Bob Pierce has been successful in dirt racing on multiple fronts. The two-time UMP Summer Nationals champion was a successful driver in his own right. The Oakwood, Ill. racer won numerous features including 14 triumphs on the Summer Nationals tour before his retirement from the driver’s seat in 2003. His accomplishments on the track were impressive enough to earn the ‘Tall Cool One’ a place in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
The successful driver began building his own and other race cars during the 1990s with so much success that the demand almost completely overwhelmed him and ultimately led to Pierce having to move to a larger shop. His Modified cars proved to be almost unstoppable on the dirt then he went on to become a highly successful Late Model car builder as well.
But perhaps Pierce is best known by modern-day fans as the father of multiple-time crown jewel winner and three-time Summer Nationals champion Bobby Pierce. And until the beginning of the 2021 season, Pierce had been directly involved in each of his son’s races. However, the “Smooth Operator’s” team brought in a new crew chief so that the 69-year-old guru could stay home in Illinois to pay more attention to the chassis building business.
How difficult was it for this involved father to watch his son’s races from afar?
“It’s tough because he started racing quarter-midgets when he was 8-years-old and I never missed but one race up to that point,” Pierce recounted in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “But I talked to him on the phone a few times and told him what I thought I could see that was going on. Of course, he had a crew chief with him who was making decisions so I told him that they had to do what they wanted to do. I told him that I thought this that or the other. A couple of nights there they got to running a little bit better so I think they might have listened a little bit, but all-in-all, it was still their call and I was sitting there rooting him on.”
Pierce was particularly proud to see Bobby score his first DIRTcar Nationals win at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park this past February. But dad has since found himself back on the road, at least until a new helper can be found.
“I was so happy when he won that race at Volusia,” Pierce declared. “That was a big deal and that was pretty cool. Then the way it happened with my cousin’s wife passing away and all that. So yeah, it’s a little different but when that deal broke apart, here I come back again. I had to get back on the road with him and start to find some help. We’ve got a new guy this weekend and may have a couple of other guys interested in coming on board so I may be settled back and slow down a little bit and let these guys do some of the work. I’ll still do all the chassis stuff at the track.”
It didn’t take long for the younger Pierce to find success with his father back in his pit area. This past weekend Bobby won the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series-sanctioned $30,000 Hawkeye 100 at the Boone(IA) Speedway.
Does Bob Pierce derive greater satisfaction from his own success or from watching his son do well?
“Oh definitely, it’s watching him win,” the dad insisted. “He was real little, like six years old, when I quit racing. He hardly even remembers any of the races I won. Just to watch him grow and win as many races as he won right off the bat, I mean golly, he was pretty young for some of those big shows he won so I was pretty proud of him. You just don’t know how they’re going to progress but you hope they keep going. It’s a tough sport and you can burn out of this pretty quick. For some guys, it just ain’t their thing. Once they do it for a while they realize this ain’t what they want to do but I think he’s pretty hooked.”
Pierce’s life is in racing. If not with his son, the chassis builder believes he would still be involved in the sport. As far as he is concerned, there is no better way to keep up with the latest trends than to be out on the road and fully involved.
“If I wouldn’t have started him racing, I don’t know who I would have went and helped to learn all of this stuff because you can’t just sit back and watch,” he explained. “You’ve got to be involved to do the changes and make decisions on stuff and keep working at it. It changes all the time. Just the three short years I was out of racing before I started building Late Models, it was like day and night. It was like I didn’t even race when I started building these cars. It helps a lot but every driver is different so I couldn’t take everything I got from Bobby to everybody else. It’s just a never ending deal. It just constantly goes. If you asked Mark Richards(Rocket Chassis) that he’d tell you that yesterday is forgotten about already and we’re working on something new today.”
Watching his son succeed in races such as the World 100, the North-South 100, and the aforementioned Hawkeye 100 is, of course, satisfying for Bob Pierce. But adding to that enjoyment is the fact that many of his son’s race wins have been achieved in a Pierce Platinum Race Car.
“Oh, that’s everything. Everybody knew that the World 100 was so close to me so many times. And not only did he win it but he won it in one of our cars so that was a big, big plus. And it was a whole family deal at that time. We had one borrowed help guy and it was just me, Bobby, and my daughter when we one that race. It was pretty neat. That was real emotional, I’ll tell you that right now.”
Also, NASCAR and pavement racing fans can check out InsideCircleTrack.