racing fans nominate the Hall of Fame members. The list of nominees is handed over to a 40-member voting board. Holder said nine people were chosen to join the Hall of Fame this year. He said the new hall of fame members will receive a plaque and a jacket. “He was an amazing technical guy,” Holder said. “He came up with incredible innovations.” Chandler’s first car was a 1955 Ford and it came with a temper. “It ran fast but it kept blowing engines,” Chandler said. He worked on the cars while his friend, Ralph Robert Jr., took the wheel and raced for the finish line. Chandler said he started working on Chevrolets, changed to a Studebaker, and then back to the Chevrolets. He has also worked with a wide variety of drivers. Several of his drivers are already in the Hall of Fame. Chuck McWilliams of Union, Ky., drove for Chandler and they will both join the Hall of Fame this year. In his 20 years of racing he has seen many changes to the sport. He said when he first started, it was easier for some one to participate part-time. Now professionals dominate the sport. This makes it harder for amateurs to join in the fun. Chandler said he worked full-time at Owen Electric throughout his entire racing career. Even while juggling a full work schedule, he would still enter in as many as three races a week. He said he has also seen improvements in the track surfaces, which helps improve the safety of the sport. “The track is a much better ride than it used to be,” he said. He said the cars have seen a major shift as well. He said that today all the cars are custom-built from the ground up. When he started in ’65, all the cars were modified stock cars. It was up to Chandler to find creative ways to improve the vehicles. “For my first few years of racing, we would always have more horse power than the rest of the field,” he said. It is this innovation that gave Chandler his legacy and his place in the Hall of Fame. On of his inventions was to build the back end of the car at an incline with large fins to improve the aerodynamics. He said this was so effective at improving speed that the design was banned after one year on the racetracks. His career has taken him and his cars to six states and many championship races including the Dirt Track Championship in Cincinnati. After 20 years in the world of racecar and dirt tracks, Chandler decided to leave racing. “It was just time to get out of the sport,” he said. His last race was in September of 1985. They started last, but rallied to cross the finish line in first place. After he left the racetrack for the last time, racing has no longer dominated his time. “I only go out to the track two or three times a year,” he said. He said he has no regrets about his years on the track.