WAYNESFIELD, Ohio – It’s impossible to find a more respected member of the short-track racing scene in Ohio than Bob Hampshire.
The 73-year-old native of Findlay moved to Alvada seven years ago, but his reach extends throughout dirt and pavement race tracks across the country.
“I’ve slowed down a lot,” he said. “That happens with age. When you get a little older you don’t have the strength and stamina, but we’re still keeping at it.”
Hampshire has been a race car owner since 1965 and has spent the last 40 years focused on winged sprint car and silver crown competition. He and fellow Ohio great Jack Hewitt captured the coveted Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions title in 1985 along with a pair of USAC Silver Crown championships in the 1980s.
Hampshire has been a part of five USAC Silver Crown titles since then.
“It’s neat to do it this many years being able to be out there weekly and survive,” Hampshire said. “Sometimes it gets a little tough. Early on we used to fix so much stuff and build so much stuff. Now you can buy everything.”
Racing has been more than a hobby for Hampshire, who started B&B Automotive with a partner more than 50 years ago. He since bought his partner out of the engine building business, which is also known in the racing community as Hampshire Racing Engines.
“When I first started out I had to have my own engine shop so I could afford to do it,” Hampshire said. “I started my engine shop in 1967 and I’ve had it since then. I used to do a lot, but I’ve scaled back. I’m semi-retired so I do just a few. Early on I did souped up engines for street cars.
“I mostly wanted to be an owner because I didn’t think an owner and driver would make a good combination because the owner is always worried about paying the bills.”
Hampshire, who noted that he owned drag cars, go-karts and mini stocks prior to buying a sprint car for the first time in 1979, said he’s only raced a couple of times. Most of his focus has been as a car owner and mechanic, winning numerous championships and races along the way. He was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2008.
“It must be a sickness,” he joked. “Every time I think I’m going to quit about two weeks later I don’t think I can do that. Now my grandson is racing mini sprints. I have a lot of fun with him. Chad Kemenah, my son-in-law, is still racing, as is my nephew, Greg Wilson.
“Everything my grandson wants to do is probably in the future. I still have a champ car, too. I really put it together so there’s a car around here for my grandson. He’s not old enough yet. I have a sprint car for him to start out in. He’s 13 years old, so it’ll be a couple more years.”
As Hampshire’s stellar career continues on, so does the appreciation he has received from fellow Ohio natives.
Findlay resident Shane Helms has been a long-time fan of Hampshire. Helms raced and has owned a race team for many years. His father, Larry, drove for Hampshire many years ago.
“I think Bob is a self-made man,” Shane Helms said. “Nobody handed him anything and he’s built his teams out of his experience and his knowledge and his hard work. Being a young kid I used to go there during two-a-days in football. I’d always stop at his shop on my bike. I saw Bob do a lot with less and it’s been in a lot different facets of racing. He’s won a lot of races in a lot of different divisions. I think more than anyone else I know. I just think he’s the best mechanic definitely in our area. I have so much respect for him as a person and for what he’s done for the sport. I believe he’s a legend in the sport.”
Helms has partnered with Waynesfield Raceway Park owners Greg and Tammy Shobe to put on special events the last two years, and the next one on the docket is the second annual Bob Hampshire Classic sponsored by Kistler Racing Products on Saturday.
“The racing is incredibly ferocious,” Helms said of Waynesfield. “It’s very intense from front to back. I believe it’s the best kept secret in the state of Ohio. We’re working hard and we’ve added a lot of improvements and we plan on doing more. What Greg and Tammy Shobe have done is awesome.
“Also, Paul Kistler has been instrumental in the process and we want to thank him.”
The Bob Hampshire Classic will feature the FAST winged 410 sprint cars, Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series and USAC Midwest Thunder Midgets/AMSA Lightning Mini Sprints.
The winged sprint car main event will be 50 laps and will pay $5,630 to win. The crew chief on the winning car will also receive $630 and the Hard Charger Award winner given to the driver who passes the most cars will earn $63 for every car passed in the A-main.
“A lot of people I’ve raced with are still racing,” Hampshire said. “The new young guys, it’s fun to watch them. There’s a lot of talent out there. I’ll be hanging out. I’ll be there talking to people.”