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Archie Adams Still Racing At 79 – 61 years of racing

Archie Adams
Archie Adams works on his race car in his garage outside of McColl (Nick Papantonis/WPDE)

By: Nicholas Papantonis

Archie Adams hunches over the hood of his car, trying his best to twist a wire around a piece of the engine with a metal wrench.

It’s an ordinary garage outside of McColl on an ordinary plot of rural land, but this is no ordinary car. The front driver’s side wheel is crooked. The tires are huge. There are no windows.

It’s a race car, and the 79-year old Adams is its mechanic and driver.

“I love it,” he said

Adams began his racing career in 1957 when he was 16 years old. He helped an older friend with the friend’s race car: a 1943 Chevrolet.

When Adams turned 18, the friend gave him the car as a gift. He fixed the engine, turned the key, and won 67 races with the car before retiring it for something a little more modern.

He still has the car, and it’s still capable of zipping around the track at top speed. Because of its age, Adams said it’s easy to fix in the event of a wreck.

He demonstrated that ability after his suspension broke during the demonstration, pulling out a jack and lifting an axle back into position.

Through the years Adams has won multiple championships and raced go-karts at major tracks like Talladega and Daytona.

He’s watched his son, Archie Jr., and grandson grow up to be race car drivers as well and raced both of them during a day his wife, Anne, said was one of the most terrifying of her marriage so far.

One of his most vivid memories was during a Thanksgiving Day race years ago, when organizers decided to place all 82 cars on the track at once.

“I got paid for third place,” he recalled of the pandemonium. “They had so many cars on the track they couldn’t keep up with who was where. I really don’t know where I finished at.”

His son and crew chief, Michael, remembers a very different day: when Archie had a heart attack on the track.

Archie Adams
Michael Adams spots for his father at the Dillon Motor Speedway (Nick Papantonis/WPDE)

“We left Florence Motor Speedway and went to McLeod,” he said, adding that Archie still managed to finish the race in 2nd place.

Archie began his 61st season at the Dillon Motor Speedway on a warm spring morning, putting the final touches on his car after qualifying in 6th position.

Every other driver in his race and the three other races that day knew him or knew of him. They said his reputation preceded him.

“It’s intimidating,” Will Hutson, a young driver in Adams’ heat, said. “That’s a name that’s been around the local short tracks in South Carolina for a long time.”

Hutson and other drivers said Adams was one of the most respected for another reason: he drove cleanly, never intentionally putting his car into the side of someone else’s.

That didn’t mean he was easy to beat.

“A lot of them say I’m the hardest man to pass on the track,” he grinned.

Adams said a few things have changed over the years, other than the once-dirt tracks being paved.

The cars have become more advanced, he said, with the technology behind the shock absorbers surpassing his limit. He also bought an engine for the first time recently, although he keeps two he built for backup.

Naturally, with his age, he also acknowledged that he is a bit slower to get in and out of the cars.

He is still fit enough to help Michael with his landscaping business from time to time.

“I would much rather see him doing what he loves for a lifetime than to be sitting here in a recliner not being able to get up and go,” Michael said.

As for when he’ll finally retire for good, no one would even take a guess.

“I didn’t know that I’d get to live this long, really,” Adams said. “I want to keep racing as long as I can.”

By: Nicholas Papantonis | WPDE ABC15 News | Friday, May 15th 2020