Turner back at Deming after long hiatus

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 21, 2013 

Galen Turner and daughter Katie talk and watch heat races on the first night of Clay Cup racing at the Deming Speedway on Thursday, July 18, 2013 in Deming. Galen returned to racing after 11 years away.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Deming Speedway is a sight to behold now, but in 1985, Galen Turner saw something much different.

The grandstands that now cascade over the front straightaway morphing into Turn 1 were a distant dream. Lights, too, were absent, making Sunday afternoon the only time racers like Turner could exercise the capabilities of their vehicles amidst the blazing sun and dusty track.

"Wow, it's almost hard to explain," Turner said, recalling his first race at Deming 28 years ago. "It was almost like a track cut out in the middle of a field, and we raced around some poles."

Turner, without hesitation, added, "It was a way different place."

So was Turner, but his passion for Deming has never wavered. It's merely, as he would say, "different."

And that's what drew him back, making the 58-year-old retiree the oldest rookie driver in the world, as the PA announcers like to boast as he makes his way to the track, in the 600-Restricted class.

Although by no means a rookie to driving, especially on Deming's dark-brown tinted oval, a return to racing following an 11-year hiatus was more about keeping busy - investing in something after the death of his wife, who died nearly a year ago following a six-year battle with ovarian cancer.

"My kids are grown and out of the house, my wife passed away, lot of changes going on in my life," Turner said. "I thought I just needed something to get back into and get a little more serious about. My wife and I had been married for 36 years, and it is one of those things that nobody can ever tell you what that feels like when it happens.

"We knew that her days were limited when she was diagnosed. We had time to prepare, but you can't tell what it is like, so this keeps my mind busy; keeps me occupied."

In light of her passing, Turner and his family have dedicated time and resources to making a shell adorned with the patented teal ribbon signifying the ongoing battle against ovarian cancer. He's hoping that it will be finished and on the frame within the next week.

That wasn't all that provoked the 1991 track champion to return to Deming, though. Competitiveness is never-fleeting for some, Turner being one of those who yearned to see what is still left in the tank.

"I wanted to see if I could do it again, to be quite honest," he said. "The flame is still there to go out and win."

And he did just that: Win.

In a direct contrast between old and young, Turner guided his vehicle to a 600-Restricted A-Main win on June 14. In fitting fashion, the 58-year-old led all 25 laps, donating half of his race earnings to charity.

One would be hard-pressed to encounter anything new or novel at Turner's stage in life, after having raced Deming's oval over the course of 28 years, but this win was different, he said. This win was unlike the others.

"I know this sounds strange, but this is the first time that I ever remember the crowd cheering when I won," he said. "To be quite honest, I don't think I slept that night... I certainly never expected one to come four or five weeks into the season."

Adding to the undeniable irony of his win was the fact that when Turner first ventured to Deming some 28 years ago, not a single racer in his 600-Restricted class had even been born. The next oldest? A ripe 20 years of age.

"I'm not sure that is necessarily something I want to brag about, though," Turner said while meandering around his pit area.

It's no surprise, then, for Turner to point out his unique love for racing. In all that he has seen, in all that he has done, Deming is his home, and he is good with that.

"We really consider ourselves to be sportsman racers," Turner said. "We're here to do as well as we can, but we're here to have fun at it.

"We're not here passing through to learn, to go onto something bigger and better. We're a mainstay here."

The presence of his family is everywhere. While waiting for his next heat, his son shuffles around the racer, getting the adjustments just right to suit the track. Even on the body, Turner's name, Galen, is written on Duct Tape because the name beneath it is his son's.

But where it stands most prevalent is the black-and-white mural of Turner's father, the man who helped build the first racer he brought up to Deming in 1985. Beneath his father's grey-toned face is the exact replication of the vehicle they brought up together.

That's where it started for Turner all those years ago. Just as his dad brought him to Deming, Turner would bring his three kids to Deming to watch him race.

As time passed, he was then coming up to watch them race.

"I can't necessarily say that I have more fun when my kids (win) than when I win, but it is pretty darn close," he said.

His daughter, Katie, is the most recent Turner to take to the track at Deming. And in her first time out, she made the A-main, prompting questions about her prior experience.

Her response, Turner said, "It's just in the blood."

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