What is it about the sport that has caused millions to fall in love, with millions more waiting in the wings to discover the sport of kings?
Is it the close, family-like atmosphere? That sense of speed and adrenaline? Or, perhaps, it is the cars.
For many, that first delve into the high-octane world of straight-line racing came because of a car. Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, at some point every person involved in the sport watched their first muscle car power down the drag strip, or even took that first ride themselves.
Cars are the very lifeblood of the sport and what keeps new racers flooding into the sport. It is so iconic, that many songs have been written about the phenomenon. “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Mustang Sally,” even “Dragula,” are among some of the many hits you may have heard that celebrate car culture.
But there is one song that you may not have heard from an up-and-coming young singer that perhaps best touches on that special bond between man and machine.
Laura Black-Wines has never gone down a drag strip. She has never sat behind the wheel, tiptoed to the line and mashed the gas pedal at the flash of green. But her father did. And that is all she ever needed.
“He was such a good driver,” Black recalls with pride. “They said because he had a four-speed and he shifted so smooth that they thought he was driving an automatic. When that light turned green he was simply amazing.”
Black grew up in a family of six shaped by a true blue collar tale of a father and mother just trying to make ends meet. Her father, Bo Black, was a big-time drag racer at the local strips in Missouri, but was forced to give up the sport – and his iconic 1968 Plymouth Road Runner – when he got married. From then on, all that was left were the stories.
“I still live in the same area I grew up in Bonne Terre, Missouri. I grew up in a family with four kids and a dad who worked really hard as a factory worker,” Black said. “He was a big-time drag racer back in the day, in the late 60s and early 70s, and was just really well known and well respected in our area in drag racing. But he gave that all up whenever he and my mom got married. He sold his car to make a down payment on a house.”
From that moment until the day Bo passed in 2014, all that was left of those early years behind the wheel were the stories and, of course, the Mopars he continued to collect throughout his lifetime. And, while Bo would never get back behind the wheel on the drag strip, racing was a unique bond that he shared with his children.
“Dad talked a lot about his days drag racing. And when you grow up in a blue collar family, you don’t have a lot of stuff. As kids, we would sit around his chair and he would get out his guitar and would either sing old music or tell us stories,” Black said. “We would say, ‘dad, tell us about your white Road Runner’ and he would tell us stories about those days. I remember he would say, ‘I’d just line them up and I’d send them on back home when I won.’”
As Black got older, she wanted to cement the legacy of her father and began writing lyrics to a song based on the stories he would tell and that special bond her father had with his car. Recently, she found those old lyrics scribbled in a notebook and decided to bring them to life in a song titled “Driver’s Seat.”
“When my dad passed of a heart attack, it was very sudden and devastating for all of us,” Black said. “I’m close to my mom, but I was a big-time daddy’s girl. I was the baby of the family. So I was just so brokenhearted and when he passed, I didn’t want to forget his stories and the stuff he would tell us.
“After he passed, I sat down and just started writing. I started writing lyrics of things he would tell us. When I was flipping through a notebook last January, I found that song and I thought, you know, I think I want to do something with this one. And that is when I decided to go ahead and record it.”
The song, which later became a music video, tells the story of a young racer and his successes on the drag strip, only to become the memories that would shape his future after he gave it all up for his family.
With lyrics such as, “that car didn’t make my daddy, my daddy made the car” and “that quarter-mile took seconds, but the memories they last,” is very personal for Black, but one she felt she had to make. And she made the recording upbeat for a reason. It is a celebration of her father’s life, while also touching the hearts of those who have a similar bond brought about by the sport of drag racing.
“I just want people to know how amazing my dad was. He was such a protective father and he had such a pride for his racing,” Black said. “He was so respected and well-liked. A lot of times racers might not be very well-liked by their peers, but my dad was. They respected him and liked him. He was just a great person.”
To add to the fun, Black recorded a music video to go along with the song last year at Bonne Terre Drag Strip where Black works part-time on the weekends. The video features Black behind the wheel on the drag strip for the very first time in the last car her father would ever purchase, a Road Runner he bought five months before his death.
“That was so much fun. I raced my brother in the video, he was in my uncle’s GTX and I was in the Road Runner,” Black said. “Whenever you watch the video, you can see me back off of it because I could feel the tires start to spin and all I am thinking is, ‘oh my gosh, don’t wreck dad’s car.’”
Today, Black is an elementary music teacher in Missouri. And while music is and always has been her passion, her life is fueled by those very same life lessons her father taught her as a child that are now forever captured in song.
“The last line in the chorus, ‘you can get back in the driver’s seat but you can’t relive the past,’ my dad always had people ask him why he never raced again. He would always say, ‘I can get back behind that steering wheel, but it’s not going to be the same. I can’t go back and relieve those days.’
“That was his way of telling us he’d moved on, he was raising his family and focusing on us. He didn’t have the money to do both so he gave that up. And that shows me just how much he loved us.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019