In the late 50’s my family got involved in dirt track racing at the Meridian Speedway in Meridian Idaho. So from the time I was 8 years old we had race cars. I learned a lot about cars growing up and even built a few race cars myself. By the time I was 15 I was racing a stock car at the Meridian Speedway. By that time it was no longer a dirt track, it had been paved.
My Family Racing Cars!
My father Carl Zumwalt and oldest brother Leon both raced at Meridian when it was dirt. We moved back to Longview Washington where I was born in 1959 and moved back to Boise Idaho in 1961. My dad and oldest brother raced on the dirt tracks in Longview and Castle Rock Washington those two years. When we moved back the Meridian Speedway had been paved. My dad quit driving but still built cars and someone else drove them. My oldest brother Leon went in the Navy and my brother Joe started racing. At that time they had open wheeled cars and stock cars and Joe ran a stock car. He did very well and built an open wheeled car to run. He only got to run it a few times before he had to go in the army because he was going to be drafted. By that time I had started racing.
I started racing a stock car in 1965 at the age of 15. It was a 1946 Ford Coupe. In Idaho you could get a day light driver’s license at 14. It was funny because I could tow my race car to the track, but I couldn’t tow it home because it was dark. It seemed I always found someone to tow it home. After the first night I raced and the announcer talked about me being 15 years old, the racing association president got a bunch of phone calls from upset parents. Kids didn’t start racing back then at 15. My parents were told I had to have a birthday real fast. I immediately turned 16!
I did well that first year! I turned fast time for that class, won a number trophy dashes, and finished third in the points after having my car bought 4 races before the end of the year. The stock class at that time was a claimer class and anybody could buy your car for a specified amount. The guy that bought it made the statement “If a kid can do that good in it, just think what a man can do”. He hit the wall head on the first week he owned it and totaled the car. (I guess he must not of been a man.)
In 1966 they started an open wheeled six cylinder class that is known around here today as the Super 6 class. With my dad’s help and supervision I built a car to run in the Super 6 class, that way we didn’t have to worry about someone buying it out from under us. At that time we lived in Payette Idaho, about 60 miles from Boise. They also raced in Ontario Oregon at the fairgrounds that was just across the border in Oregon from Payette Idaho. For the next two years I kind of had the time of my life. Here I was a High School student running a race car. I would work on it during the week and race at Meridian Speedway on Saturday night and race at the Fairgrounds in Ontario Oregon on Sunday afternoon. I made enough money racing to support the race car and have spending money myself. My parents never made me get a summer job other than the race car.
I did real good winning a lot trophies and money. I graduated from Payette High School in 1967 and continued to race. Mom and Dad did insist I get a job after I graduated, so I did. I joined the Idaho Air National Guard and went to Basic Training and Tech School to be a Machinist in October 1967. I returned home in late March 1968 and continued to race in 1968. The summer of 1968 I meant my 1st wife. We decided to get married in the future and that financially it would be hard to support the race and the expenses of having your own home and a family. At the end of the season we sold the car and 1968 was the last year I drove fulltime. I did drive a couple times for someone else but never really got involved again.
You can see what my wife Peggy, and I have been up to for over 20 years at Tom N Peggy.com.
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