ROSSBURG, Ohio – Carlton Reimers, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series Director, was hard at work on a hot Ohio summer day.
The series officials had a full slate of events on the schedule – halfway through a historic day with two $175,000-to-win Kings Royals running in one afternoon at Eldora Speedway.
This is the 30th season that Reimers has been on the road with the world’s premiere sprint car racing series.
For many years, it was widely speculated that Reimers would one day inherit the series from his father-in-law, Ted Johnson, the founder of the World of Outlaws. Instead, when the organization now known as World Racing Group purchased the series, he found a home with the new owners and was able to continue in the position he loves.
Reimers grabbed a few moments to regroup in the air conditioning of the World of Outlaws trailer’s lounge Saturday and the typically private man reflected on his career, to date, and the many years and miles traveled on the road.
Reimers was working as a police officer when he began dating Johnson’s daughter, Lesa.
“I did not even know what a sprint car was,” he remembered with a smile. “Fact is, my wife, when I’d been dating her for a little while, she told me that her dad was the president of the World of Outlaws. I thought she was talking about a motorcycle gang. I had no idea what the World of Outlaws was.
“After Lesa and I got married, we went to a few races and it pretty much just looked like mass confusion to me. Cause I didn’t know anybody, and I couldn’t tell you who was leading the race and who wasn’t. We went to a few before I actually went to work for Ted.”
While sprint car racing may have seemed like mass confusion, Reimers was struggling with the meager salary he was making as a lawman. So, he took the plunge.
The Reimers moved closer to the Outlaws office, near Dallas, Texas, and began traveling the highways of America with the ragtag band of sprint car racers as Johnson’s administrative assistant. He quickly became passionate about the sport, made friends with the racers and their families, and embraced his new lifestyle.
While Reimers can’t remember the first event he worked with the series, he can remember one of the first that he represented the series without Johnson present, at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. Reimers had heard that promoter John Padjen could be somewhat ornery. He admitted to being intimidated when the two met, but made a point to make it clear to the veteran promoter that he was ready to learn from Padjen and was eager to work with him.
“It turned out that me and him just hit it off really good, and we were good forever,” Reimers recalled.
Eventually, Reimers became the man in charge at roughly half of the series events. While both Johnson and Reimers would be present at the marquee events, for the rest of the schedule they would take turns on the road – roughly every other week – while the other stayed back in Texas. He built bonds and friendships with the sprint stars, and still stays in touch with most that have since left the road, mentioning Andy Hillenburg and Stevie Smith as two examples.
When asked if he has any favorite moments from the last 30 years, Reimers is reluctant to site a specific example, but stated, “I emphasize to my officials, we have got to make the playing field as level as possible, and we stick by that. But I will tell you, when somebody’s leading a race that hasn’t won in a long time or maybe never won, I’m kinda going, ‘Don’t get a flat! Let him win! Let him win!’ Ya know? Because I’ve always, in all sports, kind of pulled for the underdog.”
Later that evening, as Jac Haudenschild led the field out of turn four to win his heat race and earn a front row starting position in his final Kings Royal, the fans packed into the Eldora grandstands erupted, rising to their feet en masse. As the cars began to slow, we felt a hand grab our shoulder. It was Reimers.
“Remember when you asked me earlier if I had a favorite moment over these 30 years?” he asked. “I think that was it.”