My grandfather is Neal Carter. He just turned 90 this year and I thought this would be a good way to help keep some of his memories alive and for other to know what is was like to race Indy cars back in the late 40s - early 50s. He loves talking about lots of things, especially his racing experiences!

My Proof: http://imgur.com/Kg6UY7Y,WyPtTu8,WHkbDne,t8szAJI,qB9qFeJ

http://www.mmshof.org/inductees/Carter_Neal.html

Edit: Fixed misspellings.

Edit 2: Thank you all so much for the questions! You've made my grandfather so happy. He needs to go to bed now, but we're willing to answer more of your questions tomorrow, so feel free to keep them coming!

Edit 3: Thank you all for being patient! My grandfather is ready to answer more of your questions now. 12/31/13 7:50 EST

Edit 4: Thank you so much for all the great questions. He has really enjoyed answering all your questions and really appreciates all of your kind words. He says thank you and wishes you all a happy and prosperous new year!!

Comments: 559 • Responses: 55  • Date: 

wolfie360351 karma

He wanted to share the story of how he got interested in racing midgets...

In my mid 20s I worked for a motorcycle shop. My friends and I would ride around on our motorcycles and sometimes the police officers riding on motorcycles would ride with us and have fun if they had time. One time they took us over to the race track and they were racing midgets. Most of my friends were laughing at such little cars, but I said "I could race those!" During the intermission I heard that they were selling a midget, so I went down there and took the guy up on the offer. He wanter $400 for it, so I put $20 down. I went home and asked my mom for the rest of the money. I only told her it was for a car though. I didn't say that it was a race car. So she gave me the money because she didn't want me driving my motorcycle anymore. I towed home the race car a few days later. When she saw what I did she wouldn't even talk to me.

PinstripeMonkey99 karma

Any close calls with death? Why did you quit racing? The linked page doesn't specify.

wolfie360242 karma

Well, I have to say yes. I had some close calls. Then again, if you weren't scared, you weren't driving hard enough!

I retired because my family was growing. I wanted to stick with them. But I wasn't completely out of the picture. I was on the safety team for about 10 years. I went to races almost every weekend. I also taught my kids how to race quarter midgets and I still am involved with the old timers in Indy. I go to the Indy 500 almost every year. People still ask for my advice sometimes.

startin-over69 karma

what do you think of the changes in automotive technology that have taken lace over your lifetime?

do you generally find that cars are more, or less, enjoyable to drive today then they were when you first started? Do you think they preform all that much better, or not? (obviously consumer cars have no where near he oomph they once had, but aside from that...)

wolfie360148 karma

They perform much better, mostly because of the tires. You get a lot better traction now than they did back then. Also, the safety features have much improved. They didn't have fireproof uniforms back then.

It's a big difference of how fast people race now too. When I set my world record I was racing at about 104 miles an hour.

nkmetcalfe68 karma

This is a great AMA. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

My great-great uncle was Frank Funk. He built/owned both the Winchester Speedway (Funk's Speedway) and a track in Dayton that's long gone. My great-grandfather also worked at Winchester. Did you ever race at either track? Ever meet or interact with my uncle Frank?

wolfie36084 karma

I never raced there. Very, VERY dangerous race track, Winchester was.

I knew who he was, but I never interacted with him myself.

whitegryffen67 karma

Do you have any comment on ex F1 driver Michael Schumacher and his tragic accident skiing?

wolfie360102 karma

He was one of the top drivers. I sympathize with him and his family. They have some of the best doctors that work with racers, so it's my hope he will recover.

Taylor_201159 karma

What was the most exciting moment in your career other than your world record run?

wolfie360170 karma

Passing my drives test at Indy. There was a lot that I had to go through. I had to drive 10 laps within 1 MPH of what speed they told you to go at without a speedometer.

Taylor_201183 karma

holy respect! How did you gauge your speed without the speedometer?!

wolfie360143 karma

By the seat of my pants! You just had to feel it. The sound of the engine and the sound of the exhaust helped too.

Taylor_201145 karma

That is awesome! So at your age are you the opposing force to the "old slow driver" stereotype?

wolfie360122 karma

I still drive too fast for my wife's liking, but I guess people would call me more of a balloon foot now. (As opposed to a lead foot.)

kassagank46 karma

What triggered your passion in race car driving?

wolfie36090 karma

The money probably was a big drawing factor. I made good money because I won a lot. As I became more well known I did it more for my fans and family.

(If you're looking for more of how he got into racing, please look at my previous comment about it.)

JeremyMethfield41 karma

I've raced stock cars on asphalt since I was 16, 31 now, but I've got a chance to run a midget this coming season. Should I go for it and if I do what's it like?

wolfie36051 karma

Well, it's as different as day and night going from a stock car to a midget. To learn to drive the midget properly would be the best experience you'll ever get.

Exploden34 karma

Do you consider Lightning McQueen a role model?

wolfie36086 karma

(Account Owner: He never saw the movie, but I just showed him the trailer and he smirked.)

ThatSmallerGuy34 karma

What is your favourite food?

wolfie36088 karma

Fun story, we wouldn't eat dinner before races, as you can probably understand why.

After the race we would always stop somewhere for a good steak.

Nowadays I really like home grown foods.

Edit: I should also add that he isn't really picky. Whatever my grandmother makes, he will eat every last bit of it.

arnie_apesacrappin27 karma

Did you have a natural ability for racing or did you learn it over time? If your talent developed over time, how long did it take you to start winning? I did a few years of SCCA Solo II, and things never really slowed down for me.

wolfie36047 karma

I had a natural ability, but everyone improves over time, including myself. I was always around cars and other equipment.

There's always stuff that you have to learn though. All cars drive differently.

Nowadays drivers have schools that they can go to to learn how to race. We didn't really have that back then.

menolikepoopybad26 karma

Thanks for doing this. Who do you consider to be the best driver of your era and who was the best that you personally raced against?

wolfie36069 karma

The best that I personally raced was Rex Mays. He died in 1949 in a race. They should never have started that race. It was a dirt track with a huge pothole in it, knee deep full of water. He hit that, was flung out of his car (because there were no seat belts back then), and run over. Great man.

The best of my era was probably AJ Foyt .

NekoQT24 karma

What was the single best moment??

Of your racing carreer and life, i'd love to hear it

wolfie36085 karma

Racing: When I set the world record for the fastest 100 mile race in a midget (or any race car for that matter).

Life: When I got married and started a family.

PackyScott23 karma

What piece of advice do you have for the next generation?

wolfie360103 karma

Be a good Christian, and do unto others as they to unto you.

ndabvida21 karma

Have you ever played any racing video games? If yes, then what was your favorite?

wolfie36059 karma

I don't play video games at all. My grandson had me play some game once (it was Mario Kart Wii), but it's far too different. I didn't like it. I liked watching him play though.

InsanePsychologist19 karma

What were your relationships like with other drivers? Was it generally friendly or a more competitive environment?

wolfie36039 karma

Competition was strong, but most of us were friends off of the race track. There were some people I didn't care for, those who were playing dirty, but it was mostly friendly.

Flovilla19 karma

Would you say racing was more dangerous in the past due to lack of safety equipment or currently due to higher speeds?

wolfie36038 karma

I think it's more dangerous now, not because of higher speeds due to motors, but because of the higher speeds due to bigger tires.

That's not to say that is wasn't dangerous back then. There were far more people who died back in my day. Plus I mostly raced on dirt tracks.

freshfantastic18 karma

Did you ever have any near death incidences or are there any incidences where you thought you would die in your race car?

wolfie36044 karma

When I was trying to qualify for the Indy 500, one of my friend's mechanics set my car up, but he didn't set it up correctly. I was coming down the front stretch and I was coming to make a turn, and I spun out. I lost complete control. I was running at least 140 MPH.

That was particularly scary because I had no control at all. I just had to ride it out.

random_name_cause_im9 karma

In that situation is there anything you can do to help going that fast? Or is a pray and duck your head type situation?

wolfie36024 karma

It happened so fast... You tense up and try to keep from wrecking the car.

xzbobzx14 karma

Did you fight in WWII?

If so, where and how?

wolfie36040 karma

I didn't. I wanted to, but I couldn't due to health reasons.

Kay1000RR13 karma

What advice do you have for an amateur racer whose lap times have plateaued? What have you done in your career to break through those time barriers?

wolfie36032 karma

Have a mechanic figure out how to get more horse power out of the engine. Find someone new if you have to. Try different grooves on the race track. Don't kick yourself too much.

I'm over 90 years old. I don't worry about slower times anymore!

stahlgrau12 karma

What is a common characteristic you find among fellow racers?

wolfie36037 karma

Respect for one another.

Tog_the_destroyer12 karma

Are you a ford, Chevy, or dodge fan?

wolfie36038 karma

Ford

edwinathegreat11 karma

What is your favorite car, past or present?

wolfie36037 karma

Well, I still have my 2000 Mercury Marque 4 row sedan. That's treated me quite well over the years.

My dream car would be a nice fast Indy race car!

AHalibutEvent9 karma

What do you think about the state of open wheel racing in the USA today?

wolfie36030 karma

It's still dangerous. People don't realize how different NASCAR is from Indy. It's extremely dangerous for open wheel racers.

We didn't have as much commercialization back then either. I don't really know how I feel about commercialization, but as long as they're also doing it for the love of racing and not just the money, I think things are okay.

farmerdaniel9 karma

Any thoughts on those old Miller and Offenhauser four cylinders?

wolfie36011 karma

Thy ran fast back in my day, and they run fast today. Not to mention that they stay together! I like them.

farmerdaniel1 karma

After WWII when did Indy start to feel 'professional' again? My impression is that there was lots of county fair level racing for a while first?

wolfie3604 karma

He doesn't really feel like it wasn't professional. There was no pro racing during the war, so professional racing jumped back in in 1946.

trevdordurden9 karma

What's the fastest you've ever driven?

wolfie36031 karma

I drove about 175 MPH when I was trying to qualify for the Indy 500.

probablysalad9 karma

Does he know a Cliff Woodbury?

wolfie36016 karma

He said it doesn't ring a bell. He wants to know some more information though. How might he know him?

probablysalad12 karma

My drivers ed teachers father was cliff Woodbury and he said he was a race at driver back in the 30s or so, became the first Indy pole-sitter to finish last place. Also set the one mile record in 1930 at Daytona with 180.9 mph. He told us a lot of stories about him and it always kinda stuck.

wolfie36012 karma

That was before his time.

Smithma19 karma

I bought my truck from your sponsor Dave White... Can you get me a deal on a new truck?

wolfie36030 karma

It was Jim White that was my sponsor. The best I can do is try!

William_wallace_9 karma

How long does someone in a professional pit crew have to work and practice to get that fast?

wolfie36018 karma

Lots of repetition. They also had to work their way up through the ranks of the pit crew. How long it takes to get that fast depends on the person.

puppythief8 karma

[deleted]

wolfie36026 karma

I have no regrets in my life. I did well in racing, I have a wonderful family that I love. I wish I could have won more races, of course, but my life has been blessed with many, many good things.

Smithma18 karma

Did the numbers on your car have any significance?

wolfie36021 karma

Numbers were assigned to us by our previous year's standing. I always liked my #5 though. Even my kid's quarter midget was #5.

GoogleMuh8 karma

  1. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

  2. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Thanks for the chance to talk to you. Never heard of you until now. I enjoy the story and history.

wolfie36018 karma

I would teach safety.

(We discussed regrets in a previous post)

kingpodrick8 karma

wow those cars you used to race with look awesome!

what do you miss most about the 40s-50s that isn't currently available now?

wolfie36030 karma

We used to race 7 nights a week. They don't do that anymore.

jjgonya7 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA. It is amazing to know you had a hand in racing as we know today.

As for my question: What kind of courses do you prefer? Circle? Road? Figure 8?

wolfie36016 karma

I drove my midgets on oval dirt tracks. If I was still racing today, that's still what I would prefer to run.

CuriousAntics7 karma

What and when was your first race?

wolfie36021 karma

It was at Partington's Pasture. It was a quarter mile race track in the middle of a pasture field. 20 laps. I didn't win. There were 10 cars in the race.

Jmunnny7 karma

In your eyes, How has the sport changed over the years?

wolfie36023 karma

Well, I don't know so much about the sport. I know the mechanics and the tires of the vehicles have changed for the better, especially when it comes to safety.

I think I was more connected to my fans than racers are these days. I think the commercialization kind of raised that barrier between the fan and the racer.

igotligerblood6 karma

My grandpa used to race midgets. What was your experience like with these cars?

wolfie36016 karma

It was like having fun all the time!

A midget was a lot of fun to drive because it acted quickly because of the short wheel base, as compared to the big cars. The big cars went faster, but they weren't as fun to drive.

lilfrost6 karma

What technological change are you most surprised at?

wolfie36030 karma

How good the tires that they make nowadays are. Communication as amazingly improved too. We used chalkboards in my day, not radios.

noobidiot6 karma

Do you consider Group B Rally racing to be the pinnacle of racing? How do you feel about manual transmissions being phased out in favor of dual-clutch automated transmissions?

wolfie3607 karma

I don't really have much experience with the latest models of clutches or transmissions.

He's not sure what you mean by "Group B Rally racing."

BrownEggsandBacon5 karma

Did you happen to know Cliff Woodbury? He was the national AAA dirt track champion in 1927, raced in Indy for 4 years in the 1920's and afterward had a garage in Chicago. He was involved in the Indy Oldtimers Club before he died.

wolfie3606 karma

That was before his time.

Flovilla5 karma

Did you ever cheat to get a win or try to? If so, what did you do?

wolfie36029 karma

No. I don't believe in cheating. I was always very Christian about it. It's so much better to win on your own merit than winning something you didn't work for.

mdrice865 karma

Did you ever go to the Indy 500? If so, ever meet Smokey Yunick?

wolfie36018 karma

Yeah, I met him before. He had the best garage in town! Great mechanic. He could certainly make race cars run fast!

(He tried qualifying for Indy once. He missed the qualification by one point. Full story in a previous post.)

zck5 karma

Has he seen the movie Rush? It came out this fall, and was about two F1 drivers in the 70s. I'm not particularly into racing, but it was really cool. I'd be interested to know what he thought of it.

wolfie3608 karma

He and his wife really wanted to see it, but they didn't get a chance to.

CrazyCapitalist4 karma

What is your grandfather's thoughts on Offenhauser engines from back then? I would love to see some of your grandfathers races on youtube!

wolfie3607 karma

They didn't tape his races back then, unless someone has some sort of home movie.

galacticgabby4 karma

Did you ever win the 500?

wolfie36028 karma

No.

I passed my drivers test and I tried to qualify once, but it was about one point short of making it into the race.

JockThatCamel4 karma

Would you ever get into racing again? Vintage races, Bonneville, etc?

wolfie36011 karma

No, I'm too old. I did get to drive around in a vintage car in the pre ceremony of Indy once. That was nice.

reallybadquestion3 karma

How did you first get into racing?

As someone who doesn't really understand the appeal, what first drew you to the industry and what kept your interest?

Thanks again for the AMA.

wolfie36012 karma

Well, probably much like yourself, I had the desire to be the best I could be in the profession I had chosen.

ndabvida3 karma

Do you advise others to get into racing or is that a risky business to get into?

wolfie36028 karma

If they have a passion for it, they should pursue their interest. I wouldn't advise them to street race though. Go to a well known driving school. It's not something that I would advise all willy nilly though.

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

wolfie3607 karma

(Account Owner: Too soon man. Too soon.)

I've never gone skiing.