It seems that many of NASCAR’s legends enjoyed visiting the Inland Empire to hone their racing skills, earn racing points and mingle with the local racers.
Highland racing champion Jerry Tillman is one of those racers who basked in the excitement of meeting his racing idols.
Last week, we read about the conversation between Tillman and famous stock car racer Richard Petty, when Petty was filming a movie in the Inland Empire.
This week, Tillman recalls when he met another one of his racing idols, Bobby Allison.
As a racing enthusiast, Tillman is excited to share his stories about meeting the legends of NASCAR.
Allison is noted for being one NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.
Having the chance to meet such a racer is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“Bobby Allison came to the Orange Show, a lot,” said Tillman. “He raced on Saturday nights with us.”
Tillman said that when Allison would come to town in Riverside, home of the now-gone Riverside International Raceway, he would come by the racetrack at the Orange Show and race with the locals.
“He would race against our local hero, which was Ivan Baldwin,” said Tillman. “He’d come to the Orange Show and race side by side with Ivan Baldwin.
“I’ll never forget that. He (Allison) won the race.”
During that time, professional racers would ask to use the cars from local racers, according to Tillman.
“He was in a borrowed car when he won that race,” said Tillman. “These guys would come from out of town, and they would borrow cars from the guys.”
Tillman shares about meeting Bobby Allison when he was working in a pit crew at the Riverside racetrack in the mid-1970s.
“One time we were over in Riverside, and I was pitting for another guy,” said Tillman. “Our car was ready, and we were just waiting around. I looked over at Bobby Allison’s car and he had it up on jack stands.
“So, I walked over to look in it.”
Tillman said that Allison was inside the car on the floor trying to change the transmission of the car.
“There wasn’t anybody around,” said Tillman. “Bobby Allison did a lot of his own work. He was undoing the shifter.
“He had a 9/16 open ended wrench, and he dropped it.”
The wrench went down through the hole of the cover of the transmission and landed on the asphalt, according to Tillman.
“I was looking in his car from the driver side,” said Tillman. “He looks over at me, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll get it for you.’
“So, I went on the ground and got that 9/16 open ended wrench and gave it back to him.”
Tillman spoke of the limited resources that Allison worked under.
“He was on a shoestring budget,” said Tillman. “I don’t know where his buddies were, a couple of guys that would be helping him out.”
Allison spent some time talking with Tillman about cars and racing, during the times that they met.
Tillman raced in the ‘70s, in Riverside, Corona and in San Bernardino, at the Orange Show.
He treasures these memories of talking, racing and helping the legends of NASCAR.
I am sure that there are other stock car racers in Highland that might have similar stories.
If you know anything about Highland, I would like to hear your story.
You can reach me at (909) 816-0318.