On a recent hot, humid, and rainy Florida Saturday afternoon, Mac Steele sat quietly behind his desk in search of options. He had planned to take his car to 4-17 Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda, nearly two hours south of Tampa, for a Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series (SSSS) race that evening. Rain had foiled those plans and now he found himself bored, with nothing to do.
Just then the phone rang, and he quickly answered with the moniker “Crafty,” a nickname he’s referred to by all his closest friends in reference to the Mac Steele Auto Craft business he owned for many years.
As he engages in a lengthy conversation on the phone, a glance of his race shop reveals evidence of nearly 50 years of Florida sprint car racing history. Trophies and photos of drivers who have wheeled his familiar cars are scattered everywhere. Event posters, a rear end, front axle, and other miscellaneous parts can also be spotted. There is also an Impact Racing driver’s bag that belonged to his late son, Dave, who perished in a sprint car accident in 2017.
Several other articles formerly belonging to the younger Steele can be spotted, including various photos and trophies.
Eighty-one-year-old Richard McFarland Steele has seen a lot of things and experienced many emotions as a car owner over the years. His involvement in Florida sprint car racing dates to the 1970’s. He has experienced the highs and lows that the sport offers.
Most of Florida’s top pavement sprint car racers have driven for Steele at one time or another over the past five decades. And, although pavement sprinters are his primary passion, he has owned dirt sprint cars and USAC Silver Crown cars, as well.
Throughout his time in racing, Steele has helped underfunded teams with engine assembly and repair. He has given untested drivers, as well as veteran racers, a seat in his cars. In all, over 50 have piloted his sprinters. And, of course, he is responsible for helping to develop one of the greatest pavement sprint car chauffeurs the sport has ever seen: his son Dave. In short, he has been a valuable asset to Florida sprint car racing over the years of his involvement.
Steele became a fan at a young age. As a child, his father would regularly take him to watch midget auto races at the Akron Rubber Bowl Stadium, a 35,600-seat football stadium used by the University of Akron for football games. Built in 1940, it took its name from the high amount of rubber and tire manufacturing that took place in Akron, Ohio at the time. Cleveland promoter Don Zeiter leased the facility and promoted midget races using a temporary 1/5th-mile dirt oval. The stadium still stands today, albeit in a dilapidated state.