Motorsports Industry, Open Wheels — March 17, 2018 at 4:47 pm

EARHoF 2018: Don Warren


Elma Hall of Fame (03-17-18) Don Warren 4981

EARHoF inductee Don Warren

By Andrew Kunas

This inductee first hit the race track back for a short time around 1967 at the young age of 17, back when drivers were required to be at least 18 years of age to race at the old Elma half mile. He forged his parents’ signatures to get in the gate and race his no. 16 modified at that first race. He was on his own that day. No sponsors. No crew….no spare tire even.

Nearly two decades later in 1986 he returned to Elma, which had recently become a 3/10-mile oval. He saw the bomber class that was racing at Elma at the time and decided he wanted back behind the wheel. The bomber class was a claimer class, and he decided to claim a car he had noticed that evening. He proceeded to win the main event the next five nights before the car was claimed back by the previous driver. After that first car was claimed, he went ahead and built his own bomber. In 1987, he won the Elma track championship in the bomber division.

After winning that bomber title, he decided to move up and put together a sprint car program. Now with crew and sponsor help from C&B Logging, and extra equipment including that spare tire he never had when he was 17, things going much better and more smoothly. While becoming a major influence in Elma’s sprint car ranks, he racked up several main event wins and in 1992 he won his first 360 sprint car championship at Elma, and repeated the feat two years later.

In addition to his time behind the wheel, he promoted the track for a time and was president of the Evergreen Auto Racing Association. He was also at one point on the board for the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds, where he worked to get the county to be more lenient and accepting of auto racing at the fairgrounds. Being a “the more the merrier” type, he was an advocate for bringing more cars to increase competition and put on better racing for the fans, working to align schedules with other tracks and even brought 410 sprints from Skagit down to race at Elma. Back when the rules for 360 sprint cars were pretty much all over the place and drivers often found themselves legal at one track and illegal at another, he advocated adjusting the rules as such to potentially match up with other tracks in the region and allow more cars to race in Elma and also to allow Elma’s regulars to travel elsewhere.

While the late Fred Brownfield eventually brought the World of Outlaws to Elma National Raceway, a little bit of earlier legwork was done by this inductee. When the Outlaws were visiting Skagit, he met then World of Outlaws star Andy Hillenburg and struck up a conversation, and convinced him to make a stop at Elma National Raceway to take a look at the track and give his thoughts on Elma’s potential to host the World of Outlaws at some point. Hillenburg saw the track and facility and liked it enough that he then talked to series founder Ted Johnson, who himself looked at Elma. In 1996 the stars aligned for Elma National Raceway and the Greatest Show on Dirt made its debut in Grays Harbor County.

After his time was done in Elma, he was given the opportunity to race American Indy Cars, what he referred to as the poor man’s Indy Cars as they were not current model cars and were relatively low dollar. He did enjoy it, however, and felt fortunate just to be able to race those cars for four or five years. Though he was unable to win a race, he scored several podium finishes including a number of runner-ups. A couple of bad crashes in those cars resulted in doctors telling him he shouldn’t race anymore, and his driving days were over.

Despite his injuries, costs and business side of things, he’s always had an affection for auto racing, and has had many good memories, including one memorable after race party at a friend’s house that saw about 200 people attend and a little mayhem occur…he may or may not share that story here this evening. He also pointed out that a successful racer doesn’t do it alone, saying that the real heroes are the sponsors and pit crewman, for without them there is nothing…no help fixing or setting up the car and no money for equipment, including that spare tire.

Please join me in welcoming this 2018 inductee into the Elma Auto Racing Hall of Fame, the three-time Elma track champion, Don Warren.


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